Objective vs subjective

Yehuda asks:

Is there a solid line between objective and subjective evaluation? Most people don’t agree with my particular assessment of Saint Petersburg, and not only due to my subjective criticisms. It’s possible that my objective criticisms are more subjective than I am willing to believe. Is it tautological that when people disagree about a criticism that it must be subjective? Or do we just fundamentally disagree on the conclusions? Have I simply not been articulate enough in my objective criticisms?

I think Yehuda’s critical assessment of St. Petersburg (see Yehuda’s comments on Geek) is pretty much spot-on. He highlights the game’s shortcomings well. I agree with most of what he says on the game, thus I think most of what he says is really objective assessment of St. Petersburg.

Where it comes down is that while the flaws the game has are objective, what they mean for enjoying the game is not. I like the game, despite its flaws. The flaws do mean that I rarely play the game anymore, after about 50 games — most of the time I play it in Jyväskylä, where my mother and her gang really love the game, and it’s always great fun to play with them. That is, of course, more a function of the gamers and not the game.

The fact that I don’t actually enjoy playing the game with just about anybody is telling. Compare that to Puerto Rico, which I think is far superior as a game and which I still enjoy playing in BSW, for example.

Of course, the fact that a game is flawed doesn’t have to mean it can’t be fun. Many people enjoy games like Monopoly and Betrayal at House on the Hill, despite certain problems those games have.

Here it might be a good idea to separate flaws that lead to subjective assessments of the game. Take Monopoly, for example: I’m not sure it has flaws that cause it to be a bad game. There are flaws that can lead to someone hating the game, but someone else can still have a good time with the game. That’s different from a real problem, like a lock-out, a broken strategy or a gratuitous random element.

I understand Betrayal at House on the Hill has some serious problems with the rules and things that seem like they haven’t been thought out properly, yet still people can have fun with it. Looking at the comments from people who’ve given it perfect rating on Geek, it seems they enjoy the game despite its problems — the problems are there, yet they don’t ruin the experience.

After this long-winding entry, which is a proof that Yehuda is right about outsider editing for blog entries being a really good thing, here’s my answers for Yehuda’s questions: there is a line between objective and subjective evaluation, but it’s hard to set and easy to muddle. I think some of Yehuda’s (or anybody’s) objective criticism is actually subjective. It is possible to disagree with some criticism, though some of Yehuda’s points on St. Petersburg are very hard to disagree with, and there he has hit the objective criticism. There is definitely fundamental disagreement on the conclusions: some things Yehuda mentions bother me, some don’t. I notice those flaws in the game, yet I like it anyway.

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One thought on “Objective vs subjective”

  1. I disagree about Betrayal. It’s an experience game, and the experience is literally put on hold when you pull an Underground River upstairs or experience some other problem that was errata’d.

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