XYZZY Reviews Standards, Public Draft

As part of an effort to  tighten up the post-Awards review panel, I’ve drafted some standards. They’ve been through a private edit, but before we commit to them for next year it’s worth putting them up for public comment.

The alternative title of this might be The Rights and Responsibilities of the In-Depth Reviewer; if you needed to condense those to one line, it’d be ‘to be diligent and to be honest.’

(In other news, I’m also considering alternate titles, since ‘Reviews’ might give the wrong impression. ‘Analyses’ has been suggested, but though accurate, that’s kind of a clunker.)

  1. The primary purpose of the Reviews is to provide detailed, in-depth analysis of the finalist games in terms of the specific category, not to give a synopsis or general review of the game. Spoilers need no apology.
  2. A secondary purpose is as a reward for finalist authors. This, however, is not praise per se; it’s detailed attention.
  3. Reviewers are expected to treat the games with more thorough attention than they would employ as casual players. In a normal review, it is appropriate to say that you didn’t understand the point of something, or that you got sick of a game and never completed it. Here, the job of the reviewer is to understand the game on behalf of others.
  4. The goal of a review is not to say which piece should have won the award, or whether a nominee was a deserving finalist. That said, these are permissible conclusions to reach. (Indeed, the reviewers are well-positioned to be critics of the Awards themselves.)
  5. Reviewers are not expected to exclude their personal responses to games from consideration. They are expected to thoroughly explore and support their reactions with care and diligence, and to treat sensitive topics with sensitivity.
  6. The opinions of contributors are their own, not the official views of the XYZZY Awards. This holds true even if people who are XYZZY organisers contribute pieces.
  7. Reviewers are encouraged to take advantage of resources outside their own direct experience of the nominated works.
  8. Reviews will be supported by a peer editing process before publication; the goal will be improving overall content, rather than a simple copy-edit. Final authority over the content of the piece, aside from minor issues of formatting, will always rest with the reviewer.
  9. Reviewers are not expected to have played most of the finalists before committing to the reviews. The organiser should give appropriate warning about the size, nature and difficulty of games before assigning a category to a reviewer; reviewers should ensure that they have time to get to grips with games.
  10. Contributors are expected to provide disclosure if they were involved in the production of the work or if they received anything in conjunction with their contribution. If in doubt about this, they should consult the organiser.
  11. There is no upper or lower word limit on reviews. Authors may use as much space as they feel is necessary to address the subject.
  12. Reviewers may not cover a category in which their own works were nominated in the relevant year.

4 thoughts on “XYZZY Reviews Standards, Public Draft

    1. Sam Kabo Ashwell Post author

      Ah. Much of the editing on this thus far has been for brevity. The original phrasing clarified:

      such as reviews, author statements, play transcripts, works forming a context for the considered work, or discussion with other players or the author.

      In some reviews – particularly comp reviews – an emphasis is placed on the purity of the reviewer’s personal experience with the game. (Before the no-discussion rule was lifted, everybody used to write all their reviews in isolation and post them all in a big heap after the results came out.) That can be valuable, but it’s not what we’re going for here.

      1. Joey

        Ah, that makes sense. I think it can be illuminating to take a game in the context of the author’s other games and other authors’ attempts to do similar things.


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