I have three reviewers who have influenced my technique for reviewing creative material. The first is Roger Ebert, the late movie critic. I used to watch his televised reviews and the way he got into how a movie worked or didn’t work got me interested in movies in general. He would praise movies with effective or entertaining elements and he wouldn’t hold back if a movie blew chunks.
The second reviewer who influenced my technique was Harlan Ellison, from his column “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Again, he was a movie reviewer, but he had things to say about broader creative currents in American pop culture, too. The column that stuck with me was his description of going to a juvenile hall with copies of one of his books for the inmates to read and discuss with him. The boys in juvie were so educationally impoverished they couldn’t comprehend that Ellison had the books they were holding published. In their dim minds, they thought he had physically written them. When asked what kind of media they liked, they responded by starting to describe scenes of extreme violence from movies, getting increasing excited as their descriptions became more vivid. This was an eye opener for me. It was the first sign to me that a notable number of parents and Hollywood both were screwing up ethically, being indifferent to the effect of what minors were viewing and finding entertaining.
The third and final reviewer is Endzeitgeist, the RPG content reviewer. He is my go-to reviewer when I want to find out whether a Pathfinder supplement is cool or sucks hot volcanic rocks. He goes into detail about what the good content in a supplement is, if any or if there are flaws in the product and exactly what those flaws are.
I’m nowhere as skilled, talented or experienced as these three people, but their work serves as models for my own.