I have always found that reading reviews is a hit or miss proposition. Especially reading reviews about creative endeavors. Reviews of products are generally more informative. No one is trying to be super witty when writing about a vacuum cleaner or ink jet printer.

I was on a website and they just hired a writer to review the art world. The writer’s angle is that he is no expert. He is just a guy that likes some art occasionally. Guess he’s too busy keeping it real. I’ve seen this angle before and it always seems to crop up in relation to art. After all, who could imagine a book reviewer saying that his strength is that he doesn’t know much about reading but read a book once. The review was mostly about the writer’s day out and had zero insight into the the art. This is why so many reviewers fail. They make the review about themselves and not whatever they happen to be reviewing. I don’t care about the writer’s story about how cool he is.

Video game reviews can be exceptionally deceiving. Some magazines and sites give good reviews to almost every game because they depend on ad money from those games. A lot of eights are given out to games that deserve sixes. It is also tricky to give ratings to video game sequels. A new, exciting, and innovative game can get a nine out of ten and then the sequel, a year later, gets a seven. The sequel can be equally as good but since the first one was “innovative”, and it can be the smallest thing that makes it so, the second has a good shot at being disappointing to reviewers. They can really love the slo-mo “bullet time” game play in December and be bored with it by May.

My least favorite video game reviews are the sports ones. Reviewing sports games is tough because video game makers can’t reinvent football every year. A sports game is given updated rosters and tweaked a little bit here and there. Features are added and taken away only to reappear another year to give the illusion of “upgrading” the game. As a result there are three reviews for sports games: 1) The “This is the worst game ever” review. Believe them. A sports game has to be genuinely bad to get this review. 2) The “This is the best game ever” review. This usually happens when a “major” upgrade happens to a game such as when a new system like the PS3 or XBox 360 comes out. It is the first game on a next generation system and everything looks shinny and new. It could also be the second game on a new system where they really tap into the new graphics power. The games are usually good but take the reviews with a grain of salt because they inevitably lead to: 3) The “This is good but not as good as last year’s game” review. This review is totally based on last year’s review. You can’t have two “best football game ever” years in a row. It is never a bad review. Its a “we were more excited last year when everything was shinny and new” review.

I do like all the new internet sites that I can go to for reviews from average people. They are not quite average because they have taken time out of their lives to write a review of something for free so maybe they are above average people. They generally want to inform and have their opinions heard so there is a genuineness to the reviews. They are definitely a positive addition to the world of reviewing.

I often say that I don’t like reviews when they are all about trying to be clever. That is when the review stops being about the work and starts being about the reviewer. This does happen but upon reflection I realize that I don’t mind if the reviewer is being clever. I mind it when the reviewer fails at being clever. Then he is just wasting my time.

My all time favorite clever line from a review comes from way back in 1988 or so. I don’t remember who wrote it or what movie it was referring to but I remember the line. “If a million monkeys at a million typewriters would write the complete works of William Shakespeare than this movie was written by three monkeys over a long weekend.” I love that line.

I had an idea the other day for different concept in reviewing. Go back in time and examine the mediocre. Most people who go back and review stuff from years ago examine only the really good stuff or really bad stuff. It’s the most entertaining. The mediocre stuff gets forgotten. The comic book “The Human Fly” came to mind. It was from the late 70’s, had 19 issues and even as a kid I knew it was mediocre. Sure you can find some retro-reviews of it on the internet but they really only deal with the first issue or two. No one examines the whole series. What did the series as a whole have to offer us? That is when I realized the flaw in my concept. I’d have to suffer through that crap. I still have The Human Fly 1-19 on my shelf but I haven’t read them since 1978. Why would I? They’re mediocre. I still have them for sentimental reasons, but really, read them?. With all the good comics out there why would I read mediocre ones? Even really bad ones are more fun. That is why the mediocre never gets examined. It is too painful. If there is something to be learned from the mediocre it is up to a stronger man than me to find it.