Reviewing videogames sounds like a really cool thing to do: you get to play games before they are released, you get to keep them if they are downloadable games, and well, getting to play games without having to pay for them is nice, too. I’m not lucky enough to actually get paid to review games (yet!) but writing and editing for original-gamer.com gave me the opportunity to attend E3 back in July. Totally worth it.
So yeah, on paper, reviewing games sounds like loads of fun, but in practice, it loses a little bit of its luster. When I’m not playing awesome games like Rock Band 3 or Kirby’s Epic Yarn I’m struggling through crapfests like Power Gig or enduring kiddie games like EyePet.
Yeah. EyePet. That’s hardcore.
The most direct effect of reviewing games is that it has turned playing games into work (albeit volunteer work). Its a mental thing: instead of playing games because I want to, I now play them because I have to. It gets a little annoying at times when I have a stack of games I need to plow through or when I get asked to play games in genres I don’t particularly enjoy such as fighting or driving. The most aggravating bit about the whole thing that it takes time away from games that I want to play, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
The first thing I do when I get assigned a new game to review is I write the review’s introduction. I like to have it done before I even start playing, and in my opinion it should give the reader some context in regards to my relation to the game. Is it something I have been looking forward to, or something I’ve never heard of?
When I play a game for review, I keep my laptop handy so that I can take notes while I’m playing it. That way after I’m done playing the game I just have to flesh out the bullet points I have marked down. I’m not sure if I should be admitting this, but I don’t always finish games I review. Usually its because I don’t expect to see anything new after having played a game for so many hours. Let’s be honest, after a certain point, few games really offer anything surprising in terms of gameplay.
One game that bit that strategy in the pants was Gladiator Begins. I played through about 30 days of the campaign, probably about seventy or eighty nearly-identical fights, figured there was nothing else in the game, and wrote my review. I went back to the game and soon discovered that the levels did start to occasionally change up, and upon seeing the box in a store, I learned that there were even fights against animals. D’oh. It was either my fault for giving up on the game too early or the devs fault for taking too long to open up the game’s interesting parts. Probably a little bit of both, oh well.
Writing reviews is a balancing act. On the one hand, I don’t want to look like a fanboy by gushing praise all over a good game, nor do I want to simply verbally vomit all over a bad one for the sake of being entertaining. Great games have minor flaws that have to be explored, and bad games sometimes have good ideas that were not executed well.
Picking out a numerical score can also be a bit of a headache, because I want my score to reflect what I have written. I still read reviews myself, and I get annoyed just like everyone else when the two don’t jive. I go by what the site says on the “About” page, supposedly we work on the ‘bell curve’ model where the middle point is average. Despite the occasional “10” handed out, nobody’s really perfect.
At the end of the day, though, the site editor is the guy that says what goes up on the site, and while I haven’t always agreed with Oscar, I think he’s doing a good job for the most part. Working with him and the rest of the original-gamer.com crew has been lots of fun.
And now, back to EyePet…whee