I'm interested in reviewing games, and as there seems to be a lot of game reviewers that pass by these forums I thought I might be able to get some good advice here. Presently I work for an RTS fansite, and while we produce a few game reviews and previews, it isn't really what we are about as we concentrate more on providing gaming events and analysis for the community we serve. So I am looking to moonlight for another site that concentrates on reviews and previews more, and wondering if there were any good ones that were looking for volunteers.
My principle motive is to gain experience and contacts so as to further my ambition of becoming a freelance game journalist, it would also be good to polish up my style by having some additional purpose and direction to my usual opinionated ramblings. If anyone has any suggestions on how I should go about fulfilling this ambition, that would equally be of great use to me. You can tell me straight, as I don't want to waste my time, and if you think I have no chance due to being rubbish, then let me know that too.
So you can see if I am worthy, this is a recent preview I wrote for my site that was based on the Battle Realms beta, the test program for which I was a part of:
Even if you have nothing to add on the other matters, constructive criticism of the article would also be welcome from anybody, i.e. was it too vague, overly critical or lacking in structure, etc.
Tim (aka Gx_Farmer)
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Saturday, October 20, 2001 - 08:31 pm:
Well, Tim, I'll give you this: Your timing sucks. Six months ago, I was where you are now, and right now -- I'm not much further along. I've got a couple sites that I write for fairly regularly, and practice is always good, but now's a bad time to be trying to get into the industry. I'm not trying to discourage you -- obviously, I'm still trying. But now's a bad time; understand that.
That being said, I've read your article, and think you stand as good a chance as anyone. By no means is this a professional opinion or anything -- I'm nearly as "green" as you are -- but it seems to me like you have a pretty good feel for the craft, so continue to refine your skill. I'll go out on a limb here and speak for him, since he's not around as frequently these days: E-mail Tom Ohle, if you'd like. He's got a site, Gamersclick, (that's down right now) that he's reviving (again), and we've been looking for some more writers. I think he'd be interested in hearing from you. Go ahead and drop him a line -- tell him Murph sent ya. :-)
Anyway, I encourage you to keep writing, and seek feedback as often as possible, in hopes that in a few months/years/whatever, when the industry "bounces back" a little, you can secure a good job like Mark, Tom, and so many others here.
And I'll say this, too -- this is certainly a good website to solicit help from. The best in the industry tend to hand out here.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Saturday, October 20, 2001 - 08:31 pm:
No, they don't. They hang out here. Geez!!
By davidf on Saturday, October 20, 2001 - 11:59 pm:
I was about to say... as a former game reviewer for globe.com interests, I could use a hand out if you've got one! :) Prima has even dried up for freelance work. Got a decent job at Intel but with a kid that doesn't go as far as it used too.. I'm about to head over to blockbuster to earn a little extra cash on my days off. ;)
By Brian Rubin (Veloxi) on Sunday, October 21, 2001 - 04:46 am:
I'd have to agree with Michael, right now is a bad time. Five months ago, I was a full-time gaming journalist, but that came to an end along with a lot of other sites around the same period of time. I'm not saying this to be discouraging, but to ensure a realistic attitude on the whole thing. :)
Having said that, I took a look at your article, and can say that you definately have the idea. Your writing seems pretty decent, too. I'd have to say to get your feet wet with some sites that don't pay money, just free games. Some of them are still around, and are a great place to get in practice. I hope this helps, Tim, and I wish you the best of luck. :)
By Ian Sturm on Sunday, October 21, 2001 - 07:03 am:
The most important thing to remember is to put at least one reference to Killcreek in every review.
By Tim Partlett on Sunday, October 21, 2001 - 06:19 pm:
Thanks for the advice and support :). I've been following the game industry news pretty closely all year, so I'm keenly aware of the state its in right now. I'm confident that the situation will improve, because the game industry and the internet has barely scratched the surface of its potential, IMO, and so there are plenty more ups, and a few downs, yet to come. My plan is to build up a reputation, and hone my abilities in the meantime, so that when the upturn comes I will be primed to take advantage of it. In the meantime I am looking to hang out at a reputable volunteer game review site, and wait for the right moment to strike.
Thanks for the contact, Murph, I'll be in touch with Tom presently :).
Tim (aka Gx_Farmer)
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Sunday, October 21, 2001 - 08:13 pm:
Yeah, Tim, you and I are pretty much in the same boat...
We'll work together 'til the industry rebounds, but then, it's every man for himself!! :-)
By noun on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 02:14 am:
Be prepared for lots of criticism, all of which you'll need to learn to ignore. Otherwise, your brain will fizzle from all the contradictory complaints.
1. Never review games from a genre in which you're not totally fluent.
2. If you haven't been playing computer games since the day they were invented, your opinion is unqualified.
3. Never review games from a genre in which you enjoy, because you'll be accused of being biased.
4. Never write a forumlaic review; they are boring.
5. Never be innovative or "cutesy" with a review; just stick to the facts.
6. Always avoid giving scores in your review, as those are usually arbitarily chosen.
7. Always give scores in your review. Otherwise, how will gamers know whether or not you liked the game?
8. Never criticize a game everyone else loves.
9. Don't go along with the crowd; if you think a game is lousy, say so.
10. Graphics aren't important.
11. If the graphics are dated, you'd better point them out.
12. Never point out that a game is the "same old, same old". If a type of game works, why criticize it? Rate it on its own stengths.
13. If it's something that's been done before, you'd better say so. It's unforgivable that a reviewer praises gameplay as innovative when it was clearly not. (Closely tied with rule #2).
14. Don't go on and on about describing the gameplay. There's no need to transcribe the game manual.
15. I can't get a clear picture of how the game plays. Add more detail about the gameplay.
Etc. I'd add more, but it's too depressing.
By Bub (Bub) on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 03:41 am:
This is a direct quote from the start of a Writing Class I took at SFSU.
"You're hacks, you stink, and you'll never be published. You're all nothing. A waste of time for me to teach and a waste of words should anyone read your scribblings!"
A number of the class left then.
By the end of the class a few of us past it and he said to each in turn: "You? Yeah you passed. But you'll never be a writer. NEVER.............................................................prove me wrong"
Naked tactic to be sure, but good advice. Arrogance doesn't work in a writer's favor most of the time. And the ups and downs of the business demand a hard shell.
By Jim Frazer on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 01:12 pm:
I have a bit of a followup question, since we have so many quality writers around...
Like the folks in this thread, I've been wanting to write game reviews. I'm not trying to make a living at it, I'm mainly just trying to turn it into a nice hobby that I can maybe make a few random bucks at if the opportunity arrives.
I wrote a review for a RTS game called America that Mark was kind enough to humor me and put on the site (the voiceovers from that game still haunt my dreams). After rereading the review, I came to the conclusion that my writing stinks, that's about the only way to put it. My thoughts are conveyed in a jumbled mess that only vaguly resembles a cohesive stream. I've been wanting to change that, but I'm having a hard time deciding which route to take.
The way I see it, I could go two routes for classes; 1) Journalism classes or 2) creative writing classes. Journalism seems like the way to go, but I don't want to sound like a CNN Headline News reporter when people read something I write for entertainment. The creative writing classes seem more geared towards novelists.
Any advice would be appreciated.
By Bill Hiles on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 03:35 pm:
Best advice I can offer and it's not even my own original advice... sit butt down and write, write, and then write some more. I used to evaluate new writers for CGM and only a very few were clearly polished from the get-go. Most were on a scale of fair to "maybe you should be a plumber instead." But even that last variety could work their way up to fair or even good with enough effort and determination. Writing, in my experience, is truly about 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The best way to learn how to write well? Write. Write. And read. Read as much as you can. Read other reviews, including non-gaming ones. Read books. Fiction. Non-fiction. Poetry. Take it all in. And above all, learn to have confidence in your ability. Literature is full of books and stories from authors who were told to pack it in, but they believed in themselves and persisted. My first professional sale (short story) came after 39 rejection slips... I skewered each and every one of them on a nail and said, "I'll show those bastards!"
That was 11 years and some 300 sold articles and stories ago...
My only exposure to writing classes were a couple of college comp courses. I'm mostly self-taught. Some folks say it shows... :-P
By Bernie Dy on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 06:06 pm:
Stephen Coonts said it well when he noted that most writers do not make much money from writing. It takes a special commitment to be a full time writer and having what Tom Chick calls a "flexible standard of living" doesn't hurt. Coonts said write because you enjoy writing and the process of writing.
That said, if you enjoy writing and gaming, then game reviewing is a way to get paid to play. When you're starting out, do what all writers have to do. Practice writing reviews of your own and query the markets. As competitive as it is and as dreary as the dot-com crash has made it, there is still opportunity in market. I see new names all the time. Even I, semi-retired from game writing, have managed to maintain a few paying gigs.
Bill Hiles said the one thing that many new writers overlook, and that is to read. Writing isn't just about writing, it's about reading, and like Bill said, not just game stuff. Read everything. The problem with game writing is that gaming can be time consuming, so you have to be disciplined about your reading.
Should you ever write for free? Different people will have differing opinions on this. Some professionals are adamant that they do not write for free. Others only do it for special considerations like friends or if the exposure is good.
Writing can be a great hobby, but a tough profession. It's not like a typical job where the next task finds you. You must pursue the next task, and you must hunger for it. Some in the games industry hunger a little too much and pile on the work, only to find that making all those deadlines means doing a mediocre job of research and editing. Perhaps that's a problem that applies to all areas of life, not just writing.
If you're going to spend your time doing something you don't enjoy for money, there are better alternatives. Read a lot and write a lot, but do it because you enjoy it. Good luck.
By Tim Partlett on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 06:14 pm:
I think Andrew and Bill sum it up nicely: hard work and determination. I've known for a long time that I can write reasonably well, but it's been a real effort to make myself write on a daily basis, and over the last two years I have done exactly that and the results are noticeable. I rewrote my resume recently and I was surprised at how much better it sounded now that I'm a more practiced writer. My covering letter turned from flowery nothingness to three paragraphs of punchy rhetoric, which made me want to employ myself lol.
Seriously, though, I must write a couple of thousand words a day, at least, even if it is just scrawling my opinion on a forum. I try to write at least one hardball article every week or so, something that requires a bit of thought. I write, I read, I review what I've written and I compare it to what others have written. I see where I differ and try and figure out if there is any way that I can improve my style. It's very easy to lose concentration and start waffling, and I tend to do this a lot when trawling the game forums, so I think writing a real article is more important than anything else, even if it doesn't get used by anyone.
Hmm...sounds like I'm offering advice to myself when I'm just summarising my literary progress over the last couple of years...:)
BTW, Murph, I got an email back from Tom, and it sounds as if you've got a good set-up there. I'll be replying in due course.
By Mark Asher on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 08:02 pm:
jim, the only real advantage to writing classes, besides some handy tips now and then, is that they make you sit down and write. That's my take, at least.
Writing workshops can be good if you have a good teacher, but if you don't the advice you can get in them can be awful.
By Chuck Osborn on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 08:53 pm:
On top of everything else that's been said here (and just to reiterate, yes, this is a very bad time to become a freelancer -- bad Tim!), if you are absolutely dedicated to the idea of reviewing games for sites or magazines, be sure to read their content first to get a grasp of their voice.
You'd be surprised (or not) how many freelancers have sent me articles that weren't written in the voice of whichever magazine or website I was working for at the time. We expect you to know our style, because if you don't, we're guessing that 1) you don't read us and 2) you didn't care enough to take a look before sending in your copy.
Good luck! And keep at it!
By Hiroshi W. on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 12:27 am:
I usually don't believe in using a litmus test to gauge a person's potential good game writing, but will admit I do ask all of my potential reviewers to tell me ahead of time whether or not they would feel comfortable giving URBAN CHAOS a 5-star rating (out of 5 stars). If they say "no," I politely but firmly ask them to stop wasting my time. I can't tell you how many flakes this policy has saved me from putting on the payroll...
UC 4 evr,
Nippon Game Guide
By Alan Dunkin on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 01:47 am:
Basing one's preference for a writer based on the editor's rating of a particular product seems rather silly to me. If you surrounded yourself with people who just had the same opinion you do then why don't you just write it all yourself and save everyone the trouble?
By TomChick on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 01:12 pm:
"Basing one's preference for a writer based on the editor's rating of a particular product seems rather silly to me."
Especially one as mediocre as Urban Chaos. Why not pick, oh, say Shadow Company, Vangers, or Ion Storm's Dominion? Hell, just pick any forgettable game!
Here's how my interview with Hiroshi would go:
Hiroshi: "Would you be comfortable giving Anne McCaffrey's Freedom: First Resistance a 5-star rating?"
Me: "Umm, well, gosh, I dunno...you mean out of 5? Is it as good as Flying Heroes?"
Hiroshi : "Stop wasting my time."
FWIW, I gave Urban Chaos a 1.5 out of 4.
By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 01:59 pm:
And you were right to do so.
Hiroshi's post, if serious, doesn't say much for Nippon Game Guide. Sounds like they need more flakes.
By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 02:01 pm:
I'm not sure if I would trust any reviews by a writer who arbitrarily handed out ratings at the editor's request. I know this wasn't Hiroshi's exact meaning, but that possibility arises nonetheless. More likely, I would simply chalk it up to questionable taste.
Granted, there's nothing wrong with rating a game highly as long as you can give good supporting evidence. With respect to Urban Chaos, I'm not sure who is wasting who's time in that case.
(Note to self: ignore ratings from Nippon Game Guide)
By Hiroshi W. on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 02:29 pm:
I've been part of this industry since my dad bought me an Odyssey, Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, and Vectrex to make up for my folks' divorce. The time I would have spent crying, I spent honing my skillz. I used to have wet dreams about cartridges, not girls. I know what I'm talking about. I would marry my Dragon's Lair full-size arcade machine my grandma gave me for my 18th birthday if it were legal. (But that would be bigamy because then I would have to marry my Space Ace machine too.)
URBAN CHAOS is the culmination of the impulses that originated in the minds of pioneers like Nolan Bushnell and Jack Trammiel: a living, breathing virtual world in which one can spend endless hours defeating crime, beating ass on punks, going outside, and all of those other things we may want to do but never do in real life. It has fighting, character development, explosive devices, hookers, and heroes! Mario move over, Sonic go to bed. That shit's 4 kids.
I think you're jealous, Tom Chick. (Are you a girl?) You couldn't make URBAN CHAOS sing under your jaded fingers, couldn't get to the end to see the beauty there. Maybe you should stop and smell the roses one time before you grow old and your fingers fall off from abusing your metal ruler to play KONAMI TRACK & FIELD too much every night. If you want to challenge me to an URBAN CHAOS time trial contest, I'm ready to Romerosize you. You will take it from behind, or make me respect you with your skillz. Your choice.
Nippon Game Guide
PS: I like your attitude. Maybe you should write for me. We could give you a lot of exposure, if you have the guts to write for no money for our six-month probation period. After that A LOT OF MONEY. Hee hee. I could let you stay in my basement if rent is a problem.
By Bernie on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 02:31 pm:
Guys, Hiroshi's post has got to be a joke. I think Erik Wolpaw and I are the only people that even liked Urban Chaos.
By TomChick on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 02:46 pm:
"We could give you a lot of exposure, if you have the guts to write for no money for our six-month probation period."
Thanks for the offer, "Hiroshi", but I'm already working through my probation period for Avault. The rest of my free time is spent screwing the porch.
By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 02:58 pm:
"if you have the guts to write for no money for our six-month probation period"
I think "Guts" in this context is the equivalent of dropping the soap in Oz. And Tom, if you do end up at the Avault please remind David Laprad that Joe Pantaliano (Joey Pants) has had a career that (gasp) actually predated the Matrix.
From their recent Majestic news item: "While Pantoliano has made a career out of playing shadowy characters, from the renegade Cypher in the 1999 film The Matrix to the mobster Ralph Cifaretto in HBO's series The Sopranos"
Someone send him an IMDB link post haste!
By Hiroshi W. on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 03:01 pm:
Tom, that's cool.
Do you want to trade Micronauts instead? I have some of the real ones from Japan... If you want to see them, I'll take some digital pics with my Dreamcast camera! ;-) Maybe make them fight some GI Joes as practice for Afghanistan.
Nippon Game Guide
By Dave Long on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 03:34 pm:
I think the Avault thing was a joke, Bub.
By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 03:47 pm:
You mean the news story was a joke? That's interesting. I haven't paid any attention to Majestic. At all. So I wouldn't have gotten it. Um... Good one. ROFL or whatever. Still, I hate to see sentences like this:
"...from the renegade Cypher in the 1999 film The Matrix to the mobster Ralph Cifaretto in HBO's series The Sopranos..."
It's fine to say he was *in* the Matrix and the Sopranos, but to represent a fairly distinguished 20 year career with only the two most recent roles, and to also use the "from/to" wording... well sheesh.
By Dave Long on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 03:50 pm:
Oh...you were making a joke of Tom's joke? Tom writing for Avault...never happen...I'm fried. Laprad wasn't making a joke. That's very much like him to spin the news as he remembers the participants.
Too much time at a desk here...getting incoherent.
By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 04:10 pm:
Ah! I see Dave. Yes, I was making a joke on Tom's joke. Avault not only has the lovely 3 month probation period, they also have an "exclusivity" contract. Meaning, if Tom worked for them, unless they changed the deal, he'd have to abandon CGM, CGW, Gamespot, etc., Worse, they call that a "part-time agreement." In freelancer terms, that sort of deal is just insulting.
By Jim Frazer on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 04:34 pm:
I thought Joe Pantoniano's first movie was Momento.
And what is this Matrix of which you speak? Is it anyting like The Net? I never tire of seeing Sandra Bullock play an awkward misunderstood person.
By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 04:38 pm:
... who falls down a lot.
(Jim, you'd forgotten Pantaliano was in The Goonies? tsk. See? Distinguished 20 year career, as I said.)
By Jim Frazer on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 04:50 pm:
Can't forget the falling down. Her talent has no limits.
Damn, I had completely forgotten The Goonies. He was Chunk's older brother, I believe.
That's like seeing Arnold Shwarzenegger in Hercules Goes Bananas (I'm not joking). His accent was so bad that they had someone voice over all his dialog. Man, that's classic.
By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 04:58 pm:
Aka: Hercules in New York
and he was actually dubbed poorly in that one. First Mr. Universe, then the World!
By Brad Grenz on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 05:26 pm:
>"I never tire of seeing Sandra Bullock play an awkward misunderstood person."
At least she had the cutting-edge game wolfenstein 3d to pass the time.
By Bill Hiles on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 11:48 pm:
Joe Pantaliano was also in Risky Business (1983)...and that predates the Goonies by two years.
By Tom Ohle on Wednesday, October 24, 2001 - 01:59 am:
"While Pantoliano has made a career out of playing shadowy characters, from the renegade Cypher in the 1999 film The Matrix to the mobster Ralph Cifaretto in HBO's series The Sopranos"
Actually, Bub, if I remember correctly, that bit was right out of the EA press release. Avault seems to have a tendency to regurgitate everything out of the PRs. I'm not positive that this was the case, and I'm too lazy to actually check through my inbox... but I seem to remember reading that exact passage.
By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, October 24, 2001 - 01:29 pm:
...then it should have been in quotes.
Just sayin' is all.
By Brad Grenz on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 01:07 am:
Goonies is out on DVD now, isn't it? God bless Steven Spielberg.
By Cindy LoopR on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 02:20 am:
Goonies aren't good enough... for DVD.