As some of you may know, I played a lot of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm last week. Having played the campaign from Tuesday to Friday, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was many, many times better than its predecessor, Wings of Liberty, and I only had good things to say about it.
Now, I am a person who thoroughly believes that a discerning eye is needed when approaching anything. Millions upon millions of people ate Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises up with a spoon, and shower it in praise. I haven’t personally taken the time to write this all of this out, but I’ve discussed it with friends for hours, and can leave it up to Christopher Sebela of Comics Alliance and “first black comics editor” Christopher Priest to speak on my behalf. Suffice to say, I was not terribly impressed.
And, since The Dark Knight Rises was a film I thoroughly disliked, I should mention that I am very willing to find flaws in the things I love. The Avengers was a film that I really, really liked, but I’ll be one of the first people to tell you that Hawkeye really got the short end of the stick, and that [SPOILERS] the Chitauri just flopping over like a bunch of Trade Federation droids probably deserved some sort of explanation.
To get to the reason I decided to write this post. When StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty came out StarCraft Legacy writer Gradius put together a very extensive review of the single-player campaign, and he was not very gracious. I remember reading it three years ago and agreeing with him on almost every point, the story needed quite a bit of work.
Then maybe four or so hours ago I read his review of Heart of the Swarm, and he ripped it a new one. While I will admit that he peppers his review with positivity he ultimately ends up damning its entirety with faint praise. It leaves no stone unturned, and takes time to dub the game’s creators as being “juvenile” and utilizing “fridge logic.” I finished it and felt sick to my stomach.
Why was I so upset? I have argued extensively about why I think a widely beloved film is objectively bad, does this make me a hypocrite? Have I taken something that other people hold dearly and spat on it, making them feel as I have?
No, I don’t think so, and it all has to do with how you say what you’re saying.
There exists a very popular series of YouTube videos reviewing the Star Wars prequels done by Red Letter Media. My housemates in college adored them, and I distinctly remember them watching the Phantom Menace review and having a really great time doing so. I didn’t really share in their enthusiasm.
The honest truth is that the reviewer acknowledges where the prequel films went wrong, and makes some incredibly insightful comments about simple storytelling structure within film; there’s some great stuff there. The problem for me was that his videos are dripping with sarcasm, disrespect, a smattering of immaturity, I could go on. It’s a fantastically written analysis packaged in a format that I found really unappealing.
When my friends and I saw X-Men: The Last Stand back in high school we walked out and broke down how it could have been improved. Highlight the relationship between Bobby [Iceman], Kitty [Shadowcat], and Rogue [does anyone call her by her real name?], make the mutant cure more of a topic of discussion among the X-Men, creating divisiveness within the team, etc. We did a lot of the same things that the reviewer did for The Phantom Menace, but we did so by focusing on how it could be better instead of why it was so awful.
I am a huge proponent of people thinking hard on what sort of media they consume, and processing whether or not it was actually good. On top of that, I also strongly value the ability to find the good in everything [The Last Airbender had good . . . costume design . . . there, I found something]. My mother told me for years that “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.” I slightly disagree. If you have nothing good to say, say it in a way that isn’t dripping with snark. Say it in a way that will convince people to see that no, it wasn’t good, and this is exactly why, and this is how it could be.
There are some things I downright disagree with in regards to Gradius’ review of Heart of the Swarm, but at it’s core I see a huge fan of the franchise who has ultimately been disappointed by Blizzard’s first two installments in over a decade. That being said, he doesn’t so much throw the baby out with the bathwater as he just chucks the whole tub out the window.
I love reading reviews. I love reading what other people have to say about films I’ve watched or comic books I’ve read. What I hate is when negativity seeps in, and when it actively seeks to prevent me from legitimately enjoying something that I once did. I appreciate your opinion, and I generally want to hear about it, but I also want you to give it to me straight, free of your spite and vitriol.