As artists, the subject of critics and reviews can be a touchy (and sometimes volatile) one. We seem to have a one-sided relationship with them, where the critic cannot exist without our work to feed on, while we simmer in frustration at idea of someone criticising our work. As much as we dislike it however, the critic and the reviewer can be greatly helpful, driving us to create better work, or helping us shine through the sheer volume of work out there.
Perhaps first it would be prudent to separate critique from review. A review generally discusses the actual work, how good it is (entirely subjective of course, but this could be a discussion on how it looks, or whether the narrative is satisfying, or whether the gameplay is enjoyable) while a critique moves more into a discussion of the meaning of the work, and its place along side other works.
More practically, as a content creator, you’re going to have more immediate contact with a reviewer, then a critic. (Indeed, you might be far less aware of the critic’s discussion of your work, or it may well come much later after release).
From the business end of the creative industries as well, it could be considered that the reviewer is far more useful – while an in depth discussion of how Captain America in his latest film represents the current political environment re: Big Data – can be interesting -, it’s hardly something that drives audiences to see the movie. What you, as a content maker wants, is a reviewer, preferably a well known and trusted one (especially one that specialises in your genre) to say that your work is fabulous, and everyone should go see it/buy it right now.
(see the previous blog post about winning lotteries in regard to this)
In fact, it’s this that I think fuels a general dislike by artists for reviewers – we like to think what we’re creating and putting out to the world is literally the greatest thing since sliced bread, and it hurts to hear anyone say otherwise. It’s the same thing that makes a person think a reviewer is a genius when they agree, and a tosser when they don’t – we all like to think we have great taste. Introspection comes later after the sting is gone, when you can cast a more rational eye over what was said.
When talking of reviews and reviewers however (and sometimes, critiques and critics) we should remember though, that it’s not all about the professional. As someone said, everyone’s a critic, and perhaps that’s the most useful thing. A site like Rotten Tomatoes could tell you a film is fantastic, but if your best friend tells you it’s absolute tripe… who do you listen to? I’m sure we’ve all experienced it already in our classes whether here, or elsewhere, where you submit a piece of work that you think is great, or put a lot of effort into, only to have a mediocre grade and some pretty harsh feedback some back.
(It occurs to me that the grading system sometimes is a toughening up process for the real world. Food for thought 😉 )
I think the basic take away point from this is that perhaps we should try and remove the emotional aspect from critiques and reviewers of our work (which I acknowledge is far, far easier said than done) and approach such things from a dispassionate point of view – reviewers can be vastly helpful to us, so we should try and make it as easy and as pleasant for them to review our work (which hey, could earn you some brownie points!) – and despite our initial (usually angry) response to a critique we don’t agree with, that they might have a good point, that could make our work better in the future.
And perhaps above all remember: It’s not personal, it’s business.