07/09/2018

✍️๐Ÿ•น️ Ritin wurds abowt gamez or ‘A Few Words on Writing Some Words’ ๐ŸŽฎ✍️

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I am by no means an expert on reviewing video games, having only begun ‘full-time’ daily review writing just over eighteen months ago, however after recently seeing a vote on Twitter whereby 50% of people are of the mind that a reviewer should complete a game entirely before reviewing it, I thought I’d just throw in my thoughts on the matter. 
This article could also sort of double up as a basic guide for people who want some guidance or a simple framework on how to initially plan out and structure their own reviews, should they wish to get started and feel a bit lost.
Firstly, some background information on my personal situation to put my reviewing style in context.
Currently, I don’t have children but I do work full-time and rehearse / record / gig in two active bands, so I don’t have the luxury of just pumping dozens of hours into each title that I get sent to play (plus that situation would have its own drawbacks, which I’ll touch upon later in the article). It’s also handy that my girlfriend is as hips deep into gaming as I am and also occasionally writes articles and reviews for websites that she is involved with, so whenever I’m playing a game or typing up my thoughts, she often has a crack at the game, letting me know her feelings on it so it’s a pleasant, collaborative hobby that we both enjoy and share.
I have played games and written up reviews pretty much on a daily basis since March 2017 mainly for two websites, the mighty Games Freezer (who initially gave me the opportunity to get into reviewing and so will always have a special place in my pixelated heart) and Nerdly.co.uk. I am also involved with the very cool Games You Loved, but on a less frequent basis, although it’s always great fun to catch up with Chris and the gang.
I got started in reviewing on a regular basis quite by accident. Faye (my girlfriend) started our Twitter channel ‘Kingdom of Carts’ around four years ago to share our love of gaming and upload pictures and comments relating to items in our collection, we quickly got friendly with other members of the community and Rich (boss) from the mighty Games Freezer contacted us for an article on how we got involved in gaming and where our love for it comes from. Upon submitting the article back, he asked me if we wanted to review a game, to which I happily agreed (Dark Fear, I remember you well!) and it sort of spiralled from there (good!).
Before I began reviewing, I felt like I needed some sort of guidance on where to start as, aside from  a couple of half-finished novels, the occasional short story and regular lyric writing (all of which are pretty much completely different from reviewing, I now understand) I had no experience on the subject and didn’t want to go in blind. This is where my good friend Rupert Harvey comes in, a seasoned author and regular contributor for multiple sites on the medium of both film and gaming, Rupert wields the English language  like Ken Marshall wields the glaive in 1983 cult fantasy classic ‘Krull’ and makes my work look like a drunken man’s faecal scribblings on a prison wall. He gave me advice that I’ve always adhered to which boils down to:
Don’t write like it’s a fiction piece, it’s not about creating tension or drama, it’s about imparting information and opinions as succinctly as possible.
And:
Always give a brief summary of your thoughts at the start of the article for people who just want a quick idea of the quality of the game without having a blow-by-blow account of its individual qualities or issues.
Obviously, this is just his take on how to layout a review but has absolutely worked for me and my personal style over the last couple of years.
Between the two sites, I usually get around three to five games a week to review and there is always a backlog so I’m never stuck for titles to play. My method is to read up on the game before-hand to learn about the developers’ previous titles and history (if there is one) so I have a context for the game that I’m about to play. I’ll then play the game for massively differing levels of time, depending on what sort of game it is. For instance, an arcade-style high-score based game may only take an hour or so but I would say I play most games for between three and five hours, the review then takes an hour to type up. Unless it’s an exception, most games only need a few hours of gameplay to capture:
Genre type
Level design
Graphics
Sound design
Playability
Controls
Writing quality
Bug / glitch issues
Post-release support
Similarity to other titles
If something like a hefty RPG comes along, quite often I’ll play it for longer because three hours sometimes doesn’t cover the length of time the opening introduction sequence takes! (plus I’m a big RPG fan in general so I’m more likely to play purely out of personal enjoyment)
If I were in a situation that allowed me to have most of every day free, I still wouldn’t play each game to completion because if I were to do that, I’d be more likely to be overly critical of the game due to how much of my time it’s taken up  and if it wasn’t enjoyable, I’d probably be pretty jaded after thirty hours which would also affect the final review. There’s a common belief that getting free games to review makes people more inclined to leave a positive review but when you are routinely getting sent games to a deadline (however vague) it actually makes the opposite more of a danger.
Another point I try to keep in mind is that being a musician, I’m aware of how much time and effort goes into creating something. The developmental cycle of a game is often measured in months or years and in the case of independent developers consisting of one or a handful of people working on the project as a labour of love, I find it unfair to overtly attack or over-emphasise the faults of  a game for cheap laughs when, regardless of quality, the chances are that people have spent hundreds or thousands of hours creating it. I tend to only joke around in reviews with games that I really have enjoyed and even then it’s in good spirits as opposed to punching downwards.
That’s pretty much all I wanted to say. The last couple of years have been really fortunate for me in that I’ve made great friends through my reviews and I’ve been introduced to some truly amazing games that would have passed me by (and sadly, continue to pass others by). I’ll reiterate that I make little money from writing reviews and do it purely out of love and also as a way to learn more about games and the industry surrounding it, there have been some truly eye-opening moments. I’d also like to mention again that I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic of reviewing, I’m still learning more with each article but felt in a position to write this as I’ve come into reviewing as a total newbie at age thirty-two pretty much by accident.
I hope this has been of some use to those interested in starting reviewing games themselves; it’s been fun to write, like it always is and always should be.
Cheers!
Britt