#1 Posted by BraveToaster (12590 posts) -

As someone who enjoys talking about video games, I sometimes find it difficult to convey my feelings for a game. For instance, I have been playing Kingdoms of Amalur and there is quite a bit missing that I just can't put my finger on. I would like to be able to explain my feelings, rather than saying the game sucks. I want to be able to add substance to statements like this. When I do manage to write something with substance, I feel as if I do my feelings no justice. I often have the same issue when it comes to movies and television shows.

My question is: How do I change this?

#2 Posted by ShadowConqueror (3050 posts) -

Maybe learn technical terms for the things you like/dislike/are noticably absent so you can more effectively convey your thoughts to a reader. To use an example from film, you might say you dislike a film for its over-use of canted angles or long shots or that you enjoyed the way non-diagetic music would become diagetic music, etc.

#3 Posted by TheHT (11155 posts) -

Pin point what exactly that feeling is as best you can and when it comes to writing about it do so with an active voice instead of a passive voice.

There's a reason behind your feelings, whether it's the way the combat feels, the quality of the quests, or just the overall presentation. Whatever it is, find it and tell us why it helps or damages the game.

When writing about it don't use superfluous or soft language. "I think this results in" (passive voice) reads a lot different from "This results in" (active voice). Expressing your opinion this way gives it weight and conviction, which you'll find does your feelings justice.

At that point it's a matter of writing, writing, and writing to get your style down and familiarize yourself with writing about the medium.

#4 Posted by BraveToaster (12590 posts) -
@ShadowConqueror Where would I start looking if I wanted to learn these terms.
#5 Posted by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

@BraveToaster said:

@ShadowConqueror Where would I start looking if I wanted to learn these terms.

Start reading lots of reviews written by other people, here and other places as well as of music and film. Film reviews are often well-written, and music reviews often stick too closely to terms. But there's lessons to be learned from the good as well as the bad.

Also, you really ought to listen to the Bombcast. Go listen to the Game of the Year Deliberations podcasts too, in order, culminating in the goddamned argumentative mess that was 2011. After training on 2008, 2009, and 2010, you should (hopefully) be able to identify what went wrong in the 2011 GOTY podcast arguments.

(If you need a break from listening to your favorite hosts fight, I recorded my own horrifying GOTY Deliberations podcast with some friends and my cohost at Nerf'd. The Bombers are better than us in 2008 and 2009, but I think we're probably at par with 2010.

#6 Posted by egg (1455 posts) -

for me it's easy to point out what's good/bad about a game, but strangely it's really hard to form a review out of it.

As a singular written piece, a review has to flow well from criticism/compliment to the next, which is a mind-wracking feat at least if you're trying to avoid doing it cliched. Even when you finally cover everything you wanted to, you need a good closing paragraph which you somehow need to pull out of your arse.

Plus there's always the need to make a review have a higher purpose, you wanna say why the game is good, or bad, and not just listing good/bad things about it, but this can be really hard and I could totally block for minutes.

But if you don't even know what the review should talk about in the first place, then that's a different story. But, in your case, I might tell you to try to find good or bad things about the game, and then, for each point, ask yourself whether that thing that is the reason you like/dislike a game. If you say yes, then that's one of the points your review should focus on. Also one thing that works is to play different games, particularly those in the same genre, because gradually you start to notice why you like one game more than another.

#7 Edited by NTM (7344 posts) -

@BraveToaster: Are you sure the problem isn't that you don't know how to write down your opinions in a way that reviews work? I'm sure when you're playing a game that you don't just say "Oh this game is great, uhhh. That's all I can think of!" You probably have a somewhat complex list going on in your mind for the pros and cons of that game, but you just have a problem with writing it down in review form. Is this the case? I think you just have to look at the game, and describe exactly how you feel about that one aspect you feel is vital for people to know. I personally have a problem writing reviews because I just can't, or at least haven't tried in a long while to write in a way that makes a review get my point across effectively.

I play games and look at it with a critical outlook, and I feel on that part, I'm perfectly fine, so when it comes to writing about my opinion of a game on threads, I can do so just fine because it's just me talking about it as if I were to talk to someone beside me. Reviews don't work that way, or I wouldn't want to write a review that way, though it's not wrong to do so. What you have to do and I'm sure professional critics would tell you, is to keep reading reviews anywhere you can, or the ones you trust, and keep writing as much as you can to improve what you feel you're lacking. Trust me, over time; you'll get a lot better at it. Just like everything else, it takes practice. Don't worry about what others think of it. If you really want to write reviews, you'll have to just do it.

#8 Posted by Gamer_152 (14072 posts) -

I'm not sure there's really a fast track to doing this. Half the skill of being a good reviewer is being able to break down and analyse a game, work out which parts work, which parts don't, and why the parts do or don't work. It's a skill that people spend years honing. I'm sure there are some more specific tips out there but generally I'd just recommend that you keep playing games, spend a lot of time thinking critically about what you're playing or have played, look at other game critics work, try practising general analysis of just about anything, from technical systems to artistic works in the world around you, and just practise writing reviews, no matter how poorly equipped you feel. As with a lot of things, it's going to take you churning out a lot of bad reviews before you can make good ones, but remember that every time you create work that you can recognise problems in, it means you're learning and improving.

Moderator
#9 Posted by Bell_End (1208 posts) -

just remember nobody really cares what you write an will most likely never read it so just write anything.

#10 Posted by N7 (3587 posts) -

Aside from my Operation Raccoon City review that I wrote all in one go, after being awake for 30 hours, thinking about the game, I like to break down my review to categories.
 
What did I think about the singleplayer? Multiplayer? What about the story, the characters? The gameplay? The music? The feel? The tone? What did I like, dislike?
 
Just write. If you are obviously this new to it(I am in NO way a professional and want to get better), then don't worry so much. Just do and learn from it. You can only get better at something by practicing. So, go out, write your review, and then take the feedback from it and apply it to your next review. Read it yourself, critique yourself. What's your weakest point? Build on it.
 
For instance, sometimes I can't leave well enough alone; I can be too descriptive. I'd end up talking for 20 minutes about a shotgun than the story being bonkers in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon Shitty.
 
Also, I am really bad a formatting. I don't know what the fook I'm writing about until I write, and then I'll change it up, only to come back to my original point later. Really, I think reviews should be written longer than just an hour or two. Go a couple days, think on it, add to it more and more. Put more effort into it than you think necessary.
 
A good way to get started is to read other reviews, see what they do and form your own style. Just to get a grasp on what a review is.

#11 Posted by Humanity (9062 posts) -

@BraveToaster: What helps a lot is the same advice they give you back in High School which is to proof read. Some people can bust out a review in one sitting but I find that methodically going over what you wrote at least once helps flesh out all your ideas. It's sort of like writing that first draft is a foundation which you read over and see where you can expand on some points. Organizing your thoughts is also helpful - Intro paragraph about game, then in the body a paragraph for each main point of the game, and conclude with overall impressions. IF you go into the review just writing you might end up with 4 paragraphs about how cool some sword is and realize you haven't even written a word about the story, atmosphere, game mechanics etc.

I think it's different for everyone, but for me organization of focal points is key.

#12 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

I usually just throw up a huge mess of feelings around the game, then rewrite it to bring my feelings into a piece of content somewhat consumable by another human being. Look at wiki entries on the site and see how the good ones are organized. Notice how things are broken into pieces but generally flow and follow an order, if a loose one. Obviously the structure of a wiki page and a review are vastly different, but it'll help give you an idea of how important having focus from paragraph to paragraph is. Don't just spew thoughts in a stream of consciousness, or at least edit down from one, but rather figure out which bits should go together. For example, explain the general premise of the game, then how it plays in a broad sense, and then get down to how that gameplay is created by a number of mechanics, talking about what is and isn't very effective. Then maybe go on to the secondary purpose of the game. Is it a game with a great story? Talk about how the game uses it's systems to convey the story, and again, what is and isn't effective. Is the game notably excellent or poor looking? Explain the look of the game and what makes the engine of the quality that applies. Then wrap it up neatly by summarizing your experience with the game and how you feel about it at the end of the day.

@NTM said:

@BraveToaster: Are you sure the problem isn't that you don't know how to write down your opinions in a way that reviews work? I'm sure when you're playing a game that you don't just say "Oh this game is great, uhhh. That's all I can think of!" You probably have a somewhat complex list going on in your mind for the pros and cons of that game, but you just have a problem with writing it down in review form. Is this the case? I think you just have to look at the game, and describe exactly how you feel about that one aspect you feel is vital for people to know. I personally have a problem writing reviews because I just can't, or at least haven't tried in a long while to write in a way that makes a review get my point across effectively.

I play games and look at it with a critical outlook, and I feel on that part, I'm perfectly fine, so when it comes to writing about my opinion of a game on threads, I can do so just fine because it's just me talking about it as if I were to talk to someone beside me. Reviews don't work that way, or I wouldn't want to write a review that way, though it's not wrong to do so. What you have to do and I'm sure professional critics would tell you, is to keep reading reviews anywhere you can, or the ones you trust, and keep writing as much as you can to improve what you feel you're lacking. Trust me, over time; you'll get a lot better at it. Just like everything else, it takes practice. Don't worry about what others think of it. If you really want to write reviews, you'll have to just do it.

Writing is a bit different than say, working out. Practice is useful, but only when you're being critiqued will you really benefit from that practice. The best way to get better at writing is to get folks who you trust to edit or give you feedback.

#13 Posted by Eviternal (193 posts) -

Hope these help:

Be personal: Don't be afraid to say "I". The reason Giant Bomb content is great is because of the team's personalities. Make your opinions clear, and then give us a bit of info about your tastes, so that we can judge whether we're likely to agree. For instance, if you're reviewing Amalur, tell us whether you enjoy Skyrim or other similar games.

Compare aspects of another game: This is more effective the more similarities exist between the reviewed game and the compared one, but you can compare dissimilar games if you provide reasoning to justify it. For example, you could compare the performances of LA Noire with Heavy Rain, as they both utilise motion capture technology in great detail.

Don't cover everything: Do not force yourself to discuss the soundtrack or the user interface if those aspects aren't coming to you straight away. Stilted, dry paragraphs just 'going through the motions' devalue the rest of your work.

Proofread: Writing a review over multiple sittings is effective. Try to get a quick draft done, then come back to it a day or two later - the Internet can wait, and it's best to have more polished work out there for scrutiny.

If you trust someone enough to give you honest critical feedback, feel free to ask them to go over a draft too.

Not trying to attract a load of pageviews on my own stuff, but feel free to take a look at my review of Valkyria Chronicles as an example.

#14 Posted by Guided_By_Tigers (8061 posts) -

If you read enough reviews you'll start to get a feel for it.

#15 Posted by Jeust (10559 posts) -

Introspection. What do you feel about the game? what does it make you feel?

#16 Posted by MeatBoy (51 posts) -

First of all practice writing a lot and read other peoples reviews to figure out how they break games down.

Apart from that this book might be helpful: Dan Amrich: Critical Path: How to review video games for a living Specifically the chapters on writing.

Also maybe read up on som academic writing on games if your interested. That might help you understand better how games work and to develop a laguage to write down your opinions.

This one is pretty accessible: Jesper Juul: Half-Real

This one on game design is a little old but a classic: Richard Rouse III: Game Design: Theory & Practice

#17 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Take notes on the games you're playing. How do you think I'm able to write so many damn blogs?

#18 Posted by Still_I_Cry (2494 posts) -

I pray first.

#19 Posted by JasonR86 (9659 posts) -

@BraveToaster:

Lots of practice. It might help you to write down what your experiencing, emotionally and cognitively, as you play the game and then transcribe those notes into a review. The problem I have no when I write reviews is using new words and phrases to describe my meaning and experiences. There's always a new hurdle when you write.

#20 Posted by morrelloman (608 posts) -

Read more = better vocabulary

Play more games = better platform for comparison

Go to college = get laid

#21 Posted by mosespippy (4127 posts) -

@TheHT said:

Pin point what exactly that feeling is as best you can and when it comes to writing about it do so with an active voice instead of a passive voice.

There's a reason behind your feelings, whether it's the way the combat feels, the quality of the quests, or just the overall presentation. Whatever it is, find it and tell us why it helps or damages the game.

When writing about it don't use superfluous or soft language. "I think this results in" (passive voice) reads a lot different from "This results in" (active voice). Expressing your opinion this way gives it weight and conviction, which you'll find does your feelings justice.

At that point it's a matter of writing, writing, and writing to get your style down and familiarize yourself with writing about the medium.

That's not what passive voice is. You are mistaking it for being passive. They are two different things.

With that said, don't be passive in your writings either. And always proofread. I proofread three or four times and there are changes made every time.

#22 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

Your avatar is not that of a toaster, that is why you fail.

#23 Edited by BraveToaster (12590 posts) -

@NTM said:

@BraveToaster: Are you sure the problem isn't that you don't know how to write down your opinions in a way that reviews work?

I believe that that is my problem. I have no problem typing up academic papers, but I always have trouble when it comes to writing when it comes to hobbies.

@Ravenlight said:

Your avatar is not that of a toaster, that is why you fail.

But, Lemongrab.... :(

#24 Posted by drac96 (670 posts) -

@Ravenlight said:

Your avatar is not that of a toaster, that is why you fail.

But, Lemongrab.... :(

DUNGEONN!

#25 Posted by MikkaQ (10284 posts) -

Think about other games that did that kind of thing right, then compare and see what Amalur is missing in comparison. Most writing a matter of learning how to express your own complicated feelings in a way that others can relate. Just practice.

#26 Posted by Hizang (8532 posts) -

When I play any new game I always have a piece of paper next to me, I jot down keywords on the game that I may forget later. These are things like, this mission was cool, this voice actor is great etc.

#27 Edited by Lysergica33 (523 posts) -

@TheHT said:

When writing about it don't use superfluous or soft language. "I think this results in" (passive voice) reads a lot different from "This results in" (active voice). Expressing your opinion this way gives it weight and conviction, which you'll find does your feelings justice.

I was going to say the exact opposite. Reviews are purely subjective opinion pieces. There is no way to objectively measure a level of quality with a piece of art, and thus, all that is left is to attempt to sum up how it makes the individual in question feel.

Maybe it's just me, but I prefer to avoid absolutism.

But hey, I don't write reviews.. I'd like to think I am pretty articulate when it comes to expressing my thoughts, feelings and opinions on something though.

Edit: Actually, allow me to expand.. If I were to write a review of Kingdoms of Amalur I would probably begin by describing what kind of game it is, reference any big names involved (relevant, considering this game touts a few individuals importance in the project,) a basic and typical introductory statement. I'd then go on to describe the game mechanics, music, voice acting, etc, and only after I have described everything that is quantifiable and objective, I will go on to explain how it made me feel as an individual and what I took from the experience. At this point, I would use language that shows that these are personal, subjective opinions, and for my style of writing, this would be the longest part of the review. I would go into enough detail to enable the reader to decide whether or not they are interested in the game by how much what they are typically into lines up with my feelings towards this specific game. Now, I personally really did not like this game at all, despite believing it to be mechanically very sound, mainly due to the style of the voice acting and the light, cartoony art style and whimsical mood; I am generally far more into dark fantasy.

Hope that helps!

#28 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@Eviternal said:

Compare aspects of another game:

NO. Don't do this. Let games stand on their own.

#29 Posted by TheHT (11155 posts) -

@Lysergica33 said:

@TheHT said:

When writing about it don't use superfluous or soft language. "I think this results in" (passive voice) reads a lot different from "This results in" (active voice). Expressing your opinion this way gives it weight and conviction, which you'll find does your feelings justice.

I was going to say the exact opposite. Reviews are purely subjective opinion pieces. There is no way to objectively measure a level of quality with a piece of art, and thus, all that is left is to attempt to sum up how it makes the individual in question feel.

Maybe it's just me, but I prefer to avoid absolutism.

But hey, I don't write reviews.. I'd like to think I am pretty articulate when it comes to expressing my thoughts, feelings and opinions on something though.

Expressing your opinion with confidence isn't assuming objectivity. Readers should be smart enough to know when they're reading about facts and when they're reading an editorial review.

#30 Posted by Lysergica33 (523 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@Eviternal said:

Compare aspects of another game:

NO. Don't do this. Let games stand on their own.

Yeah, I would agree with this whole-heartedly, UNLESS the game in question is obviously highly derivative of another game, in which case it's plenty fair to draw comparisons. A shining example of why this shouldn't be done is the whole Dark Souls "Vs." Skyrim thing in mainstream gaming media. Of course, both games are totally different and give completely different experiences and have little to no similarities aside from the fact that both games are set in relatively crapsack worlds (Dark Souls FAR more so than Skyrim, so even then, the comparison barely holds up.)

However, Darksiders being structured exactly like a Zelda game is a fair comparison.

Otherwise, it is best to let a game stand as its own experience in your writing.

#31 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@Lysergica33:

I'd still be opposed to that comparison. You should at least phrase it/analyze it in a way that Zelda becomes irrelevant to the Darksiders experience (since, after all, it is).

#32 Posted by Lysergica33 (523 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@Lysergica33:

I'd still be opposed to that comparison. You should at least phrase it/analyze it in a way that Zelda becomes irrelevant to the Darksiders experience (since, after all, it is).

Sure, it was just the first example that popped into my head. If I were writing a review about it I would of course go into more detail.

#33 Posted by YI_Orange (1142 posts) -

Just do it. It's hard, especially starting, but just force yourself to write. Have someone read it and give their thoughts on it or post it here and ask for feedback.

Adapt from there. Find the right balance for your content, find your voice, find your flow. It's fine to start off formulaic if that's how it's easy for you as long as you work toward breaking that. I very strongly suggest just trying it. Don't obsess over making your early writing perfect, because it's probably going to suck. You use this to learn though. If you can recognize that it sucks, and why it sucks, then you've made progress.

#35 Posted by Eviternal (193 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@Eviternal said:

Compare aspects of another game:

NO. Don't do this. Let games stand on their own.

But comparisons provide a point of reference for your opinions. I'm not stating that comparisons should be mandatory in every review, but they can be very helpful. Saying an aspect (or a whole game) is great is far more useful when readers understand what your standards/tastes are - and a simple comment about a well known game can provide this.

For example, someone may go on about the soldier animations in Modern Warfare, declaring them to be "mind blowing" or "photo-realistic". This of course is an opinion and as such is inherently valid - to a point. The information is only helpful to someone reading the review if they can infer (or are simply told) what the author thinks of similar animations in other games. In this case, if a reader is used to more contemporary game engines, they will likely have a different opinion to the reviewer but may not know it.

#36 Posted by WalkerTR77 (1362 posts) -

If you're not sure what exactly you dislike about the game then write about the positives and that should elucidate what's missing. As others have said read other reviews for games as well as other media, reading is by far the best way to improve your writing.

You may also find it helpful to think about your opinions of the game while you play, sort of formulating the review in the back of your mind as you go. This avoids the problem of finishing the game, looking back and being left with vacant memories of the experience.

#37 Posted by Slag (4269 posts) -

@BraveToaster: I'm no super star at reviewing either but I feel it helps to start with an outline first. If I give myself a basic structure to fill in, I have a way to organize my thoughts as they come to me. If you are like me thoughts don't always come to me in an orderly fashion, and if I don't write them down right when they occur to me, I might forget it.

Then once I have the bullet points I want to hit lined out, then I try to thread them together into a readable narrative.

The key for me is to get writing, because once I get started it flows out. But the hard part is getting started.

I've also found the more you do it the better I get at it (at least that'show I feel about it). Your vocab and descriptive capabilities will grow as write reviews. I wouldn't worry about using super specific terms anyway, chances are if you don't know the word some of your readers won't either.

The key is to just get started and not overthink it. You are not going to be all-world at first, so don't worry if you're not as good as you want to be right away.