I firmly believe in criticism. I’ve created The Thoughtful Gamer to bring a sharper critical eye to the world of tabletop games. I believe that high-quality, thoughtful criticism can:
1. Provide a positive signal to game designers and publishers
By and large the people who make and publish games want to not only sell units, but to actually make quality games. Criticism can help guide them refine their craft and challenge them to keep pushing the established boundaries and mores of gaming.
Additionally, criticism can guide consumer purchases, which also sends a signal to producers about what attributes in games are in demand.
2. Help us understand why we enjoy certain games and dislike others
In my mind this is a benefit in and of itself. I love the discovery process of analyzing a game, my relationship to it, and figuring out which mechanisms and details affected my experience.
In addition, understanding these details helps us make more informed purchasing decisions to find the games that we will truly love in the long term.
Finally, this level of understanding gives us some insight into human nature and the way we confront problems and dilemmas. After all, what is any proper game but a series of problems to be solved and opportunity costs to measure?
3. Help us think critically, logically, and with empathy
Well done criticism forces us to think logically about the game and about ourselves. It also forces us to think with empathy, as we consider the kinds of experiences others might have with the same game. It’s like a workout routine for your brain that helps you become a better person.
I know that some will find all of this too high-minded, but criticism is just a conversation done right. That said, I heartily encourage commenting and contributing to these discussions.
I also know that people will point out that games are experiential, implying that criticism on a subjective experience is fruitless. But good critics should be able to share their experiences in such a way that the person who disagrees with the conclusion should be able to understand the critic, and also understand the game in a better way.