Who I am, What I do (or why this blog exists)

Since somebody asked elsewhere, I'm laying out the (current) reason for this blog's existence here.

My name is James D. Hargrove. I'm a former professional RPG reviewer. For more than a decade, people compensated me to review roleplaying products, usually in the form of free merch. I did this for many different publishers, a few different web sites, and even a 'zine. I quit doing this for a couple of reasons.

First, with a few notable exceptions, I found that the people or companies compensating me wanted reviews entirely devoid of criticism because they compensated me (and felt that doing so entitled them to ad copy, as opposed to an actual review). I always made it clear up front that what I would deliver would be an honest review, not ad copy. And this was fine. Until it wasn't. The number of publishers who refused to accept even constructive criticism was absolutely maddening and resulted in my stress level spiking several times a month as I found myself dealing with such unreasonable sorts.

Second, there are a lot of objectively bad products out there that I would rather have not reviewed but, since I promised people I would write them an honest review, I did, and it was absolutely soul-crushing. I do not like (and never have liked) writing bad reviews, but I also felt that when I promised an honest review, I owed such a thing to both consumers and the person or persons who had commissioned such a review. Regardless, I often felt like I was crushing dreams when I wrote those reviews and I absolutely hated every minute of it.

Third, without naming names, I know that a number of professional reviewers in our hobby came up against these same issues. And made the decision to trade ad copy for product, money, or other RPG-related work. I have, for instance, seen a reviewer trade positive product reviews for a promise of getting their own work published by a certain company and I've also seen a copywriter from another company attempt to write shill reviews for their employer under a pseudonym.

I'm writing reviews here because, despite all of the stuff mentioned above, I still really like writing RPG reviews. I really like writing RPG reviews and I think there are some truly awesome small-press products that are getting passed over by the current crop of professional reviewers. That said, I write by a different set of rules these days:

  • I still write honest reviews. If a product I review has flaws, I'll make a note of it.
  • I only review things I purchase with my own money. Nobody is compensating me. 
  • I only review things that I really like. If I review something, it's because I think it's awesome. 

Now, yes, this does mean that you won't read negative reviews here - but that isn't because I've been bought off. It's simply because I don't want to write negative reviews anymore. So I don't. I don't have the energy to tear apart games anymore, not even when it would ostensibly be performing a service to consumers. So I won't.

The reviews you will read here are written on my own timetable, on my own terms (as spelled out above). If you think I ought to review a specific product, feel free to let me know. If it piques my interest, I may purchase it. If it's awesome, I'll probably review it. Again, though, I'm not doing comped copies. I'm not doing commissions of any flavor, for any reason.

So, that's who I am. That's what I'm doing.

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