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How to Write Game Reviews

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There is one thing that bothers me equally as a person who writes texts about games, and simply as a gamer - the insignificance or even irrelevance of text-based video game reviews.

Generally speaking, in in-game reviews, readers are interested in the number at the end, not the words of the critic. And it's not so much a problem as an opportunity to understand why this is the case and how to change it. I'm sure that readers will be just as interested in this article by Bidforwriting in figuring this out as those who write texts for some websites or publications.

Nobody cares
So where does the instinctive desire to scroll through a review right to the score, after which you'd rather go to the comments or discussion on Twitter and wherever else, rather than read the text itself come from?

The reason for this is several patterns/formulas that Russian gaming reviews follow so often that we already by default expect this kind of "trap" from any text on any portal. And fears, as a rule, are only confirmed.

You can run and jump in the game - and you didn't know it

The most common trouble with reviews is that they consist almost entirely of a list of what's in the game and how it works. If this approach still makes sense for non-core publications - their readers may not even be holding a gamepad correctly - then it's absurd to see this on gaming portals. Gamer readers certainly know what to do in GTA or Assassin's Creed. Even brand new games don't usually need such a detailed spelling out - everyone watches the trailers, gameplay videos, and demos. Those who avoid them (fear of spoilers) won't even read the review.

Some games really need a description of every mechanic, because you can't understand anything about them from the trailers: No Man's Sky, for instance, even before its release raised the question "How to play it? Then there are some strange and unknown indies - in truth, even here it's easier to look at the trailer, but you can understand the need to talk about the gameplay in the review. You could argue that "dry" texts should be written about games with nothing but mechanics - simulators of any kind, for example. But I'll come back to that point a little further on.

In fact, to describe only the gameplay is possible, but it should be done in separate materials, ideally in the preview (not necessarily from a demonstration at some event, you can write this after the first hours of play at home). In a review it is unbearably boring to read about it. Don't write unnecessary rubbish by doing "mandatory" stuff, spend the characters on something useful.

Pretending to be something you're not
Back to simulation games. I don't usually pick up games of genres I'm not too fond of, alien series, or just things that have an aggressive fanbase of old-timers and "experts" - as I see many do the same. But sometimes, due to circumstances, a text about a game is written by a "stranger". As a rule, such a person shyly writes somewhere at the beginning of the review "I'm not a fan, so I'm evaluating from the position of a non-fan". In reality, this is a wonderful approach.

Game journalists are a dime a dozen, so it's hard to fathom that anyone would want to standardize their approach to reviewing writing. Why? So that there are more of the same texts? It is great that such situations (a racing genre expert lives in town N and a disc with the new "Forzoturizma" must be given to an author from Moscow) impel a person to write something unique. Let a person write about whether it was fun to drive a virtual car or not - someone who is equally distant from the genre may come across the text and want to give racing a chance. In this situation a "professional review" will be written by someone on a neighboring site anyway - no one will lose anything.

Сriticize to stand out
I've said before that I criticize myself first and foremost in every point - consider this an exception. The most disgusting and ridiculous thing a critic can do when writing a review is to underrate (in rare cases, overrate) a game not because it reflects their opinion, but to get attention. Ugh.

Of course, deliberately provoking scandal is the cheapest and, partly, one of the most effective techniques of gaining views in any media format. It is very difficult to express something neutrally or positively and still get attention because such material will only be shared if it is well written. On the other hand, there is a temptation to "skewer", because the traffic literally erupts and the scolding article is immediately discussed, shown to people you know, and emotionally resented. But how low to use such a trick.

It's okay if you want to write a 1/10 review of The Last of Us, but, firstly, really rate the game that way and, secondly, are able to accompany the "triggering" figure with a good text with intelligible arguments. Otherwise, you're embarrassing all your colleagues (or hobbyists, for that matter), not to mention your website/blog/publication staff.

No one will take your word for it
A simple mistake that seriously spoils any criticism. Often in reviews on various resources, you will see that the game is "good", "fun" or some other unexpected adjective. It's pretty obvious that it's not enough to put an evaluation label on this or that aspect of the game, it has to be justified. A good text gives you a sense of what the critic has experienced. Hardly anyone will be convinced by sentences like "the combat system here is good" or "the story is quite interesting, but the ending is a bit disappointing". It needs to be proven.

I know that there are editors in professional publications who would never miss a text with poor argumentation, so I appeal primarily to those who write about games as a hobby or simply discuss them with friends. Don't start your story with unsubstantiated assertions. Be specific and make it clear why you have such an opinion about the game or specific parts of it.

From this, a simple rule emerges: write from yourself, not from the game. Any personal story or description of emotions experienced, as long as they are honestly told and supported by coherent arguments and examples, will be a hundred times more interesting to read than a methodological review. Talk about what's interesting to you, rather than writing "the way it should be".

For my part, I, too, will try to write better and avoid the mistakes described above. Because I believe that video games deserve good writing.

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