As I write about more and more games, and now I am starting to write about all types of games — meaning social, casual and single-player mobile — I am finding that I have to explain myself a lot more. Well, I should say that I WANT to explain myself a lot more. I want to explain the reasoning behind how I write and why I chose to do it that way.
In a weekly, recurring column like Rise and Shiny, I pick out a different MMO each week, play it for 10 or so hours and write up what I experienced. Now, the original idea was to do a sort of video show that went along with it, but for the sake of time it turned into an embedded, hour-long first look at the game that went into the article. I’m not trying to brag, but I can’t think of too many sites that actually take a new MMO (especially indie ones — most MMO sites ignore indies) each week, write 1000 + words on it AND host a video about it. I’m proud of the fact that I have given many MMOs some exposure on a large site — exposure they hadn’t received before. At least not that in-depth.
Now, imagine taking a new game per week, multiply that times 2.5 years and you can see how hard it might be for me to find games to play. Add in the fact that I write two other weekly columns about games, and will soon be writing more. (I’ve already started, actually.) There are hundreds and hundreds of MMO titles, true, and I am pretty aware of most of them (pretty much, I have over 200 bookmarked) and I spend my time trolling Google or other sites for new ones.
Not only have a ran into an issue of games that simply do not work, but a lot of the games I have found would take 10 hours just to get started in — literally in the case of many MMORTS’. SO, I had to start vetting the games I wanted to play. That means I might download them or play them for a bit to make sure everything looked OK to write about. I used to try to play as a “brand new” newbie for the longest time, but I had to give that up when I started having issues finding decent games. Occasionally I will go back and revisit many of the games I have played before, due to new expansions or just because the game deserved a second chance. I still give a new player experience, as close to that as I can.
I don’t “review” games in the classic sense, at least not MMOs. A social or mobile single-player game is much easier to play for several hours and give a report on. Even then, I will not talk about systems I am unaware of — that would be lying. I do not talk like a vet — that would be lying. I do not report lines and lines of exact class guides — that would be boring as shit and is the sole reason I do not read reviews most of the time.
So, every week I receive or read at least some comments that call me out for not knowing what I am talking about, not “reviewing” correctly or something similar. The saddest part is that the state of game reviews, as it is now, has grown a readership who thinks that reviews should be chock full of spoilers, numbers and an end-to-end experience recap. I tend to think that a review should at least tell me how the game made the reviewer feel. Hell, I’d rather skip every detail about the game and in its place have the reviewer talk about his or her emotions during the experience.
Let me make you aware of something: no reviewer who wants to be able to review more than a game a month can afford the time to write 6,000 word essays that cover a game from end to end to end. ESPECIALLY MMOs, being that they have no end.
This is why, now, I will accept press accounts, free in-game stuff, help from the community, and will make it known who I am am what I am doing there.
I sum it up by saying this: I have a week with this game, and by a “week” I mean either several hours or dozens. Let’s get to it. If you want to give me a tour, cool. If the devs want to give me in-game cash, cool. If people want to invite me to the largest guilds, cool. And, no, I don’t give a shit if you think I am somehow not reporting accurately because I accept these things. All of these things can happen to another player. In fact, most of the help I get in games (when it is applicable) is from other players who have played to that point.
And, no, I am not paid by the developers. That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I have actually had readers tell me I am being paid directly from a company….for a negative review! I am 100% serious. Somehow, many readers think that reviewers are sitting on piles of cash because they are accepting bribes from developers. This isn’t the 1950s, people, and as far as me, the people I work with and everyone I know in this business, payola is long, long gone. Just drop the conspiracy. Do ads put money into the website, and are some of those ads for games? Of course. Ads are how the internet makes money, especially in these days of kids who think that everything should quite literally be free. But if anyone thinks that Lifelock or EVE Online or whichever company is showing up in that banner ad is paying me directly to, what, not write about them — then that person is an idiot.
To recap: I don’t like to write uber details about gameplay. I write about my experience. No, I’m not going to write you a class guide because I would fall asleep before I finished it. I tell you my opinion. You can skip it if you want.
And, for all things holy, stop talking about my journalistic integrity, or responsibilities as a journalist. I AM NOT A JOURNALIST. I did not pay to go to school to learn how to be one. Most writers I know are not journalists, either, but they can call themselves whatever they want. In my case, don’t call me one.