What is the "New New Honesty" is to me

edited February 2008 in Story Games
Man alive, I hate that term, but ya'll are using it, so here goes.

For my money, this is what the NNH is: An acknowledgment that public, civil criticism in the face of public praise is not unwelcome in published, sold products.

Let me break this down:
* Acknowledgment -- there seems to be, by a number of people, an unspoken rule against public criticism. I see it as a combination of the social pressures of the group and, dare I say, the sword of "harshing the zen" hanging over our heads. Seriously, I have aborted many posts previously because of those three words. There is now spoken acknowledgment that there is an audience who wants this -- though, the delivery mechanism (for lack of a better term) is still being debated (to use the term generously). So there, we at least have that.

* Public criticism -- praise is so public, and there is a need for the counterpoint so that members of the community are not mislead into buying books because they see everyone praise it and no one criticize it. This provides a hook for the second goal of reminding people that there are voices willing to tell you your product isn't perfect and wonderful, and are willing to do so publicly.

* Civil criticism -- you know what doesn't help? "Man, I read Mythender and it gave me cancer. I hope the writer dies of a feral cat attack." Hyperbole? Sure. Seriously, being civil is good. I feel weird having to expand upon that. (As an aside: do I always succeed? No, but it wouldn't be a goal of mine if it was something I always succeeded at.)

* Public praise -- the unchecked public praise here is, in my view, dangerous. It promotes poor books based on good ideas, encourages the next set of authors to make books based on the limited praise they've seen in the last run, and overall is the biggest hurdle in this being an insular, incestuous, dwindling community.

* Not unwelcome -- as I said in another thread and as the first point here, such comments have felt unwelcome in this community, even civilly and for the hope of helping the community as a whole.

* Published, sold products -- I'm not so concerned with products in development right now. I have given private feedback to those, because that's, in my view, where develop-level feedback goes. No, here I'm talking about products that have been published and are being sold to a public. I'll argue that, sure, a developer has a (weakly-enforcable) right to ask people not to post criticisms publicly. There is no way that someone who asks money for their work does, though. If a work becomes publicly consumable, so must its criticisms.

So, all of you talking about how harsh criticism is bad for design, how asshole, shotgun criticism as bad for the vibe, etc., sure, I get all that. It's also has zero to do with my point (though, I can't speak for Paul, Josh or Judson). Anyway, that's where I'm coming from. Shoot, I don't even see why said criticism has to be posted in full on this forum -- as long as the community can be made aware of it and it can be referenced here, just like any other gaming-related discussions.

It's not that those of us in the powwow at OrcCon feel like we've been screwed over here by people taking advantage of the good will of this community (though that is how some of us at least do feel), it's that we haven't felt like we've had a voice, like we'd just be shouting in the wind. For those of you who want to point out that, technically, we have had that this whole time, fine, sure, but keep in mind that the social elements of this community has affected each of us separately to buy into the idea that we didn't. So, are a dozen-plus individuals totally off-base, or is the community doing something to promote this vibe? I believe it's the latter, and that's what I'd like to help correct with the (sigh) New New Honesty.

Comments

  • Ryan,

    I'm glad you've articulated this, and I think a lot of people will gain something from it.

    I know there's probably reasons all of you haven't taken advantage of this, but The Forge has been a place for real, actual criticism of games from the beginning, and continues to be, and I invite you to participate there. Story Games does have a reluctance to "harsh the zen" as part of its charter, and that is both liberating for people who want a place to kick back and relax and stifling for people who want a place for no-holds-barred criticism. I wonder if things aren't better served by separating those two concerns.
  • The Forge model requires an AP, what if we think the game book is so broken that we're not going to be able to actually play it?
  • Besides, the Forge is for people designing a game, why should a consumer care about that?
  • Or, say, should one wish to give a critique based primarily on theory? Where would that go? I'm sensing that it's not the AP forum, which is why I don't post there. The real, actual, serious component is great -- it's the topic limitations imposed by the site structure that get me.
  • How many times do I have to say it before it's true, Ryan?

    I said it last time this came up. And the time before. And the time before.

    Do I need to start giving out free bowls of strawberry ice cream to anyone who says anything bad about any game I've ever liked?

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • Do I need to start giving out free bowls of strawberry ice cream to anyone who says anything bad about any game I've ever liked?

    Wouldn't hurt. I like ice-cream. Still in the mood for that shake though.

  • edited February 2008
    Guy, Max - You want to critique something based not on an experience of it? That seems, well, strange. When I get a new album, I don't critique it on the cover art, at least not without listening to it as well.

    JD - I understand that you feel that way, but I don't think that's a true statement.

    Ryan,

    Hey, you're the only person who I should be talking with. I wanted to make sure you didn't read this thread as "go to the Forge, already," but as a question, "Why is SG the right place for this sort of criticism?"

    - Clinton
  • Posted By: Clinton R. NixonGuy, Max - You want to critique something based not on an experience of it? That seems, well, strange. When I get a new album, I don't critique it on the cover art, at least not without listening to it as well.
    A game book is not just a game, Clinton. There are things to critique about the book as an artifact that are separate from how the game plays. In fact, Fred (I think) recently commented about how the Sons of Liberty cover drastically undersells the book. I agree, and with his seconding of that sentiment, I'll probably investigate getting new cover art for later printings. Fred has, to my knowledge, not played the game, and yet he's still given me useful feedback.

    And as to the rest, Ryan, yeah, I agree with you on mostly everything. The only place where we divide is your 'sold' point. Games that are released for free are still published, even if they aren't sold, and the community can benefit from criticism on those, as well. I also lean that way for open playtests -- that's also publishing, and once the thing is released into the community, it becomes a valid topic of discussion and criticism, in my book.

    Ben -- I think it's safe to say that the problem ain't with you, man. We're not pointing fingers at anybody, and certainly not you.
  • Posted By: Ryan Macklin* Public praise -- the unchecked public praise here is, in my view, dangerous. It promotes poor books based on good ideas, encourages the next set of authors to make books based on the limited praise they've seen in the last run, and overall is the biggest hurdle in this being an insular, incestuous, dwindling community.
    Y'know, I might agree with this, provided that the unchecked public praise is, um, UNCHECKED by any sort of balanced public criticism.
    Posted By: Ryan Macklin* Published, sold products -- I'm not so concerned with products in development right now. I have given private feedback to those, because that's, in my view, where develop-level feedback goes. No, here I'm talking about products that have been published and are being sold to a public.
    I agree: dev feedback should be mostly private, while pub feedback should be public as all hell.
    Posted By: Ryan Macklin I'll argue that, sure, a developer has a (weakly-enforcable) right to ask people not to post criticisms publicly. There is no way that someone who asks money for their work does, though. If a work becomes publicly consumable, so must its criticisms.
    Given the S&S Gamma World debacle, I tend to agree with you.


    CU
  • Posted By: Clinton R. NixonI'm glad you've articulated this, and I think a lot of people will gain something from it.

    I know there's probably reasons all of you haven't taken advantage of this, but The Forge has been a place for real, actual criticism of games from the beginning, and continues to be, and I invite you to participate there.
    Clinton, let me disagree, courteously.

    My experiences seeking criticism on the Forge may be non-normative, but they didn't lend well to my personal process.

    Given that process, the state of criticism in general on the Forge that I've seen for various games hasn't been valuable TO ME. The comments are opaque to me, not being in the vibe of the place.

    CU
  • Posted By: Clinton R. NixonHey, you're the only person who I should be talking with. I wanted to make sure you didn't read this thread as "go to the Forge, already," but as a question, "Why is SG the right place for this sort of criticism?"
    Not Ryan, but my take on this is that SG is a more player-based forum, while the Forge is a more designer-based forum... by those lights, criticism of PUBLISHED (free or for pay) makes sense here.

    IMAO, of course.

    CU
  • Chad, that's brilliantly clear.
  • edited February 2008
    Posted By: Clinton R. NixonI wanted to make sure you didn't read this thread as "go to the Forge, already," but as a question, "Why is SG the right place for this sort of criticism?"
    Chad has answered your question as I would have, only with Chad-Fu[tm].

    The Forge isn't the place where consumers who are thinking about buying stuff hang out. Consumers become part of the next cycle of producers.

    Edit: A better way for me to articulate that, I think, is that I'm talking about post-publication criticism, which belongs in the post-publication community.
    Posted By: Ben LehmanHow many times do I have to say it before it's true, Ryan?
    Ben, the problem isn't truth. The problem is how the community, consciously or not, has made folks like me feel like our opinions were best kept to ourselves. I am glad for you that you already knew this.
    Posted By: Josh Bonobo RobyAnd as to the rest, Ryan, yeah, I agree with you on mostly everything. The only place where we divide is your 'sold' point. Games that are released for free are still published, even if they aren't sold, and the community can benefit from criticism on those, as well. I also lean that way for open playtests
    Fair enough. There are no free products I feel this strongly about, but I see where you're coming form.
  • Well, in real life when you say something that goes too far, you risk a punch in the face.

    Internet forums don't have this natural moderation mechanic. So, burned by negative comment just escalating higher and higher (when most/all involved needed a knee in the groin long ago), they go the other way and become super supportive and possitive, even of absolute tripe.

    It's because critique itself needs to face critique - it needs to face a risk of being punched in the face. Otherwise the quality of the critique goes right down, quickly becoming useless - indeed, quickly becoming just damaging.

    Note that even being punched in the face doesn't mean your critique was a bad one - the critique of the critique may have been wrong.

    I'm outlaying that not to suggest a solution, but to show the mecahnical components involved in case it's of some use in making a system.
  • I'm going to go another step forward with a reason not to offer criticism in a forum unless it is solicited.

    Unsolicited criticism is posturing.

    Because you could have just as easily e-mailed the person and given your opinion in a non-public format where the person whose work you are criticizing can respond without public eyes.

    It is all about context.
  • But the criticism goes ONLY by e-mail, you have...

    1) If there are people who can play the game and post actual plays and reviews full of "awesome", the customer (and I am not talking about John Smith, I am talking about EVERYBODY here, even other game designers, before they buy the game) will believe that the game is perfect and with no problem whatsoever. The designer, by the way, seeing that (1) the customers buy his game thinking that it's perfect, and (2) nobody criticize it or say anything about these problems online, can think this about your e-mail: "bullshit, no other people had these problem's, it's you"

    2) If everybody has these problems, nobody talk about the game at all. Some people write some e-mails to the designer to let him know about the problem they found, but without discussing these anywhere the designer has no idea if they are representative of the problems of the other people who don't play the game. During this phase, the game die the death of general indifference and not being played.

    I was reading the early threads at the forge a few minutes ago (I was searching the forum for some info on a total different question), and I was surprised to the amount of open and direct criticism that the Sorcerer hardback got, in the forum, by people very active in the forge community then and now. Now it's six years after, and this would be unthinkable today. What happened?
  • Posted By: Clinton R. NixonI know there's probably reasons all of you haven't taken advantage of this, but The Forge has been a place for real, actual criticism of games from the beginning, and continues to be, and I invite you to participate there. Story Games does have a reluctance to "harsh the zen" as part of its charter, and that is both liberating for people who want a place to kick back and relax and stifling for people who want a place for no-holds-barred criticism. I wonder if things aren't better served by separating those two concerns.
    I agree with what Clinton is saying here about Story Games; I don't think this is the place for the New New Honesty. Story Games has been extremely functional as an oasis of positivity and Zen. Every site doesn't have to do everything and, in fact, I don't think that any site can do everything. At least, not well.

    Some on this thread have said they don't find the Forge useful for getting the Criticism, fair enough, if so. Personally, I pretty much stopped finding The Forge useful when they closed the RPG Theory forum. But the failure to find what you're looking for at The Forge doesn't make Story Games the place to bring the New New Honesty instead.
  • edited March 2008
    Posted By: JuddI'm going to go another step forward with a reason not to offer criticism in a forum unless it is solicited. Unsolicited criticism is posturing. Because you could have just as easily e-mailed the person and given your opinion in a non-public format where the person whose work you are criticizing can respond without public eyes.
    I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that if I post a critique of a movie, my target audience includes the director, or the actors, or the scriptwriter? And that I should therefore contact them directly?

    I would think that the audience for criticism would be potential consumers who are trying to decide whether or not to spend their money and time. Am I mistaken?
  • I will just point out (again), that I started a thread asking (ostensibly) for criticism of Passages, and got an extremely helpful, 100+ response thread out of it. And, I believe, 98% of the people who responded had not played my game. For me, at least, the system works.
  • Yeah, I was in that thread, Justin, and felt that we were in some way helpful :)
  • Well, that's solicited criticism, isn't it?

    Graham
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