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"It's free and I'd like to see you do better!" The common cry against critique with game mods/reviews
Posted on Monday, May 24 2010 @ 16:35:50 PST

Criticism is a fickle thing. Sometimes it is something we need and other times we just don’t want to deal with it. In any form of media, criticism will always be there, but there are some who believe it’s an evil thing or have huge misconceptions of the word. There are two kinds of criticism. Constructive criticism is where you give someone a critique on something by showing where they went wrong and ways they can try to fix the problems. Deconstructive criticism is when you bash the person’s work like a jerk and offer no advice on how to improve. Thanks to the rise of popular critics like Simon Cowell and Yahztee, now many people believe being absolute mean is the only way to grade someone’s work. These types of criticisms apply to video games as well.

 

There are tons of game mods out for PC games, ranging from new game modes, skins, sounds, and other things. The majority of them are free and we expect the content to be functional, have minimal bugs, and be fun to use at least. However, with the concept that game mods are free has been used as a shield against people who criticize custom content made by their fellow peers. The most common rebuttal the defenders use against people who critique custom mods are “Well, it’s free, so you shouldn’t be complaining about it! Let’s see you try to do better!”

 

The minute anyone says either of those two phrase or both, they instantly lose the argument. They are basically just covering their ears and singing loudly to block out any form of criticism. Let’s start with the concept of “you can’t complain because it is free.” Just because a game mod you downloaded didn’t cost you a cent does not excuse the maker of any major mistakes they made while creating the content. If there are tons of glitches or the level design is very poor, people will critique it and will not be happy with what they played with. To say that no one can complain about free content would allow makers to make shoddy work and hide behind the concept that it was free. Not to mention some companies like Valve release new content that is free AND they are well made and have few bugs. No one is expecting a common Joe to make free content of the same quality as the big game companies, but people should at least put effort in their work and test it (or have their friends test it) before rushing it out the door for everyone to see.

 

The other part of the argument, “LET’S SEE YOU DO BETTER,” also holds no water. The majority of people who make criticisms have little to no experience in the field they are criticizing, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t offer advice on how to improve a work. For someone who plays custom maps often, such as myself, we never made a single map in our entire lives, but we’ve played enough of them to know what works and what does not work. Even professional video game reviewers are constantly blasted for giving bad scores to a video game and that they never made a game in their life, but reviewers are the ones that show what makes a game work and not work. This applies to any medium besides video games. You have movie critics who review films and probably never produced a single film and are respected by many people. They watched a lot of films to know things like character development, good acting, good story, etc. and how they can make a movie good or bad. To have actual experience in the field is just a bonus. To say that people cannot critique something because they have no experience in the field would limit the author’s ability to improve and basically narrows down the critique to people who are in the same field. You have to listen to various voices to get a full story, not from people you only want to hear from.

 

Critique is not the spawn of Satan. It can push people in the right direction but only if they want to listen. Setting up artificial barriers to avoid critiques will only set you up to fail down the road. There are people who will pretend to critique just to troll but there are others who will give good and genuine advice. When making anything, your first priority should be to please the people who are going to play with your mod and if they think it falls flat, try harder!

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