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I'm probably over-thinking this, because over-thinking is what I tend to do. In addition to writing small novels that masquerade as flash reviews, that is. Well, I'm gonna do what I'm good at here: Write a small novel and over-think this topic: What is it, exactly, that leaving a review is supposed to do?
By and large, I'd assumed that the purpose of writing any kind of review is to give constructive feedback about whatever it is you're reviewing. This isn't always the case, especially on the internet ("deconstructive" comes more to mind out here than anything else), but I think it is important to give your opinion where it's asked for. On Newgrounds, that's a given with every submission. There's a little box that asks for you to say something, and in the spirit of keeping it real, I figure why not go in depth? After all, although I don't spend hours a day on NG, I have been a regular viewer of flash animations for a long time now. Does this give me any expertise on the matter? No.
Certainly not, as a matter of fact. I'm not an animator, I've got no formal art training, and I'm an individual (as opposed to the pawn of some homogenous set of established set of standards). These are all things that might take credit away from my opinion with regards to another person's work of art, whatever form that art might take. What I am, however, is a consumer of art, and in particular the art form of the flash animation. I am also a thinking a creature that notices patterns, and when you consume enough art you begin to notice what you like, what you dislike, and what the difference between the two is. And I daresay I'm not merely a consumer: I would go as far to say that I am an enthusiastic member of the audience. Does this add credibility to my opinion? Still, I think the answer is no. But it adds credibility to my experience with the medium. My opinion is a reflection of a lot of things: my mood, my personality (which, contained within, is my sense of humor, amusement, and boredom), and all of my experiences. I could be an asshole who just likes to brings other people down a peg, and all the experience in the world would not make my opinion any less asshole-ish for it.
Nonetheless, and I speak only for myself here, when I view something, especially recent "under judgement" submissions, a lot of the time if something stands out to me, I want to point it out. Not because I have any expertise, because we've established that I don't, but because I have a little experience, and I have learned a little from it. I want to share what I've learned in the hope that it will be useful to somebody else here. Newgrounds has two rating forms: "Votes" and "Stars". The stars, as I'm sure aware, are tied directly to the review. If I vote on something, I'm just tossing out what I thought of it, on a completely arbitrary 0-5 scale. The stars, however, represent something different. The stars are not just a "what" did you think of an animation, but also a "why"? To me, it's totally redundant to give something a "5" and then review "5 out of 5. Loved it." Well, we can see that already. We can't see that it was you exactly who gave that 5 unless you leave a review saying so, but why would it matter? Is the point just to leave a compliment, in that case? Or on the flip-side, just to disparage? "0 out of fiv gay". Just about as useful as the positive version. But the instant you explain why you thought so, you suddenly validate the existence of the that review box and that second rating system.
What are we to do, then? We are given a system that implicitly requests we share our thoughts or opinions on a piece, but most of us, as individuals, have little or no credibility when it comes critiquing an animated short, and those of us who do find ourselves to be credible are so outnumbered by the rest of us as to have their opinion effectively rendered...inconsequential. We as a group have control over the fate of every submission on this website, regardless of our qualifications as reviewers.
I'm not an artist yet. I will be soon, and when I am, my work will be critiqued. My feelings will be tied to that work, and they will be open to attack from anybody with an opinion and the will to share it. I understand this, and I know this is the risk every person takes when they submit something to Newgrounds. The big question in my mind becomes not "what is it to review?" but rather "how would I want to be reviewed, given what we've established?" The answer is "honestly and articulately". I want to know what people think and to understand why they think it, be it negative or positive, because there might be something to learn from that. Negative or positive, the opinion of somebody else holds information we don't might not have access to and it comes from a perspective that might be totally different from our own.
Is this true for everybody? Of course not. I've been called long-winded, elitist, snobby, prickish, and downright idiotic for my opinions, but that's how it goes. Who knows? I may, in fact, be all of those thing, but I can't say for sure, because I'm notoriously bad at judging my own character. Others have benefited from or at least thanked me for sharing my views, so I'm at least hitting both sides of the board. At the end of the day, all one can really do is go with their gut on this. I tend to side with Kant: The intention of the action counts for something too, not just the result. I go into a review looking to honestly share a perspective that comes from some experience, hoping to help the artist progress in some small way. I don't mean to dishearten or insult with criticism; I mean to dishearten and insult with insults, and the review box is not the place for that. A review can be insulting, surely, but there again we go back to the intention: there's a difference between "critical" and "insulting", and if you confuse the two, or if you find the mere idea of criticism insulting, you had better be prepared to feel very insulted the moment you produce anything that other people have access to.
I guess that's about all. I'm sorry if you read the whole thing and realized there was no "point" to it. I was just thinking in print. Some guy snapped at me when I left a review and got me to thinking about it all. Maybe he's just used to youtubers or something, who knows. Best just to take it in stride and keep content with the self, because if you give anybody on the net an inch, man, they will take a mile. If you find any typos, by the way, feel free to point 'em out.
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Total Medals Earned: 10 (From 4 different games.)