“You’ll Love This!”- The Tricky Art of Recommendation

“You’ll Love This!”- The Tricky Art of Recommendation

It’s a common tale. The situation can change – maybe you’ve just finished up a game, maybe a friend is blasting through one you’ve not played. Any number of variants really. Your friend comes up to you with a choice recommendation. They say “You’d love this game.”

If you’re anything like me, your first instinct is to believe the exact opposite. “You fool, how could you possibly know what I would like?” Of course, this is utter madness. Anyone who you know well probably has a decent idea of what you like. There’s a term for this – psychological reactance. It’s the brain resisting when it thinks your freedom is being challenged.

Even if you’re less of a lunatic than I, you may still have hesitations. People often tend to recommend things because they like them. They assume those virtues fueling their enjoyment will be visible to all. However, we’ve all been burnt before here.

Learning to Accept Help

What I’d like to do here is detail the way I’ve got around this particular problem. After all, I have some friends with great recommendations, and I can’t keep ignoring their messages.

This system works with all forms of recommendations including reviews, but it’s designed for one on one interactions as it can work in both directions. It is a simple tier list that relies only on a trusted benchmark – we’ll get to that later.

While it may seem over-complicated, the reality of grubby adult life is that we are often time limited. The intention of this is to better find methods of sorting the chaff from the wheat.

I have one friend, Shep, who has been recommending games to me for over 10 years – I will use his recommendations as examples of benchmarks. You’ll catch on. To be perfectly clear, these tier listings are not indicative of the game’s quality, but of how good the recommendation was for me.

D Tier and below

For the sake of mentioning, there is an E Tier in this system, but they don’t really rate investigation. These are the games that someone might have played, but didn’t enjoy, and don’t see their friends enjoying. Or in my case E Tier is for games that Shep didn’t like and reckons I’d feel the same. In short, the sort of game that would actively make you question your friend’s understanding of you.

D Tier is for games that they Shep enjoyed, but I wouldn’t. Xenoblade Chronicles fits this bill neatly, being exactly the sort of JRPG that I don’t like. He really likes it, but he equally thinks I’d hate it. In short, “You would hate this great game.”

A young man with a large red sword looks into the distance at a large machine.

I’m sorry Shulk, but honestly, I’m not really feeling it.

Insert your own boring game here for reference, and let’s move on.

C Tier: Okami (Clover Studio)

“This one might be in your wheelhouse.”

These games are the ones that someone else doesn’t like, but they think you might. Often, these are also games that you may have heard of, but not had first or second hand experience with.

A stylised image of a white wolf with a flaming disc in a painted landscape.

Okami remains one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.

One day, while lamenting that the excellent Breath of the Wild would spell the end of classic Zelda titles, he suggested I check out Okami. He hadn’t played it himself, but it was a well-known game that took a lot of influences from the Zelda series.

When it was on sale, I picked it up and found it to be exactly that. A game that scratched that traditional Zelda formula itch, complete with an inventive and omnipresent gimmick and slow-text delivering companion.

B Tier: Hollow Knight (Team Cherry)

“I know you don’t like these, but this one is worth a try.”

This tier is for excellent games in a genre you don’t like. Me personally, I’m not one for 2-D platformers or Metroidvanias. I can recognise a good one, and can appreciate great design and art. That said, I feel little thrill from them, and rarely are motivated to give them more than a few hours of my time.

Hollow Knight is therefore a great example of this for me. My mate Shep loves this game so much, and names it as one of his favourites of all time. However, despite all its clear qualities it just isn’t the sort of game to grab me.

A strange bug, the Knight, holding a nail stares blankly back at the screen.

The game didn’t grab me enough, but gosh dang if it ain’t cool-looking!

The art style is beautiful, but not enough to carry me through. The world is cool, and the movement is fluid and precise. I even liked the combat. That said, even though I’d enjoy playing it during a session, going back to it felt like an obligation. I liked it, it’s a good title, but not for me. B-Tier.

A Tier: Divinity: Original Sin II (Larian Studios)

“Nah mate, you’d love this.”

A Tier recommendations are heavy hitters in a genre you like. These games are often shoe-ins, games where you’re sure someone would love it. My best recent example is Divinity: Original Sin II.

A skeletal magician raises his arms triumphantly.

Mostly how I intend to enter parties now… and dress… skull included.

This is a game I didn’t play for a long time, despite my friend telling me I’d love it. No real reason, I just didn’t get around to it. However, I am a lover of RPGs, and there is little argument that D:OSII is a solid RPG.

When I gave it a go, I initially found it not to my taste… yet somewhat addictive. 40-something hours later, the high was wearing off somewhat, but it made me very excited for other games from Larian studios. Also, 40 hours is hardly anything to sniff at. Great recommendation.

S Tier: Mass Effect 2 (Bioware)

“You don’t understand, you will love this game.”

Finally, the magnum opus of the recommendation. These games are few and far between. Once you have one in common between the two parties in discussion, you can basically be confident in any future suggestions.

For me, this was quite early in Shep’s and my friendship – I had been discussing to him my love of Dragon Age: Origins, another Bioware title. When he suggested Mass Effect 2, I was unsure. I hadn’t played the first, I wasn’t really interested in shooters, let alone cover shooters. Nothing about the marketing really appealed to me.

A group of human and alien warriors stand against the background of a planet.

So many lifelong friends. Angry, angry friends.

He insisted anyway. He insisted to the tune of $80 aud, buying me a copy, so confident was he. “You don’t understand. You will love this game.”

To this day, ME2 stays in contention for the best game I’ve ever played, but more than that. It is the gold standard for any further suggestions. When he comes to me with his latest mad fancy, all I need to do is ask: “Is this a Mass Effect 2 recommendation?”

But Wait – There’s More!

Now, we’ve already created an excellent framework that can help you both deliver and receive recommendations. There is a more tangible benefit to such an unnecessarily rigid framework, however. The tier list can be equally applied when it comes to the price you should pay for a game. Think you want to pick something up, but feeling light in the purse? No worries.

Here’s a basic framework of roughly what I’m willing to pay for a game in percentages – apply your own currency.

  • S- %100 plus
  • A-%80-100, (best deal available)
  • B- %60
  • C- %40
  • D- %20
  • E- %5

The recommendation system in action

To prove my point, here’s an example from the last month.

A pictish warrior looks over her shoulder at the camera, with blood splattered across the image.

Such an incredible game, with such an incredible design!

I want to purchase Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice by Ninja Theory. I have heard good things about it, and it’s a genre I like, but I’ve also heard some detractors. That puts it at a C Tier. Certainly enough to say as much to my friend Ra, who is looking for more thoughtful experiences.

He plays it on Gamepass, loves it. Tells me I’d love it too, and it’s right up my alley. That moves it to an A Tier. He tells me that it’s the sort of game that he wants to discuss, that it’s a real experience. He knows Shep’s and my system, so suggests to me that it might well be a ME2 level recommendation… but we don’t have a good benchmark game like that quite yet.

It comes on sale slightly discounted, 10% off on the PS store. I buy it. I love it. It fits very well into my wheelhouse, and at the end of playing through it I send him a text.

He replies: “Was I right? Was it a Mass Effect recommendation?”

I tell him yes, and now we both know. The next time he suggests a game, all I have to ask is, “Is this a Hellblade recommendation or not?”

What’s the best recommendation you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments below. While youโ€™re here, why not check out our Twitter page and latest YouTube video?

Feel like you want to try a game, but something is stopping you? Why not check out our look at elitism in gaming, where we discuss why that might be.

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