I have a problem whenever I review things. There is an inner monologue that I seem to maintain that repeats the phrase “Who am I to say this?” over and over again driving me into a guilt spiral if I’ve been asked to review something that I deem to be not-very-good.
As far as I am concerned, the best critics have a deeper understanding of whatever it is they are critiquing. As my field at the moment is predominantly games, I have a wide range of peers to look to for inspiration or despair. As an example of a good critic, Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation is someone I appreciate not because of his oft hilarious turn of phrase but because I always feel he has a grounding of knowing what he’s talking about. He can be pedantically critical, but that’s the best way to help a medium improve and it is always very clear just how much he loves the games he reviews. Most importantly for me, his understanding has come from his contribution to the Indie games field and he has self published several titles and following his blog will reveal that he often works on several more that never see the light of day due to a mix of inertia, lack of time, or a realisation that the idea was better on paper.
Other reviewers also tend to read better in my opinion when they have game design experience. The Rock Paper Shotgun reviews are always solid because they are also written by people who not only have a passion for games, but also have some experience with designing games or mods. Likewise the Bit-Tech reviews (and yes I am a little biased here) are generally good because the guys that write them have dabbled in game design as well. In this day and age, if you are interested enough in games to write about them, it would be crazy if you hadn’t dabbled in a little hobby-coding at some point, even if it’s playing around with a level editor or something.