If you talk to Jennifer, she’d probably tell you that I’d say something like:
“I ask my wife a lot of questions. Mostly when she is doing homework, reading, or playing video games herself.”
But no, I actually do things a certain way, and for good reason.
It’s been over a year since I sat down and wrote my first game review on here, for Halo 5: Guardians, and my first few reviews were kinda rough. Over time however, I found my groove and began to write the excellent, media-worthy pieces you enjoy today. It wasn’t until I read a piece over on TerminallyNerdy about becoming a reviewer though, that made me realize an important concept: people want to know how reviewers come up with their content.
Almost every major gaming outlet does this, though usually it’s limited to a summary of review scores and what they mean. Here, I’d like to go into a little more detail, and explain the process that I use.
Yes, It’s A Process
I’m not what people would consider to be a planner, so it may come as a shock to hear that I have a structure for every review I write.
A review begins (obviously) with a game that I buy (because I don’t get review copies…), and I usually know well in advance that I’m going to review it, though there are exceptions. I don’t venture into reviewing games that are outside my area of interest, which is why I don’t delve into sports or JRPGs for review. My reasoning with that is I feel like I wouldn’t give games from a genre that doesn’t interest a fair shake, that my review would be skewed. This is why you won’t see a review of games like Nier: Automata or Persona 5 on Falcon Game Reviews.
Once I have a game for review, I do the obvious. I sit down and play it. The content of my reviews come from my experience with the game, as I’m experiencing it (or sometimes observations from Jennifer). My phone and tablet are filled with notes from various games I’ve reviewed, and they’re notes that I’ve taken at the moment that the thought entered my mind. The reason I chose to adopt this method is because I don’t want to over-analyze each point I make or forget something important that I experienced.
You’ve probably also realized that I separate my reviews into five sections, and a summary:
The Gameplay section of each review outlines different gameplay elements:
- Playability – How simple it is to get a handle of the game?
- Controls – Are they accessible? Responsive? Intuitive?
- Interactivity – Subjects like: Are there dialogue choices? How well do the cover mechanics work?
Presentation covers three subjects primarily:
- Graphics – How does the game look?
- Audio – Quality of sound design and music
- Bugs and glitches – This one is fairly self-explanatory, right?
Originality is a bit more of a subjective category, which covers how well the game stands out from the crowd. Is it derivative? Does it add new concepts? Is it just another sequel with a new coat of paint?
Story and Multiplayer covers the meat of the game, in my opinion. Story covers the storytelling aspects, like the writing, dialogue, and characters. Multiplayer is about how complete the experience is. Does the multiplayer feel tacked on? Is the service reliable? Is there decent variety? Granted, I don’t cover multiplayer games much, but it’s something that I’m trying to be better about it.
Finally, there’s the Wildcard. This category is for something that I feel deserves to be called out specifically. Whether it’s Aloy from my Horizon: Zero Dawn review or Time Eggs in my Quantum Break review, these Wildcards are unique aspects of a game that need to be examined more closely and in more detail, or simply cannot be put into another category.
You may have noticed that there are no scores on the reviews I write, and there’s a reason for that. It isn’t that I have something against scoring games, or those that choose to do so, just that I feel like scores do a poor job of summarizing the value of a game.
Boiling down an entire review into a metric doesn’t do the game justice. For instance, if I were to score a game like Just Cause 3 based off of some scoring system, it probably wouldn’t do very well. Just Cause 3 is a game marred by technical issues and lazy game design, but there’s an X-Factor to the game that I just can’t shake. I loved almost every moment I had with it, and to score it well would downplay the issues I had with it; just as scoring it poorly would mean that I’d be lying about how much fun I had.
This is the dilemma I have, and it’s compounded by the way scoring systems are viewed in the gaming community. If I were to score a game as average, I would put it at a 50%. However, in the gaming media world, 50% is a garbage game, since apparently we’re grading games based off of the way American schools grade their students’ performance. I’m not interested in coming across as a hater, shill, contrarian, or click-baiter either; and many of my reviews would come across that way had I taken the time to try and add a metric to them.
Lastly, I want people to read my reviews, not just look for the score I gave. I’m guilty of this myself, having done so in reviews from professional websites when I felt particularly irked by the press a game has been receiving (in my more hot-headed days).I don’t want to invite this kind of behavior however. I want my reviews to invite discussion and for those reading to take the time to hear what I have to say, instead of jumping to conclusions about a score.