Title: Reviewing has actually had a rather significant impact on my life.
Posted: February 17, 2009 (06:11 PM)
I shared this information with WolfQueen recently, but I figured the rest of this reviewing community might like to hear about it as well.
I'm not sure how much you folks know about me, so here's a start: I'm currently a freshman at Temple University, which probably makes me the youngest regular user here. (Big surprise.) During orientation last summer, we had placement testing, in which I performed better than expected. I managed to place into Spanish III, effectively eliminating the two years of foreign language my major requires me to take. I also placed into Calculus II, canceling out the major math requirements as well.
But here's the big one: I performed so well on the English placement test that I was granted an exemption from an English course that all freshmen are required to take. According to the woman I work for (who in turn works for the deputy provost), exemption from this class is based largely on the essay that came at the end of said English test... and very few students score that well.
So, my essay earned me a ticket out of this English class that all of my fellow freshmen were forced to take. Do I attribute this to my reviewing career? Absolutely. My backlog on HG includes over 60 reviews, and that's not even counting the 100+ reviews I've penned for GameFAQs. And anyone who's been following my work since the 'FAQs days can surely validate the progress my writing skills have made. I did take a semester-long writing class during my senior year at high school, but 90% of my writing experience comes from reviewing.
So there you go. I review games, and that's one less class I had to take because of it.
Posted: February 17, 2009 (06:38 PM)
There's tremendous value in learning to articulate well, orally or with words on paper or a computer screen. Congratulations on your accommplishments, which sound a lot like my own around that point in my life (right down to challenging a required writing class). Hopefully you stick to the whole education thing, though, rather than dropping out because you married too young and are too busy working a minimum wage job and updating your web site to worry about academics. ;-)
Posted: February 17, 2009 (08:11 PM)
But did more time go into the 100+ reviews than the class would require? Probably, but in the end it is still worth it.
Posted: February 17, 2009 (08:56 PM)
Well, it's not like I began reviewing with this specific goal in mind. I review first and foremost because I enjoy it. I'm just bringing up an example of how it's actually benefited me.
Posted: February 18, 2009 (11:27 AM)
Yeah, I still think that's cool. I can say reviewing's helped me a lot, too, I think. I think the most benefit I got from it was that it helped me to write more critically and succinctly. And to write for an audience... I also learned the value of editing.
However, I also think my acadeic writing influences my reviewing, so... it's a fair trade. And I didn't realy start becoming "good" (if you can call me that) until after I'd taken the required college writing course.
Posted: February 18, 2009 (03:43 PM)
I agree. Writing regularly always helps, even if it's in the form of video game reviews. I think the community is beneficial, too. Turning out 100 identical sub-standard gamefaqs reviews is less helpful than writing reviews for a community like HG that's focused on quality. Although gamefaqs did have that sort of community once... a long, long time ago.
Posted: February 18, 2009 (04:13 PM)
Well, GameFAQs was definitely an invaluable starting point for me, I'll give it that. It was a while before I actually made an honest attempt to improve my writing, though, and that led me here. So you're right.
Before you say anything, Iím totally aware of the hypocrisy of this statement coming from the guy who wrote that Fahrenheit review, but I donít care for the constant references to the contest in this review. Youíre an excellent writer, and thatís on full display here, but Iíd say youíre also occasionally too self-conscious for your own good. In the context of Brevity or Bust, it works (especially the very clever joke at the end), but whatís to stop a random passerby from reading this and wondering why, if itís so difficult to describe in 500 words, you limited yourself? I was going to complain about the contradiction of wasting space talking about how little you can write, but the weird truth about this review is that, in my mind, you still paint a vivid picture of Big Bang Mini. It sounds like a relatively simple game (Iím thinking Geometry Wars on a touch screen), and your decision to offer only a few fleeting glimpses of the intensity and visual splendor found within the design itself, rather than spend paragraphs discussing them in great detail, seems like the right one. I guess what Iím trying to say is that you chose a game perfectly suited for Brevity or Bust, that you did a fine job reviewing it with space to spare, and that your in-jokes about having a limited number of words ironically come across as filler. Iíll be surprised if this doesnít wind up being the most bizarre entry of the contest. 75
Not sure if Crisis Core was a good choice for Brevity or Bust. If you donít pick a simple game that doesnít call for a whole lot of discussion, then you must simply limit what you say, which you seem to have trouble doing here. Iíll say that your opening sentence probably does a better job of illustrating your point than the rest of the review does Ė initially taking on a negative tone (and I get the feeling you were hesitant to give the game so solid a recommendation) and then snapping back and noting that the gameís shallowness is merely a byproduct of the its desire to keep the story moving along. Actually, I think the first half of this review is absolutely fine, hitting all of the major points about the story without going into more detail than is necessary, but still providing enough personal response. (I especially liked it when you said that Zack is made a likeable character, and that this makes the story all the more sad since you know where itís going.) As soon as you go into combat, though, youíve lost me. I still donít really know how it works Ė is it real-time? Turn-based? Why does hugging walls help? Why do enemies spin you around? And whatís the deal with leveling up? Itís at this point that the reviewís placement in this contest hurts it, because I get the sense youíre just trying to cram everything in without making any cuts, and as such, itís all a blur. Itís not a bad review by any means, but it could have used some serious refinement. 65
I donít have much to say about this review beyond the fact that I like it. What Iím about to say will make this the third consecutive critique Iíve written now that mentions game choice in Brevity or Bust, but really, when your only real response to Stalin vs. Martians is to point at it and laugh, what more is there to be said? Honestly, that first paragraph is all you need to illustrate that this strategy-free game completely fails in its duties as a strategy game. That point is made immediately and succinctly, and I like the position you take afterwards. It makes me weirdly eager to check the game out Ė not to PAY for it, but to at least see how dumb it really is. I get the feeling thatís exactly the reaction Iím supposed to have: I have no desire to play it, and as such, Iím a little sad that Iíll never get to see the scene where Stalin dances. I canít imagine writing a full-length review of this thing. Good work. 88
Thanks for the recommendation, Sho! Iíve never really been interested in Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, but Iíll take your word for it and assume itís tailored for a guy like me. (Yes, the joke there is that I hate ďatmosphericĒ adventure games, as you suggest.) This is another one of the thousand or so reviews on this site that takes the you-are-there storytelling approach, which has become something of an HonestGamers clichť. I mean, Iím guilty of doing this too and itís not inherently a BAD thing, but I feel you get a little lost in the third paragraph, more concerned with making the review sparkly and dramatic than actually painting a clear picture of how The King of Chicago plays. Iím kind of wondering if the game is as exciting as you make it sound, though thatís probably more due to my natural bias against adventure games than anything else. So really, the writing here is very strong and I especially appreciate the point about how the game will play out differently for everyone, which makes it sound very ahead of its time. Itís a little over the top (which, again, is a trap that a lot of writers here often fall into), but itís hard for me to argue when it would probably be impossible to sell this game to me otherwise. My only real complaint is that you might want to make your negative points (about the gameís brevity and simplicity) a little more prominent to further reflect your score, but nice work otherwise. 80
I was actually going to copy and paste some of the lines from your review into this critique, and then edit them to make it sound like Iím saying that your review is competent, and that Iím damning with faint praise, and that itís put together well but itís not flashy or memorable, etc. But I donít know how familiar you are with this review and Iíd be taking the risk that the joke flies right over your head. In all honesty, this is very well written, and simply works from the disadvantage that the game youíre talking about isnít very interesting. Itís not interesting to read about and Iím betting itís not interesting to talk about, either. Whereas Lewis picked an excellent game for this competition and wound up coming to the most unique conclusion in fewer words than anyone else, your review more or less says what I expected it to say from the get-go: generic JRPG, save the world, gather party members, fight monsters, mediocre, bleh. I really did appreciate what you said about the game appealing to YOU and people like you, while still acknowledging that Revelations isnít very good. Your attitude about RPGs more or less mirrors mine towards shooters. I just recently played Killzone 2 and honestly enjoyed it, despite it being the most generic cookie-cutter game Iíve played all year. How do you review a game like that, one that you were entertained by for reasons others would hate it? I like your approach, I think youíre totally fair to the game, and I know to stay away now. Itís just a shame you donít have better material to work with here. 75
Before you start waving guns around because of the score I gave you, I want you to know that I like the direction youíve taken with this review. I really do. Your position on FFVII being one of Squareís darkest games has actually forced me to view the game in a different light, which is a considerable given how much I hate FFVII. Your decision to ignore gameplay-related aspects altogether was also an effective one, especially since even FFVIIís biggest fans seem to have acknowledged by now that the plot is the gameís only selling point. (Ha! Thought Iíd get through this critique without knocking on FFVII, did you?) Having said that, this just isnít a compelling piece of writing. After establishing your point in a particularly strong second paragraph, you seem to have run out of places to go and just wander aimlessly until youíve reached your word limit. There are two whole paragraphs in a row in which you simply run through one-sentence anecdotes from the story in quick succession, without giving them the footing they need to support your central thesis. Some of them donít even make sense out of context. Like, you make it sound as if Cloud WILLINGLY hands Sephiroth the black materia. It just sounds like youíre preaching to a choir here, calling FFVII the ďmost enduring game of all timeĒ for no particular reason, bringing up one genuinely good discussion topic, and then using it as an excuse to plough through as many major plot points as you can before slapping an obligatory 10 onto the end of the review. It isnít even tailored for people who havenít played the game and is too jumbled (and, weirdly, devoid of much actual praise) to work as a nostalgic piece. Iíll add that the writing isnít as strong as usual, either, such as the mention of ďpolygon characters.Ē (I know what you meant, but thereís got to be a better way to put it than that.) 45
SoÖ whatís the deal with that opening exchange? Is it from the game? Something else? Did you make it up? Well, whatever. For however disoriented this made me, you got my attention again with the ďRattís assĒ joke. Thatís clever writing right there, folks. Anyway, I really like it when reviewers find unique ways to make simple points, such as when you said that Brutal Legend feels like it was stuck in the era when simply being in 3D was thrill enough. This is a good review that I really canít find fault with. If Brutal Legend provides a lot of potential discussion material, then you did a wonderful job of convincing me that all relevant aspects can be covered clearly and illustratively in the space of 500 words. As always, your writing is tight, creative and entertaining to read. And, uh, thatís about all there is to say. How are you? Good, thanks. 90
Wow. Way to go with a single point and run with it. I like this approach if itís done well, and here, it absolutely is. Iíve always been in defense of videogame violence as an almost integral part of the experience (in some cases, at least), so I can totally relate to what youíre saying about excessive bloodletting being so empowering. Notice you say nothing of the gameís actual mechanics. You donít need to. Everyone knows Ninja Gaiden is an action game, and in a way, thatís as detailed as you need to be. This feels kind of like a reflection piece, one that quickly examines what made Ninja Gaiden II work on Xbox 360 and explains how one presumably small change can make for a much less satisfying experience (without falling into the trap of outright reviewing the original NG2). Thatís kind of the case I was making for MadWorld Ė some games are just AWESOME. Taking away NG2ís awesomeness does it a disservice. Gamers know the rush you get from games like this, and any of them should be able to instantly relate to the argument youíre making here, whether theyíll admit it or not. Simple but incredibly effective Ė and I hate the Ninja Gaiden games. 94
Iím not really getting why you donít like this game, Randxian. You spend virtually the entire review telling me about how much the characters in this game hate you, andÖ I donít know, that seems like a petty complaint to me. I know nothing about the story, the battle systemÖ I donít even really know how the character interaction works. How do you get them to warm up to you? How do you recruit them? How do they contribute to your party, and how do the quests play out with them in tow? I leave this review with nothing. Whatís worse, halfway through you make the declaration that ďthus the game fails completely,Ē like weíre supposed to be nodding along with what youíre saying, yet I see no evidence here to support your claims. Either Iím missing something or thereís an underlying message in this review that you havenít brought out. So the characters are mean? Donít take it so personally, man. 50