Work Samples

Old format: Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker | New format: Halo: Reach

As I mentioned in my videogames section, I have grown to appreciate games beyond just a leisure activity. I'm currently gaining my degree in journalism at the University of Florida, and once I graduate I want to enter the field of gaming journalism. At UF I'm learning many writing skills, but there are some specific things about gaming journalism that I've come to learn on my own.

A big part of videogame journalism is reviewing games. It's possibly the most utilitarian type of writing from the gaming press, and reviews must be written in a fashion that can get the most important points across to the reader in an efficient yet enjoyable manner.

There is a delicate balance in writing reviews, in particular regarding spoilers. People who read a review don't necessarily want every plot point divulged, but rather they want just enough information to answer the question: Is this game worth my money?

Answering this question isn't difficult, but finding the right method of doing so can certainly be a challenge. Reviews need to be presented in an attractive fashion, which means they need to be well written and can't be too long. However, there is a balance at play in all elements of reviewing, so it can't be too short either.

The first step to conquering this challenge is obviously to play the game. Once the game itself is played from start to finish and extensive notes have been taken, then one can start to form an idea of what sort of tone the review will take.

The most important element of the tone is to always remember that the review is for an audience. Journalists should certainly be happy with their own work, but the work should be written plainly so that anyone else can understand the points that are being made. Otherwise, the audience will be lost and the review will have helped no one.

All the most important information about the game should be included and it should be descriptive. The reader should feel tantalized into playing the game because of how well you describe it. Alternatively, if the game is horrible the reader should understand every quirk and nuance of the game as if they had played it themselves.

I have written a few reviews in my limited time as a gaming journalist, but I feel that I have still not met the balance. The first time I ever wrote a review for the public, which was on my gaming blog playWISE, I used the following format:

Each game reviewed is broken down into eight separate categories. A game can earn up to 100 points in each category, and a final score is given that is simply an average of all the scores. Scores with a fraction of .4 or less will be truncated; all other fractions will be rounded to the nearest one hundredth. Each category of the review will also attempt to answer the following fundamental questions:

Gameplay:

How well do all the aspects of the game complement one another to create an overall package?

Graphics:

How well does the game take advantage of its hardware in order to create something artistic and beautiful?

Story:

How well does the narrative tell a cohesive and compelling story?

Audio:

How well does the audio complement the various elements of the game?

Functionality:

How well were the various systems and elements of the game programmed and designed?

Entertainment:

How fun or frustrating is the game?

Value:

How much quality content do you get in relation to the amount of money it costs?

Replay:

How well does the game hold up to any subsequent playthroughs?

The Skinny:

This is a very brief recap of the review that outlines the most important aspects of the game.

After using that format, I realized just how long my reviews were going to be, and they were pushing the limits of what people would realistically read. So after doing one review, I decided to move to a more streamlined review format, which is as follows:

Each game review is presented as succinctly and cohesively as possible. It is my goal to give readers the information they want about a game as quickly as possible with the categories listed below.

Background:

A few details on the game to fill the reader in on any necessary information. It is also intended to summarize the plot of the game and give context to the review.

The Best:

The most interesting, thought provoking and exciting aspects of the game will be described here.

The Worst:

The most broken, disappointing and frustrating aspects of the game will be described here

Overall Score:

For clarity, an overall score out of 10 is given, 1 being the absolute worst and 10 being the absolute best.

I have since written one review in this new format. I think it definitely provided a much more manageable amount of text for readers, but I found it to be a little short on content. However, I know that as my skills develop I will learn to use this format more effectively and concisely. To see the old and new review formats at work, return to the top of the page and choose a corresponding link.