For anyone with a passion for video games, anime, movies, or
any other entertainment medium, recommending a particular work to an interested
individual is an extremely common process. On one hand, that passion naturally
drives you to want to share your favorite works with others. On the other, if
you establish yourself as someone who is knowledgeable about a medium, people
are, reasonably, going to ask for your opinion from time to time. So giving out
recommendations is inevitable. The problem is that a recommendation holds a
substantial amount of power, and balancing the subtleties of that power is much
harder than it would seem.
First and foremost, a recommendation is a pitch for a work. Let’s say, for example, that I’m trying to recommend The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to a coworker. Technically, all I really have to say is: “I suggest that you play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” That’s it. Recommendation complete. But this is my favorite game of all time, and I have to represent it as such. I might add superlatives, explain some of the gameplay systems, or list reasons as to why the game is so incredible. My main goal in these types of conversations is convincing the other person to trust my knowledge on the work enough to give it a try.
The flip side of that goal is the management of expectations.
Sure, you want to present the work as enjoyable, but an overblown misunderstanding
of that presentation can end up detracting from the experience. It is therefore
important to find the happy medium between your two priorities. Emphasize the
work’s quality just enough to ensure that the recommendation will be well
received, but not so much that nothing could possibly live up to the hype that
You can, of course, take this secondary goal too far as well. I often find myself listing too many of a work’s bad features in an attempt to temper expectations, leading to an unappealing suggestion. In particular, I often catch myself disparaging individual parts of a work in an attempt to praise the others. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (see, I justified the header image eventually) is the main culprit of this issue for me. I absolutely adore the show, but I find that the first arc, “The Phantom Blood,” is too generic to be worthy of substantial praise. So I’ll lead my recommendation with “Just get past part one and it gets amazing. Trust me, it’s worth it.” This generally has the opposite of the intended effect, since I am admitting that you will have to experience some mediocrity before you find anything worthwhile. The biggest problem is that I don’t know how else to recommend the show. It feels disingenuous to discuss the good qualities of the show without mentioning its weak beginning, but excessive annotations to my suggestion weaken its believability.
As is becoming tradition with my articles that have questions for headlines, I don’t know the solution to the issue I’ve posed. Do I prioritize eliciting excitement in my recommendations, or should I be more careful to control my hypemongering? Obviously in a perfect world I would attempt to balance both, but simple recommendations are substantially different from carefully thought out reviews. I only have so much time in a typical conversation to make my point. How do all of you approach this important task? Is it even worth giving it this much thought? Or, like usual, am I overanalyzing it? Even if I am, the next time I recommend something I’ll be sure to give your responses some consideration.