Reviewing Games Is Not As Easy As You Think

I’ve always loved playing games. I was lucky enough to jump from console generation to console generation – NES to SNES / Genesis to N64 to Dreamcast and so on and so forth. As an old school RPG fan, I would often enjoy the more classic titles like Lufia and Secret of Mana compared to more modern takes. It is also not surprising that my favorite Final Fantasy of all time is VI.

I would also religiously buy the latest EGM issue at the nearest Bufini magazine stand, much to the dismay of my parents. I loved reading every issue from cover to cover, reading of all of the upcoming games I’ll never get to buy unless I presented a beaming report card.

Even at an early age, I knew that I wanted to grow up playing games and eventually, work around and review games just like how the people from the magazines did.

One of my favorite issues

Fast forward to 2020, where social media has changed the way we create and consume content.

Almost anyone can be a reviewer of sorts, since there really isn’t any professional training involved in being one. Many have formed the misconception that reviewing games is easy, simply because it requires you to just play the game and form an opinion on it. If you love playing games in the first place, then that shouldn’t be a problem, yeah?

While partly true, it doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Reviewing a game is not as simple as you think. It is real work.

My personal approach to making reviews was to do away with numerical values or even score a game based on categories like graphics and sound and gameplay. I wanted to simplify it, with the end product resulting in the review answering the simple question on whether you should buy it, wait for it, or ignore it. Instead of a vague number rating that could pose problems differentiating an 8 from an 8.5, answering these 3 questions proved to be more straightforward and a lot easier to understand for me and for a number of people I’ve spoken to.

Reviews have to be honest, objective, and should ideally not be influenced by any of the brands that you will get the privilege of working with. Call out shitty games and heap praises on titles that deserve it, you should have that commitment to be fair and impartial to everyone, most importantly to yourself.

One thing about reviewing a game is that you probably might not get to enjoy it as much compared to someone playing with no strings attached. There’s an added layer of thought involved while reviewing a game. You don’t just blurt out statements like “The graphics are good” or “The combat is great”, there’s always that extra question of “how?” and “why?” that you’ll have to explain and sometimes, it takes away from the game experience not because the game isn’t good but because of the mental overhead that’s always present while playing.

Some reviews also require that you rush through the whole game, all for the sake of meeting deadlines. In case you didn’t know, some reviews are locked behind embargo restrictions and once that is lifted, you’ll definitely want to release your review on the dot and be one of the first ones out there. Anything later and your relevance will lessen as the days go by. That said, I personally find that rushing through is a real problem that gives you less time to appreciate the all the hard work and love poured into the game.

My Final Fantasy 7 Remake review was a few days late, but still just in time for the worldwide launch of the game. Why? Simply because I haven’t finished the game yet. By the time I was done with it, everyone had already read a Final Fantasy 7 Remake review from various other outlets. It sucks but, what can I do? Between being a father and having a day job, it was a tough act to juggle, but my personal take is to never put out a review on a game that you have not finished. It’s unfair to the publishers, the developers, and to your readers for putting out uninformed content.

In fact, talking about a game in an official review capacity without any actual experience of the said game is a huge no no, at least for me, but I digress.

Reviews will also require you to take screenshots, videos, and whatever else that could help create more content about the game. In between the notes and scribbles that you do, your momentum is almost always broken. What would normally take an hour to get through will take even more just because of all the little things you have to do and think of.

Sometimes, you’ll be given a game that’s not really your cup of tea. Maybe it isn’t a Triple A title or simply put, just not something you’d normally play for whatever reason. You could simply pass it on to a team member who is more suited for the task or chalk it up as a new experience. Reviewing games has actually taught me to appreciate the different types of games and genres, whether good or bad, to actually be more informed about some titles that I would have never even bothered to touch in the first place. Turns out, some are actually quite fun!

As if all of that wasn’t enough, you actually have to write about the game you just played. Sitting in front of a screen, typing up word after word, is literally like typing up one of those reaction papers from high school, but this time almost once or twice every week. To be quite honest, after a long day at work, you just struggle to find the right words to say. You read everything over and over, correcting mistakes, trying not to repeat ideas and words to not make it sound like a broken record… the list goes on. Sometimes, it’s a thankless effort, but finishing the review is satisfying enough to make you want to do more, especially when other people get to read your work.

All things considered, reviewing a game (or anything, for that matter) is not an easy task to do, especially if you are doing it for a publication or a media outfit that expects results. Even as a personal endeavor, reviewing a game takes time and resources that many people might not want to waste. A lot of gamers may want to join in on the fun but only a few can do it properly. I think I still have a very very long way to go myself.

“Oh have you read his review on this game? It’s a great review that made me want to get the game!”

It’s probably a line that every reviewer aspires to hear. Some sort of affirmation that what they are doing is actually worth something to readers out there. Reviewers aspire to be credible sources of information.

Credibility is an often ignored aspect that speaks volumes. “Why will I read your review? Who are you to tell me what I should think about the game?” If you are credible, your audience will see your honesty and authenticity. Sadly, as the saying goes, an apple or two could indeed spoil the bunch. I’ve gotten to read some conversations regarding personalities caught up in issues such as plagiarism that have affected the industry as a whole (even internationally). While this piece is not about plagiarism, it is indeed a nasty speed bump that hinders the overall progress of the industry (and therefore our work), sometimes leaving a lasting effect that, while unspoken for the most part, will linger on and erode the trust of the audience.

One More Game does not have a large following by any stretch. We started this project only last month and while it’s been quite the climb, one thing we have learned is to stay honest throughout it all. A couple of unique engagements here and there, a few messages of support, even just a handful of conversations you can count with one hand. These things matter dearly.

Gaining an audience is not hard as long as you have funds to go around and connections to use. Gaining an audience who believes in your work and supports and engages with you because of your efforts is quite another thing altogether. We aim to please the latter.

Through our reviews, it is our hope that we strike a chord with our readers that will hopefully give them an outfit they can relate with. It’s tough, and we hope our readers can appreciate the hard work that goes into putting out reviews and content, not just by us but by every media outfit out there.

I am, in no way, discouraging anyone from reviewing games. In fact, if you think you’ve got the knack for it, go ahead, take a chance, and just do it! Everything has to start from something, yeah?

My name is Chris and I enjoy playing (and reviewing) games. We would love it if you can let us know how we can improve further!

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