THINGS I NEVER WANT TO SEE AGAIN IN IF CRITICISM


1. The Phrase "Nicely done".

Nicely done Zork/Enchanter homage, with some clever puzzles (but also some guess-the-verb moments).
A nicely done superhero game. The conversations could be improved though.
As a game, it works okay if not spectacularly well--there are some nicely done puzzles.
I was enchanted with this game. I found the use of graphics in the meta-game nicely done
Some nicely done emotional content, but unevenly written and highly linear.
Got this link in the mail today: A one room Point And Click IF in Flash - nicely done....
The puzzles are very nicely done, weaving into the story nicely and setting the pace correctly for the game.

The above quotations, listed in order of increasing nausea, were taken from the IF Ratings Site, rec.games.int-fiction and SPAG, and many more could have joined them. But enough is enough. I have decided it is now my mission -- my one-man mission, if need be -- to eradicate the phrase "nicely done" from IF criticism. "Nicely done" is not how you criticise a work of art; it's how you order a steak if you don't like steak. Stated flatly on its own, as in the examples above, it conveys no more information than a vague "I liked it", and conveys it in the most prissy and insipid manner possible.

The use of the phrase "nicely done" indicates a reviewer unwilling to get his hands dirty, unwilling to delve into the blood and guts of real criticism, happy to get by with of a couple of bland and thoughtless words of compliment. In this sense, "nicely done" might seem like all-purpose praise, but not so. Whether or not the reviewer intends it, the word "nice" brings with it notions of genteelness, of tea-room ideals of propriety, of sensibilities so delicate that even Jane Austen could lampoon them. Reviewers unaware of this can produce stupidities like the following:

The emotional force of the piece is very nicely done, but it occasionally gets bogged down in time-consuming, overly specific puzzles.

You're talking about emotional force! Passion and love and despair and rage and fury! Is "nice" the best you can do?

OTOH there are zombies (very nicely done) and large insects or even "dinosaurs".

And this year's Darth Maul Award for "Most Unimpressive Villain" goes to the necromancer who does zombies nicely.

Sex: Sparse, but very nicely done.

If you're going to do sex, then please Jesus don't do it nicely.

If you think anything about a work of IF is "nicely done", then

and most importantly:

The last point is probably the hardest to avoid. Even some good reviewers resort to the phrase as a quick prop-me-up, or in a doomed attempt to rescue a paragraph from anticlimax:

One key to this game was how smoothly it played. Once you had the general idea of something, the game took over and didn't make you play out all the fiddly bits. This was most clearly seen in [...]. Nicely done.

I'm not a fan of these last-minute paragraph savers, even though I tend to use them all the time. "It's a neat touch", "clever stuff", and other such cliches could all be substituted for "nicely done" here, without offering any obvious improvement. These phrases, used in this way, just draw attention to the fact that the paragraph has petered out; their meaninglessness only enhances the feeling of anticlimax. If you can't recast the paragraph, then it's better to leave it be.

There are also some nicely done red herrings--while there isn't as much exploration potential as there might be, there's enough to keep the game from feeling like a small set of puzzles.

Here, the "nicely done" red herrings are qualified with an example, but N.D. is still there to lumber down the sentence with its prissiness. "While there isn't as much exploration potential as there might be, there are enough red herrings in the game to keep it from feeling like a small set of puzzles" is more concise, and if it's less "nice", then so much the better. Authors should be able take praise without having it coated in sugar for them.


2. Dishonest AIF reviews

Looking over the AIF reviews at the IF Ratings Site, it occurs to me that the members of the so-called Adult IF community (which almost certainly has a lower average age than the non-adult IF community) employ the same somewhat euphemistic vocabulary in discussing their games. Take a look at the following:

Excellent! Some typical 'treasure hunt' style puzzles but great sex scenes.
Put together well. Some puzzles, many good descriptions.
Great game. This is one I went back and played again and again.
Not typical AIF but very, very fun and well written.
I think this is my favorite of the Encounter series. Even though it is quite structured in what you can do, it still has so many options.
Extremely difficult with good sex scenes. A must for AIF fans.
Very good for a short game. All of the encounter series are short, but still good.
Excellent Game. It should be a reference for Adrift AIF.
Entertaining game. Nice scenes.

"Good", "fun", "great", "excellent", and horror of horrors, "nice"! Why all this coy pussy-footing around? There is something unspoken here, and we all know what that is. AIF would be better served by more honesty, and I submit the following as better AIF reviews:

Two minutes into this game and I was already playing with one hand on the keyboard. And then I got to the Nikki scene and what can I say but SPLURGE! Best wank ever!
Don't play this game in the office or wearing tight pants. I fired this one up in work and, despite several trips to the john for some "executive relief", went home walking like a hunchback.
I jerked off until I could jerk off no more! This is the one game that made me RED RAW with satisfaction, and I can think of no greater compliment.
I tried, but I just couldn't get it up. After half an hour of fruitlessly pulling my cock, I gave up on this game and downloaded some real porn instead. One to avoid.

These reviews, which are much more descriptive and helpful, also have the advantage of calling it like it is. All the euphemistic codewords -- "good" and "nice" and so on -- are only used because the reviewers can't face up to what they are doing; in short, because the prevailing mindset in the AIF scene is Puritanism. Their dishonest language stems from guilt, from an inner belief that eroticism, including auto-eroticism, is dirty and shameful; and this no doubt also accounts for the puerile and fucked-up attitude of so much of their Wankstoffe.


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