Thoughts on Reviews


Now, as you may have noticed, there haven’t been reviews lately, for which I do apologize.  There are actually a few good reasons for this, so I thought we’d talk about review-writing and such things today.

Now, like I said, there are a few good reasons for why there haven’t been reviews on this site lately.  I won’t go into detail on some of them; suffice it to say that it’s become a bit more difficult.  That general catch-all for a few reasons isn’t the sole thing, though.  The main reason is that I’ve got something special planned for my next one, something which I hope everyone will enjoy.

The interesting thing about writing reviews—like so many other aspects of life—is that it’s not quite as easy as it first seems.  Especially if one’s primary experience is reading player reviews on a site like GameFAQs or the like, it can seem like one just spends half an hour, an hour, whatever writing their impressions of the game and they’re done with it.  In fairness, a lot of player reviews seem to be just that.

However, professional reviewers, and player reviewers who are trying to at least act professional (guess which group I admit to being a part of) don’t let themselves get away with that.  There’s more to trying to tell someone how “good” a game is than just jotting down impressions.

For one thing, there’s knowing that one’s personal tastes don’t necessarily reflect the tastes of any other gamer.  Myself, for example, I’m not really a fan of first-person shooters, but that’s a preference.  The earlier Halo games are darn fine games (I’ve not tinkered with the more recent ones), the Alien versus Predator games for the computer were darn fun for being first-person shooters, and so on.  Most reviewers realize this and act accordingly (though the bigger sites, like I.G.N. and GameSpot, to name just two) have reviewers for specific genres; they’ll have “the F.P.S. guy”, the “platformer guy”, and so on.

For another thing, there’s mentally dissecting the game, preferably as you play it, though some reviewers can get away with making notes and referring to them later.  Anyway, a reviewer must think about a game in terms of its target demographic; a teenaged girl isn’t the target audience of most one-on-one fighting games, for example, which has to be kept in mind if she’s reviewing, say, the latest Street Fighter.

So you have all of that down, then it’s time to write the review.  This comes with it the fun of research.  If you’re trying to make a point, it’s generally a good idea to point the viewer at something that elucidates on it, so you don’t have to go off-topic.  If, say, the study of thermodynamics is helpful to describing why this protagonist’s magic control over lava is fun as heck, that’s great, but not something that needs to really be gone into detail over in the review itself.

Then you have to decide how to compose the review.  Some reviewers, like myself, like to create sections that focus on specific elements.  I do it because I believe it helps the reader; if they want to know how a story for a game fits, it’s easier to just scroll to that section rather than dig through the entire review for it.

Now, other reviewers go for a more “all-inclusive” set-up, where it’s closer to a real conversation or discussion.  That works just as well, really; you’ll find plenty of readers who prefer one version over the other, and that’s more than okay.

All of the above might seem like hard work, and I suppose it can be.  I, for one, love the heck out of it, though, and hope my readers like it, too.

That’s why I sincerely feel bad that I’ve been unable to finish my next review as quickly as I’d hoped.  It is in the works, as well as the surprise that it will come with.  I hope—I sincerely hope—that it will be enjoyable enough to make this recent (and, possibly future) infrequent review-posting forgivable.

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