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The Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Video Game Review

Vivian James getting ready to review some vidya gaems

Reviewing a video game should be a simple task, yet so many "video game journalist" can't seem to stop themselves from screwing it up. As someone who has been paid to review video games, movies, books, music, comic books, and television shows for over twenty years I feel I am qualified to speak about the dos and don'ts of video game reviewing. Not only paid, but I have also been fired and "let go" from several gaming websites for refusing to bend on my ethics and produce garbage reviews like those at Kotaku and Polygon. Now, I'm not saying what I think is the end all be all of video game reviewing but I think it is at least a good starting point for aspiring video games journalist. With that out of the way I have one last thing to say before getting to the met of this article, I hope those "video game journalist" I mentioned at the start of this article take notes and gets their acts together because I would hate to see an industry I love become completely irrelevant.

Do: Play the game you are reviewing!
I know this seems like a no-brainer but I can't tell you all the amount of times I have read a review were it was obvious that the reviewer didn't actually play the game the were "reviewing." So, please, actually play the game before trying to review it.

Don't: Only play the game one time
This one is less obvious, but if you are going to review a game don't just play it one time and think that is enough to actually have an informed opinion of the game. In fact you should play it several times, more if there are multiple difficulties, and try to play it in a different play style each time.

Do: Reveal your gaming bias at the onset
Not everyone is fans of sports,so if you are this kind of person and are reviewing a sports game you should drop that nugget of info at the beginning of your review. On the flip side, if you really like a certain genre of video games or the particular product the game is based upon then it is of the utmost importance to inform the readers of this fact. No one can truly write a 100% bias free review so at least give your reader a heads up on what direction your view is skewed in.

Don't: Inject your personal politics into your review!
You may be a vegan but no one wants to hear about it when you review Red Dead Redemption 2. We don't need paragraph after paragraph complaining that Arthur can only eat meat and not cook any vegan options. You might find boobs "icky" but no one cares to hear about your fear of the female form when reviewing Dead or Alive 6. You might even agree with me about politics but I still don't go to a video game review to hear about them. Be as political as you want outside your review but for the sake of video game journalism leave them at the door when reviewing a game.

Do: Include any difference between versions
Something that seems to be missing from a lot of reviews these days is the comparison between versions of the game appearing on different consoles and PC. You may only be reviewing one version of the game but you still should do some basic investigation and find out if there are any differences in the versions made for different systems then the one you are playing on.

Don't: Shill for companies or friends!
Another one that should be obvious but it appears that "video game journalist" prefer free stuff and friendly pats on the back from friends to having integrity and actually giving a legitimate review of a game. Look, I know big companies will try to woo you with free loot, fancy trips to play their game, and big advertising deals on your website but you need to resist the temptation and do the right thing and remain open and honest with your readers. I also know that companies will threaten to stop giving you review copies if you don't give them better reviews, but you are not suppose to be in it to collect review copies but to give your opinion on a game. Similarly, I know the desire to help a friend out but once again you must do what is right and not what is beneficial to your pals.

Do: Write reviews, even if no one is going to see them
Look, the world of video game journalist needs more voices not less. The more people writing and sharing reviews takes the power from the view sites strangling the life out of video game journalism. You might never get a job at Kotaku or Polygon, but there is a demand for better reviews and soon those sites will fall and there will be an opportunity for new voices to rise up. The more people writing reviews the quicker the collapse of the old guard.