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Anatomy of a Game Review

Chi Kong Lui's picture

Along with our new mission and tagline, we're also introducing a new game review format. Starting soon, all of our reviews will contain the following features:

Title of Review

HIGH What the critic felt was the high point of the game.

LOW What the critic felt was the low point of the game.

WTF Description of the funniest and/or most unexpected moment of the game.

With the Internet getting faster and noisier, and the hectic pace of life today, we recognize that not everyone has the time or patience to read through a 1000 word game review. Adding a title to the review serves as quick introduction to draw the reader in and rather than do a dry bulleted summary of the review, we cribbed an idea from The Onion AV Club and gave it our own twist with the HIGH/LOW/WTF points.

Body of Review And yes, the magic rating will still be here.

Not much is going to change here. We will continue to avoid writing reviews that try to quantify the monetary/time value of a game, which we feel is an impossible and meaningless task since each gamer brings a unique set of expectations and values that cannot be matched by any one critic. Instead, we feel our opinions and thoughts are most useful and interesting when trying to determine if a game is good by conveying and qualifying our personal experiences during gameplay and what it means to us in relation to own lives and world-view.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via [publisher/retail store/rental] and reviewed on the [game console]. Approximately x hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed x times) and x hours of play to multiplayer modes.

After GerstmannGate and in light of other questionable business practices in the video game industry brought to the forefront by Video Game Media Watch, the Sore Thumbs blog and others, we felt strongly that more transparency was needed and having additional disclosures is a step in the right direction towards restoring reader confidence. In short, we want to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Parents: Questionable content in the game that parents may want to be aware of before letting their kids play it.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Content addressing the auditory aspects of games and how they may impact play experiences for the hearing impaired.

We are eliminating our Consumer Guides and integrating the information that we felt still had value to the standard review format. Since most readers do not recognize the difference between game criticism vs. the "is this worth your time and money" consumer content, separating the review and consumer advice only caused confusion and hurt the overall visibility of the writing.

These are the only points in the review where we step out of own perspective because we understand that parents and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing have very specific needs and concerns that we can properly address.

We've put a lot of time and thought into developing this new review format. Look for its debut in all our upcoming reviews and let us know what you think.

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So, when do we get a look at

So, when do we get a look at the first review in the new stylized format?

I cautiously awaiting the reviews, but am a little skeptical about the "WTF" section. What if the game doesn't have one of those moments? Or what if the moment is more along the lines of, "why the hell did I waste money on this game?"

Also, I don't like the "WTF" tag. I feel that puts you in the same sophomoric league as the writers over at IGN. Couldn't there be a better moniker for that section?

There's a review out there

There's a review out there now. Check "Recent Game Reviews" on the right or scroll down, and you'll find Bangai-O Spirits.

If the Bangai-O Spirits

If the Bangai-O Spirits review is any indication of the new review then here's a few suggestions for the format.

The first section with the "witty" title and the low and high points do not need to be there. You're not IGN or Gamespot or whatever.If you had low or high points or had some weird gripe with a game then say it in the review and not in some silly box at the top.

The body of the review is your typical Gamecritics review,which I'm fine with but for future reference, don't ever jeopardize the review to fit new standards by making it shorter.I came here to read someone's take on a game and why it was good,bad,etc.I didn't come here to read the summarized version of someone's take of a game with all the important parts cut away for the sake of other unnecessary rubbish.

Silently Anonymous

Silently Anonymous wrote:

The first section with the "witty" title and the low and high points do not need to be there. You're not IGN or Gamespot or whatever.If you had low or high points or had some weird gripe with a game then say it in the review and not in some silly box at the top.

The body of the review is your typical Gamecritics review,which I'm fine with but for future reference, don't ever jeopardize the review to fit new standards by making it shorter.I came here to read someone's take on a game and why it was good,bad,etc.I didn't come here to read the summarized version of someone's take of a game with all the important parts cut away for the sake of other unnecessary rubbish.

Silently Anon, over the years, we've found that trying to communicate a single idea/concept in a review is much more effective than trying to say too many different things. As such, a lot of ideas and experiences are left off the review to put together a more coherent argument.

The High and Low points is way for the critic to step out of the review and interject things that they weren't able to do within the confines of their argument. They should in no way take away from the main review. I hope that reassures you and thanks for the feedback!

Let me first say that I like the Hi-Low-WTF box

Let me first say that I like the Hi-Low-WTF box and I love the title. I like what you've been working towards at GameCritics and I don't want to lose that.

I find that the Hi-Low-WTF points act as a spoiler, tainting the experience of reading the review. As I'm reading, I find myself thinking about the bullet points rather than engaging with the text. In addition, the bullet points give the impression that a game can be reduced to three points when I'm pretty sure that you mean the opposite. I thought that you wanted to delve into culture and criticism?

I think that culture and criticism would be better served with the Hi-Low-WTF box at the bottom. In this way, the entertaining points can add an extra kick to the review without acting as a spoiler. The text will inform the bullet points rather than the other way around, and people that want a quick fix can still scroll down to the bottom.

I've been following you for a while. Keep up the good work.

Bit of feedback, with the

Bit of feedback, with the Mystery Case Files review, I think the headline looks better going first, something like:

The real mystery is... why is there no mystery?
Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
Review by Brad Gallaway
October 5, 2008

Generally I feel there's a bit of information overload happening. For example, as a reader, I'm not too concerned at the time Brad posted the review, just the day. Informing readers the game was bought from a retail store in the disclosures section also seems a bit overkill.

But how many hours they played the game is interesting as most critics hide this. Maybe this could be written as "Hours played: 4" and placed in the info box at the top with platform, rating, etc.

Pictures a bit large, thumbnails would be good. This could click through to the fullsize picture with a caption perhaps.

Consider breaking out quotes which say concrete things like "minigames seem arbitrary and have no bearing on the player's investigation.", nesting them in the main body of the text in a different color/larger font.

Lastly, what happened to the rating out of ten?

Karl wrote: I think that

Karl wrote:

I think that culture and criticism would be better served with the Hi-Low-WTF box at the bottom. In this way, the entertaining points can add an extra kick to the review without acting as a spoiler. The text will inform the bullet points rather than the other way around, and people that want a quick fix can still scroll down to the bottom.

Thanks for the feedback Karl. I think what you are saying makes sense to a degree, but moving the HLW box to the bottom would make it invisible to the audience who it was designed for, which is presumably people who wouldn't scroll down. I'd like to hear more from other users. Does the HLW content detract or draw you into the review?

Anonymous wrote: Also, I

Anonymous wrote:

Also, I don't like the "WTF" tag. I feel that puts you in the same sophomoric league as the writers over at IGN. Couldn't there be a better moniker for that section?

It's always tricky trying to balance out the concerns of our regular readers vs trying to attract new ones. At the same time, its unquestionable our overall readership has been dwindling for quite some time now and we need to shake things up and adapt to changes in the media. We definetly want to maintain the integrity of what we original built, but try to find new ways to engage different audiences without alienating old ones.

On a more personal note, for whatever reason, things had gotten a bit serious here at GC, which is strange when you consider that we once took a trip out to the Bronx Zoo for our review of Pokemon Snap or I once wrote a dating guide for my review of Vampire Night. So in a lot of ways, the WTF is symbol of returning to more humorous days as well an admission that since we can't be all things to all readers, we might as well write and talk more like adults.

hey Aoki, thanks for your

hey Aoki, thanks for your comments... currently digesting.

As for the rating, it's at the end of the review in white font... click and highlight the area after the final sentence and you'll see it.

Ah yeah...I was highlighting

Ah yeah...I was highlighting the end of the deaf stuff...whoops.

Another thing you're probably noticing is - changing the review format might mean changing the layout. For example, rejigging the main text box to stop long headlines wrapping to two lines.

I see conflict

I am new to this site, but in introducing such a standardized review format, I see an inherent conflict with the mission statement presented in the post just below this one on the front page.
I doubt it to be possible to "elevate the quality, culture and perception of video games as contemporary arts and entertainment" by introducing a standardized scheme.

Aoki wrote: Informing

Aoki wrote:

Informing readers the game was bought from a retail store in the disclosures section also seems a bit overkill.

I think it's highly relevant. It's fantastic that the reviewer is saying where they got the game.

>>>I doubt it to be possible

>>>I doubt it to be possible to "elevate the quality, culture and perception of video games as contemporary arts and entertainment" by introducing a standardized scheme.

I'm interested to hear more of your thoughts here. Can you elaborate?

Any chance this

Any chance this article/announcement could be moved from the top of the homepage? After being up for a couple of days, it's now overpowering what should be the meat and potatoes of your site: the new reviews and commentary!

Pretty good way round of

Pretty good way round of doing it,some nice streamlined elements. I was looking for a standardized way to compose game reviews and this came up in the Google search. top marks!

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