How to Write Reviews So you want to add your review to the "Reader Review" forum. Okay, but here's some things you should keep in mind when it comes to reviewing video games.

1. The most important aspect of reviewing anything is to remain as neutral as possible. This isn't to say you can't be excited about a new game, but that you must be able to forget about who produced it and which console it is for. At the moment you are reviewing it the console does not exist. Review the game based on the merits of the game alone.

This sounds easy enough, but believe it or not this is the one rule that is broken more often than any others. It is often hard for people to pass up a chance at "flaming" another system in the attempts to champion their own personal preference.

This isn't to say you can't compare the game to others. You can and should compare it to similar games on other consoles, but when doing so try to point out the differences between the two. Tell us why the game is better or worse. Don't generalize by saying things like "This game is a better fighter than that one." This tells us absolutely nothing about either game.

Simply stated, just be HONEST

2. Review the GAME, not the PICTURES. This is another problem that actually runs industry wide. Far too many people are so bedazzled by graphics that they forget to look beyond them and into the video game itself. Graphics have become the gaming industry's "buzz word" and for some unknown reason many equate good graphics with a good game. This is NOT the case. A bad game can still have good graphics. Go beyond the physical appearance of a game when reviewing it. This ties in with the next point which is:

3. When you review the game, GET INTO IT. You cannot rent a game for an evening, play it for a couple of hours, then review it. Rent it for a week and play it religiously. As you play, write down what you like and what you don't like. What impressed you? What didn't? Was there something you felt the game was missing? Remember the reason for the review is to inform others about the game. Get beyond the immediate presence a game will have (i.e.: graphics and controls) and try to learn what the game is about.

Some might ask why a week. One reason is that several games have complex controls (such as Turok or Blast Corps for the N64). These controls take some time to grow accustomed to. If you do not give yourself the time to learn the controls then you can not really review the game properly because you will not be able to play the game properly. Another is that several games are level based. By playing one or two levels you are exposing yourself to a very limited portion of the game. The early levels might be awful training style levels where the developer was hoping to simply educate you on the use of the joystick. If you review the game on these levels, what about the 15 or so stellar levels that follow? This, of course, can operate in reverse as well (one or two great levels followed by garbage).

4. Know your limits. If after playing a game for a week or so you still feel uncomfortable about reviewing it, then DON'T. Take some time. Play it some more. Try to find out what is bothering you. If you can't figure it out, then leave the game alone. Don't review it.

5. Remember that your name is on what you review. Take pride in your review. Understand that many people will read your review, and some will act on your words. Be aware that if you praise a game as the "next best thing to sliced bread" people will act on your words. If you have allowed for system bias to affect your review and the game is only mediocre.... you'll hear about it from angry people who bought the game. The best frame of mind is to believe that you will be held accountable for what you say.


6. Be your own person. Just because Joe Schmoe from your average gaming magazine says the game is a "10" does not mean that it is. Don't be afraid to voice your opinions on a game, even if it flies in the face of common belief. BUT be sure that you have reasons behind your argument, and be sure you haven't allowed for bias to affect your review.

If you believe that a game being pushed as a 9 or 10 is only worth a 7 (and you have real reasons for your rating), believe it or not many people will probably feel the same as you. Remember that the industry often "reads" itself. Therefore if one magazine is calling "Yada Yada 64" an astounding breakthrough, quite possibly others will simply "echo" this in order to present a solid image. You don't want to be the ONLY magazine saying that "Yada Yada 64" isn't all that it's said to be. You, however, are not under that constraint.

There you have it. A quick guide on how to review video games. It isn't rocket science, but it does require effort. Remember that the more games you play, and the more gaming systems you are exposed to, the better a reviewer you will be. Now go review that game!

Submit your reader review