An informative article about how to pimp out your reviews

  • Liberty
  • 06/13/2014 08:57 PM
We have had a lot of discussion lately about people feeling that 300 words for a review is just too high and mentioning that they find it hard to find 300 words to write about. Thus, this article, giving advice on how to write 300 words (or more).

Note that you need to actually be prepared to put at least a minimal bit of effort in before you can reap the rewards of this tutorial. Also, you need to have played the game you're reviewing. ;p

Step 1 - Categories
Sectioning off your thoughts on a game into different categories is the most used 'trick' to writing a review and a very good way to start off. The headings used can vary but often they consist of a general break-down of the aspects of a game. Below are listed the most used examples of Section Headers.
- Plot - Details information about the story, writing and characterisation
- Gameplay - Details information about balance, bugs, ease of use, battles and minigames/extra content
- Graphics - Details information about the presentation, design, graphical components and consistency
- Sound - Details information about music and sound effect use and the fittingness of
- Summary - Often a general summary of the above Sections, doling out of points and last minute thoughts

Sometimes these will be broken down into further categories, such as:
Writing > Plot/Characters/Dialogue
Graphics > Mapping/Graphical Components/GUI
Gameplay > Optional Content/Battles/Systems/Other/Bugs
Sound > Sound Effects/Music/Atmosphere

It is highly recommended that you should touch base on each of the main components at least once during a review. Often, breaking things into parts can help a lot with focussing on just that part, usually leading to more thought about what to write about said category and ending up with more writing.

However, if you are still reaching for that elusive 300 word limit after breaking down your thoughts on the game into the above categories, the next step will be of aid to you!

Step 2 - Question Everything!

Oft-times people will put a line or two that they liked something or thought something else was bad, but not actually give anything else beyond that. This is silly as it doesn't give the readers a reference as to what the reviewer experiences and why such a thing was considered as great or not. The best way to expand your writing is to ask yourself a list of questions on each of the above categories.

These questions should often be based on the following - What, Was, Were, Why and How. Using these three question starters should help a lot in filling up those 300 words!

Here are some basic questions you can ask when filling in the above categories:
What did you like/dislike about the writing/characters/plot? Were there any points that could have been improved on? Was there anything that confused you and if so, what? Did you enjoy the overall story and if so, why/why not?

Were there any graphical issues that you noticed? Did you like or dislike the graphics and if so, which and why? Was mapping well done and were there any particular maps that stood out to you as really good or really bad? Did the graphical components work well together or were there inconsistencies? If so, where? Were menus and GUIs designed well and easy to read?

Was music well implemented? Were there any jarring sounds/songs that stood out? Were there any musical areas that stood out as particularly good? Did you notice the sound in general or was it just there? Did it enhance your experience at all?

Were there any bugs? If so, what ones and where? Was the game well-balanced? If not, which parts need to be changed and how? Was game play fun or a chore? Why? Was progression straight-forward or not? Did you get stuck at any point? Was there any systems that you especially liked/disliked and why?

Sum up a general line or two about each section and sign off with a recommendation, a score and what you thought about the game in general. Was it fun? Does it need more work? Do you have any last-minute recommendations? Would you recommend it to a certain group?

Keep in mind that it's better to ask questions that work with the type of game you're reviewing. A puzzle game, for example, may not have a story at all. That's fine - just focus more on the aspects of the game that does exist. Did the music get boring? Were the puzzles too easy/hard and did they scale well from level to level?

When asking these questions, remember to include the question in the answer instead of just including a list of questions with answers (though I suppose that also works). For example - "Some graphics were bad" vs "I found a few graphical glitches here, here and here."

Step 3 - Examplify

Examples are a great way to add a bit more oomph! to your review and should always be included when talking about a negative, so that the creator knows where to improve their game. It's also a nice idea to talk about positive examples when you were especially impressed by something. For example: "I thought the butterfly game was fun." vs "I thought that minigame where you catch butterflies was a lot of fun, especially the part where you got to swap them with other people. I especially liked how they'd show up in their own special display cases in your house - it was a nice touch at making the game more realistic."

Examples can also give other readers an example of what to expect from the game in general and can help them decide whether to play a game or not. They can generate interest in the reader.

They can also help you with your review writing, as remembering one thing can often trigger remembering more examples, which can help you write more about the good and bad things in the game. You can better explain your points with examples, allowing for not only a more balanced score on your part (reaffirming your initial score) but also help with explaining your thoughts about the game more convincingly, lending your review weight.

Someone saying they didn't like a battle system and thought it was unbalanced is paid less heed to than the person citing examples of where and why said battles were unbalanced, after all.

Score Notes

Stars are a score given by reviewers to show what they think of a game. They rate from .5 to 5 stars, thus being made up of 9 points that can be given. There is no 0 star (though there is N/A which doesn't count towards a game score) and the middle point - or average - is usually considered either 2.5 or 3 stars, depending on the the reviewer.

Adding a score to your review can be a hard thing to do. Coming up with the correct number and deciding the baseline is something you usually start with - and yet, after writing a review you may find yourself adding or subtracting stars. Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking a score for your review.

Hindsight is 20/20.
You will, more than likely, change your score after writing your review. That's a good idea - you have just spent time remembering a bunch of examples from the game, both good and bad if you're giving a balanced review, and thus your thoughts on the game will be changed because of this. However, if the jump is too ridiculous - that is, initially deciding on a 5 star and ending up with a 2 star, it might be a good idea to take a moment and reflect on what made you want to give the initial score in the first place, then balance that with your new thoughts.

You might find you have something extra to add to your review after all!

A lot of people now-days are reconsidering giving demos scores. The reason for this is that demos are unfinished products and thus do not represent the game as it will fully appear. Indeed, a lot of demos are just snippets of what a game will become and thus many believe they do not require a score.

Many tend to give demo review an N/A score - a score that does not affect the average of a game, but still allows for the reviewer to share their thoughts on the game in question. Some will even add a score into the review themselves, without adding a score to the actual page - thus giving an informal score.

Score Ladder
As said before, with 9 points to give on the 'score board', there's a bit of difference between people as to which is the true middle/average score. Some say it is 2.5, while others claim 3. Which you chose is up to you, of course, but the general consensus of what scores mean is thus:
0.5 - Terribad
1.0 - Pretty bad
1.5 - Sorta bad
2.0 - Okay-ish
2.5 - Decent
3.0 - Decent
3.5 - Not bad
4.0 - Pretty good
4.5 - Really good
5.0 - Holy shit this game is the bomb slay me now I cannot go on for I will never see perfection such as this ever again in my lifetime

As you can see there's quite a jump in the higher tier, thus many will consider 2.5 the true center/average and considering that that allows for 4 points either side, it may just be so.

And there you have it - how to hit the 300 word mark when writing a review! Hopefully this will help you all get your reviews in and inspire you to write a few more, besides. Now all you need to worry about is whether your spelling, grammar and punctuation is up to snuff!

Good luck~<3


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Got any Dexreth amulets?
Credit where credit is due, I applaud this article. It's informative, well-written and a good step towards a more competent review culture. Hopefully it will encourage more people to try their hand at reviewing. Good job, Liberty.

(P.S.: Some small nitpicking:
What, Was, Were, Why and How

I think you might have made some sort of typo here.)
I was thinking about BSing a 300-word review of a nonexistent game just to show people how short that really is, but this is probably a better idea.
Credit where credit is due, I applaud this article. It's informative, well-written and a good step towards a more competent review culture. Hopefully it will encourage more people to try their hand at reviewing. Good job, Liberty.

(P.S.: Some small nitpicking:
What, Was, Were, Why and How

I think you might have made some sort of typo here.)

Thanks dude. ^.^)b
That said, nah, I really meant Were not Where as in "Were there any issues with graphics?"
The TM is for Totally Magical.
Excellent article. Nobody ever takes the time to actually learn how to do these things.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberty this is brilliant, well crafted and informative. Also any article that includes the phrase 'oft times' is going to get my approbation.

One thing I did want to add for anyone taking on the reviewing challenge is keep a notepad, physical or virtual to hand whilst playing. Dependant on the length of the game having written notes of things that caught your eye or imagination, things that felt off or irritated really helps when pulling together examples and justification for the score given.

Is it really that hard for some people to write more than a 300 word review these days? Well, I guess it could be if the game they’re reviewing is like 10 minutes in length and there just isn’t that much to say about the experience. I know I’ve had a couple of those in the past, and it is a bit difficult to fill in the blanks, I’ll admit.

Also, for scoring demos, I’m one of those people who like to give a score on a demo. I know down the road it might hurt the game’s overall score and reputation by it, but it’s also nice for the creator(s) to collect a little makerscore in the meantime and seeing how their game stacks up so far overall. So I guess it’s good in both ways. I don’t usually play a lot of demos, but I’ll still score ‘em.

Anyways - good article there, Libby. It’s nice to see you do something for the kiddies once and awhile around here. :)
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
I once wrote 4k words just cuz (not a review). If you can't prattle for 300, what are you doing on the internet? I've had brain-farts more detailed than 300 words.
It does sadden me that people find it difficult to put more than 300 hundred words together nowadays... Great article!
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
That's right, can't believe people can't even write a 30000 word review.

I'm right there with you. I'm surprised people aren't capable of writing 1000 word sentences.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
I'm right there with you. I'm surprised people aren't capable of writing 1000 word sentences.

People are, if Jonathan Coe and James Joyce can do it, anyone can.
People can't even write 300 words? Wut? That's like... one page. :\ Maybe the l33t speak gen is to blame.

Great article though, Libby.
It’s your actions.. not your strength, that would lead you to victory.

Categories are a great idea. That's how I have managed to write reviews, even for really short games. I think I reviewed a couple of games that could be completed in under an hour. Every game I have reviewed for the most part, even if I hated the game, had something good about it. I think its important as a reviewer to be able to point out the good qualities of bad games.
On one hand, this is a good list of bases to cover in a review.

On the other, someone who can't come up with 300 words is probably not going to improve much, regardless of help. But, in the cases where I'm wrong, the endeavor is made worthwhile?
The minimum is actually 300 characters, not words, which is much easier to reach (unless there is an error on the submit review page). Still, this is an useful guide for reviewing games if you never did so before.
It's supposed to be words but someone keeps forgetting to change it.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
They fixed it

Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
imma bout six months late to the party but...SRSLY...people are finding it difficult to write 300 measly words?

300 words is not like...a guys SRSLY

(300 characters is an actual joke. that's like...two tweets and change.)
Don't hate me cause I'm Cute :)
I once wrote 4k words just cuz (not a review). If you can't prattle for 300, what are you doing on the internet? I've had brain-farts more detailed than 300 words.
"I've had brain-farts more detailed than 300 words."

yeh, and then you had to go over to the laundry mat and wash your smelly underdraws.

I might rather write a review and save my laundry money :)
Great read!

Here is an extra tip:
Take notes while playing! They will help you remember events that happened during your play. This is especially useful on long games where you play in multiple sittings; and absolutely vital to pinpoint the conditions that trigger a bug.
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