12 Steps to Video Game Reviews
Posted on Thursday, September 15 @ 15:00:24 Eastern by Anthony Severino
If only it were that simple... The truth is, there's a lot more that goes into reviewing a game than receiving it, playing it, and giving it a score. To give you a little insight into what we at GameRevolution, and likely other media outlets (except IGN), go through to get a game review published, we've come up with the 12 Step Program. I don't care if it's already taken.
(Step 0: Rumor mills go!)
Step 1: Step one begins shortly after a game is announced. From that point on, your email inbox is not your own. It's the game's. The bigger the release a game is, the more press releases you begin to receive. Some are important, like release dates, prices, or special editions of the game. Others are borderline spam.
I can't tell you how many press releases I've received giving me one screenshot of a game. One. Fucking. Screenshot. And it's not even a good screenshot. PR reps, your game is good (sometimes), so don't make it look like shit by sending out a screenshot with some drab background just because it's high resolution. We, and the general public, would rather see a gameplay screenshot or a piece of cool relevant artwork. We don't care about how early in production the game is. We don't expect it to look that great... yet.
There's not much worse than one screenshot. In fact, I can think of only one press release more annoying: It's Out Now! Seriously? We've covered your fucking game for two and a half years. You think I don't know when your game comes out? Anyway, it's our job to cover anything related to said game, so we bite down and make the best of it. And so begins the courtship with lots of news articles.
Step 2: Step two isn't so bad. At least there's some booze involved. Often as a game's release gets closer and closer, press events start sprouting up like new grass in the spring. It's always very controlled. You're given a specific area to play, and a PR rep hovers over you in case you have any questions, except they're really there to bully you into playing the game the way they want you to play it.
They may give you some info - so helpful of them, but we know they're telling us shit they want us to mention in our previews. Oh, really? You mean eight players can play this all at once? I would never have noticed the number of players waiting in the lobby for the deathmatch to start. It's not my fucking job or anything. At least they know to get me drunk before they call my attention to detail into question. If that's what they're worried about, maybe the drinks aren't the best idea. Shhh. What the fuck am I saying?
Step 3: You've spent nearly two years of your life covering their game, so the least they could do is send you a review copy. A lot of times, you're on the list. Other times, you've got to wait outside their place of business and panhandle them for your copy: "Could you please spare a review copy of Modern Warfare 3, Xbox 360 version, please?" Worst-case scenario, they tell you "yes"... but a copy never comes. A scenario not quite as bad but still sucks: the copy comes up to a week after the game releases, making our review more useless. Reviews are to inform the public what games they should be buying, not for a week after everyone's already made up their mind with their wallets. In general, a delay like this usually happens because their game sucks, and they don't want us telling you that.
Step 4: Finally, it's here. The day we've been waiting for has come. The review copy arrives via Fedex or UPS overnight delivery. If the publisher is cheap as fuck, they'll send it via the post office. At that point, they might as well have their crickedy old grandma walk it to us, tennis balls on her walker and all. You open the package, hoping for some media-only swag that regular humans who purchase their games at a retailer aren't cool enough to get. And bingo! Wait... what the fuck is this? A review guide? So, you're telling us how to review your game? Give me a fucking break. Large stapled Xeroxed packets of paper count do not count as manuals.
Step 5: Being a relatively small operation here at GR has its advantages. But it also has its drawbacks. It's not physically possible to provide all the day-to-day coverage we do, and still manage to play every single game that comes our way. A lot of times, we have to reach out to our extended staff: a stable of overqualified freelancer writers. This isn't their every day gig, so they're not always available when we need them. They try to be, but shit, they're not superhuman (except Kevin Schaller, that dude is like The Hulk and Batman rolled into one... a Bathulk?).
Next Page: Six more steps!
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