Critical Eye Vs. Personal Enjoyment



  • I started doing reviews on my blog some time ago. It started with a fellow author who was asking for reviews of his book in exchange for copies. I had been reading his blog and I had really liked the excerpts he posted so I signed right up. And I ended up liking the book so much that, despite getting a free copy, I went into Amazon and made a purchase.

    After that, I ended up enjoying the whole review thing so much, my blog slowly turned into a review blog. Something that I had constantly said I didn't want to do. Oh, well. >.>

    Ever since I've gotten into watching YouTube reviewers and reading review blogs, particularly of shows/books/movies I like. And one thing I've heard/read some reviewers say is that once they look at a certain work with a critical eye it actually affects their enjoyment of it... Forever.

    Now, this doesn't happen with me. When I was younger I couldn't admit anyone pointing out flaws in things I liked, but now... I do it myself and I think it's perfectly fine. I mean, to me, Lord of The Rings is one of the best book series ever written and admitting the fact that some sections of Fellowship are straight up boring don't change that opinion or affect my enjoyment of it.

    Some people straight up won't watch reviews of things they like at all because they claim that once someone points out the flaws they can't unsee them and it kills their enjoyment.

    With me, I won't watch reviews before I see a movie or show because going in with expectations of something being greater than it is, or with the idea of it being crap already planted in my mind, might actually affect me, but after I formed my own opinion, I'm cool with turning on a critical eye and tearing it apart one day and then watching it for fun the next. It doesn't affect me at all.

    So, I was wondering how that works for you guys. Does looking at something with a critical eye affect your ability to just enjoy it?


  • Plotist Team: Keepers of Code

    I think I have a similar feeling about reviews. I don't read/watch reviews before reading/watching some story, it's not only that they might affect my experience but also to avoid spoilers. (from now on, I'll just use read instead of read/watch).

    I do, however, read stories that I read about on a review, or sometimes if I'm not sure about a comic book or a movie I might skim through some review. But generally, I go into a new story with a fresh mind.

    That said, the thing I love about stories is that I approach them at many different levels. Sometimes I can only appreciate the story or worldbuilding, sometimes I can go as far as forming theories of gender (for example) or extract the sociocultural context of the author of the story. This "critical eye" is how I enjoy stories, and I would not read so much if the stories wouldn't allow me to go to that level.

    Once I finish a story, I do sometimes read reviews, to see if I'm the only one who feels like that about the story or if there are things I missed. I sometimes even search on Google specific things I discovered while reading. Doing this might change my perception of the story, but it increases my enjoyment as get more engaged thinking about the ramifications of certain ideas or finding counter-arguments to their opinions.

    So in summary, I love being critical and I love engaging with other critical people. For me that's the true joy of reading/watching stories, being able to process and discuss the ideas that they throw at you.



  • @jaycano I never thought of it that way.

    Did you ever play, or watched a playthrough, of The Beginner's Guide?

    That game goes into the topic of how the audience might over-analyze a work and often draw conclusions about the author or even project things on them that might not be true. Amongst other concepts. And it led me to a discussion between my co-writer and myself on whether the writer's intention is or not important to an audience's understanding or enjoyment of their work. Is knowing what someone means with every line they wrote important to a story or is that missing the point?

    Personally, I made it a habit of not thinking too deeply into things. I like to be critical sometimes and doing so actually helps me enjoy things I don't like (as is the case with most of the fan fiction I cover on my blog), but most of the time I just like to be taken on a journey and not question why.



  • Personally, I made it a habit of not thinking too deeply into things. I like to be critical sometimes and doing so actually helps me enjoy things I don't like (as is the case with most of the fan fiction I cover on my blog), but most of the time I just like to be taken on a journey and not question why.

    This is how I generally read/watch things myself. As far as whether or not the author's intentions matter, I feel that they do, though with them being human, they may have put things into their work that could be prone to misinterpretation by some of the audience. The best thing I can personally think to do is explain what you originally meant as the author, but be open to what the audience may have to say to a given aspect of the work. That's the best you can sometimes do.


  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    Oooh boy. I have quite a lot to say about this. After all I did game journalism for several years, and it included reviews of games as well. So let me start there. I personally have a massive collection of games (I promise it is less than 1000, but more than 900). I've played a lot of games in my life, so I figured going into game journalism made a lot of sense. What I was constantly kept aware of is the fact that I had to keep in mind that no review is untainted. What I mean by this is I had to constantly put up with people questioning my review, telling me that I was biased (either cause I got the game for free, or early), or that I had no idea what I was a woman, or that I was a 4X lover, or that any of what makes me...well me... coloured my perception and influenced my review score.

    Enter a game that was critically acclaimed as -amazing-, the reboot of Lara Croft. Now I did not do a public review of this story, but I can tell you that to me, that game was horrible. The story.. tropes ahoy. The combat .. boring. The puzzles... yawn-worthy. So I went into the story with a certain belief that it should be good, and turned into one of my worst gaming experiences (and I have 100% completion on it). There are other games, where people pen horrible reviews, but I find them fantastic!

    Now, when it comes to reading reviews for books, I'm of the opinion that people have different tastes and in can influence a story. So for me, it's fine. But.. your question is one that has a strange answer from me.

    Does looking at something with a critical eye affect your ability to just enjoy it?
    Remember how I give people options when I read their stories? I do the same thing with a games, books, etc. I have what I call mental states that I need to be in for certain things. If I go into a game or book with the intent to review it (something I do quite a bit), my "pleasure" in the game will be reduced because I am actively looking for issues. I'm actively looking for how those issues are handled and if I agree with the method the developer or writer choose.

    Now as someone who loves challenges, and puzzles, I get a different type of pleasure from this style than from just putting on my "who cares about anything just enjoy" mentality. When I am in that mentality, I don't care if the writer or game does something which I would consider a flaw. I've read books where the characters were in a building one moment, but the next sentence they were in a yard, and in the next paragraph they were in a lunchroom. It's like the author had NO idea where their characters were. I could forgive that in a "lol, just a funny story" kind of way. Occasionally though, the writing crime is just too much too forgive. Like if a character does something completely OUT of character, no explanation, no reason, no nothing.

    So, does looking at something with a critical affect my ability to just enjoy it? Yes, and I end up with a different TYPE of enjoyment.



  • @Josey For curiosity's sake, have you played The Beginner's Guide?

    I'm yet to watch a playthrough of the Lara Croft reboot. I honestly was never a Tomb Raider fan, though, so although my brother thought it was amazing I never considered getting it myself.

    Yeah, see, I'm one of those people who can't separate things, but I'm also one of those people who doesn't care if something is good so long as they bring me a certain amount of joy. And that tends to confuse people because sometimes I will criticize a movie/game/book to death and then end with "yeah, I loved it. It was great!". Just the other day I was playing one of my favorite Gameboy Advance games and complaining about it relentlessly to my friend to the point where he just went "WHY ARE YOU STILL PLAYING THAT!?" and I just look at him. "Because it's awesome." >.>

    The maps in that game are just confusing and I have no sense of direction, so I was constantly bitching that I didn't know where the hell I was going. :P



  • If I am mentally not in the mindset to be critical, then I can go right past flaws, but once I'm in the mindset to be critical then I have issues focusing on the story >.< I love reading/watching reviews of stuff though. Idk, they bring an amusement in and of themselves. The only issue is that if something super problematic (at least for me) comes up that I never noticed in the review, then I will never be able to look at the story in question the same way again. Usually I can still read/watch/whatever it, but I can't enjoy it to the same degree as before the flaw was pointed out.

    If I hear people that I talk to regularly saying good/bad things about a book/movie/game/etc, then I'll be swayed in whatever direction they're talking about it to invest time in it. So if everyone says great things about an author (like I've heard only good things about Brandon Sanderson so I have the Mistborn trilogy on my shelf to read) then I'll probably pick up something by them, and vice versa with things I only hear bad things about. (Probably not the best way to go about things, but oh well.)

    Also, I don't know if it's relevant, but I can't read a movie and then read a book or vice versa. I will put expectations on the other one. So if I really loved a movie/TV series based on a book, then I'll expect the book to be fantastic. Except that I become biased towards whichever one I saw/read first. :| (and let's be honest, there are some fine adaptations out there.)

    @Josey I never played/watched Lara Croft before the new stuff came out, but my parents were buying an Xbox One for my brothers at Christmas time and we could either get the one that came with Halo 4 or something or the one that came with Lara Croft, and I knew Tomb Raider had puzzles, so I made them get that. Everyone says that the old ones were awesome, though, so I'm thinking about investing time into them. (Tbh I played Tomb Raider just to raid the various tombs.)


  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    In a way, the ability to accept flaws is what makes B-Movies and parodies so much fun. I think that's why we end up with cult classics. Take things like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, or 99% of the movies Bruce Campbell has been in. There are also quite a few flaws that can make a book, game, movie, TV show, etc so endearing you can't help to love it, even if it is horrible.

    @Blackbird I have not! Now I am thinking I need to check it out. :)

    @typical_demigod - I do not recommend avoiding the new Lara Croft just cause I did not like it. :D I think because I have so much experience with so many different types of games, stories, etc, it became annoying to me because something would happen and I would be like ... "really? this is just like X" or in the story I was like "Seriously? ... you choose this to prove how much stronger she is?". If you don't have my experiences you'll probably really like it for the gameplay. Story wise, not too sure. :) But yeah, raiding tombs is one of the best parts of the game.


  • Plotist Team: Keepers of Code

    @Blackbird I haven't played The Beginners Guide but sounds interesting.

    Just to clarify a bit my posture, this is not what I mean

    0_1496490572295_main-qimg-ad58f2a9fc0c378b959f3485628d4cff.png

    Generally, I think there different levels you can enjoy some work. It might be the worldbuilding or the character development or the plot itself. When I'm reading, I'm always aware of all these things and I enjoy different books for different reasons. When I said that I can "extract a gender theory" or "understand the cultural context", it's not like I'm doing proper academic literature analysis, but more about how I feel about the book from my cultural standpoint.

    <<WARNING: Review with some foul language>>
    For example, and this is some sort of review so skip it if your prefer forming your own opinion, I'm currently reading Stranger in Strangeland for the first time, and although it's considered a masterpiece and must-read classic, I'm actually struggling with it and I can tell that it was not writtern for a modern audience. The worldbuilding and characters are sloppy for my taste, as I'm used to George RR Martin, James SA Corey and other modern authors that are really careful in their worldbuilding. Some of the concepts introduced in the novel about how culture affects perception are things that are more well-understood now than it was in the 60s, so it's not such a huge breakthrough, and the way of handling it is mostly the author speaking through one of the characters instead of being developed as part of the story, and generally the sexism is rampant (which I think is part of the main theme and will, at some point have a twist).

    As a specific example, there is a passage where one female character says to a male character:

    "I remember how you used to pat my fanny while you assured me that that the Professor was sure to get well"

    She tells this as a fond memory, and this sentence is doubly offensive for two reasons. One is that my newly acquired British sensibilities makes me squirm at the word "fanny", which for the author just meant "bottom" or "butt". The other is that it reflects a type of sexism that we perceive as belonging to the Mad Men era, when secretaries needed to to be prettier than skillful.

    <<END: Review with some foul language>>

    So yeah, I do look into how the story is built, the quality of the writing and the context the story was written in, but I don't think I'm going to far here. I think this is something we do naturally, we can only understand a story from our own cultural context and it's always a shock, or it feels weird, when we read something that is not from our own cultural context



  • @jaycano That image example really made me laugh. I know a lot of people who actually do that. And it always annoyed me a little bit. Not everything has to mean something. lol

    I didn't mean it like that either. Although I did say 'every little line they wrote', so I think I might have made it sound that way. ^^;

    What I meant about The Beginners Guide is something along the lines of, uhm, take something like Alice in Wonderland. It's a wildly popular work of literature and one that people love to speculate about. I've read articles theorizing it was about drugs, math, loss of innocence, schizophrenic delusions... The list goes on. And for me, this leads to the conclusion that meaning is subjective and a reader's interpretation of a work can and often will differ greatly from the author's intended message.

    So my discussion with my co-writer was more along the lines of whether the author's message is of more, less, or equal importance than the reader's interpretation. And whether knowing the author's intended message is even relevant to the experience of enjoying a story.

    We also had a discussion on whether it is right for a reader to take their personal interpretation of someone's work and project it onto them (which is somewhat what happens in the game, but I'd rather not go into spoilery details about that). For me, there is a line between trying to draw meaning from someone's work and trying to psycho-analyze them on a personal level, that as a writer I'd rather not have crossed.

    But that's a different discussion entirely. :/



  • *For me, there is a line between trying to draw meaning from someone's work and trying to psycho-analyze them on a personal level, that as a writer I'd rather not have crossed.

    But that's a different discussion entirely. :/*

    Agreed. If I had a piece of low-paying currency for every discussion I've seen where some members of an audience somehow think it's in any way appropriate to psychoanalyze an author due to some of the themes they've put in their works, I could retire early and rich. Sometimes, the author may have gone about exploring certain themes in a way that's controversial, but as you said, there's a line. @Blackbird, that game is by the same person who did The Stanley Parable, isn't it? I've seen people play that one and it's another where your character can influence the story in a way the narrator didn't intend.



  • @Rose

    I've had a literature teacher call my mom when I was in high school over a piece of personal writing I showed her. They were song lyrics, and they were written from the point of view of one of my characters... So they alluded to things such as 'leaving behind a trail of death' and 'fearing the person I've become'... and similarly eerie things an assassin might be thinking on a semi-regular basis... And that led her to conclude I had violent tendencies. Gladly my mom knew me well enough to tell her to mind her business, but it took a long time for me to even consider showing my writing to anyone ever again after that one. :/

    that game is by the same person who did The Stanley Parable, isn't it? I've seen people play that one and it's another where your character can influence the story in a way the narrator didn't intend.

    Yes! I'm yet to actually play either of these games. Though I have watched a full playthrough of The Beginners Guide and... I was in the middle of a creative crisis at the time, so... It left a very lasting impression on me. :/



  • And that led her to conclude I had violent tendencies. Gladly my mom knew me well enough to tell her to mind her business, but it took a long time for me to even consider showing my writing to anyone ever again after that one. :/

    Without speaking to you about it first? Good Lord. I had similar things happen and...yeah. I won't get into a derailing rant here, but I think I've detailed my feelings on the matter well enough so as not to leave much in the way of room for doubt. Long story short, I am not my character(s).

    Yes! I'm yet to actually play either of these games. Though I have watched a full playthrough of The Beginners Guide and... I was in the middle of a creative crisis at the time, so... It left a very lasting impression on me. :/

    I watched one of my favorite Let's Players on Youtube do The Stanley Parable. Some of that just got plain ridiculous in some of the choice paths, but it was also amusing because I like dry humor. It also opened up another take I hadn't considered before. It's like the opposite of the 'unreliable narrator' trope. I hope they make more games that explore those themes in a more serious way.



  • @Rose said in Critical Eye Vs. Personal Enjoyment:

    Without speaking to you about it first?

    Mhm. The only reason I know she called was because my mom told me. And I never brought it up with the teacher that I knew either. I just never showed her anything outside of class assignments after that.

    I played the Demo for Stanley Parable on Steam and then haven't watched anything about it since because I want to play it myself. And it's the kind of game that once you know the paths it's just not that fun. But the demo gives you a very good gist of what you're in for.

    The Beginner's Guide I decided I needed to play for myself despite watching the playthrough. It's a linear game, there isn't much discovering involved. It's basically a guided tour in game format, but the story involved is more than worth it in my opinion.

    Next Steam sale maybe I'll buy them both.



  • I just never showed her anything outside of class assignments after that.

    I can't blame you. It wasn't her place to make that judgment call. My mother would have had words with her supervisor.

    Next Steam sale maybe I'll buy them both.

    I may have to join you in that. It's been so long since I could play anything decent with my system being what it is, once I have one I can hide from greater society and indulge in games I've been waiting for for a very long time.


  • Plotist Team: Keepers of Code

    I've had a literature teacher call my mom when I was in high school

    Yep, I've been there. We were learning about romanticism, the 18-19th century literary movement, and they told us that some important themes in romanticism was madness and personal feelings. We had the assignment of writing a short story using the style and themes of romanticism, so I wrote about a guy who starts the story being chased by a mob without giving any explanation. He was running through this industrial town, dark with smoke and lots of narrow streets and dark alleys. At some point there is this guy in one of the alleys that offered him help and he took him to safety, a small house in one of the side streets, and when they got there and the mob passed, the savior turns out to be a madman and stabs him to death. So yeah, my parents got a call from my school about that one.

    For me, there is a line between trying to draw meaning from someone's work and trying to psycho-analyze them on a personal level, that as a writer I'd rather not have crossed.

    This is a very tricky discussion. The author does have intentions, either explicit (as in teaching the world about moral relativity and the importance of language) or implicit (as in his ideas of what is "proper" are reflected on his work). Threading too thin you might see things where there are none, but there is a lot you can learn about an author or their cultural context by reading their books.

    As a writer, I think you should not worry too much about this. Or as a reader, even. I'll just drop a quote by Bernard Werber here:

    *Between

    what I think
    what I want to say
    what I believe I say
    what I say
    what you want to hear
    what you believe to hear
    what you hear
    what you want to understand
    what you think you understand
    what you understand

    there are ten possibilities that we might have some problem communicating. But let’s try anyway…*



  • @jaycano said in Critical Eye Vs. Personal Enjoyment:

    Threading too thin you might see things where there are none, but there is a lot you can learn about an author or their cultural context by reading their books.

    That is true. However, I feel that what people fail to understand sometimes is that knowing things about an individual doesn't actually mean that you know them. It can feel that way, but it's not actually that way. :/



  • That is true. However, I feel that what people fail to understand sometimes is that knowing things about an individual doesn't actually mean that you know them. It can feel that way, but it's not actually that way. :/

    Yup. The only time I personally learn anything about a given author is when they put it somewhere publically, speaking as themselves, in regards of their personal views on something or a given aspect of their lives. Another time is if the book is non-fiction. If it's in a fictional context, someone (and by this I mean 'someone' in a general sense) may assume they can put the pieces about someone else together, but without actually getting to know them, it's speculation. People (again, generally) can get pretty wild about what they think they know. Unfortunately, this often translates to extremes, especially online where you don't need to talk to someone and can mostly say what you please without much fear of reprisal.


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