Saturday, November 3, 2007

Writing a Game Review

Writing anything that resembles a professional game review isn’t something that can be done in 10 minutes and forgotten right after. It takes time and dedication. This is a small guide to help anyone who wants to create a game review. Note that I am in no way a professional game critic, nor did I receive any extra education on the subject. I would just like to share some of my techniques and advice and hope that it’s helpful in any way.

1) Don’t be redundant. If you wrote something that is pretty self-explanatory then there is no need for further explanation. For example, “Supreme Commander is an RTS or Real-Time Strategy game where you take control of a set amount of units on the battlefield and wage war against the enemy by using strategy”. That’s completely unnecessary information, especially if it’s for a hardcore gaming website. “Supreme Commander is an RTS”, and then you add specific information about the game and not the genre.

It’s important that you make your review coherent and to the point. You don’t want to bore your readers. Instead of saying “Your character is easy to control by moving your mouse and hitting the WASD keys to move your character” you can just simply say “Enemy Territory’s control scheme is simple to grasp”. That’s much more pleasing to read and much more to the point.

Don’t write overly fluff material, such as descriptions on all the weapons and vehicles found in the game or an entire strategy guide. Just write about the weapons or vehicles that stand out from the rest that are noteworthy.

2) Don’t be vague. If you write “Command & Conquer is fun” then write about what makes it fun. If you write “I hate Lair’s control scheme” then explain yourself a bit more by adding “I hate Lair’s control scheme because it relies on the Sixaxis’ inaccurate motion sensors” or something like that.

3) Focus on the aspects of the game that stand out, whether it is for good or for bad. Don’t go off focusing on meaningless things and things that are taken for granted, such as “In multiplayer you can hit a key and a chat box opens up”. That’s nothing special. However, “In multiplayer, you can’t type to other players”, that’s noteworthy information because it’s an important standard feature that wasn’t included.

4) Use spelling and grammar checkers. It is important that your review can be read and understood. Don’t write like a 3rd grader and use complete sentences.

5) Read your review aloud. If you read it in your mind you can accidentally skip over important mistakes, whereas if you read it aloud those mistakes can be identified by your ears. Make sure you read multiple times. If you have a feeling that something isn’t right then something isn’t right. Sometimes it’s best if you just tear down the entire paragraph and start from scratch. Be sure to let others proof-read so that they may contribute any important input that you may not have thought of. Don’t rush your review.

6) Vary your choice of words. Don’t be monotonous and basic. You want your review to catch a person’s attention and be entertaining at the same time. You can do this by being witty or funny, or write the review in alternate ways. Don’t make your review “Doom is an FPS. Doom is fun. Doom has 17 levels. Doom is scary”, write it like “Every second of the 17 levels contained in Doom is a heart-pounding shooter-fest where enemies may lurk in any corner, ready to scare your pants off…”

7) Try to put yourself in the shoes of a person who has never played the game but is interested in it. What do they want to read? What information is important to them?

This is just some advice from an amateur reviewer who has a lot to learn herself. I hope it helps a little.

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