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FEATURED VOXPOP KevinS
RIP Ralph Baer (1922-2014)
By KevinS
Posted on 12/07/14
RIP Ralph Baer (1922-2014) I really, really hate writing obits. I really do. But I take it as a personal honor to be able to say good things about the men and women I respect, whether in this industry or just in my life, and Ralph Baer is the reason all of this exists in the first...

Rewrite of IGN's Dead Space 2 Review

Posted on Wednesday, January 26 @ 15:10:18 Eastern by
Before I share my rewrite (on page two) of Greg Miller's now infamous review of Dead Space 2 on IGN, let's be clear on what this is about by sharing the following, all-too-relevant passage from William Zinsser's ubiquitous On Writing Well:

Few people realize how badly they write. Nobody has shown them how much excess or murkiness has crept into their style and how it obstructs what they are trying to say. If you give me an eight-page article and I tell you to cut it to four pages, you'll howl and say it can't be done. Then you'll go home and do it, and it will be much better. After that comes the hard part: cutting it to three...

(Bonus!) Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with "but." If that's what you learned, unlearn it - there's no stronger word at the start. 

Some people might see publishing an edit publicly like this as a dick move, but the situation has already reached a boiling point. This is not a personal attack on Greg Miller, but a firm examination of his review and by extension of the current state of popular gaming criticism. Nor is this meant to be a haughty display of my writing prowess, for Greg Miller is not the only professionally paid game reviewer, let alone writer, whose work is subject to criticism. I could grab a review I wrote on Game Revolution and find sentences that could be clearer and more refined. The difference is that I can tell.

This is a fight for the craft of writing in our industry. The Dead Space 2 review is merely the present figurehead of a deeper problem. I have read comment after comment of people on Reddit, N4G, IGN, even Game Revolution who don't know what the fuss is all about, don't see anything wrong with the review, don't care, or worst of all, don't believe video game reviews deserve to be well-written.

Have our standards for video game criticism fallen so low that game reviewers need to convince their audience that writing should be good? How do we ever expect video games to be respected as an artform on par with painting, music, film, and literature if our leading gaming press and critics do not respect their own medium - the written word?

On a parallel note, how can Greg Miller improve as a writer if the only critiques he receives are snarky responses from journalism blogs and Reddit image corrections splattered with red circles and unconstructive comments (only two-thirds of which I agree with), Reddit image corrections of the corrections, and Reddit image corrections of the corrections of the corrections? Writing a professional quality critique is as difficult as writing a professional quality review. But seemingly no one at IGN has told him the problems with his review or stopped it from being published, so something in the editing process there has broken and needs to be fixed immediately.

At the same time, we should not expect a professional reviewer to pen a Pulitzer every time a video game about shooting aliens in the head comes out. That would be a fantasy, and an unnecessary one at that. What we should expect from the common review, simply as a reader, is that it be tight, precise, direct, descriptive if necessary, informative, and clear.

On those points, Miller's Dead Space 2 review is not terrible, just average at best. It's simple, straightforward, and clear enough that his positive point of view comes across, but it's far from being economical, precise, and aware of its word choice and sentence structure. It's a rough draft. While the review is generally free of rule-bound grammatical errors, it commits offenses of varying degrees that any student of writing will recognize: word count-filling fluff, the over-reliance on conjugated 'be' verbs, occasional vagueness, repetition, and the sudden shifts between first-person ('I'), second-person ('you'), and the subject of Dead Space 2.

Furthermore, simple language is not an excuse for a lack of editing. William Zinsser believes that "clutter is the disease of the American language". If so, this review needs critical treatment; and thus, a rewrite.

In fact, think of this as an extensive peer review, not far from an assignment in English class. While I tried to maintain the point of view and words of the writer as much as possible, this is not a light-handed edit normally done by a professional editor, which is essentially my day job. Most sentences in the review have been broken or reformed, and the second-person has been removed. However, the paragraph structure and the first-person remain generally intact; altering those would turn this rewrite into an entirely different review.
 
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