Let me start with a definition (courtesy of Websters.com)
n. a criticism or critical comment on some problem, subject, etc.
A good critique should, by definition, be critical. If you haven’t read Christopher Paul’s white paper, “On Running the Perfect Convention Game“, you should. Within it, he offers proper critiques of the games he played at Orccon2011.
And if you read his critiques and the title of his paper, you may experience the same epiphany I have. His title? “On Running the Perfect Convention Game.” Let me reiterate the most pertinent word there — “Perfect.”
We all know that perfection is at the very least incredibly rare. Some ancient Greeks might say that “perfection” cannot exist in our world. Either way, it doesn’t happen very often, but it stands at the top of our collective measuring stick.
While perfection may not be attainable, it is something we should strive for. This includes our role-playing sessions.
When I ask for a critique of my game, I’m asking for real, according-to-Websters critique. Criticism. Pick it apart.
Back to the word “perfect.” When you give criticism, develop in your mind the “perfect” RPG session. And by perfect, I MEAN perfect. The kind of session where you think to yourself, “THIS is why I play RPGs. That was awesome!” Maybe you’ve experienced that kind of game, maybe you haven’t.
But create in your mind’s eye that perfect game. Then think of the game we just played. Was it perfect? I’m guessing your answer is “no.” Where did it fall short of perfection? Was there a moment when you said, “this is lame”? Was there some point that the sense of immersion was shattered? What were the little imperfections in the game?
When I ask my players to comment on and critique the game, that’s what I’m looking for. Where did my game fall short of perfection? I know my games are far from perfect, and I know they never will be perfect — but I will always look for the opportunity to improve them.
Is that a high barre? Yes. But I don’t psyche myself out thinking I can reach that barre. I think if it like the pin in a game of horseshoes. I don’t have to get a ringer, but if I can get a little closer with each throw, I know my game is improving.
I don’t want to speak for all of the GMs in the world. However,I know many GMs have a habit of asking for feedback after a game sessions, and I’m guessing that at least some of them want real critiques of their games. Give them real critiques. Maybe not as you’re standing around the table, getting ready to leave. Maybe in an email, or a man-to-man after everyone else has cleared out.
But give them your real, honest thoughts.