|An awesome image from Wired Magazine.|
And I hope you'll spare the time to join me. If you have your own, please add them in the comments! We're all critics at heart so please feel free to share. Enjoy the list!
1. Not finish the game. It's an epidemic how often professional reviewers don't make it to the finish, and claim to have a grasp of what's happening. And then they criticize the story for not being interesting when their playthrough is left unresolved. How is that even ethical?
2. Include personal bias. I don't mean to exclude opinion because that's the point of a review. I mean having preconceived notions before trying a game and letting that influence your critique. It's good habit to view games as a blank slate.
3. Be completely negative. No one likes a pessimist. Even terrible games have some redeeming qualities, and reviewers should try and balance the good and bad out. See the value of why a developer chose this mechanic and specifically why. Most games even out to a seven or eight anyway.
4. Forget to stress your opinion is one of many. Surprisingly, and this is something I'm guilty of, a lot of people decide from one heavily critical review. And in the age of Metacritic that's all it takes. One damning review can make or break a game's success, but we tend to forget that's only one perspective. Others played the game too. Others probably liked the game. Others hated it. And consumers forget that.
5. Speak broadly. The words "many" or "most" relating to the audience should never find themselves in a review. It's bad to speak on behalf of a percentage of the populous because a review is just one person. And that review is strictly that reviewer's opinion. Nothing more. If you hate a game, say why "you" hate it and not why "most" would hate it.
6. Be a crybaby. Anything written and put online will receive backlash. It's just the nature of things. And reviews are hot topic issues, especially unpopular ones. Thus, reviewers need thick skin to survive the comment onslaught. What a reviewer writes is picked apart left-and-right until the piece of writing is left bruised and bloodied. Expect backlash.
7. Write a review if you've written a preview. One problem with games reviewing is since editorial teams are small, often the same writer is pegged with writing most coverage for one game. That including previews, features, and ultimately the review. Reviewers should begin a game with no bias, like I said in point two, and this is obscured when watching exclusive footage. Also, evidently a preview is followed by an interview and one-on-one camaraderie, blurring the professional lines even more.
8. Fluff a point. Get down to the nitty-gritty. Your personal tales aren't the reason a reader is reading reviews. That said, don't botch the opening paragraph either. If it's a sequel, discuss the prequel. If it's a new IP, discuss the developer's reputation or some extraordinary situation involving the game that people will recognize.
9. If there's multiplayer, don't beleaguer the point. Yes, it's common for games these days to include needless multiplayer modes. But a reviewer's job is to analyze the package they are presented with, not what could've been. Mention how multiplayer feels and other concepts and recommend it or not -- that's it. Which leads kindly into the next listing...
10. Go off on a tangent. It's rare for professional reviewers to do this, but sometimes unpaid reviews enter obscure areas unrelated to the game. I can guarantee that ninety percent of people reading stop then. Reviewers are just tools, mechanisms whereby through their experience consumers decide whether to buy a game. Readers don't care about a reviewer's personal life.
11. Giving a score. I'll probably get some flak for this but who cares. A score out of ten doesn't fairly represent two years of hard work from a capable developing studio. Plus, people just want to know if the game is worth getting. Give a recommendation on whether the game is worth the purchase, rent, or nothing. Not sugarcoat it by hiding behind a scoring system. (Clarification: this is purely my opinion. It is industry standard so proceed how you will.)
12. Hypothesize on the future. Concluding statements usually give grandiose expectations for future installments. A reviewer isn't a developer nor is (s)he a publisher. There's no way that person can prophesize on the future of a series without hard sales figures, and usually reviews come out well before a game is released. Leave the speculation to experts on the business side.
13. Purposefully entice readers to comment. Surely this has happened, and in my head I can recount plenty of times. For smaller blogs this is actually encouraged because of the limited audience, but mainstream sites are guilty of this in a controversial bid for attention. It's actually discouraged -- a properly executed review (without a score) shouldn't have any comments unless they disagree with a point. And if every statement is backed by facts that's not necessary.
Before I go insane, I'll cut the list off at 13. I'll consider doing a part two soon, or maybe tackle the opposing side. "How to Properly Write a Game Review" would be spectacular to talk about. Anyway, as I said before, if you have your own suggestions, leave them in the comments below. Jeff out.
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