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The Problem With Writing A Game Review.

I started writing Video Game reviews about 2 years ago on the Playstation Forums, just a little bit before I became an MVP there. I think my first review was for Cross Edge. None of the MVPs had shown any interest in the game and there were quite a few posters curious about the game. I took it upon myself to write up my own review of the game because I enjoyed my experience with it.

A video game review, for better or for worse, is largely determined by the review's personal opinion. There are some things that are fact, such as release date and platform. When it comes to what some might feel to be fact, such as a game breaking glitch, uneven gameplay mechanics, frustrating camera controls or poor graphics are really opinion.

What one gamer considers to be acceptable in a game, another will find to be a major flaw. I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII's story line, but many I know hated it. I found Cross Edge to be a beautiful game, but many I know thought it was sub par. Quite a number of gamers find the Grand Theft Auto series to be a great gaming experience, but I can't get into it. A lot of Final Fantasy fans hail FF VII or FF X as being their ideal game. I found both to be mediocre. Decent, but not great. All of that, is opinion. It doesn't make me right, but it doesn't make me wrong either. Nearly every game out there will have those who love it, and those who hate it.

To give an example, the PS3 version of Skyrim is condemned by many as being a broken game. To me a broken game is one that is unplayable by anyone, at all. I have yet to come across a fully broken game. I am not saying that the game is unplayable by many, but I am saying that even if half the gamers out there can't play the game at all after their files get to 9MB in size, there are still many gamers who can play their game past that point.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to play Skyrim with little problem. Most of the minor lag I experienced was nothing more than a minor nuisance. When I wrote it, I'd put 20 hours of play time in and had seen not even the slightest frame rate drop. When it was published, no one had been experiencing any problems. But within a day of writing, some gamers started to post threads about their troubles with Skyrim.

It took a few days for the full effect to be felt across the gaming community. PS3 owners affected were irrate, rightfully so. But I can't write about something I haven't experienced. I still stand by my original review for the most part, although I would change the game play commentary some and lower the score a tad bit from the few minor issues I had. After all, minor flaws are still flaws and keep something from being perfect.

It would be great if there was a way to write a video game review and be 100% objective about the subject. But our feelings get in the way. We use colorful adjectives to describe what we've experience. The graphics are gorgeous. The voice acting was horrendous. The combat was boring. We want readers to be able to identify with us and be as excited or dismayed by the game in question as we are.

But each review is the basic opinion of the author. Not everyone will agree with what we say. I caught a bit of flack with a few gamers who thought my review of Uncharted 3 should have been a perfect 10. I gave it a 9.5/10. It was a great game, but the game play was just a bit bland in my opinion. There was nothing new to experience and sometimes it felt as if my opponents shrugged off point blank shots that should have wiped them out, especially in multi-player. Not to mention the bad guys had impeccable aim from half a mile off.

I love video games. Been playing them a very long time. I also seem to have a bit more tolerance for minor things than others do. I write my reviews from my experience, based off what I look for in a game. I will not write about things I haven't experienced. I will not praise an aspect I feel is flawed. But I also admit that my reviews are my opinion. As all reviews I've ever read have been.

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coolbeans2296d ago

You're going to need thick skin when it comes to writing reviews on here. If the score is disagreeable (to a certain degree), credibility will be the first thing certain groups will go after-which rings true just beyond game reviews. At the same time, giving a disagreeable score is at it's most rewarding when you have level-headed posters correct you on certain aspects like grammar or wish to "inspect your head" a little bit closer to see why you liked/disliked a certain part of the game.

The "problem" you find with game reviews can also be the most enjoyable part, given you're communicating with the right group of people.

Kthalas2296d ago (Edited 2296d ago )

I don't know if I'll be writing reviews here, but I know I'll be writing them for So far all 3 of the ones I've written there were submitted here (but I didn't know that until yesterday).

I actually look forward to having some criticism on what I write. Even at it's worst, I can take something from what's said to improve my writing. I know there's no way to please everyone.

I wrote this little blog in part as a counterpoint to another blog I read here. I've seen a lot of posters over the years who feel that game reviews are "The Holy Word" when it comes to a game's worth. Some feel that if the reviewer says the graphics are bad, then that is full blown fact. I've also seen writers who defend their works in the same manner, as if it was "Fact".

As a relatively new writer, I wanted to put my side of the writing process out there for others to see.

Thank you for the response. :)

After re-reading my title, I really need to work on the title after I write the subject. Reckon it's not really a "problem", but a point of view and a bit of insight into the way I write.

coolbeans2295d ago

"After re-reading my title, I really need to work on the title after I write the subject."

I didn't necessarily mean to say problem was the wrong word when I put it in quotation marks. I meant to point out that it can be a double-edged sword when looking in hindsight.

Great blog btw.

christheredhead2296d ago (Edited 2296d ago )

Great blog post. Reviews are 100% opinion based no matter how you go about it. Generally speaking though, I dont like the idea of setting a numerical value as a rating. Its a great general gauge, but its sporadic at best. Gamers take the individual number way to personally and skip right over some reviews because of it, which is a shame. There is always someone who thinks "game x" should have been scored .01 points higher or lower and, as such, will argue that fact to no end.

On the other hand its sort of a necessary evil that I understand. A reviewer should always be honest and apply an honest score a such. Sure certain games are great and certain games are terrible, but that should have no bearing on your personal thoughts and score. If you dont enjoy a game you should state why and adjust the score accordingly, regardless of the majority line.

Example: Uncharted 3, just as you stated. A game that's completely and absolutely loved by the gaming community. I mean the whole series is pretty fantastic. I rented Uncharted 3, played it and I would give it a 5 at best. For me the game is far to linear, far to repetitive, includes to much hand holding and is just tiresome. All around I dont find it enjoyable, to say the least. Now, could I actually write a review with that score? No, not really. Well, yes I could, but like coolbeans said, you have to have thick skin. I would be labeled as a troll, incompetent and so on, we all know the drill. Things of such wont bother me. What would bother me most is people would outright skip over my reviewer based solely on that number, even though it would be an honest opinion.

Should I ignore my instinct and upscale the score because its a "great" game. Well no, and way to many reviewers and journalists do this. Its quite sad when these types of people are met with personal attacks outside the constraints of the review. I think may others dont want that sort of heat. Blind overwhelming praise is on the same level as low, down played scores. Most of the time sites and reviewers tend to jump on the score bandwagon, whether its for a high or low score. All outsiders are viewed as invalid because someone else said otherwise. The whole process doesn't make sense to me.

Reviews are a tough subject because there is no guideline or format. Everyone has a different view and opinion. As long as the review is honest to the score I dont see a problem. High scores and low scores seem up for debate regardless.

Rage_S902295d ago

I disagree with bugs and glitches not being fact, yes they are a fact, along with framerates and resolution. Now it is up to you to decide whether or not they bother you but a failure to acknowledge choppy framerates and glitches can be misleading to the reader.

Kthalas2295d ago

It's kind of hard to write about something you haven't experienced for yourself. At the time I wrote my review of Skyrim those issues were not known and at this stage I have yet to encounter anything game breaking as others have claimed. You can't mislead anyone when something isn't known at the time.

If I were to write the review today, I could easily add in experiences of others as being well known issues.

coolbeans2295d ago (Edited 2295d ago )

It's not whether or not the bugs & glitches are fact, it's whether the player/critic experienced them. While we can all see youtube videos on balancing issues, bugs, etc. from games, it should be of no effect to the user's experience if he/she didn't notice them. I've heard many critics/users state they've seen other parties experiencing game-breaking bugs while their experience has been relatively smooth.

It's the same thing you hear in court: I can neither confirm nor deny that accusation since I wasn't there. The same standard can be held to games because critics, who are basically gamers with writing experience, are told to display the fitting score solely from their experience. That doesn't necessarily mean they're failing to acknowledge such problems-like glitches and bugs-are out there.

Megaman_nerd2295d ago (Edited 2295d ago )

You enjoyed FFXIII and thought that FFX was garbage even though both games are so similar in story drama, battle system and overall presentation? I can understand you not liking FFVII but liking FFXIII and not FFX is just too weird. I beat FFX but didn't like it so is not like I'm biased toward that specific game. And I beat FFVII this year for my first time and loved it, about this one I am biased. }Question: when was the last time you played FFVII? Did you ever got out of Midgar? I ask this because I have talked with many people that say that they didn't like the game but they never even got to see the World Map.... I almost drop the game too because the Midgar part was too long and uninteresting but after that the game is gonna bewitch you.

And Skyrim problems start around the 60-70 hours mark not 20 because the save file memory size gets too big for the console to handle or something. Others blame it on the ram though... The PS3 have 256mb of 2 different kind of ram. One that is very slow and only for video and the other half is for general purpose but is many times much more faster. Memory is not as flexible as the X360 shared ram (512mb of general purpose ram but not as fast as PS3 XDR ram)

Kthalas2295d ago

I've actually beaten Final Fantasy VII twice. The last play was a year ago. I had to force myself to play the game a second time. (I won't go into the reason why I played it a second time.) I just never cared for some of the characters. The story itself wasn't bad, I just can't stand Cloud or Sephiroth. I didn't like the Materia system. I didn't like how the characters were drawn. Even when I first played the game back in 1998, I didn't care for it. But then I started on the original Final Fantasy 20 years ago and felt that FF VII paled in comparison to FF VI. (I admit that I enjoyed the chocobo raising and racing though)

I have also beaten FF X twice. Tidus annoyed the daylights out of me. Being the FF fan that I am, despite that flaw, I'll end up buying the Vita port of FF X. I have to admit that Blitzball was a great mini game.

I did not at any point say either FF VII or FF X were garbage. I said I felt they were mediocre. There was a major difference in story lines between FF X and FF XIII. Character development in so far as how you obtained abilities was similar but a huge difference in the stories.

In FF XIII there is the character Sazh, who is a father. He's trying to save his son. I am a father. There is nothing I would not do to save my daughter. That gave me a character connection most other gamers didn't have with the game. That elevated the story line to a higher level for me than most other FF titles. XIII certainly had it's share of aspects I didn't care for such as the linear pathway, lack of towns and the inability to control my party members. But I have also played a lot of Action games and a few FPS games, so those minor aspects didn't bother me as much as did other RPG gamers who didn't play anything but RPGs.

As far as when Skyrim problems begin, it really depends on the gamer. On the Playstation forums I saw a few posters claim their games started locking up often and/or lagging as early as 20 hours into the game or when their save files hit about 5MB (depending on how much stuff they were hoarding.)

As with anything, different gamers experience different things at different times. My first save file hit at least 13MB with over 120 hours of game play. Hit level 56 without using the cheat glitch with the Daedric Artifact Book. I honestly never had more than the occasional light lag. That didn't even start until about 100 hours into the game.

By that point I had finished up 2 faction quests and was 2/3 of the way through the main story line. So I finished the main quest and created a new character. By level 56 nothing was a challenge any more. With the new character I was able to explore a different playstyle and regain that challenge.

2293d ago