Writing Video Game Reviews

writing-game-reviewsI get a lot of request by friends and fellow gamers alike to write reviews for new games that are on the market or about to be on the market. I am usually more than happy to do it because that’s one of the things I like doing best—test playing new games and letting other people know the goods, the bads, and the uglies. But along with writing the reviews themselves, many of my friends have asked me how I go about writing them and what I consider and what I don’t while writing them.

So, by popular demand, I’m going to go through my entire review writing process and show you how I evaluate each and every game that I consider.

Make sure It’s Readable

The first thing I do when writing a game review is to remember who my audience is. When you think about it, writing a game review really is no different than writing for a newspaper or writing college essays. You need to keep you readers and audience in mind and make sure you are communicating to them what they need to know. And the last thing I try to do when writing my game review is to make it readable. You know what I mean. I try to take out any unnecessarily big words, and I try to keep my grammar proper. I make sure not to misuse the grammar of principal and principle because that tends to confuse the reader.

Game play

Firsts things first. I always consider game play above anything else. What is the game play like? Do you interact with other gamers, is it an open world or a sand box game?

After considering the game type, I look at the game based on similar games in the market. Is this just a rehash of something that we have already seen six months earlier or does it add something new to the genre? Unfortunately, a lot of game that are being released today don’t really add that much innovative game play but instead are just re-releases of old gaming technology.

Physics

One area that a lot of game design companies have been innovating in is the area of physics. Now, people have mixed reviews on physics—to certain degrees. You have your old-school console games who just want to have a control and that’s it. No movement, no motion, just give me the control and let me play. Then you have the ultra-physics nerds who want to literally be jumping up and down when they’re playing their games. That’s a little bit much.

I prefer something in the middle. I think what the Skate franchise has done to skateboarding games has been a major improvement and it’s something that both sides can get behind.

Longevity of Game

I might be an outlier in this regard, but another thing I look for in a game is a decent shelf life. Most games I usually “beat” in under a week, and there isn’t a whole lot publishers can do to fix people like me who binge play the games, but they can add missions and achievements that gamers can unlock.

I think that the GTA franchise has done a tremendous job of incorporating missions and achievements into the games that really put them up a notch in my book.

Review of Reviews

So to be short, I look at the basic game play and physics of the game. I make sure I easily communicate these features to my readers and I avoid the kind of basic grammar mistakes that cause people to second guess your opinion. Never mix up the meaning of immigrate vs emigrate when writing your reviews.

Nintendo’s Innovation That Left Them Behind

nitendo-wiiDo you remember when the Xbox 360 and the PS3 first came out? I sure do. I was first among the people in line waiting to get them. At first, I was a 360 supporter and it took me a few years to come around to the PS3, but, now, after everything is said and done, I have come to appreciate both as amazing gaming systems.

Regardless of my personal feelings, however, these were undeniable state of the art gaming systems of the day and they proved as such through their sales, but the innovation behind both platforms really was much more evolved than their predecessors the Xbox and the PS2. Better graphics, bigger hard drives, more expansive game play, these are all things you should expect with a new console. Nothing about them was revolutionary.

Out of this wave of consoles, the only company to really think outside of the box was Nintendo, and they did so in a big way. With the release of its Wii gaming system, Nintendo anticipated a complete shift in gaming that wouldn’t really catch on for a number of years.

The Wii was a quick hit and millions of people bought them. They are really great for family and party gaming, but they were not able to produce much staying power. People at first loved the idea of the Wii, but the whole concept never really caught on. Maybe this is because the technology wasn’t quite there yet or maybe it was because no platforms wanted to hassle with the release of a Wii game, but the Wii wasn’t able to produce the same kind of growth in gaming that the Xbox and Playstation both had with their static sales and with the growth of online gaming.

Another thing that Nintendo, apparently, did not correctly anticipate was how easy it would be for both Microsoft and Sony to adapt their existing consoling to match the Wii’s unique gaming experience. Granted, it did take both companies a few years to develop the technology and get it released and widely in consumer use, but they did it—and with minimal effort. Microsoft now has its Connect system and Sony has the Playstation eye.

And the biggest problem with Nintendo is that their platform is now rendered useless. The other game systems can now play traditional games and games that feature movement and real life physics.

This is a classic example of an early innovator not taking into account many other market variables and losing their competitive edge—even while being the innovators themselves. In effect, Nintendo introduced people to a new wave of gaming that Sony and Microsoft was able to pick up on and make into a better overall platform. The gaming market functions the same as any other market.

Now Nintendo has largely been relegated to handheld gaming, which is but a fraction of the total gaming market and may never reach the same threshold. Time will only tell what is in Nintendo’s future, but hopefully they will reenter the gaming scene sometime; the N64 was incredible!

My First Game Console

Sonic-knucklesDo you remember your first gaming console? I remember getting mine like it was yesterday. I, actually, still have it, too, but getting it was so exciting. It was Christmas morning and I felt kind of like that Gamecube kid. Remember him? That crazy kid screaming when he got the Gamecube? Well, I wasn’t quite that crazy, but I do remember being super excited and I played it all day long. It was a Nintendo NES game system. I got two games for it, one of which was Mario Bros. This was my game of choice for the next six months straight. I had so much fun playing that game, and it never got old.

But despite all of the fun that I had with my NES, what really tipped me over the edge into the gaming camp was the Sega Genesis.

The Genesis was a huge leap forward in gaming technology and it was absolutely state of the art. That, and by the time the Genesis hit the market, systems like the NES had popularized the gaming industry, so hundreds and hundreds of titles were being made for the Genesis, including many that I still have fun playing today.

One of my favorite games was Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and the Sonic and Knuckles game. Knuckles was always the coolest character to play because not only could he glide, but he could also climb walls. It kind of made you think, why would you ever want to be Sonic when you could be Knuckles?

But what made Sonic 3 so cool was that you could actually save it. I know this is something we take for granted in games today, but back then, belief it or not, you couldn’t actually save your games. You just had to play them all the way through until you had beaten then without turning your system off. I can remember taking turns playing Super Mario Bros 3 because in order to beat the entire game without turning it off, it could take well over 7-8 hours. So what we would do is play the first two or three worlds then hand off the controller to the next person. In Sonic 3, you didn’t have this problem because you could save the game. How cool!

Another cool feature about these two games is that the game Sonic and Knuckles, which was a stand alone game itself could also be used as an expansion pack for Sonic 2 and Sonic 3. It allowed you to play the entire two games with the character Knuckles. How cool is that? You can now go back and play Sonic 2 and 3 with the new character Knuckles.

Talk about a cool development. I remember first getting Sonic and Knuckles and going back through to replay all of Sonic 2 with my new character. It was so cool and a really great idea on Sega’s part. Now you can get all of these games for the Gamecube and Wii, and you can even play most of them online for free. So for any of you who aren’t sure exactly what games I’m even talking about, go check them out and play some of the classics.

How to Not Become “That Guy” While Gaming

the-ultimate-gamerEveryone who games even halfway seriously is familiar with “that guy.” They date back all the way to the early days of Nintendo. There are a few different variations of “that guy” in gaming too, so sometimes it’s confusing to know which one people are talking about, but today I want to go over how we as gamers can avoid being “that guy” while gaming.

The Über Gamer

Like I said above, everyone knows someone who is just a little too into gaming and who let it dominate every single aspect of their entire life an existence. These type of people have a hard time communicating with the outside world and carrying on normal conversations when gaming isn’t the main item of discussion. So what are a few ways that we can avoid this happening to us?

I know just how easy it is to get consumed by gaming culture because it happens to me every one in awhile. I will randomly find myself having gone days or weeks without every talking to someone about a topic other than games. And the best way I have found to counteract this trend is to find a group of friends who are either loose gamers or don’t game at all. This will help balance you out and make you more well rounded.

The Loud Gamer

The loud gamer is the guy who feels the need to yell every time he gets a kill in Call of Duty or every time he throws a touchdown pass in Madden. You generally see these types of guys frequenting college frat houses and other “bro” type atmospheres. The best way to avoid becoming a bro-gamer is to have a sense of self-awareness and keep a temperature check of the room around you. Sometimes it’s okay to be really loud and yell during gameplay, but if you’re the only one doing it, odds are you’re doing it wrong.

The Know-It-All

This type of gamer is in a league all his own—and he’ll let you know it. While the know-it-all gamer isn’t loud and boisterous like the bro-gamer, it sure will feel like it. Know-it-all gamers feel the need to correct everyone on what they determine to be “proper gameplay.” They usually don’t have much overlap with the über gamer because übers are generally nice people who just enjoy gaming. The know-it-all is a certain manifestation of the hipster who feels the need for everyone to be aware of his personal knowledge of gaming. Just sitting down and enjoying playing games isn’t enough for the know-it-all.

Generally is you’ve become a know it all and you aren’t aware of it, it’s too late. In most game circles these are the worst kind of people to play with. I can even stand gaming with the bro-gamer because they are at least well intentioned, albeit slightly irritating at times. The best thing to do to avoid becoming a know it all is to not feel the need to correct everyone on everything all the time. Try to let some things just be. If someone doesn’t know as much as you about a particular game or console, you don’t need to make them feel inferior about it. Just having fun playing the game! That’s what they’re there for!