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So You Want To Be a Game Reviewer?
Posted on October 26, 2011 by Eduardo

 

As the Review Editor of www.Original-Gamer.com, I read a lot of game reviews.  Most of them are from our writers, but I also review submissions from folks that want to write for this site.  Since O.G. sees fit to advertise our need for writers on Craigslist, it’s pretty wide open as to whom we get submissions from.  Unfortunately, most of what we get is not good enough for the site and I have had to crush a few dreams.  In reading all of those reviews, I have noticed a few common themes in the bad ones.  I would like to share these with you in the hope that if you decide to try reviewing games, you can avoid these common pitfalls: 

 

 

ENGLISH, DO YOU SPEAK IT?

An editor’s job is fairly easy when writers have already looked for spelling and grammar errors.  The less time I have to waste fixing spelling and grammatical errors, the more time I have to look out for ‘big’ things.  Don’t count on your spell-checker to save you, though!  Since video gaming has loads of jargon, your word processor’s built-in spell checker is rendered even less useful than it already is.  As far as grammar is concerned, you can catch quite a few things by looking at a printout of your article or by reading it out loud.

 

 

KNOW THE BELL CURVE

Instead of going into a bunch of mathematical blah-blah-blah about what a bell curve is, this point can be expressed in three words: 'Five is average.'  It’s a weird concept for those of us who were taught (in the USA, at least) that sixty-five or seventy percent is average, but that's the way the system works.  Just what is an average game, you ask?  An average game is one that just has you going through the motions when playing it without it really grabbing you.  It may also have some technical issues, but for the most part, its just there.  Assuming a 1-10 system, most games should fall within the 4-6 range.  Personally, I'd rather use a 1-5 system like the movies do, but I’ve already blabbed about that before.

 

 

DON'T TRY TOO HARD TO BE FUNNY/EDGY/SNARKY

There is nothing wrong with injecting some humor into a review, but there are way too many people trying way too hard to be funny.  Frankly, I'm not sure which "trying to be funny" people are more annoying: the ones that don't know they aren't funny or the Howard Stern wannabees.  Incidentally, O.G. falls into the second category, even going as far as to SAY it in the podcast. *facepalm*  I know everybody wants to be the next Angry Video Game Nerd or Yahtzee, but not everybody can pull it off.  There is nothing wrong with trying, just don’t try too hard.

 

 

THE NUMBER SHOULD MATCH THE WORDS

I’m certain we’ve all read reviews where the writer was saying one thing and then the score does a complete one-eighty and goes off into a different direction.  This is pretty high up there on my list of “you’re doing it wrong.”  While many folks say that the numbers at the end of the review don’t really matter, they should at least match up to the words leading up to it.

 

 

GRAPHICS AND MUSIC ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT

Considering the horsepower consoles pack under their hoods these days, it is pretty hard to NOT have good graphics these days, and yes, I include the Wii in that statement.  I feel that a game should be dinged for graphics only if they affect the gameplay.  Music is also fairly irrelevant to gameplay the majority of the time; it can enhance immersion and atmosphere, but good music does not inherently make a game good.  A crappy game with great music is still a crappy game…just one with great music.  Finally, know the difference between graphics and aesthetics.  The guys over at Extra Creditz did an excellent video that discusses that very topic.

 

 

DON'T BE A FANBOY / HATER

We all have things that we really like, and we all have things that we really don’t like.  One of the unfortunate realities of being a game reviewer is that you sometimes have to review games that you won’t like or that sometimes reach Superman 64 levels of suck.  One of the awesome realities is that you get to play games you think are awesome before most other folks do.  It isn't easy, but you have to either lay off the Hateorade or resist the urge to heap praise all over a game that does not deserve it just because it is something you really like.  There is nothing wrong with having biases (we all have them) as long as you let your reader know where you are coming from.   If a game is outside of your comfort zone or based on a property that you can't stand, it behooves you to let the reader know so that they can adjust their expectations accordingly.

 

 

PLEASE DO NOT FORGET TO ACTUALLY REVIEW THE GAME

This is easily the most aggravating thing that I see in those submissions and yet people do it over and over again.  It’s when the writer only describes the game and does not tell the reader WHY they did or did not like the game.  It is not necessary to give people the complete control layout or completely describe the story.  Those things should be mentioned, especially if they are done in a new or different way, but the reader does not need to be given the entire blow-by-blow.  I have received too many reviews that spend nearly the entire text describing the game and not reviewing it.  One of the benefits of our current format is that it forces the writer to list just what it was they did and did not like about the game.

 

 

IT'S NOT 'JUST VIDEO GAMES'

We like to have fun here at www.Original-Gamer.com, but we also try to take video games seriously.  Video games deserve as much respect as other forms of media, and so we do our best to hold ourselves to higher standards.  We should not have lower standards “because it’s just video games.”  If we do not take the effort to put out a quality product and instead pander to the lowest common denominator, how can we expect non-gamers to look beyond the ‘just for kids’ label that we pretend to hate so much?

 

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed these observations; they come from a year and as half of reading, writing and editing many reviews and articles.  I have admittedly done a few of these myself, so I don't  claim to be speaking from any high ground.  Do we always put out a perfect product?  Of course not, but we do our best, and I like to think that we are putting a little more effort into it than most.

If you think you have got ‘the write stuff’ then send an email to for our submission guidelines and review format.  I look forward to reading your submissions.  The author can be reached at

 

 

 

Eduardo - Editor / Voice Guy | all author's articles

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