Aspiring game reviewer? Maybe we can help. Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, and Richard Naik share their best trade secrets. Plus, our take on the best DLC no one's talking about: Enslaved's "Pigsy's Perfect Ten." Your host is Tim "Yes, Thanksgiving Was Like Two Weeks Ago" Spaeth.
Tim Spaeth: Divisible by nine: it's episode 45 of the GameCritics.com podcast. Happy Thanksgiving to all our listeners in the United States, and to everyone else…happy November. Let's check in with our panelists and find out how their holiday went. We'll start with our founder and owner, Chi Kong Lui. Chi, did you get enough to eat?
Chi Kong Lui: Yes, I did. I definitely got enough to eat. I managed to fight off all the old ladies on Black Friday and secure a couple of purchases.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] Do you want to run down your purchased list real fast?
Chi Kong Lui: [Chuckles] Nah. That's going to take too long. I tweeted about it.
Brad Gallaway: Oh, big spender.
Chi Kong Lui: Not really, no. Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: How early did you get up? Can you reveal that much?
Chi Kong Lui: Okay, I'll get into that. That was a little funny, actually. Toys 'R Us opened at 10 PM on Thursday this year, so that actually worked out. And I actually had to drop off my mother-in-law anyway, so on the way back, I just stopped by Toys 'R Us. And it was a fricken' mile long. I've never actually gotten up for Black Friday. This was the first time, so I didn't know what to expect. But thankfully, there were no people trampling each other, as you see on YouTube or anything like that. It was well-organized, lots of security.
So we went to Toys 'R Us, got in line for that and managed to get out with almost everything I wanted on that one. I couldn't get a wireless XBox headset because there was a separate line just for that and I didn't want to wait in another line. And afterwards, somehow my wife managed to get up at 4 AM and we somehow drove over to Kohls, first thing in the morning. Oh, my God. I dropped her off and then went back to sleep afterwards.
Tim Spaeth: Let me turn to Brad Gallaway and ask you the same question: How did you make out on Black Friday, or did you even go out?
Brad Gallaway: It's funny you mention that, because I never go out on Black Friday. It's not a thing that I do. I hate crowds; my wife hates crowds, and we're not really big shoppers. We buy stuff that we like, but that's just any old time. We don't really wait for a special occasion. But I did hear about some of the online deals that were going on.
Since I was home for part of the day and I had easy access to a computer, I kept my eye out for a few things. I did pick up Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom. Got that for $25, and picked up a copy of Fallout: New Vegas $35. Those to me were right in the sweet spot of purchase, and they were games I was going to buy anyway. It was fine. I participated in Black Friday from the comfort of my office and with just a few mouse-clicks. That was great; I would totally do that again next year. But I'm certainly not going to go out and fight the crowds.
Tim Spaeth: Teen singing sensation Richard Naik, how about you?
Richard Naik: I did the exact same thing. I actually finally caved in and bought a Kindle, which resulted in a deluge of e-book purchases. I downloaded some Stephen King books and a couple of Kurt Vonnegut books and my recommendation list is Batman comics and Stephen King books.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles]
Richard Naik: Which works for me, because I like both Batman and Stephen King. I guess it's working.
Tim Spaeth: There are worse fates in this world than to have that be your recommendation list. Sounds good to me.
Chi Kong Lui: Tim, let me mention to our readers, for Black Friday I did pick up another copy of Dragon Quest IX, for everyone who knows my tragic story of losing my saving file. [Laughter]
Tim Spaeth: But the implication there, Chi, is if you are picking up a copy—that would be a copy for your son—that would imply that you are retaining your copy with the intent to play later. Is that accurate?
Chi Kong Lui: Yeah, I thought I pretty much said that last time. I thought at some point I'm probably going to restart it.
Tim Spaeth: Let's move on. This week: How to write a game review. It's our instructional guide, the art, the craft, if you will, of game reviewing. It will certainly be instructional for me, as I don't write reviews and you guys have collectively written five or six hundred of them. So that should be a fun chat. We'll talk more about that later.
Brad Gallaway: Tim…Tim…
Tim Spaeth: Yeah?
Brad Gallaway: That's five or six hundred just for me. So I don't know how many these guys have done.
Chi Kong Lui: [Laughter]
Tim Spaeth: Okay.
Chi Kong Lui: I can vouch for that.
Tim Spaeth: I had you pegged at 400-ish.
Brad Gallaway: It's more.
Tim Spaeth: I'm lowballing.
Brad Gallaway: You're lowballing me, man, and I don't appreciate it even a bit.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] Chi, where are you at if you had to guess?
Chi Kong Lui: I'm probably somewhere between 200 and 300.
Tim Spaeth: Holy God! And then Richard?
Richard Naik: Um. [Sighs] I want to say 40?
Tim Spaeth: Man!
Richard Naik: Maybe? In two years?
Tim Spaeth: So if we add all those numbers together, we could be talking in the ballpark of 800 reviews.
Brad Gallaway: And if Mike was here, that would be even more, yeah. We've got some experience.
Tim Spaeth: We've got some experience. So we will get to that segment in just a bit. Now, no Quote of the Week this week. Filipe has swam home for the holiday. I'm not sure when he'll be back, so we're going to skip that part and get right to a Quick Hit. Pigsy's Perfect 10 is the first downloadable content for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. $10 or 800 Microsoft Points. I played through it in one sitting; Brad, I know you finished it, too. Why don't you start us off here?
Brad Gallaway: Sure, absolutely. As you just said, Pigsy's Perfect 10 is the first and I assume only DLC that's going to be released for Enslaved. I got to say, it's actually really worth the price of purchase. For those that don't know, Pigsy is one of the only other characters in Enslaved. It's a pretty character-poor game. I think there's really only two characters throughout the entirety of it except for Pigsy, and he's a slimy…it's like he's got some goodness in him somewhere, but he's really kinda weird and creepy and he does some lecherous things. So he's not really a good good guy, but he definitely fights for the forces of good, I suppose. Anyway, he lives in the junkyard; he's real eccentric; he's got a grappling hook for a hand and he's got some cybernetic parts and he's really fat and sweaty and dirty.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles]
Brad Gallaway: So as he's hanging out in the junkyard…This adventure takes place not in any specific time relating to the main quest of Enslaved, so you can play it at any time. You don't have to have finished the main game to get any value out of it. So what happens is, Pigsy wants a friend. He's really lonely out in the junkyard, so he decides to pick up a few really hard to get parts and he's going to create a robotic companion for himself.
So that in itself is fine for a story, but the thing that really makes the download worth it is that the gameplay is really solid and it's really dialed-in. People who have already played Enslaved will know that the main character of the campaign, Monkey, is really strong, athletic. He jumps; he's got some strong attacks; he can shoot things. He's a very, real go-getter kinda guy.
But Pigsy is short; he's squat; he breathes hard when he runs up a hill. He's not exactly the same kind of muscular, do-everything hero. But he compensates for that by, like I said, using the grappling hook on his hand to climb up to higher surfaces, and he's really good with a sniper rifle. He's got a really cool sniper rifle that never runs out of ammunition—thank God.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles]
Brad Gallaway: And so his gameplay is a mix of stealth lite and some climbing and a whole lot of sniping. It feels very, very different than anything that's in the main campaign, which is great. I really thought it as a breath of fresh air, and I'm glad that it wasn't just a one-off of what we've already seen.
The other thing that made it really worthwhile was that the story was excellent. I didn't expect much; I expected just a couple of laughs and to call it done. But the voice actor—I believe his name is Richard Ridings—he does just a phenomenal job with the voice. I really, really enjoy his voice acting. The development team, Ninja Theory, have crafted some just visually beautiful cut-scenes and they really set the tone nicely.
I appreciated Pigsy as a character much more after the DLC than I did during the main campaign. I thought it illustrated some very nice story tones, gave him a little bit of depth. There were a few sad moments as well and some sweet ones. It was a really quality piece of download, and after playing it, I just had this really good feeling. I felt like: "Wow! That was really worthwhile and that really enhanced my appreciation for the game overall." I wish more DLC was done to that standard. Tim, what did you think of it?
Tim Spaeth: I agree with everything you said. I liked it quite a bit, and as I mentioned, I played it in one sitting. I don't know how long it took you. For me, it was about four and a half, maybe five hours. I never play a game that long in one sitting, but I couldn't stop playing this. It's the rare DLC that doesn't feel like an omitted level. Like you said, it features completely new mechanics, and apart from the engine and maybe some reused art assets, it's a full game. It's a complete narrative; it's got its own title screen. It really feels like its own thing that you could just go buy without ever having played Enslaved and get a complete experience out of it.
Talking more about Pigsy, because you mentioned some poignant moments. In the original Enslaved, Pigsy was largely used as comic relief. His isolation in the junkyard made him mostly just horny. [Laughter] [That] was his primary character trait.
Brad Gallaway: [Laughter]
Chi Kong Lui: I was going to say: Was he trying to create a lady friend robot? [Laughter]
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. I'm trying not to spoil it, because what he ends up creating and the lengths he goes to to get it back…it goes beyond loneliness. You pity him. I really felt bad for him, and it just achieved a level of depth for that character, like you said, Brad, that really wasn't present in the original Enslaved. It was nice to see him used as more than just comic relief.
Talking about the combat, how did you feel about the combat in the original Enslaved? It was primarily melee; there was a little bit of shooting. But was it something you enjoyed, or did you have problems with it?
Brad Gallaway: It was all right for me. I thought it was fairly simple. One problem I had was that it didn't really ever seem to evolve. I think it's fine, in a way, that it didn't, because I think that gamers are really dependent on the same kind of arc where you start weak and you gain more powers and you gain more sophistication, and by the time you finish the game you're a virtual god.
I definitely don't think that every game needs to follow that arc, but in the case of Enslaved in particular, it did feel pretty samey, and I felt like the combat at the beginning was pretty much exactly the combat at the end—despite this wealth of powerups that, to be honest, didn't really make a lot of sense. It's a guy and a girl in the middle of a wasteland and he gives her some glowing orbs and she powers him up? That didn't click for me. But there was a wealth of things that you could enhance the character with, and it didn't really go anywhere for me. So it was just okay. I thought it was fine, but I would never really recommend it based on the combat.
In that respect, I felt like what they did with Pigsy's Perfect 10 was great. Not only did it fit the character and it was totally different than what was in the main campaign; it just made a lot of sense to me. The way that they had crafted each level was almost puzzley in a way. If a robot starts rushing [Pigsy,] he has one little line of self-defense, but if there's a group attacking him, he's pretty much toast. He doesn't take bullets very well; he's not very sturdy, so you have to be pretty cautious with him. I thought that the emphasis on his frailty and on him using his gadgets and hiding was a really good balance to the: "I really don't care; I'm going to bust these guys up" bravado that Monkey has in the campaign. What did you think, Tim?
Tim Spaeth: Well, in the original Enslaved, I very much disliked the combat system. For me, although I will echo what you just said, I will add to that: The camera was just too close. You never got a sense of position. If you had four enemies surrounding you, you might be able to see one of them. So you basically could button-mash your way out of the scenario and usually that would work, but not always. I found myself rolling, rolling, rolling until I was far enough away that the camera would pull back and I could see how many enemies there were. But especially comparing to the sublime melee combat of, say, Arkham Asylum, Enslaved was just a complete failure in that regard, to me.
Contrast that to Pigsy, though, where you mentioned his gadgets. He basically has four gadgets that all perform a slightly different function, and I had a great time looking at a particular combat scenario and deciding which device I was going to use in what order. Usually, for most scenarios, you could come up with two or three viable strategies. I just really enjoyed assessing the situation. I might use the decoy to draw some turret-fire and then plant a bomb and then drop my EMP to trap some mechs in range of the bomb and set the bomb off. I just had a great time playing with all that stuff, and I'd always rather have four valuable weapons than 30 variations on the same rifle that you might find in something like Red Dead Redemption. There's not a lot of toys to play with, but they're all useful, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it.
Brad Gallaway: No, I totally agree. I felt like it was really well-done; all of the gadgets were really balanced. The bombs were really powerful, but you couldn't throw them, so you had to be judicious in their use. You had to think ahead. You could plant them somewhere, like you said, and lure someone in, so that was a nice little change-up. You literally cannot just rush through these encounters, because you'll just get chewed up in a hurry. I really liked that that was a significant difference in the pacing from the campaign.
And also, just getting back to the story a little bit, I did want to agree with what you said about how there were just some really nice touches. The story really went well beyond what I was expecting. Like you said, he was just comic relief and he's a horny guy in the junkyard. Man, I almost want to say it gave me a nice little warm glow afterwards. That sounds really weird to say, but I just thought they did a great job and I want to commend the developers, if they're listening.
And also, to the people who really thought Enslaved had a good story: It was an okay story for me, but I think that what they did with Pigsy was better than pretty much anything they did in the main campaign.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah, I'd agree with that. I think there are some very strong but brief character moments in the original Enslaved, but as a whole nine, ten hour experience, it doesn't really hold up the way that Pigsy does. When you said that this is probably the only DLC they're going to do, boy, I hope that's not the case. I hope this game somehow managed to sell way more copies than anyone is aware of and that they come back and….whether it's a sequel or some more DLC for this. But I would like to see them take another crack at this universe.
Brad Gallaway: If they can bring the same kind of quality that they did with the DLC and infuse the main game with that the next time around, whether they do a sequel or whatever, I would be all for that. Granted, it's much easier to maintain a high level of quality when you're turning out a three- or four- or five-hour piece of DLC than it is for a ten-hour game or even longer.
That's definitely a challenge that any developer has to overcome, but the potential is there. I liked Enslaved, but I didn't like like it. When I played Pigsy's, I loved it. I thought it was great. So I think that Ninja Theory showed quite a bit of growth compared to their first game, which was Heavenly Sword. I disliked Heavenly Sword; I hated everything about it. I didn't think the characters were good; I didn't think the gameplay was good; I didn't think it looked that good. So for them to go from something that I hated to something that I thought was pretty good to something that I thought was great, obviously they're on the right track.
So I agree with you, Tim. I hope that they get to continue the story of Enslaved and bring the same kind of quality that they've got here. But even if they don't, I really hope that they keep on this track. This track that they're on right now is awesome, and I would love to see more from them along the same lines.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. I also want to say a lot was made of Enslaved's motion-capture work: the facial animations and so forth. I will admit that while I was playing, I actually wasn't that blown away by it. It's clearly very good, but it wasn't the game-changer that everyone made it out to be, at least while I was playing. Now, that said, whatever game you play after Enslaved is going to look like crap in comparison. [Laughter] That's where you really notice how good the work is in Enslaved.
I started Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood yesterday, and the animations look like an N64 game in comparison. I didn't realize it while I was playing and maybe you did, Brad, but that motion-capture is astounding if you compare it to other games.
Brad Gallaway: It's funny you say that, because I kind of thought the same thing. I didn't really notice it during the game. But, yeah, it does hold up really well to other things. But to get back to the cut-scenes in Pigsy's Perfect 10, did you find that they were just totally beautiful? I was watching them, and I don't know exactly what to call the technique that they used. It wasn't the endgame graphics at all, and it wasn't cel-shaded and it wasn't animation. It was kind of like a blend of all three of those things.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah.
Brad Gallaway: And I thought it just looked fantastic. What did you think? Did you like those, Tim?
Tim Spaeth: I thought the same thing. I was wondering: Is this cel-shading? Well, no, it's not quite cel-shading, because it's still retaining the motion-capture animation of the actual cut-scenes. I don't know what it was, and I would love to read more about the tech. But it was stunning—"stunning" is the best word for it. Cinematic and gorgeous and—
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, it was great.
Tim Spaeth: —fully recommended.
Brad Gallaway: Class act all the way.
Tim Spaeth: Yup. And it is very rare these days that you and I agree on something, so clearly, we're on the same page here and this is something I hope people check out.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, exactly. If Tim and I are both agreeing on something, you know it's good. It's got to be good.
Tim Spaeth: So before we get into our main topic, why don't we take a quick break? We'll listen to some music, and when we come back: How to write a review. Stay with us.
Welcome back. Our main topic this week: How to write a review. We've had a number of comments and questions over the last couple years we've been doing this show—and certainly over the more than ten years that GameCritics has been around—from people who are curious about the review process and might be looking for maybe some tips on improving their own work, improving their critical skills. If you are an aspiring critic, hopefully this will be of some help to you.
Let me just say: We are not claiming that this is the one best way to write a review. We certainly don't want to make that claim and that anyone who disagrees is wrong. That's not what this is about. What we're going to talk about tonight is what works for us, for our site. And as I said at the top, I don't write reviews, but I'd really like to. So I am actually quite eager to hear what the three of you have to say.
Before we get into the headier, more philosophical stuff, let's talk about logistics. Let's talk about the rituals that you guys follow when you are playing a game for review, when you're prepping for a review. Let me start with you, Chi. When you're going to review something, walk me through the process. Are you playing with a notepad in your lap? Are you sitting a certain way? Do you have a certain beverage next to you? Walk me through the ritual.
Chi Kong Lui: I actually don't take notes. That may sound unusual for some people, but I like to consider it one of my innate talents. I can play through the game and just remember the moments I want to remember and write about what I want to write about. So I actually don't take notes, and I try to avoid reading any reviews prior to playing as well, so I can just have a very fresh perspective on it.
Richard Naik: I do actually take notes. Sometimes I take a lot of notes. It depends on the game, really. For Black Ops, my Black Ops review that just went up, I didn't take hardly any notes at all, really. I jut wrote one word. For Amnesia: The Dark Descent, it was I think a good two and a half pages in my notebook that I'd taken, and most of it was just drunk scrawlings of nonsense.
Brad Gallaway: [Laughter]
Tim Spaeth: You threw this out there and I have to follow up: What was the one word you wrote in the Black Ops notes?
Richard Naik: "Competent."
Chi Kong Lui: [Chuckles]
Richard Naik: That's literally all I wrote, and I was actually really surprised after I finished the game that I only wrote that one word.
Tim Spaeth: I was expecting "meh." That's really what I was expectin you to say.
Richard Naik: Well, it's sort of the same thing.
Tim Spaeth: So when you're not writing one word or you're not writing drunken ramblings, what's an example of a note that you might write when you hit a game? How much detail go into these notes? Is it just sentence fragments, or are you getting down to paragraphs as you're taking notes?
Richard Naik: More often than not, it's just sentence fragments of thoughts that I want to remember. Sometimes I'll have some insight into what I actually feel about a game, or the game will invoke some sort of feeling in me that I need to write down, just so I will remember it later. I really don't get into too much detail, because I want to write it quickly and then get back to playing the game. So it's in a bullet format, which I just sort of list…I'll write little things, my thoughts. Sometimes I'll remember for the review format on the site, I'll just remember to put what my High, Low, WTF?s are, and I'll just write down little candidates for those. So it's really just little blurbs, and sometimes there's a lot of them and sometimes there's not. There's almost always more than one word, though.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles] And Brad, at GameCritics's most prolific reviewer, I imagine you just have stacks and stacks, like, an entire closet filled with legal pads. What is your note-taking process, if any?
Brad Gallaway: [Chuckles] You know, it's funny. It's evolved over the years. I think when I started, I was pretty diligent about having a notepad nearby and some pens, and I would play the game and pause and write a thing or two. But as the years have gone on, I've kind of changed what works for me. I'll just sit and I'll just play a game.
It's kinda like Chi: I will try not to read anything. I might read something, but I won't read any reviews. I don't want to read any reviews before I play anything. So I come into a game relatively open to it, or as open as possible in the Internet age. I'll play through for a session or two, and then I'll just think about it. How do I feel? What strikes me? What's my general takeaway? When I turn off the console, am I wishing that I'd put another hour in or is it a relief to push the power button? And I'll jot down a sentence or two. I'll walk over to my computer and I'll pull open Word or something, and I'll just write down: "Camera sucked" or "Good moment in level 3" or something, and that's it. I'll just leave that.
I'll finish the game, and I'll usually think about it for a day. I'll just mull it over and then I'll just start writing. Any notes that I wrote, I inevitably throw out and I end up not ever using them. But I just keep writing; I just start. So it's a more freeform thing, I think.
Richard Naik: So how long does it take you to finish a review, Brad? When you start writing it, how long does it generally take you to crank something out?
Brad Gallaway: If I finish a game and I just walk over to the computer and I start writing, in general, it takes me maybe about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. And that's for a first draft. And then I'll inevitably go over it five more times, but each draft after that is only five or ten minutes. So, pretty quick. I think I've got it down to almost a science.
Tim Spaeth: And Brad, you play more games than anyone I've ever met in my entire life. Do you review every single one of them? How do you pick and choose?
Brad Gallaway: I'll just play some stuff. As a critic, I really want to keep my cred. I got to keep my street cred. So I feel like I have to play a lot of the big titles that come out. So I'll definitely play those. I may not review them all, but I will try to. As far as the games that I play for just pleasure: if something pops up that I think is really fun or interesting or that was just terrible, if I've got something to say about it, then I'll go ahead and do that. But I play quite a bit of games that I never review at all. So it's six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Richard Naik: Not to disparage your methodology or anything, Brad, but I really don't like the idea of me feeling obligated to play a game. If a game comes out and I'm not interested in it at all, then I'm probably not going to play it at all—at least, not until it gets super, super cheap in a couple years. I don't feel any sort of particular obligation to play major releases or anything like that.
Brad Gallaway: Well, for me, it's more like I want to…And I support you in that, Richard, also. I don't mean to say that I think a critic has to.
Richard Naik: Yessss!
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, you're off the hook; you're off the hook.
Chi Kong Lui: [Laughter]
Brad Gallaway: No, but I think when conversations happen, I want to be able to participate in those. Sometimes people ask me my opinion of some things, and I don't like to say: "Well, I don't know." I've actually done it more this year, this particular year, than any year previous, just because there's been a lot of games that I just frankly don't give a crap about. So I've kinda backed off of that a little bit.
But I think that attitude for me, personally, extends more to important games. If I had never played Halo number one, I would go back and play Halo number one. That was why I actually even played it. There's a number of games that come out, for me, anyway, I just feel like I have to have an opinion in order to inform other opinions that I may have of other things. So it's not a must, by any means. I think people can have a very interesting and valid opinion on a certain game, whether or not they've played the milestones in that genre.
Richard Naik: Right.
Brad Gallaway: But just from my personal preference, that's where I fall on that issue.
Richard Naik: Right.
Chi Kong Lui: I'm more of a selective gamer myself, but as Brad says, that has its consequences. For sure, I'm going to probably opt out of Game of the Year discussions this year, because I just haven't been able to keep up. But I certainly admire Brad for his dedication [Laughter], and I wish I could be more like him, actually. I don't enjoy those triple A titles as much as I used to, so that also makes it difficult.
Tim Spaeth: So, Chi, what would you say to the aspiring critic who's looking at a stack of games on his shelf and he or she is thinking: "God, I want to review a game, but I just don't know what game to tackle." What advice would you give to that person to help them decide what to review first?
Chi Kong Lui: What I would always say to our guest critics on our site would be: "What game do you have the most to say about? What's the most interesting game out of that?" Or "Which one do you have the most to say, whether it's good or bad?" It doesn't even have to be like you have to like it. That's where I always start.
Brad Gallaway: One thing that I notice a lot of new critics trip themselves up on is that they'll gravitate to whatever the biggest game is at the moment. I guess the thinking is that it's going to be really popular; they're going to get a lot of readers or hits on it, or something. It's true, basically, but if you don't have anything unique to say about it—if you don't have a strong feeling, what ends up happening is you do this laundry list of features. I see this time and time and time again.
Chi Kong Lui: Yep. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep.
Brad Gallaway: I'm not trying to say that I've cornered the market on good reviews—I'm not saying that at all. But I'm just saying that when I see new people come in, you can almost know before they even write the review what it's going to be like. They're going to have: "The graphics are really great and this part was so awesome! And then I did this part and it was so cool!" And then: "Oh, the multiplayer!"
They just do the same kind of format, and they don't really put themselves as the author into it. For me, what makes a good review, one that I like to read the most, is reading somebody's personal take. I don't really need you to break down all the different features and tell me all the different modes. I don't care about that stuff; there's plenty of sites that'll do the nuts and bolts. What I want to read is somebody's personal take, and I think that's the part that's missing from most newer reviewers.
That would be my advice. It doesn't mstter what game it is, especially at our site. If you want to pick a game from ten years ago, we will certainly run it, that's for sure. It doesn't have to be the newest, latest, greatest. But have something to say and make it really interesting.
Richard Naik: Yeah, that's exactly right. I agree with that 100 percent. Every time I see a review that's written, it's not even really a review. It's more like a consumer guide.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, yeah.
Richard Naik: It just tells me what the game is. There's no opinion in there at all. I'm supposed to be reading an editorial piece and there's no editorializing at all.
Tim Spaeth: I think it's very hard for people…Let's take a game like Red Dead Redemption, only because I spent a lot of time playing it recently. If you have an opinion about the combat system, about how it functions, you like it, you don't like it, whatever it happens to be, I think people find it difficult to express an opinion about something without explaining what it is objectively first: "Here is what the combat system is. Here is how combat works. Now here is what I think about it." I think people struggle with just giving an opinion without first describing it. At least, that's a problem I have run into in the past.
Chi Kong Lui: That's definitely one of the trickier parts of writing a review. At the same time, you don't want to spoil things. You don't want to give away the entire experience and then leave the reader with no surprises left. But at the same time, what I always tend to tell writers is give enough detail to make your point, but then that's it. Try to leave them hungry for more.
Richard Naik: Yeah, that's exactly right. And that's actually one of the problems that I had when I first started writing reviews, which was relatively not that long ago. I would feel like I did have to explain how things worked before I gave an opinion on it. But when you're writing a review like that, you have to assume a little bit on the part of the reader that they're going to know the context that you're talking about. If you got an opinion on the combat system, just say: "Combat system flows really, really well" and blah, blah, blah. You don't have to explain how it works. If they're interested in the game, they will play the game and see how it works for themselves, and then they'll come back to your review and then understand what you're talking about and either agree or disagree with you.
Brad Gallaway: That's very true; I think that's true. But I think it's a really fine line. If anything, I think a lot of our writers—and I'm not naming anybody in particular—but I think a lot of the writers that we've worked with at the site over the years have erred more on the opposite side. They assume a little bit too much. For me, as the editor and also as a frequent writer, it is a really fine line between giving enough mechanical detail so that a person reading your review understands the mechanic that you're trying to describe. But then also, you don't want to give three paragraphs explaining about how you push a button to make a reticule come up and then then the reticule turns red and blah, blah, blah.
You can totally overkill it, but at the same time, it's a balancing act. There's no real magic bullet for this. You just have to read it, but for me as editor, I notice a lot that it's better to give just enough detail, like Chi said, to set the stage and then just talk about what you thought about it. So it's tricky, though. It's very tricky.
Richard Naik: Yeah.
Brad Gallaway: You don't want to leave the reader sitting there wondering: "What is he talking about? What is the point of this thing that he's talking abou? I don't understand because I haven't played the game," and at the same time, you don't want to bore people who know what you're talking about into submission. It's tough; it's a balancing act.
Chi Kong Lui: Right.
Richard Naik: Yeah. You've got to establish your frame of reference in your opening, really. You establish that at the beginning and then you can go into the gory details in the rest of it. Or at least, that's what I do.
Chi Kong Lui: Also, one underused technique is comparing the experience to something else that you've experienced in life [Chuckles] as a stand-in, so people can understand what you're going after.
Richard Naik: See, I really don't like doing that: making real-life analogies. At least for me, when I read those, it comes off as the writer just didn't have anything substantive to say about what they're writing about. So they chose to make some sort of analogy, which may or may not make sense.
Chi Kong Lui: [Laughter]
Richard Naik: But again, that's just me.
Chi Kong Lui: Right. That's a knock that we used to get a lot in the early days of the site, because we would try really hard to do that.
Richard Naik: [Chuckles] I'm sorry. Did I just completely take a crap all over the early days of GameCritics?
Brad Gallaway: [Chuckles]
Chi Kong Lui: Well, you and everybody else. But, yeah, that's fine. Admittedly, we did go too far sometimes, but it was part of the learning process, I suppose. But I still think it's something you can do and I'm struggling to come up with an example.
Brad Gallaway: I've got a perfect example of this, man. I think the perfect example would be Gene Park's review of Shenmue II But in that one he compared the way that main character Ryo got around town to his living on Guam. And he noticed several cultural similarities in the Asian culture depicted in Shenmue to his own actual life, and I thought that was just a fantastic review.
It was one of those examples where he was able to incorporate his real, actual personal experience and reflect what Shenmue was giving him, and because of that perspective, he actually got more out of that game than I think the average person living in Nebraska would get out of it, Not to say that Nebraska has no culture or anything, but being an Asian-specific game, he had a perspective on it that I think a lot of people wouldn't see.
I definitely agree that there are certainly times when it can go too far, or when people don't really have anything to say and so they talk about really inappropriate examples. But I think that when a writer is able to incorporate themselves or something they've done in a way that really reflects on the material, I think it's just really powerful. Unfortunately I don't see it done all that often, so it's not like there's a whole wealth of examples to show. But I think when it works, it works—for me, anyway.
Richard Naik: Yeah. A lot of times when I do see it done, it's not done well at all. It just overwhelms…The review becomes about this story that the writer is telling and not necessarily about the game that they're reviewing. If you've got a personal story that you want to tell that you think gives you some sort of insight into the game, or gives you some sort of credibility with the game, by all means tell it. But don't make it take up half the review.
Brad Gallaway: [Unkown] [Chuckles]
Richard Naik: Yeah. Then it becomes not about the game and about that story you're telling.
Chi Kong Lui: Let me just give a little logic to the technique, also. At GameCritics, we try to write to as broad an audience as possible. I always tell our writers: "Would your mom understand this?" Don't assume you're writing to the most hardcore, hardcore gamers. You have to be able to make this content relatable to people, maybe even to someone who's never played a game in their entire life. That's the reason why for it. It's not to show off that you have a big, gigantic brain or anything like that. It's really just to make the content relatable.
Tim Spaeth: But how much of an onus do you put on the reader to have a base understanding of what you're talking about. If I gave a review of Halo to my grandmother and it contained the words "first-person shooter," she would have no idea what that means. But are you going to spend three sentences defining what a first-person shooter is? What's the tipping point there?
Chi Kong Lui: No, no. But we do make it a point in our style guide, it does say you put "FPS" and then in parentheses you put "first-person shooter" so they can look it up if they have to. I think there's some handholding to some extent, but not to that degree. Thankfully, for the Internet, you can hyperlink terms if it's really technical. We try not to handhold too much, but as we've been saying, it's a balancing act.
Richard Naik: Yeah. Don't underestimate the power of hyperlinks to do your explaining for you.
Chi Kong Lui: [Chuckling] As far as writing for a broader audience, every site's going to be different. Certain sites are going to be definitely more for catering to a hardcore audience. I think if you look at the mission of GameCritics, it's one of diversity. We've always wanted to be more inclusive than any other gaming site, so that's one of the reasons why we write to a much broader audience.
It even trickles down to the design, which back 10 years ago, we were the only bright white and orange gaming site. Every gaming site was black back then. It's funny now that Joystiq redesigned and now they're incorporating orange as well.
Brad Gallaway: We had orange first, damn it.
Tim Spaeth: Seriously. That's our domain.
Chi Kong Lui: [Chuckling]
Tim Spaeth: We are orange, now and forever. Here's a big question. It affects everybody and I'm curious how much it affects each of you: Writer's block. You're staring at the blank Word document, you've got a blank legal pad, however you're writing the review. You just can't get the words out. How do you get through it? I'll turn to you, Brad, first.
Brad Gallaway: Well, that's a good question. I don't know how you guys feel, but for me, the part that I often find myself hung up on is the opening. The opening is really important. It sets the tone for your entire review; it tells the reader what your line of thinking's going to be. If you start with just the beginning, that's where I get stuck the most.
I don't really believe in writer's block. I think it's a way of explaining that you're not approaching the problem correctly. I think you have to just keep going. My answer for writer's block is: "Just write." Just write something—just write anything, even if it sucks. You can always clean up something that sucks, but if you have a blank page, you have nothing to work with.
Generally, if I get stuck on the opening, if it doesn't come to me right away, I'll just start writing. I'll just start writing an informational piece about what the game's about; I can always massage that a little bit. I'll write what I think were the good and bad points. It may be a little formulaic before I find my through line. But by the time I've got half or maybe three-quarters of the review, usually an opening will come to me and then I can go back and tweak from there. To me, if you can't write, you have to write. Just start writing. It doesn't matter. Just keep going. Don't stop.
Tim Spaeth: Chi, what about you?
Chi Kong Lui: Yeah, I wanted to give Brad a big high-five right there, as far as when he was talking about the opening intro or the opening line. It's one of the big takeaways I have from this show. I agree with Brad that if you have writer's block, it's symptomatic to a bigger problem. I think that bigger problem is that you need to have something more interesting to write about. [Chuckles]
Go back to that first paragraph. So that first sentence should always be a killer sentence. There's so many reviews I've written or review submissions that have come our way from GameCritics where I read the first line and it's dead from there. I can barely get through the entire review, just based on that first line or that first paragraph. So what we preach at GameCritics is having a very strong concept for a review: What's the point of this review? What's the argument you're trying to make? After you have that one point, everything else flows through that. Every single point after that should be going toward that single concept, and I think that's what makes a strong review in that regard.
Richard Naik: I'm exactly the same way. It's openings, and really, closings, too, are always the most difficult part for me. So really what I do is I start writing the body—the meaty portions first. And then a lot of times, while I'm writing the body the closing or the opening will just come out of that. I'll write a paragraph, then I'm like: "Hm. I should just use that as the opening or the closing."
Especially the closing is the most difficult part for me, because that's the place where you stop analyzing and you start being blunt, which is oftentimes difficult for me. One of the biggest problems that I see in a lot of different reviews and user submissions is that, say that they've criticized a game pretty heavily throughout the entire piece and then in the closing, they'll say: "Despite all the problems, it's a pretty good game," and then not say why.
Brad Gallaway: [Chuckles]
Richard Naik: Especially if it's a long piece, you have to be really careful not to contradict anything that you've said previously, and that's always a bit of a challenge for me.
Chi Kong Lui: And that's where it goes back to that intro. The reason why that happens is because they're just going through the paces. They're covering each individual element as its own and not thinking about it entirely. The point of the review is to say that this game is, as you said earlier, competent. Then every paragraph should be about how the game is competent—not to oversell or undersell that to a large degree.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, I definitely agree. I was going to say, that's actually really true. No disrespect to anybody out there who's actually lucky enough to make a living writing reviews. I know a few people who do, and props to them, for sure. That's a really, really difficult gig. But I can always pick out a writer who's doing it for money and who's doing it because they just want to do it.
You can always tell, because when these professional guys—and I love 'em. I love 'em. This is not a diss or anything. But you can tell that they're on a deadline because they always have the whole standard intro and then at the line they're always like: "Hit the jump and find out what I thought." It's totally boilerplate. They're running on automatic. I'm sure they've had 27 cups of coffee by that point; it's their fifth review of the day or something. They always go: "Oh, this part was great; this part sucked; this part was great" and then at the end, blah, blah, blah: "If you liked the last one you'll like this one, but it won't change your mind," blah, blah, blah.
You can always tell, because those guys have it down to such an autopilot-like response that they can just crank them out. Those are the kind of things that we generally try not to run. We don't want our writers to follow that template. I know that sometimes you have to, and like I said, I'm not insulting those people who write those reviews and get paid for it because I think that's awesome. But for us, because we don't operate that way—
Chi Kong Lui: Exactly.
Brad Gallaway: —we strive to have more of a message. Like Chi said, you have to get your feeling of the game through in every paragraph. For me, when I write my reviews, I structure them in a way so that…not that I'm hitting every single aspect of the game. I'm not going to have a paragraph about the multiplayer; I'm not going to have a paragraph just about the graphics; I'm not going to have a paragraph just about the sound. Everything in my reviews…at least I try. My goal is that, by the time you get to the end of my review, I will have made a very convincing case as to why or why not I think this is a good or bad game.
Sometimes that means I have to leave out whole sections of things that just don't really fit. If I'm trying to talk about how a game's immersive environments really moved me emotionally, it may mean that I will not get to the multiplayer part. And if I don't talk about it, well, that's okay. I'm not really writing a consumer advice thing: I'm writing a review, or sometimes even a lighter version of a critique or something. We really want the message; we want the feeling; we want your take. We don't really need to have the boilerplate.
Richard Naik: Yeah. Take your heart off your sleeve and put it on the page.
Brad Gallaway: Exactly. Don't be afraid to have an opinion.
Chi Kong Lui: All right. And Brad just underscored my second big takeaway, which was: Don't attempt to cover everything. [Chuckles]
Richard Naik: Yeah.
Chi Kong Lui: Cover what matters.
Richard Naik: Yeah; yeah. If it's not significant, then don't cover it.
Tim Spaeth: How much importance do you guys put in the editing process, where a second set of eyes is taking a look at your review and giving you feedback? Richard, I'll turn to you first. As the newest critic, you probably got a lot of feedback early on, maybe you are still getting feedback. How useful is that for you?
Richard Naik: Oh, feedback is always tremendously useful. They tell me whether or not I sound completely crazy, which is always a good thing to hear.
Chi Kong Lui: [Laughter]
Richard Naik: I'll submit something and I'll be like: "Man, is this really terrible?" And then I'll hear back: "Enh, no." I'm like: "Oh, sweet. It's good." Yeah. Once I get done writing something, I never have any confidence in it. I always think it's terrible because I'm just a pessimist like that. So when I get feedback, it gets approved, it runs through the rigors or whatever, then I know it's been QA tested. I didn't just turn in crap and just be done with it. So, yeah, feedback, to me, confirms that I'm doing…I don't want to say doing it right, but doing it well.
Chi Kong Lui: I've had that same feeling as well. Sometimes I'll finish writing something and it's like: "Am I crazy? Am I the only person who thinks this in the entire world?"
Richard Naik: Yeah. As soon as I'm done with it, I'm like: "Okay, am I just stupid or did nobody else think this?"
Chi Kong Lui: Right; right. So I think that's a very natural feeling and I certainly appreciate having someone else validate what I'm thinking. I think that's an important attribute of a writer: to be humble. There are times when I'll put something together and I'll be like: "Yeah, this is killer," but more often than not, sometimes I really do think I'm absolutely crazy and I have no idea what I'm talking about. But I'll let someone confirm whether I made sense or not. Yes, I think it's important, for sure.
Brad Gallaway: Well, feeling like you're crazy is nothing new at GameCritics. We've had way more than our fair share of people try to call us on the carpet or accuse us of being professional outliers.
Chi Kong Lui: Outliers.
Brad Gallaway: Outliers! Outliers! We should make a shirt that says "GameCritics" on one side and "Outliers" on the back or something.
Chi Kong Lui: Right.
Brad Gallaway: But yeah. Just so you guys know, maybe you guys don't know, but every review that goes through the site comes through me first, and I have the first approvals and edits of all the reviews that come through. Honestly, most of our writers right now are tremendously strong writers. They all have a really, really good grasp on the language and using it proficiently and using it convincingly, so my job has actually gotten really, really easy lately. It's my favorite thing.
Richard Naik: [Unknown]
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, yeah, thank you. [Laughter] It's my favorite thing to get a submission and I go to the site and I look at the rough draft and if I don't have to do anything to it, I'm like: "Yes! Yes! I can have my evening tonight; I don't have to clean anything up. Oh, that's awesome." So, really, I'm having more and more of those nights lately and I'm just really proud of the crew that we've got. Everybody here is really, really awesome and they're really talented and I'm just so proud.
Even though I am not afraid to send things back. There's been times that I've sent reviews back five and six times for a rewrite, which, by that point, gets pretty painful to everybody involved. But thankfully, it's not been like that lately.
Tim Spaeth: Let me turn to each of you now and I know you have all at one point or another written extensively about the reviewing process and your own personal philosophies. Is there anything else you wanted to share with our audience about your game-reviewing methodology? Chi, I'll start with you. Anything that I haven't asked about that you'd like to share?
Chi Kong Lui: Yeah. I'd just like to say that good critics not only tell you what they think, but they also say what needs to be said. I think what that means is…I'm not sure what that means.
Brad Gallaway: No! [Laughter]
Chi Kong Lui: No. I'm just trying to be…I thought that statement was pretty clear, but trying to elaborate on that is a little trickier, I guess. I just think we all strive to be objective in some way as critics, and we're trying to write something of value. So I think that's what I mean when I say you've got to write what needs to be said.
For me, one of my most memorable examples of that was just the amount of praise that Grand Theft Auto III was getting. I thought that was just way off the charts. It was just losing all sense of objectivity, as far as what people were saying about it. People were just going nuts over it. They were omitting some very glaring things, like how the graphics were just not that great; there were a lot of technical problems and the writing wasn't the strongest ever. So I felt it was important that there be a contrarian voice in that regard and I was that voice. [Chuckles]
Yeah, and let me also explain: I don't say that to just rain on everyone's parade. Yeah, I get that you love this game, but that's the thing. If you really love this game, you don't want to be that guy ten years from now looking back and be like: "Oh, my God! I can't believe I said that!"
Tim Spaeth: Umhm.
Chi Kong Lui: And that's what I'm trying to help you prevent. I'm trying to prevent you from embarrassing yourself. I'm trying to prevent the game industry from embarrassing themselves. And I saw that again with Uncharted 2: People were saying some of the most ridiculous things. It's okay to appreciate the game for what it is and for what it's accomplishing. But don't lose all sense of objectivity to the point where you're just going to feel really stupid ten years from now. And yeah, you're not doing anything for the culture or for the game by saying things that are just too far out there.
Richard Naik: Yeah. Eventually, a good critic is going to have to learn to walk the very fine line between objectivity and subjectivity.
Chi Kong Lui: Yeah. It's a balance.
Richard Naik: It's a tricky balancing act.
Chi Kong Lui: Yeah, it's always a balancing act. Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: Let me move on to Richard, then.
Chi Kong Lui: [Laughter]
Richard Naik: Oh, I've been moved on to.
Tim Spaeth: You are now officially moved on to.
Richard Naik: Sweet!
Tim Spaeth: You've published an article on this very topic. What else did you want to share with our audience?
Richard Naik: First thing to do for anyone that is trying to write reviews is just write in the way that feels most natural to you. Write how it feels comfortable. Once you're done, submit it to an editor, just have it read. Heve them tell you what works and what doesn't work, and then just go from there. But the most important thing is don't try to write in a way that does not feel natural to you. Make sure that you're using your own voice and you're not trying to cover it up. Write in a way that feels comfortable for you and then let your editors pick it apart.
Chi Kong Lui: Can I add to that, Richard? I like to think that every writer has a unique voice.
Richard Naik: Yeah, exactly.
Chi Kong Lui: And that's what we try to encourage at GameCritics. We want to hear that unique voice. Again, our site is about individual perspectives, and we want to hear that voice. We think there's value to that voice. We don't want everyone to sound like everybody else.
Richard Naik: Yeah, exactly. Don't drown yourself out trying to sound a specific way.
Chi Kong Lui: Exactly. And it's really scary, because unfortunately, even a lot of professionals think this way. It actually scared me to hear this on another podcast. I heard one professional critic say: "Oh, I really didn't like this game, but I was afraid of being labeled the outlier" and all that other stuff. She actually went along just for the sake of not sticking out, which, to me, was baffling.
Richard Naik: Yeah.
Chi Kong Lui: I don't get that, yeah.
Richard Naik: Yeah. To me, there's this illusion of objectivity that exists within some criticism, and I think that sometimes tempers a writer's inclination to put their own opinions and their own voice into an article and it really shouldn't happen. At least, I don't think it should.
Tim Spaeth: Brad, any last words of advice for our listeners?
Brad Gallaway: There's a lot of different things I could say, but I think it comes down to a couple really crucial things: One, I think that if you're a good writer, you're a good writer. I see a lot of people who really want to be writers and I really try my best to encourage them and give them feedback and try to nurture them along, but sometimes, they just can't. That's really painful to a lot of people, and it's painful to me to even have to say that to some people. Somebody's got a dream; they've got something they're excited about. That's a really positive thing.
But as an editor and as someone who reads a lot of things and writes a lot, there just comes a time when you just look at somebody's output and you just say: "This is not good, and I don't think you can really get that much better." I think if you're a good writer, you're a good writer, and that's going to come through. So that's one thing. That's just a hard reality that some people have to face.
Tim Spaeth: If you suck, you suck, says Brad Gallaway.
Brad Gallaway: I hate it to sound so harsh, but for example, there's been one guy in particular I can think of: very enthusiastic, very energetic, very open to feedback, very open to criticism, great guy, easy to work with. He writes terrible. I can remember going through eight and ten rewrites, and it was just so painful, because no matter what I said, he just wasn't getting it.
Richard Naik: I'm sorry.
Brad Gallaway: No, it's not Richard. It's kind of like those people on American Idol, when you're watching the "Freak of the Week" show at the beginning of the season. These people get up there and they think they sound so good, and they obviously love to sing. Sometimes the judges feel bad about it, but they're like: "Dude, you can't sing. No matter how much you want to sing, you're not going to be able to sing." I really, really am not trying to be egotistical and I'm not trying to say: "I have it and you don't."
I really don't want it to sound like that, but I think just as an editor, and I've edited works of fiction in addition to reviews. I think that sometimes you got it, sometimes you don't. If you don't, you don't, and there's nothing wrong with that. You're not a bad person, but you just don't.
Chi Kong Lui: Can I just add to that, Brad?
Brad Gallaway: Yeah.
Chi Kong Lui: I totally get what you're saying. It's not exactly like singing, though. I think this is something that people can work on. I think where people with the struggle is that in order to change as a writer, you have to change as a person. You have to really go in a completely different direction, and that's very hard for people, I think.
Brad Gallaway: Oh, I agree; I agree.
Chi Kong Lui: But I don't want to leave people in a lurch there. If there's somebody who it's just their absolute dream to become a writer or to review games but they're just not quite cutting the mustard in the eyes of whatever editors they've worked with, then you need to take a huge step back and just take it in a completely different direction. Don't make microchanges. You got to make big time macrochanges, and maybe then you might get somewhere.
Brad Gallaway: No, that's very true. That's very true. It's like you said. When people start out, they write something; they think: "This is cool. I like it," and they don't understand what's wrong with it or why it doesn't function well as a review. And then they're not able to take that step back and do a real, true evaluation and they can't see what's wrong with it, because they're so focused on thinking it must be good.
Those people don't really get anywhere. So, yeah, I would agree with that. I think if you're the kind of person who can honestly take criticism openly and just really look at something and don't be afraid to completely do a rewrite and tear it apart and start from scratch, then yeah, you can make it. But I think those people are really few and far between, and I think those people are going to be good writers anyway. But, yeah, I agree with you, Chi. I agree.
But the other thing that I really wanted to say was that if you put a review out there, please be courageous and be brave. It's like what you guys mentioned about that reviewer who harshed her own views back to go along with the crowd. That doesn't get anybody anywhere; that doesn't do anyone any good.
You have to be brave enough to think: "Well, if I write this, this publisher is never going to give me another free game for the rest of my life. Am I okay with that?" The answer has to be yes. You're going to have to write something and say: "I'm going to put this opinion out there and I'm going to get 42,000 hate mails in my e-box. I'm going to get death threats." Are you going to be okay with that? Okay, maybe not the death threats. I don't think anybody needs to be okay with death threats.
But you have to be prepared that people are going to hate you. That they're going to call you all kinds of filthy, disgusting names. They're going to say all kinds of nasty stuff about you, and you just have to be okay with that. You cannot be a powerful writer; you cannot be an effective writer if you are constantly writing in fear. You have to write from a courageous place and you have to be brave about what you're doing.
I think those people find success. They write really interesting things, and they're very good at what they do, and those are the things that I personally love to read the most. I have absolutely no use for all those "me-too" copycat, everything's-cool-in-this-game reviews that litter the Internet. They don't serve any purpose. They just really don't. So if you are the person who is not afraid to piss people off; if you're saying what you really want to say, then you're the kind of writer who needs to get out there.
Tim Spaeth: Well said, all three of you. Very well said. To wrap this up, Chi, do you want to talk a little bit about GameCritics's open submission policy? If we have inspired somebody tonight and they would like to submit something to the site, can you talk a bit about how that works?
Chi Kong Lui: Sure. If they go to our forums, there is a User Community Review forum there. All they have to do is just create an account and review our guidelines, our format, and post the review there. Hopefully, if you get enough comments from other readers and our own staff members take notice of it, we'll publish it on the homepage. Logistically, two of our staff members have to approve it before we put it on the homepage. And after, if we publish five of your reviews, we invite you to become an official staff person at the site.
Richard Naik: That's how I got on.
Chi Kong Lui: Yep. Richard was the first.
Brad Gallaway: He came up from the farm leagues.
Tim Spaeth: Or you could host the GameCritics podcast and become a staff member that way. That's the alternative, if any of you would like to start a rogue podcast.
Richard Naik: The Unofficial GameCritics.com Podcast. Nobody from GameCritics.com is on this podcast.
Chi Kong Lui: Actually, Tim technically came from the by-invitation method.
Tim Spaeth: That's true. But let me ask you guys this, and this is where we'll end the conversation tonight: If I was to write my first review—
Brad Gallaway: It can't be Wing Commander; it cannot be Borderlands. What else can't it be? What else? It can't be any of those things. I'm tell you that right now as editor. You cannot—
Tim Spaeth: That's what I was going to ask.
Brad Gallaway: Nope, nope, nope.
Tim Spaeth: You know me. What should my first review be?
Richard Naik: Borderlands.
Brad Gallaway: No, no. No, wait.
Chi Kong Lui: Actually, reviewing something that you really love is actually really hard. Do you agree with me, guys? It's one of the hardest things.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, it can be very difficult. Yeah.
Richard Naik: Sometimes. But, Tim, you had criticisms of Borderlands. You weren't just totally in love with it.
Tim Spaeth: I came around on Borderlands. I was initially very turned off by it, and then I grew to cherish it. Borderlands is in my past; I'm not sure I want to go there. I think I've said everything I want to say about Borderlands on this show.
Chi Kong Lui: What's the game that you had really funny comments on? Was it Red Dead? I just remember there was a couple of games, you were talking, you just had us all in stitches over.
Tim Spaeth: [fake deep bravado voice] Well, that's probably every game I talk about, isn't it?
I don't know. I'll tell you the game I'm thinking about. This, to me, I don't think anyone has reviewed an iPhone game on the website.
Richard Naik: Yes, they have.
Tim Spaeth: Have they?
Brad Gallaway: They have, yes.
Richard Naik: I think there's been two. One or two.
Chi Kong Lui: Jason Kearney has, yes.
Tim Spaeth: Did he? There's a great game, fantastic game that will be in my top ten for the year called Gamedev Story. You guys may have heard about it; it was very hot on Twitter for a little while. You basically run your own game company. You design your own games; you can design your own console. Just an incredible game. Very simple, absurdly addictive. That's the one I'm thinking about writing.
Richard Naik: It sounds like *Recettear, to be honest with you. Very simple and addicting concept.
Tim Spaeth: That is a game I bought on the Steam sale, but I'm probably never going to play.
Richard Naik: [Sigh]
Brad Gallaway: Among others.
Tim Spaeth: I'm saying that to irk you, Richard. So that may be my first review.
Chi Kong Lui: I think that's a good idea, Tim. Dan Weissenberger has talked about this on this show before. Whenever you have a game that only you know about or that you think that you're the only person who knows about it, and you're just dying to share it with the rest of the world, that usually makes for a pretty good review, also.
Brad Gallaway: Definitely.
Tim Spaeth: So look for that soonish. We'll see. But before that happens, I want to talk just briefly about the shows we have on tap for the rest of 2010. I think we're going to squeeze in two more shows. The next show, I will be playing the all-powerful host trump card. I am going to force you guys into some discussion of World of Warcraft Cataclysm is coming out in one week, and I want to talk about why that game still has its hooks into me after all these years. That won't be the whole show, but that is going to come up on the next show as a segment.
And then our last show of the year will be our annual awards show for 2010. We did it last year; we create a bunch of crazy categories. We go nuts. We'll have some special guests. Watch the website: we'll be announcing a way for you the listener to get involved. Watch the website for that. I just ad-libbed that. I have no idea how we're going to do that, but now that I've said that, we have to do it. We have to.
Brad Gallaway: [sarcastically] Great. [Laughter]
We have to give up something now.
Chi Kong Lui: Put the pressure on.
Brad Gallaway: I know, dude. Seriously.
Tim Spaeth: So, anyway: Gentlemen, as always, a pleasure. We're going to wrap it up. That will do it. To our audience, thanks so much for listening. You're free to go. Well see you next time. Good night and bonne chance.
Richard and I will play PC Left 4 Dead. You pick the best level out of the two games and we'll play together as brothers.
Richard Naik: Okay. I can probably get at least one other person to join us.
Tim Spaeth: Do they have facial hair? Do they have a moustache or beard?
Richard Naik: One of them does?
Tim Spaeth: Get that guy.
Richard Naik: There's a fourth person that I know does not have facial hair.
Tim Spaeth: He's out. He's not..no. Don't want him.
Richard Naik: All right.
Tim Spaeth: Good. Let's find a time this week and do it.
Richard Naik: All right.
But then a friend introduced her to the seedy underworld of the Mario brothers and she spent her saved-up birthday and Christmas money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Her mom didn't like the Nintendo at first, but The Legend of Zelda changed her mind. (When Tera got Zelda II: The Adventure of Link one Christmas, she suspected it was as much for her mother as for her).
Though she graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2002 and recently learned how to find the movie theater restroom by herself, Tera still loves video games. Far from being a brain-rotting waste of time, they've helped her practice spatial skills and discover new passions. Her love of games like Kid Icarus and The Battle of Olympus led to a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures. She thinks games have a place in discussions on disability and other cultural issues, and is excited to work with the like-minded staff at GameCritics.com.