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Game reviewin’ ain’t easy

Chi Kong Lui's picture

The Mack 

When I read that No Hype Reviews was "packing it in", being a fellow an independent site owner who also focuses on game reviews with integrity (there aren't many of us out there), I couldn't help but feel sympathetic towards his plight. It's a situation that I'm all too familiar with.

I love how successful entrepreneurs will all say "follow your passion" and "do something you love."  But what do you do when your passion (game criticism) happens to be something that most of the world doesn't give a shit about? How do you monetize that?

The idea of paying someone to play a video game for 20 plus hours and write an intelligent and thought-provoking review about that experience may have sounded brilliant in 1999 when we first launched GameCritics.com during the dotcom boom, but in today's noisy RSS-driven sensory-overloaded blogosphere, it's a pipe dream. No Hype Reviews reminded me that if your game reviews aren't filled with dick jokes or if you aren't pissing off legions of fanboys, you have little hope of standing out.

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Cheer up

You need to buck up, Mr. Lui. The demand is out there, even if passionate writing doesn't yet turn a profit. I've enjoyed getting your editorials and e-mail updates for a while now, and I have to believe the readers are getting ready for your kind of writing. You're right that entrepreneurs are wrong when they tell us to follow our passions: we also need to follow the cash. But don't let the cash get in the way of writing like you give a damn.

Needs vs. Wants

The problem is that the industry needs criticism. It's one of the things that most of us developers say we need in order to move forward. We need critics that aren't beholden to the game developers, kind of like the Ebert for movies.

The problem is that what the industry needs and what people want are two separate things. My good friend who runs GamersInfo.net (full disclosure: I've written some reviews to help the site out) has seen this first-hand, too. Even if you can get the readers, if you don't take game-related advertising to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, you cut off a lot of your funding. This is on top of all the other possible issues you have with games "journalism" in general.

I hope some people will have the passion to continue to run sites until we get to the point where they are useful in pushing the industry forward.

Keep up the good fight

Because video games are an entertainment medium and the age of hardcore gamers is so young, the most popular articles out there will be the ones with low brow humor and crude innuendos. It's the nature of the immaturity beast. I hate to say it but this trend of what I call "wild west" media reporting is going to spread further.

There will come a time where it isn't popular anymore. There will always be a market for traditional reporting. It is people like you who will keep it alive. Don't bend to the flashy trends. Stay true to what this site is. I'll be reading :)

Thank you all for the words

Thank you all for the words of encouragement. If three people out there are passionate about the subject, it gives me hope that there are more. I'll try to whine less and write more.

What do you personally enjoy most about game criticism and how do you think we could translate to the average gamer?

Gamecritics has noble

Gamecritics has noble intentions, but I am constantly turned off by

1. too many pop culture references
2. articles reading too much like academic research pieces for postmodern pop culture journals
3. sloppy, clumsy, overwritten articles which need subediting 4. lack of a professional journalistic approach eg no picture captions, no headlines.

Overall, there is a sense of trying too hard to be intellectual, rather than letting the writers' passion for games drive the articles. This is stuff I like to read and something the average gamer can relate to. It is easy to shoot down intellectual pretension as being esoteric and snobby but enthusiasm for games is something we can all relate to.

Most of all I like reading anecdotes about how the critic did something within the game which was surprising or enjoyable on a deeper level than just tactile fun. I'd like to see more of this storytelling aspect.

Lastly, humour is always good.

Chi, it really comes down to writing stuff that people want to read. The copy should be snappy, fresh and entertaining. You can learn how to get your writing this way by getting some experience as a journalist. Doing a stint at a local newspaper might expose you to that. This is a tall order to fit around family and career commitments but if the hobby is to develop into something more, I think this is needed.

But the sense I get from your post is - maybe the games criticism/journalism thing is becoming a lost cause anyway so why take it seriously. I agree. A previous poster Brian Green insists "the industry needs criticism". The industry doesn't need anything except to make money. It is the critics that need, and feed off the products of, the videogame industry. Whether they contribute anything of value is questionable today.

As a fulltime journalist with a passion for videogames, I've often contemplated buying some chipped consoles, signing up for a free blog and posting videogame reviews online as a weekend hobby. Then I look at how crowded the free games review market is and how fucking stupid gamers are in general about actually reading a review and having some conherent reflection about it and think 'why the fuck would I bother, this industry isn't worth putting my energy into'. I think most gamers who are basically literate have thought about this but chickened out for this reason. I admire how you've come this far Chi, and had the balls to keep marching on despite all this.

Aoki, all your points are

Aoki, all your points are well taken. None of us are journalists by trade (with the exception of Gene and Erin), but many of us do write professionally in one capacity or another and we're capable of delivering the kind of prose that you described. Looks for changes in our review format in the coming days. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I believe there is an inherent link between creativity and engaging people in a way that they will pay for that experience. Criticism is part of that dynamic of in driving innovation and helping to push the medium forward.

It is something that we all believe in which is why keep marching forward, despite lack of financial incentive.

Cheers. I might have sounded

Cheers. I might have sounded a bit pessimistic. So I want to highlight a good thing GC has done, which is to have established itself as a distinct brand. Not many game websites have created that point of difference without resorting, as you say, to doing stupid shit.

How the GC brand can evolve to attract new readers while serving existing ones will be the challenge. Oh yeah, being a website owner is fun isn't it? :)

"Packing it in"

I believe that you should stick to your passions Mr. Lui. Its true that the reality of the gamers universe is dominated by the younger consumer, there are still serious mature gamers (of all ages!) out there who still appreciate the opinions and reviews of such impassioned people as yourself. Perhaps you may not rake in the dough the way you would have preferred at least you get to vent or praise in a personal fashion that can actually and ultimately help out the consumer in making decisions on whether to spend their hard earned cash on the myriad of games available today. So lighten up buddy and keep up the good work!

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