Thanks to LightForceJedi's illuminating reviews which, thankfully, keep on coming by the dozen, I am now informed about several games inside and out that I otherwise would not have been. Please keep filling up the community blogs with these things; they are absolutely essential, and you are well on your way in making a name for yourself in this community! I dub thee: Sir Spamalot.
But really, these things were thought provoking for an entirely different reason, and this is not just going to be a tirade against one ill informed newbie. I want to talk about game reviews, and specifically why, as an aspiring writer, learning how to do them won't get you anywhere as a general purpose blogger.
Every two bit writer has to start somewhere. With me, it was periodicals in porno magazines, and though every single one was rejected for too frequently having the phrase "pulsing member", I learned a lot about how to write, and quickly moved on to Ecco the Dolphin fan fiction. Eventually, I got to where I am today; exactly as talented and well written as somebody who once enjoyed writing Ecco the Dolphin fanfiction.
I write about games because its a topic I feel I know a fair bit about. New games are a different story, and since I am a guy who has never played a single Uncharted or Mass Effect title, I am absolutely nothing close to an authority on the current industry and should be ignored whenever possible. Still, games are a hobby I practice in many ways, all the time; whether it is reading about the history behind them or just sitting down with Pac-Man every now and again.
There is a style of journalism present among game journalists (see how redundant that was? More proof that I am a terrible writer.) which focuses primarily on the "humanities" side of things; relating video games to personal anecdotes, which is something a few people here do very well such as VenusInFurs, and Elsa. This kind of writing usually focuses on a theme which is more personal, with the subject of video games acting as a vehicle to drive home the point. This is the heart and soul of any video game blog because that kind of writing offers a unique personal perspective which is not usually present on the bigger, colder front end of game journalism.
On big game websites, apart from up to date news and game previews, reviews are the meat and potatoes and are the one thing which really drives traffic to those sites. We now have previews of fucking reviews, reviews split into eighteen parts, video reviews, and tons of "first impressions" for the hungry masses who absolutely cannot wait for someone else to decide whether they will enjoy a game or not. Reviews are helpful in giving us a decent idea of the quality of a game, but being a subjective opinion it can sometimes be difficult to discern any kind of objective truth from one review to the next.
Every reviewer is different as well. Jim Sterling is particularly notorious for giving "off the wall", unconventional reviews which often clash with the opinions of others. The point is, for every new game that comes out there will be dozens upon dozens of professional reviews, and a few hundred more (distinctly less informed) user reviews to confuse everyone, and give an impossibly broad range of a score where really, the only solution to find out if a game is good or not will ultimately boil down to having to play the fucking thing anyways.
Alright, so what am I getting at here? To put it simple; I don't feel game reviews have any place in a community blog, at least not reviews written in a "traditional" sense.
Most reviews follow a very strict point by point format where each element of the game is broken down and addressed one by one, usually starting with presentation and then finally ending with a brief general overview of the game as a whole, followed by an often arbitrary score. This is the way any professional review is written, with vitriol and linguistic flair usually being spared in the hopes that it will read in a somewhat dry, objective manner. There is some flexibility here, especially on sites like Destructoid where the reviewers have a little more freedom to really dig into certain parts of their experience and elaborate upon them, but for the most part, reviews are a distant, emotionless rundown of what you can expect from a game, with someones opinion on how "good" it was being slapped on for that personal effect.
When it comes to a community blog, you literally have the freedom to write any-fucking-thing you want, and that is the beauty of a place like the Destructoid Community Blogs. In my few months here, I have seen some of the most bizarre, creative, entertaining, and often hilarious pieces that you would NEVER see for a fleeting instant on a site like IGN. Conversely, I have seen a lot of "reviews" which were really more like in depth analysis' which ended up being very enlightening and thought provoking. But every now and again, reviewa generica rears its ugly head, and it usually goes something like this:
"X took the world by storm during it's arrival back in 2008, with a riveting plotline, fantastic graphics, and unique and compelling game play.
In X, you play the role of John Smith; a former insert generic profession here who has to rise to the challenge of becoming a hero when X invades from planet Y.
In addition to some spot on controls and great presentation, X features a unique mechanic where you press A to jump. Although it is quite lengthy, it is marred by a few minor glitches, but overall will leave you feeling satisfied.
In conclusion, X was a fantastic experience, and is definitely worth at least a rental.
8.5 out of 10"
Honestly, who really needs to see this again? Especially in the case where the reviews are about games that are sometimes several years old? Every goddamn video game site on the internet has a review section polluted with snore-inducing cue card reviews like this, so I don't understand why people choose to flex their writing muscles by pumping this crap out on a constant basis. You can write about anything! ANYTHING! And if your aspiration is to write for a professional website one day and actually get payed for it, the reviews you share on your blogspot page or on a place like Destructoid are not ever going to be considered as a part of your "portfolio". There are just too many thousands of goddamn people doing the exact same thing you are. If you want to stand out, you need to be a little more creative than that.
Again, there IS room for retrospective and even current reviews in a community blog, but the fact of the matter is, they really need to do something unique, different, and be at least a tad more analytical and honest in their approach. Taking an IGN review template and applying it to everything you played in 2011 and beyond is about the laziest possible way to go about integrating yourself in a community of would-be writers who actually put a little creative effort behind their work; not necessarily to achieve anything, but because they actually have something worthwhile to say, to share, and to offer to others in the communities which they clearly love.
To make another point, I am not sure if you have actually tried writing a review like that lately (whoever I happen to be addressing, I'm not actually sure) but if you have, and you did go the generic route, you may have noticed something; it is fucking boring. I don't care who you are, when something READS boring it is usually not any more fun to WRITE, so I can't personally understand why anyone would enjoy doing such thankless busy work, especially when they are not receiving a paycheque. I mean fuck, for fucks sake, you can't even say fuck in a professional review, how fucky is that?
I apologize in advance to whoever read this; honestly, I secretly just wish someone like Elsa or Venus or Occams would post again soon because I'm really itching to read something of that caliber rather than another review about some goddamn game everyone has already played before.
Don't mind me, really. I just need to get my prescription refilled, that's all. I just wish people would understand that they don't need to be limited here, that they can write whatever they want essentially, and that, in my opinion anyways, the crazier the better. Places like Dtoid are a breath of fresh air for a reason, and the lack of traditional reviews and thoughtless copypasta bullshit is exactly why; I just hope it stays that way long after that building rage induced aneurysm finally kills me.