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Taste In Reviews
by DJ Gruby/Oxyron

As long as competitions at demo parties are being held, as long as charts are being published by disk magazines, as long as reviews are creating guidelines for future releases, people used to discuss whether one agrees with the other one's opinions, whether one is right or not while voting for the particular release and not the other. All this kind of discussions usually end up with the statement that tastes, views and judgements are very personal, subjective and every one has got its own.

There has been a lot of text about the objective versus subjective opinions, but I hardly remember any article trying to evaluate which reviewing style is more accurate. We had discussed our taste in demos, graphics and musics a lot, but we never discussed our taste in reviews. So this article is about. The original idea for this text comes from RRR, and after reading complaints on "Nordic Scene Review #3" at Pouet stating that reviews of certain productions have not been positive enough, written back in September 2005, I realised it might become an interesting opinionated article for "Attitude #10". I decided to build up this topic and may be to begin an inspiring discussion on the subject of taste in reviews.

So there are basically two questions I had been asking around:

1. Do you think people prefer honest and reliable reviews or would they like to a sort of praising, positive attitude towards all releases?

2. Which review method is better? Which way criticism versus worship would result in getting people more motivated to work on the new stuff?

So here come the answers to the first of these questions:

INTENSITY/GHEYMAID INC.

Well, personally I think that people always prefer honest reliable reviews instead of bootlicking for any releases. :) As no scener will rise and can develop through bootlicking only, and that's what a C64 magazine is actually for - to present opinions we can build on.

JAZZCAT/ONSLAUGHT

Having reviews that are honest is very important. I don't want to read "fluffy" bullshit... Saying your feelings, with careful wording, is important to me. At the same time I can see that it is also important to have a delicate balance between truth and positive language. We don't want destructive reviews that scare the creators away from the C64. Our scene doesn't have the luxury of a never ending supply of youthful new recruits; awaiting to replace their failed counterparts. So, for me reviews should be honest with a touch of positivity.

JEFF/CREST/VIRUZ

I hope people prefer honest criticism, at least if it's delivered in a proper way and not like "You suck!!!". But honest and constructive criticism is really what one can learn from. I did myself and still do, at least. I have to asume that most people doing stuff, at the end want to be as good as possible at what they're doing. But I do understand the ones who prefer always to get good comments on their releases, as that is at least very motivating to the people who also like their own stuff.

JOE/WRATH DESIGN

I can only answer for myself and my personal view of wanting the uncensored opinion in reviewing my work. I prefer an open minded attitude, finding qualities in the worst of releases. I learn nothing from unprepared people whom pat each other on the back. The discussion gets enriched by the differences of reading each others work which should be constructive as far as it's possible.

OSWALD/RESOURCE

I can speak only for myself. I would like to see reviews that represent the honest and subjective opinion of the reviewer. Regardless of what he thinks the people would like to hear. I'm against the phenomenon called "petting scene". No one should be encouraged when what he does is crap.

RICHARD/THE NEW DIMENSION

To a programmer and musician's point of view I would say honest and reliable reviews. Mainly because it helps us to take a giant leap into being more successfull with future productions, events, etc. Constructive criticism helps build something bigger and better.

SEBALOZ/LEPSI DE

It depends. Most people like when their release was noticed, but some people poorly tolerate criticism.

TAPER/TRIAD

Things are seldom just black and white, reviews are always a matter of subjective taste. Describing a release objectively is of course possible, but then it would merely be statements of facts and not a review. That said, I'm sure most people prefer honest and reliable reviewers, keeping in mind that every single review is based on personal opinion. Praising every single release just based on the fact that something actually was put out would not only be a totally boring read, but also plain silly.

WACEK/ARISE

Generally I am convinced that people prefer positive feedback about their releases. This is understandable, everyone wants to be appreciated for the effort put into doing something, especially in the current circumstances - taking into acount the overall, low amount of releases. But there is downside to this - praising every piece of crap that is being released just because it is released is not a way to motivate scene to progress. We have seen in the past where this approach can lead, haven't we? There are groups that built their whole portfolios solely on crappy releases, that gained appreciation they did not deserve - just because most of their peers had no guts to deliver the constructive criticism.

To remind you what the second question has been:

2. Which review method is better? Which way criticism versus worship would result in getting people more motivated to work on the new stuff?

And here come the answers to this one:

INTENSITY/GHEYMAID INC.

First there is to say that any scener just has to live with criticism, only lamers demand worship only. I would say if once a subjective opinion together with an objective opinion was told, the scener can get the most out of it. Personally I send previews of my music, both real music and SID, to musicians who give hard critics only, since I can build much more on a sentence like "Well, I would suggest you to increase this and that in ADSR etc." than some bootlicking like "Wow, that's awesome, keep going!". I wouldn't even call everything bootlicking, it's just a subjective opinion, personally I always demand at least a subjective AND an objective opinion, then first one only, as it never will bring me to anywhere. While I of course like it when people worship my stuff... :)

JEFF/CREST/VIRUZ

Some people just can't take negative comments, I do feel a bit sorry for those, but still, that's their own problem, really. Also one has to keep in mind that we don't all like the same things... But still, a lot of people are able to at least judge if something is well done or not. Remember, being honest also means that you're not a liar. At least that's very important to me.

JOE/WRATH DESIGN

Motivation must come from within each individual, I can only think of that criticism is a kind of worship in itself. Critique gives the possibility of communicating ideas between artists. It may be in any forum, may it be a disk magazine, web forum or personal mail. Competition is another and perhaps the most fruitful work of art comes from references and looking/listening/copying each others works, refining them to a higher (subjective) state instead of rejecting them.

OSWALD/RESOURCE

I don't think reviews are a tool to motivate people. It's just a feedback. If someone makes a good demo, then he will likely get positive feedback. So it depends on the production itself. Criticism should be of course always be constructive and fair.

RICHARD/THE NEW DIMENSION

Criticism. As long as it is constructive. I can't explain the reason for why I have suggested that.

SEBALOZ/LEPSI DE

I love criticism. Criticism motivates me to work on new, better products. Recently I started painting again, got some positive comments and I was down because of it.

TAPER/TRIAD

In the long run, I am sure criticism keeps people more motivated. Fair criticism can be learned from, unfair criticism presents you with an opportunity to tell someone to fuck off, and what's more motivating than that? Then again, praise those who deserve praise!

WACEK/ARISE

Just try to be objective, I suppose. There are many sides to every release that is out there - mostly there is something better at the expense of something else. Great code - not-so-excellent graphics, for example. In case of most of the releases, there are things that should be criticised, and there are other things that deserve to be recognized as good. Balancing those is for me the ideal way to deal with it. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule - total crap or absolute gems that have no flaws...

Personally, in my case both - honest criticism and deserved praise - worked very well and motivated me. Maybe with criticism is a bit different - first comes objection, then reflection and drive to progress. Once again, understandable: for a scener, every SID track, every logo and every scroller routine is like a baby that is not allowed to be disrespected by others! ;)

As you could read, quite an interesting discussion has been kicked off. My intention has not been to make a clear winner nor to rampage a serious controverse in the battle for the proper reviewing style. Like it had been noticed before, tastes differ. Whether it comes to evaluating productions or reviews, there is going to be as many opinions as people are there.

Best regards,
DJ Gruby/Oxyron.

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