Disclamer: I’m in the game dev industry, so this topic directly effects me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about user reviews recently, and what gets people to post them. I mean, we’ve all gone directly from playing to writing a glowing (or less than glowing) review at times, but very few people review every game the’ve played (I try to, but that’s because I’m crazy), so there’s a gap of games that get played a lot, but have very few reviews (think Bubble Breaker). Alternatively, there are those games that seemingly everybody is talking about, but have almost no players (many Telltale games fall in that category)
So what is it about a game that makes you want to write a review after playing? Is it how good/bad it is, the uniqueness of its gameplay/story, or something else?
Disclamer: I’m in the game dev industry, so this topic directly effects me.
Very good question. I often want to write it when it’s very good, very bad or, not really falling into either of those and I enjoyed it a lot. I try to do it for the sake of being fair. Also trying to spread and make people appreciate and enjoy good pieces of work where time, research, talent and a personal touch was used and warning others about what I think it’s not worth.
This, however, it’s my personal case. It’s often said (and has a good chunk of truth into it) that happy clients barely speak compared to unsatisfied ones, and it’s true in the sense you’re more likely to hear how awful X company treated someone if you’re close to that person, not sure how that translates into online reviews though.
Expectations are also a very important part of it, if you try to sell a little nice game with honesty and not trying to tell us is the second coming of Christ, then if the visual art is polished, if the OST is not only beautiful but goes well with the game and so on, people will be impressed and satisfied, and if you try this:
People will be very angry. Even if the price is fine for the second one, I want to know what I’m buying. I personally really, really pay attention to anyone who offers me a demo because it’s a sign they are proud of their product.
When you point out Telltale games you have to think for most people those are one-shot games, with one use or maybe, maybe if you really like it, two. They are enyoing the narrative capacities of the game, and they “know” they are purchasing something more like a movie or a book -wich is not a masterpiece- other than a videogame in the classical sense of getting a ton of hours of enterteinment.
I say not a masterpiece because movies and books that fall in that category can be used more and more, only to a greater pleasure and understanding of them.
I hope I helped you understand the whole a bit more with my little inside and theory of the rest.
PD: Suck it @coralinecastell, I ended typing before you in the race.
As someone who’s studying psychology, one thing I can tell you for sure is that nothing motivates anyone to write reviews more than hate.
So if someone really hates something and they have the energy and space to say as much, they’ll spell it out.
Now, when hate is not part of the equation, personally, I write reviews because a game, product, movie or idea stands out from anything else that I have experienced AND I have something new to contribute to the discussion.
For example, I never wrote a proper review of Life is Strange, despite it moving me and standing out in the crowd, because I don’t think I have anything new to say about it, and so I rather not spend my time re-writing previously put-forth arguments.
There are 2 things I remember very clearly after finishing Primordia: the first is that it changed me on a personal level – therefore, a unique one, worth writing about – , the second was that it was a brilliant game, unlike anything I had ever played. So, when I reviewed it, although I took more of a 3rd person stance, I still poured into my review the feelings I experienced when I played.
A special case is my review of What Remains of Edith Finch: its first half is about the real-life story of my house, which I honestly believe is haunted on some level or another. The review exploded with likes, which produced in me a question directed to those of us who rather not write but read reviews:
What makes reviews likable?
Clearly, I still think to myself, it can’t be because they are strictly about a game.
In short, what I believe makes people write reviews is:
And the special ingredient needed to make ME write a review is:
- Me thinking (delusionally) that I have something unprecedented to say about a given product.
P.S.: @Eidos I hope you have an unprecedented attack of farts today. I wish it to be so so loud, that you wake yourself in your sleep.
Game reviews are definitely a strange thing to talk about. It’s what makes the individual players tick. As already been pointed out already, strong emotions will trigger thought that will be either gushing with enthusiasm and thought that everyone else should play a game, or those negative things that break the games that they want everyone to know about.
I write a lot of reviews and I try to be informative, but if I am unable to offer an in-depth analysis, a cursory or first-impression is also okay at times, though I try my best not to leave only first-impression reviews on games.
For me, it’s kind of a good way to break up my work day, to get away from my other responsibilities for 2-5 minutes at a time, think about a game instead of work, and write a few sentences. Toward the end of the day, I have some unpolished essay form that I can edit and polish before posting on the internet. I don’t always have time to do that.
For the most part, if there’s a game I really like, I will likely write a review. If there’s a game I really dislike for personal reasons, I might leave it alone. For a game that I think most people shouldn’t even try, I will also leave a review. Afterall, some friends do look at what I review and modify their wishlists from time to time.
Reviews on Steam are basically thumbs up or thumbs down, as they only tabulate overall data and publish those numbers. I don’t really agree that they are only counting reviews for games purchased through Steam directly, but that’s their own decision and I am not going to worry about it too much.
Ultimately, what I hope to do with my reviews is to offer some insight to potential buyers and to warn them of any fallacies. I try to discuss my thoughts about who would like it and who may not. I also try my best to mention my thoughts on price. The issue with Steam and having so many games available nowadays is the big problem of libraries being too big and hardly anyone having enough time to actually playing the games they own and feel like they should dedicate the amount of time to. (I also spend a decent amount of time on my PS4, so that is also directly competing.)
Time and Money are the biggest factors for people buying games. “Is it worth my time?” and “Is it worth my money?” are the two big questions I try to answer with my reviews.
(I may have repeated myself a couple of times, I wrote that post on and off, left and right, in between chats with family, prepping the dinner table, etc., so pardon me if I sound a bit wordy and repetitive.)
For me writing a review is something I have to commit to, and unlike YQMaoski I find it really hard to dip into and out of writing. Because of that, and the fact that If I’m to review something I like to make it worthwhile, I tend to do my level best to avoid writing brief sentence reviews, and it’s possibly why I’m kind of slow on adding content. Additionally I feel like I have to finish a game to be able to review it…seeing everything to comment more assuredly. Plus I like to have played that game recently.
Why do I review a game? Well, if a friend gifts me a game I’ll do my level best to review that game once I’ve finished it. It seems like a way to say thank you. If I have an idea about how to write a review I’ll also give it a whirl and see how the idea works out once I try to mould it into words. Most of the time this will be for games I like, but that’s not exclusive. I’m also much more inclined to write for games with fewer reviews, although in this case unless a game really deserves a kicking I’d prefer to be positive as the impact can be that much greater. The reverse is also true…I’d like to write a review for the game I finished most recently (Bioshock) but feel disincentivised because it’s already got so many, everyone knows the game and so…what’s the point? Same thing goes for Sonic The Hedgehog.
I could write much more matter of factly when I review but as I quite like writing the main impetus is if I can write something that I feel pleased with. It would seem it’s actually less about the quality of the game and more about the words it inspires in me really…but I’d feed much more motivated to write If I actually felt my review was going to make some sort of difference rather than get lost in the morass of “Its gud game” or “12/10 would flip pancakes again” style or commentary. Also if someone asks me to write something for them then I’ll do my level best to help them out…again because I enjoy writing and to be asked is a compliment.
I also voted for you in the Steam awards. Not that it will count for anything but hey, I did my part!
I used to write reviews but they were only visible to friends. I reviewed everything i played for my friends to know my opinion of it. Then i realized that no one was reading them and i was just wasting my time. I’ve since deleted all of them and now i don’t review anything anymore. I also realized that i don’t pay any attention to my friends’ reviews either.
From my opinion, most the of public reviews on Steam are not very helpful (even if they’re voted as being helpful) or are unreliable. Many are outdated, or you question the validity because you can see how many hours (often less than an hour) the reviewer played. There’s still a problem with non-reviews (just funny comments) being voted as helpful which may obscure some other helpful reviews. Honestly when i really want to gauge the quality of a game before buying, i check the discussion forum and watch some gameplay on Youtube.
I don’t understand who actually thinks these reviews help in the slightest, or who is upvoting them so many times…
(also, as a tangential sidenote, calling Darksiders “casual” makes me a bit angry with the amount of tech it offers and requires on higher difficulties)
Good question, badges I guess.
First off I still think that using the “steam reviews” as reviews is a mistake even if it’s one that’s gotten very thoroughly ingrained by now, but this is why we from time to time get people complaining about the inability of giving scores. The idea that steam reviews are not nuanced enough, want to give a neutral “score” and the like.
These are recommendations, you are supposed to tell the reader whether you think they should buy the game or not and preferably why. There is no neutral 3rd option for the reader to take, therefor a neutral is useless.
I do not generally bother writing recommendations on steam for many reasons, I recognize what @coralinecastell said about feeling like having something unique to add to the discussion is important. Putting the effort into getting your experience into words for someone else to understand is not something I’d undertake merely for the sake of throwing another thumb on the pile.
I will however write recommendations outside of steam, I have on several occasions written about games and other media on these very forums both positives and negatives. The difference that makes it worth the effort is that I know my audience here. I can try to write something aimed at people I know to some degree and I will be one of a few voices talking about the topic in question rather than my effort being drowned out among the thousands on steam.
As for hatred, yeah when people get riled up, when they feel some one has wronged them then it is natural they would want to try to do something about it. When it comes to videogames there has for a very long time been very little the end user could actually do. Even courses of action that were available for any other type of consumer was blocked for videogames, namely returning the purchase and getting a refund. This imbalanced power structure increases the negative emotions of someone already unhappy about their purchase. The unfairness of the whole thing elevating mere dissatisfaction to a burning hatred for these thieving, lying asshole developers who just took your money under false pretenses and now are seen as telling you to just go fuck yourself if you’re unhappy about it.
So yelling on the internet was pretty much the only option left, voicing your dismay in the vague hope that at the very least maybe someone else might chose to not purchase this product you’re unhappy about. If you feel badly treated by someone who you can’t touch then any means of ‘sticking it to them’ is grasped at. I believe strongly that this is part of why “gamers” are so “entitled” and “toxic” on the internet when games don’t “cater to them”.
I think I might have veered a little off topic there.
As for usefulness of steam reviews. I do not care much for the long winded reviews, if I have to press ‘read more’ to get an idea of why you recommend the game then I’m unlikely to do so. I do really find steam recommendations useful in general though, I especially find the negative ones helpful.
Usually I can tell by screenshots, videos and tags whether I’m likely to want to play a game or not, a negative recommendation will tell me about issues the sales page does not. A good negative recommendation lifts up a couple of primary issues the player has had with the game. By skimming through a handful of such posts I can see if there are any common trends to the complaints and make my decision based on if I think the issues raised are something that would bother me or not.
In this fashion negative steam recommendations have completely replaced traditional reviews in my purchase decision process. Of course it doesn’t help that the vast majority of professional reviewers just simply can’t be trusted anymore.
I’d say I mainly only wright a review for a game when it either is just really really bad or really really good. Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game of all time and despite having already owned it on Origin and having spent what was at the time over 400 hours into the game, I still bought it on Steam just to write a good review for it and display it as my favorite game on my profile.
3rd track thought that didn’t quite fit into the earlier rant.
My advice to anyone writing positive recommendations on steam. Avoid saying anything the developer has already said on the sales page. I do not need you to tell me again that this is a rogue lite, pixel art, platformer. Your ‘reviews’ are not stand alone served on a dedicated site, it’s below a whole lot of already supplied information. Regurgitating the dev’s sales pitch is not useful information.
But for you I wouldn’t own Mark of the Ninja, so you’re doing something right! I haven’t actually got around to playing it just yet, but stage one accomplished.
How dare u, Sir!
“Solid graphics. Strongly recommended if you like point and click adventure games with a funny story about a group of friends that go on a wild adventure through more than 150 unique locations. Filled with humor and a great soundtrack. Worth it at full price. 10/10 would make friends with twigs again.”
low-effort 3-minute Botanicula review I wrote just to say to Fraggles ‘yeah man couldn’t agree more’
I'm going to say something really stupid now but: really short reviews are oftentimes just not good.
There are exceptions (can’t think of any atm), but if a write-up has 3 sentences, it’s probably either going to be some poop attempt at humor, rewording of what’s already on the store page or ínformation you, as a potential buyer, don’t care about (e.g.: “Hours of fun with my girlfriend, it’s the only game we play together.”).
But on the other hand, I think people should be allowed to post whatever the hell they want for reviews. I just wish there was a better way to filter/sort them. Sorting by what other people like most, in any sector of life ever, is almost always guaranteed to produce only the most socially-agreeable content that fits squarely in the box of what people approve of.
Which is to say: lame – and definitely not my cup of tea to enjoy in the 7th layer of hell with Elmo.
I’m 100% represented by this statement.
I only write reviews if it’s about something really important.
Well yes, of course. But if you spend the first 2-3 paragraphs that is available above the cut telling me shit I already know about the game or leading in some story about yourself that you think should somehow matter then I’m not going to read the rest of it.
Though even if you do manage to get me interested enough to expand the review, if it’s more than twice the original length after that I’m probably still out before the end.
But I guess I snowed into talking about “why do you read” rather than “why do you write”.
So, that one is yours uh?
At the very least I am reading it.
Treason uh? I’m not sure if you played enough with the pride to -stop in real life to check something I’m not sure- uh, oh, you meant violence, seven is violence, right. That makes more sense. No, I don’t like to look smarter than I am in the internet, even if it’s not much by itself, my ego couldn’t take it!
Sherry best girl fite me
@xist @kovec @CptMold @Fraggles @coralinecastell @Truly
So it seems that the main reason y’all don’t tend to write reviews on anything but the best/worst games is because you don’t feel you’re making any impact, right? If I’m understanding you correctly, that’s sort of surprising to hear from my end—as reviews are arguably the single most important factor in determining a game’s success on Steam. By that I mean that there is a direct correlation between a (positive) review being written, even a two-sentence one, and a noticeable spike in Steam traffic. From the average buyers perspective, simply seeing that there’s a 96% vs 87% approval rating can mean the difference between a buy and an “I’ll put that on my wishlist for later.” From the developers perspective, that can quickly add up to thousands of dollars lost/gained. So if you don’t think you’re making an impact with your “It’s good, buy it” / “crashed on startup, don’t waste your money” type review, know that at least the developer probably cares, and cares a lot. (You’re not allowed to respond as a dev unless there’s a bug or factual error in the review, which is why it can seem that nobody’s seen it—trust me, it’s read [EDIT: turns out I was wrong, you can actually reply via comment]).
What? I got a reply from the main dev of Primordia on my review… and he replies to every single review.
I mean I’m not a game dev and I don’t want by any stretch of my imagination to sound like I don’t believe you… but how the hell did he reply to me, then? Genuinely curious.
I’m not sure if my fellow occasional-writers are going to back me up on this, but I pour a lot of soul into every review I write. I can’t review everything I play, otherwise I’ll either stop playing or cry myself to sleep from exhaustion every night.
That’s why I need review criteria.
edit: oh he replied on the comment section. Can’t you do the same?