Reviewing Games as an Independent Content Creator

I’m in the midst of writing my review for Mortal Kombat 11. Taking a moment to reflect on what I’d written thus far, it was over 1,000 words long, with the vast majority of it being focused on a handful of new gameplay adjustments that I find really cool. Whether I keep it all or not, being my own boss here at In Third Person gives me the wiggle room to approach my evaluation of the game in any way I so choose.

Having that freedom is really important to me with regards to the work I do here. While reviews are a staple of the video game content mix, I also find them to be a chore. Especially when you’re writing them with the goal of covering every aspect of what a game has to offer so that your readers can make an informed purchasing decision. It’s an unnatural way to consume and write about games that can really wear someone down over time. If it’s a game you don’t like, the strain to complete the game and review is amplified further.

When you’re writing game reviews for another publication, you probably have to go through the clinical process of playing every facet of a game and writing about all of its features. It can be a grind going through that process, even for games that you like. Good games can make the steps a lot easier, but even then, there are aspects of good games I don’t like writing about.

For example, I don’t like writing about graphics. Since I try to provide images and video with everything I write, you can deduce on your own how good the blood and guts look in Mortal Kombat 11 by looking at the screenshots and video without me having to say a word. Unless there’s an impact to the gameplay, such as a bad frame rate that makes it hard to line up shots or jump on platforms, I generally gloss over it.

In certain cases, there are entire sections of games I normally wouldn’t play. For example, The Last of Us is a game I bought solely for the single-player experience, but it does have a multiplayer mode. If I were doing a formal consumer-grade review, I’d have to play it. Going the other way, there are games that I buy only for the multiplayer that might have a lengthy single-player component that I don’t want to engage in.

Is the extra effort to cover every facet of a game worth it? Can’t speak for everyone, but it certainly isn’t for me. Strictly from an analytics perspective, my video game reviews don’t perform well. Part of it might just be the quality of my reviews not being up to snuff, but I also feel like game reviews are a congested space and most readers would rather get that information from a larger and faster source, such as IGN, Gamespot, or simply refer to the Metacritic score.

I’ve thought about going as far as to not write reviews at all. If I were to drop any of the content verticals from this site, I think I’d miss reviews the least. However, there are times where I still want to summarize my thoughts on a game in a format that works best in a review format. Not even just for good games, either. As bad as Fight of Gods is, my motivation to review that game was high.

Instead, I’ve shifted my focus for writing reviews from, “Should you buy this game?” to, “Do I like this game?”. I write about the aspects I want to cover without feeling the need to clinically address everything a game has to offer. I may not go into great length about the cosmetic options that can be unlocked in Mortal Kombat 11, but you will get my multi-paragraph take on how splitting one meter into two completely changes the meta-game. It keeps the process interesting for me, while giving you a perspective on the game you won’t get anywhere else.

If your goal as a creator is to someday review games professionally, then getting really good at being able to analyze every aspect of a game is something you should still practice. That said, whether you want to work for IGN or just do this for fun, it’s important to find your unique voice as a reviewer. Not just for the sake of standing out and providing your readers with a take they can’t get anywhere else, but for your own sanity as a creator. Until it becomes your job to follow an exact template, make it your own and make it an enjoyable process!

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6 thoughts on “Reviewing Games as an Independent Content Creator

  1. Hannie May 2, 2019 / 7:31 AM

    Writing reviews has always been difficult for me as I always struggle to get the balance between opinions and objective facts to be just how I want it. I may or may not actually have my own post about reviewing scheduled for a few days from now, so great minds think alike on this topic, I guess!

    • Jett May 2, 2019 / 8:33 AM

      Look forward to reading your post about reviews!

      Maybe you answer my next question in that post, but can you clarify what you mean by “objective facts”?

      • Hannie May 2, 2019 / 8:47 AM

        In spite of my own personal opinion of a game, I feel like there’s still a certain amount of objectivity that needs to be used. If others don’t do that, I get it, but it’s always been important to me. If I hate playing an absolutely beloved GOTY candidate, I’m probably still not going to give it a 3/10 and completely trash it. I am capable of recognizing the reasons that it’s loved by nearly everyone else and can point those out, even if I then go on to explain why I didn’t love them. It’s important to me that people get both sides fromy my reviews: Why people generally love or hate this game, as well as whether those elements actually worked for me or not. Likewise, if I love playing a broken mess of a game, I’m not going to give it a 9/10 because I still realize that it’s incredibly broken and that needs to be addressed, even if the reasons that the game is broken didn’t ultimately bother my playthrough.

        Honestly, the review score is the only place a “balance” needs to be done. In my actual reviews, I think I do a decent job of stating, “This is an aspect of the game, and this is why I did or didn’t like it,” but as soon as a score is involved, I’m trying to figure out how low or high of a score I can get away with giving based upon the objectively strong or weak elements of the game versus how much those things actually influenced my opinion. To put it in practice, I dislike Breath of the Wild with every fiber of my being, but I highly doubt I would ever give it less than a 7/10 if I tried to review it because, in spite of the vast multitude of reasons that I didn’t enjoy playing it, I don’t believe it’s a bad game.

        Honestly, I want to just lay out the facts for people about what’s in the game, then explain why I did or didn’t like these elements, and have people make decisions for themselves, instead of taking my opinion as gospel. At the same time, however, I realize a lot of people scroll down to see the final score, so it’s a struggle for me.

        Hope that makes sense, my brain gets very confused when I try to talk reviewing.

      • Jett May 2, 2019 / 9:30 AM

        Thanks for the clarification! I understand what you’re getting at. Your approach is very interesting to me.

        “It’s important to me that people get both sides fromy my reviews: Why people generally love or hate this game, as well as whether those elements actually worked for me or not.”

        Carrying your own opinion while trying to reconcile for the general consensus must be a very heavy burden. Particularly in cases where you veer from the norm. Hoping you find a balance that works best for your approach!

        Review scores are tricky as well, as they open up a giant can of worms with regards to what the scores mean relative to other games you’ve reviewed, as well as relative to other scores from other reviewers. Though I haven’t spoken about it formally, I’ve made the conscious decision to not use scores on my reviews to avoid that. That said, review scores are a common practice, most readers like scores, and the incentive to do them is stronger now than ever as a means of getting exposure from aggregates like Metacritic.

  2. Kris P. May 2, 2019 / 8:25 AM

    When doing solo review posts, mine tend to fall under the, “Do I Like this Game?” question rather than writing it for someone to figure out if they should buy it, especially when it comes to the story aspect of the game (which probably isn’t surprising, lol). My personal opinion tends to leak out in the Gameplay section as well when writing a review myself. With that said, I do find myself procrastinating the most when it comes to writing solo game reviews.

    Going back and forth with Rachel on our joint reviews does help to break up the monotony, and it’s good that we can hold each other accountable. I feel as if those reviews are a bit more objective than personal like our solo reviews.

    With all that said, it is indeed nice to be our own bosses when it comes to our reviews! 🙂

    • Jett May 2, 2019 / 8:50 AM

      You two-person reviews are one of the most unique review formats out there! It’s a cool way to cover a game while giving readers like me more reasons to come back to Double Jump. Of course, I enjoy your solo reviews too, as they give you the opportunity to showcase who you are vs. who Rachel is. #teamkris #teamrachel

      I don’t blame you for procrastinating on reviews. Reviews are tough! They push you to analyze and write about games in ways that we normally wouldn’t. It can hurt from one review to the next and really wear you down over time unless you’re really passionate about the review process.

      I know I’m playing “small sample size theatre” here, but between your comment and Hannie’s comment, you both touch on the concept of subjectivity vs. objectivity. I have what might be a hot take on the matter, but I’ll wait to see if Hannie responds to my comment before I get on the soapbox. Maybe it’s a separate post entirely.

      In any case, it’s cool to talk shop like this!

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