I don't read reviews.

Well, that's not quite true. Let me rephrase – I don't read reviews to determine whether or not I should purchase something, which I think is the point of a review. I do read them sometimes after the fact, out of curiosity, but generally as a rule, I tend to avoid them.

There's a couple of reasons for this, and it varies depending upon what medium is being reviewed. To be honest, I will read reviews for books, products, hotel, etc. and give them some merit. What I'm really talking about here are reviews for movies and games.

In the case of movies, I avoid them like the plague. I've found that a perfectly good movie experience can be ruined by reading a review beforehand, because essentially what it's done is given you an opinion without having a chance to form your own. When you watch the movie, it's like having a commentary track on – all you can hear are the critics' complaints.

Granted if the movie received a good review that's not as much a problem, but you never can really know that going into it. It's true that generally movies that receive good reviews tend to be pretty good, and movies that receive terrible reviews tend to be godawful. But most movies are somewhere in the middle, with mixed results. Personal preference comes into play more. I may have enjoyed The Incredible Hulk (not to be confused with Hulk), but plenty of people didn't, and that's OK. But that doesn't mean that I want their review forced down my throat and affecting my movie watching experience.

In the case of video games, I'm not as religious about avoiding reviews, but they rarely effect me. When The Force Unleashed received fairly bleh scores, it didn't reduce my enthusiasm for the product – I just assumed reviewers were being overtly whiny (they were). Same for Assassin's Creed, Lego Indy, and plenty of others I've bought in spite of reviews. If a game receives a truly awful score... it's possible it might make me sit back and reconsider, but that's a pretty rare occurrence. On the flip side, it doesn't matter how highly you rate a game – if I wasn't interested in it before, a shining review doesn't do much to make me consider the product. I will occasionally read these reviews, certainly, but only to get an idea on how the general press thinks of the game, which is information I like to supplement with how well these games actually sell. Either way you slice it, the review doesn't sway me in any way.

When it comes down to it, for me the only “review” that can effect me is one from a friend. Generally you know this person and their likes/dislikes, and how often that lines up with your own. And those I'll definitely give some weight. A few non-trek friends had rave reviews for Star Trek before it came out, which let me know that it was going to be something special. Equally, another friend saw Terminator Salvation early and despised it, which gives me pause until I remember that he also wasn't a big fan of The Dark Knight (which is insane), so there's still a chance it could be good (I'll know either way after tonight). Ultimately, the review basically comes down to one of three things: it's cool, it's okay, or it sucks. There isn't really much more to say about it that can't be wrapped up with a thumb gesture.

In any event, that's why I tend to keep my reviews on the short end – mainly because if I don't read them, I've no business writing them, but also because, when you get right down to it, they're easy to summarize. Either it's cool, it's okay, or it sucks, and everything else is just personal supposition.

Posted by Kevin on 12:12 PM


Lauren said...

AGREED! I read them for hotels and restaurants and that's it really. I read them for books AFTER i've finished the book because then I can compare notes. As for movies, ugh. Everyone has different taste, which is why I rarely go to sites like rottentomatoes just because i'll probably disagree. (Note: I like to disagree on purpose sometimes because it's fun.)

Kevin said...

Yeah it seems like this is the case for a lot of people, which really makes me wonder how many people actually still use reviews.

Granted, rotten tomatoes is a bit less offensive to me since it just takes all the press reviews and blends them up to spit out a number. That's a hell of a lot more useful than, say, imdb or amazon, where all their ratings are user created, which is practically useless.

Colure said...

I'm a major proponent of reviews for hotels and restaurants. I think those two are always good to check into first before buying - especially hotels. Because it's such a major expense and you have to be staying there for a night or longer, it's important to know what you're getting into. But yeah, movie reviews? Hate 'em. Don't read them, don't write them, don't like them. ;p

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