What Makes a Good User Review?

Posted by Jon {Avid Gamer} | 16-Aug-11 | 46 comments

Critic badgeThe quest system on BoardGaming.com is intended to reward people for submitting good game reviews. Of course good is in the eye of the beholder. But, there are certainly some common things that most people like to see in a review.

So, we’d like to put together a nice concise guide to help new users know what makes up a good user review. Let’s define a “good review” as: A review that is more likely to get people to respond “Yes” to the question “Was this review helpful?”

We certainly aren’t expecting every user to submit lengthly, comprehensive reviews. Sometimes, a single paragraph is perfectly sufficient to get a point across, and that point might strike a chord with other users. However, experience shows that most of the time short reviews get poor ratings.

What are the main set of tips that you would give a new user to help guide them to write the types of reviews that are going to help them become a high level critic?

One person’s point of view on what makes a good review is not enough, so that is why we are requesting your input. Let the brainstorm begin …

Comments (46)

Gamer Avatar
7
Miniature Painter
Intermediate Reviewer
Master Grader

I hate lengthy reviews that are longer than the rulebooks. There is no way I want to invest this much time in any ******** idle thoughts about a box of cardboard and plastic. Give me your breakdown and do it succinctly – only the slow need buildup!!

Gamer Avatar
7
Intermediate Reviewer
Professional Grader
Tomahawk

A couple of things I look for in a review. Why did you rate what you did?
Is this a good investment, games are becoming a financial commitment, why should I spend my money. What is the gameplay like? I don’t need strategy or a tutorial but I want to know how the game flows. Is there replay value? What type of game is it?

Gamer Avatar
3
I Am What I Am

One would like to have a brief summery and then a description as it allows both types of people the info needed and also an option for those who want to quickly look up.

Gamer Avatar
2
Amateur Grader

Granny pretty much covered all of the points for me.
One thing I will add is that in a string of discussion/reviews, it gets frustrating reading the overview, setup…for every time. If you are replying to a previous review or just adding onto one, don’t re- type every word and then add for thoughts.

Gamer Avatar
10
Canada
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
Platinum Supporter

@Budgie Agreed – the ‘Voice’ of the BGdot is only as good as the collective membership. :)There’s quite a few old BGdot souls here that have sage advice and thankfully some that are still vocal.

@Jim My offer still stands to sift through these comments and compile them into a Top 10 Review Tip FAQ 🙂

Gamer Avatar
7
Draco Magi fan
I'm a Player!
Book Lover
I Am What I Am

Still a great and worthwhile discussion!

Gamer Avatar
7
US Army Service
I play green

A lot of good points brought up here. One thing I hate is when people need to explain the rules in a review. Its a review of the game, not a “let me teach you how to play the game”. Its fine to point up problems in the rules. There is a reason the instruction book, videos of how to play the game etc. exist.

Sometimes it feels redundant to give it a rating as most of the time people have clicked the 1-10 rating and it shows on the side. Also the number of players as the site has its own overview of the game.

What some people fail to realize is that even “professional” reviewers have bias and it will show in their reviews. It is unavoidable. Example: Tom Vassel of The Dice Tower has hated games that others and myself have enjoyed.

Gamer Avatar
6
Bard
I play yellow
Miniature Painter

I find it useful to separate different paragraphs and then Bold key words. Not everyone reads the whole review – many people just scan the text through and move on. When you Bold keywords, people are usually able to get your point without even reading the whole text.

Gamer Avatar
7
Football Fan
MERCS fan
Canada
The Gold Heart

I prefer when a review is broken up into certain sections Pros, Cons, Etc

The spacing is also important so I can quickly identify different parts. If I just want to know what someone didn’t like, I shouldn’t have to spent 20 min reading to find that out.

Gamer Avatar
9
Rated 100 Games
Stone of the Sun
Advanced Reviewer
Novice Advisor

I think I better understand what a good review is about. The only problem is getting noticed. Some reviews have 100 votes on them. Mine hardly ever reach 15. Is the community smaller these days or am I doing something wrong?

Gamer Avatar
3
Went to Gen Con 2012

In an effort to shorten the learning curve, we’ve set a validation check on reviews at 400 characters minimum. Though it is possible to write helpful reviews shorter than that, experience is showing the users prefer reviews that are longer than just a few sentences.

Gamer Avatar
3
Gamer - Level 3

I think a good review is informative first, and entertaining second. I want to know what the game is about and how it works. If the review happens to be entertaining as well, then bonus. What I don’t want to see is someone bashing a game or lauding it without explaining their reasoning. If you think something is terrible or great, tell me why and if possible, what you think would make it better. That’s where house rules come in!

Gamer Avatar
9
Miniature Painter
Rosetta Stone
Advanced Reviewer
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester

Personally, I see a lot of reviews that really are impressions of the game rather than an actual informative review. Now, I do not want to pretend that I am some kind of master reviewer and I really do not want to come across as a snob, but when I read a review I want to get a real feel for the game.

That isn’t to say that I am uninterested in impressions. I find them very useful. I think that the “Impression” option in the discussion area of games is WAY underutilized by the community, and I would love to see more people use that area to put in the couple sentence review that some use.

Gamer Avatar
3
Amateur Reviewer
Strategist
Amateur Advisor

Informative, entertaining and specific. A great review should explain the game well enough that I have a basic understanding of how the game plays, what makes the game unique and fun, and what type of tastes the game accommodates (casual gaming, strategy, adventure, etc.).

Also, a good title goes a long way. It may sound silly, but a title to a review can say a lot about the review in a few short words and really grab my attention. Like a good news headline, a review’s title should make me want to read for further explanation.

Finally, while I like the variety of types of reviews on this site, my personal belief is that reviews should be brief…but not too brief. I think between 200-500 words is a good length to shoot for. Really short reviews aren’t good for much beyond reaffirming an opinion the reader already had and really long reviews just seem tedious to read. A review should discuss specifics about the game, explain each point briefly, sum up and be done.

Also…it doesn’t hurt to throw your text into MS Word or other word processing program to give it a good grammar check, spelling check and final edit.

Gamer Avatar
6

I think one of my favorite things about sites like “Rottentomatoes.com” is that you can see a bunch of short reviews on one page. I like being able to quickly glance the screen and see several peoples point of view at once, and then click on the review that catches your eye to read further. Short reviews can can be great if they covey their opinions well.

Gamer Avatar
7
Advanced Reviewer
It's All About Me
I'm a Real Person
I'm Completely Obsessed

After reading and reviewing a bit more, I would like to amend my earlier statement. You know what helps makes good reviews?

1. Punctuation. As in, you should have to use some. A single run-on sentence is not a good review.

2. Paragraphs. If a review is a single, massive wall of unending text, I skip it. I haven’t gotten the point of saying “NO, not helpful.” But I will. And I will get there soon.

3. Enthusiasm! You’re writing about a GAME! Make me want to play the game! Shouldn’t reading about games be as entertaining as playing the game?! (OK, maybe not… but you get my point!)

4. Specifics. If your review of gameplay can be cut-and-paste into a review for Candyland, you might be doing it wrong. This does make it slightly harder to review Expansions, but it ensures that we are giving out the information we need to be giving out! If you can’t remember the name of the card, LOOK IT UP! You seem to be in some sort of “access browser to an information gathering network…”

5. Did I already mention Enthusiasm? Seriously. “Helpful” is a great measure of review worthiness, but I’m going to throw “Not Boring” up there in second place.

Gamer Avatar
7
Advanced Reviewer
It's All About Me
I'm a Real Person
I'm Completely Obsessed

I think that one reason this site has a ton of potential is because a variety of people can hop on and read a variety of reviews.

Some people just want to check out the rating and see a one sentence review. “7.2, and I can play this with my non-gamer friends” is a fantastic review in some circumstances. On the other hand, I prefer to read into specifics about why the game deserves the rating it received. Why didn’t it get a 10.0? Is there something I’m going to need to house rule, or warn my friends about before we start?

I think the key is content. However long your review it, it should be flooded with content about the game itself. Exactly why you like or dislike it. Do I often surround that in game flavor text? Probably. I mean, we are trying to be informative and entertaining, right? Otherwise, why read these things? Games are supposed to be fun.

Anyway, I think the concept of a “good” review is a highly packed idea. In response, I think we just have to keep writing and let the style of the site develop naturally. The feedback system is going to tell me a lot about how I choose to review things in short order!

Gamer Avatar
9
Gamer - Level 7
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Petroglyph
Explorer - Level 3

As you can see there is no one “right” review. There are enough sources and reviews of how to play a game and what it contains(including the company game page itself). I appreciate those who take the time to write the reviews at this site that give us such info at one collected location. As for myself unless I am writing the first review for a game I will focus on game length, strengths and weaknesses, and who I think will like the game. Reviews are based on a gamer’s experience with the game and their own likes/dislikes.

Gamer Avatar
2
I Am What I Am

When I see a review with instructions how to play. Even if I don’t know how to play the game, I usually skip past most of what’s said and go to the bottom where actual review of the game is at. I would only integrate a brief explanation of a mechanic if your giving an impression of it.

Gamer Avatar
3
Rated 10 Games
Novice Grader

For me a good review must have all the informations about the ruls the componets and the time to play.
And some informations about the back up story if any and the expansions that come with this game.

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