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The Five Struggles of Being a Videogame Reviewer

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Videogame reviews are sort of a pain in the rear end, and I find it hard to believe anyone who says they love doing it. After reviewing for over five years, four of those have been E3 years, I have decided that I enjoy writing reviews, simply because of the perk as opposed to the actual joy of writing. These are common struggles I experience as a freelance videogame reviewer.

Game Completion

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Odds are that when someone is reviewing a game they didn’t complete it. At least when I review a game, I have about 5 other games to play and review at the same time. I also have many other things to be writing at the same time. On average I break the 100,000 word threshold everyday, and that work day is roughly 18 hours of almost nonstop writing. As you expect this doesn’t leave much room to play games and I often have to set aside specific gaming sessions. These sessions are a bit too formal for something that is supposed to be enjoyable. Some games are quick, like most FPS titles. It took me about 15 hours to complete Destiny. I had the game about a week before it was released and I could only play for about 2 hours at a time. Some days I couldn’t play at all. I was finally able to write my review after I completed the game about a week after the game was released. This happens quite a bit, so I usually play as much as I can, to the point where I have experienced everything the game has to offer and I start to feel the repetitive nature of the endgame. Does this hurt the review? Yes, but there is only so much you can write about the story of a game before you start to give shit away. There are plenty of games I have reviewed that I simply couldn’t complete, even if they were good games. How much time are you supposed to devote to a game like Skyrim, for example? There isn’t enough time to play the game and produce a review in a timely manner.

Enjoyment

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When you spend five years being a videogame critic you become rather cynical about videogames in general. I have played so many games over the course of my “career” and to be honest, I could hardly remember half of them. I don’t enjoy games like I used to. There is a game here and there where I can’t stop playing. Wasteland 2, Sunset Overdrive, Max: Curse of Brotherhood, Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls, and currently, This War of Mine are all games that I enjoyed playing. Depending on the game I won’t play more than 10 hours before I have to write my review, then I never touch the game again. There is just too much to play, too much to review. Even games I write positive reviews for I never play again.

Balance in Reviews

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When you review indie games, you have a lot to take into account. Developer experience, developer employee size, funding etc. You can’t be too critical of an indie game because they simply don’t have the resources that a company like EA has. When reviewing a AAA game you will find yourself being too cruel and too critical because of their resources. It is a real challenge to find that balance. You can’t be too forgiving with indie titles because that way the developer won’t know what they did wrong and their next game won’t improve on those problems. As much as people like to hate games journalists right now, reviews are very important to game development. At least I like to think so. It makes sense on paper, but maybe I am a little bit biased.

Review Copies

Something that has been really bothering me for the last two years are review copies of games. It is no surprise (or it shouldn’t be) that reviewers will receive a copy of a game to review. Sometimes you have to sign a NDA and sometimes you don’t. I hardly buy videogames anymore because if I want a game to play, I will just request a review copy of it, write my review, and call it good. There are some games that I REALLY want to play. Now for the potential backlash, I do not want to name names, but often times I get emails involving my own personal groan-worthy buzzwords, “Limited copies available”. This is one of the most annoying things to experience as a reviewer. I cannot mention specifics but when you are a developer with a game on Steam, it costs next to nothing to generate a key to distribute. That’s the beauty of digital ownership. While physical copies of games are more costly, the publishers themselves do not see much of a loss when they send out copies. When I request a game, I typically say that I prefer digital simply because of how easy it is for the publisher to obtain. “Limited copies” basically means that you have no intention of sending me a game because my site isn’t good enough despite having the stats to prove I do [EDITOR’S NOTE: You would think 122k+ sessions/month would mean something. Apparently not.]. It is really aggravating, especially when the indie developer has no problem sending me four copies of a game so I can experience the multiplayer, yet a AAA developer won’t send me a digital key to one of their lesser titles. You could say I am salty regarding that area, but when you get that same message for years, you start to hate the sound of it.

Pre-Release Blues

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This is more of a “first world problems” struggle than a real one, but it can be inconvenient. Often times when I get a game to review, it will be a week before the release with an embargo preventing the release of the review once I’m done, so I can’t talk about the game, I can’t show the contents of the game, I can’t really do anything other than mention I am playing it. This happened with Sunset Overdrive in particular. I wanted to experience the multiplayer, but because I had the game 10 days before it was out, I had to wait until release week. The worst part is when I have technical problems and have to call support and sometimes the people do not understand how I got the game before release. I can’t see if other people have been having the same problem, I can’t see how someone completed a certain level or how they unlocked a character. I guess I take the internet for granted sometimes when it comes to videogames. But hey, I live in America, I am supposed to take everything for granted.

About Zach Martinez

Freelancer here at Armed Gamer, North American Video Game Correspondent for Following the Nerd, and a regular on Examiner.com, Zach has made somewhat of a name for himself at the age of 23. He has been writing professionally for just over 5 years now. He doesn't care about resolution or frames per second, he cares about what matters most, the games. You can reach reach him directly at zach.martinez09395@yahoo.com.

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