Inside the Head of a Reviewer

While I can’t speak for all reviewers, I thought it’d be a fun time to see exactly what procedures I go through in order to write my video game reviews.  [Not because I haven’t finished Mass Effect or Okami and don’t have a weekly review to write, HONESTLY!]

Join me after the jump as I go step-by-step through my process to writing my reviews, and what I see as I’m playing the games that I’m reviewing.

Step 1 : Playing the Game [As a Gamer]

The first step in any good game review is to ACTUALLY PLAY THE GAME.  I feel like a lot of reviewers watch gameplay videos on youtube when writing, because they don’t really “get” a lot about what the game is all about, or miss really big parts of the game that might actually appeal to certain gamers.  That, or they play a whopping 30 minutes of a game before getting their final review written.

I feel like that’s not a good attitude to have.  Developers spent a lot of time and effort into making the game what it is, so I feel like I should experience everything about the game that I possibly can.  With that in mind, when playing the game, I play it like a “gamer” would, instead of a journalist [only looking for controversies, bugs, glitches, ect].

I play the game like I’m wanting to have fun with it, and see what kind of experiences I had, and share those experiences with the readers.

In the case of my Fallout New Vegas review, I noticed a LOT of crashing, which led me to have a much less enjoyable time that I would have, and led to a paragraph explaining about it.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed the characters in my Dead Rising 2 review, so I made sure and mentioned the adorable little girl that made the game all the more enjoyable.

Step 2:  Reading Into the Plot/Characters/Gameplay

A big part of a lot of video games is the plot and the characters.  Even games like Mario have some underlying plot.  Did Peach get kidnapped from a gigantic cake, or did she get nabbed while racing go-karts?

When reviewing [after I’ve played the game], I take a step back and look at the characters and plot that I just encountered.  Did I feel like they were compelling and fun to be around?  Did the story have a new twist on something interesting?  What was the overall atomsphere that I felt while playing the game?  Was it fun?  Was it stressful?  Was it horrific?

Then I look at the gameplay.  Was it FUN to play the game?  Was there things in there that I thought was distracting?  [Maps, directional arrows, bad aiming system]  Was there things in there that I thought were excellent touches?  [leveling systems, interesting weapons, rocket lawn chairs]

I take my experience with the story, gameplay and the characters and share it with the readers.   Notice the key work in that sentence.  MY. I’m speaking from the plot/characters in the perspective that I took them in.  I thought Dead Rising 2 had really an interesting [if cliche’] plot, but found the plot of Fable as somewhat bland.  There are TONS of people that would reverse those two, and think that Dead Rising 2 was bland, but Fable was a rich experience.

That’s a key flaw in all video game reviews.  When we’re talking about games, we’re talking about it from our experiences and perspectives.  We don’t speak for the billions of gamers out there.  We’re not the voice of an entire generation.  We’re one person with one perspective.  Don’t take it personally if we thought Galatia Space Battles X : Attack of the  Killer Hamsters wasn’t the grandest thing in the universe.

If you like a game, you shouldn’t let a reviewer insult you because they didn’t like it.  It’s just how they feel.

Step 3:  Scoring

I personally hate scoring games.  Placing an arbitrary number to say “good” or “bad” for a game seems essentially pointless.  Because then you have to differently weight the good from the bad in order to have subtracting values from the 10 score.  I gave Fallout New Vegas a 9.5/10, even with game-breaking bugs, because I felt like the other excellent points in the game added to the score.  Others might have given it a 5/10, 6/10, 7/10, ect ect.  The numerical scoring system is NOT universal, and one reviewer’s 10 is another reviewer’s 4.

But it’s something that readers NEED.  It’s the glue that holds together the previous 5/6 paragraphs.  It’s the culmination of our feelings and essentially states whether or not we recommended the game.  For me, anything above an 8 is something everyone should play.  5-7 is a rental or for the hardcore fans only.  4 and below are games I wish I hadn’t played and was nothing more than a waste of time.  Games get on the higher tiers of those separators for being especially good.

Like I said in step 2, game scores are opinionated, and you shouldn’t take them personally.  It’s just what we felt about the game.  Don’t let a score dissude you from playing a game.  Heck, if scores were absolute measure of a game’s worth/value, nobody would be playing Sonic games or saying they were fun.  [/Points to the large fanbase of Sonic in TSG forums]

Final Thoughts

One of the wisest things I can say to the gaming community is this…  “Video game reviews are the cancer of the video game communities.”  They scare away people from playing potentially amazing games, or alienate players because of a minor sentence said in error.

Yet reviews are important things in the industry.  Games are WAY too expensive these days to purchase EVERYTHING, and even the rental industry is getting more and more expensive.  Reviews are an excellent way to “weed out” games that you’d like to play and not play, and make decisions easier.  Essentially, we’re telling you which games are worth the investment of some 30-60 dollars.

I guess in the end, it’s a give and take situation.  GIVE games your own opinion through research, Youtube and friends.  TAKE from our reviews the knowledge that is applicable to your gaming situation.

4 thoughts on “Inside the Head of a Reviewer”

  1. Another excellent article. I was actually just talking about this with my cousin a few days ago. A lot of people won’t play a game since they go by review scores. Like you said people should just go with their own opinion and just read reviews to get a better understanding of what the game is about.

  2. There’s a few things I do differently, but that’s inevitable. The one big thing I do think that is important is that you also have to consider what other people will think of a game.

    I have a high tolerance for bad game design, controls, graphics, etc. Just because I can get by without having an issue doesn’t mean everyone else can. I really have to look at something that may have completely passed me by and say, “is this big enough of a problem that it would hurt other’s experiences?”

    Sure it is writing about our experiences with the title, but the review is for the reader. So I think they should written with them in mind.

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