How To Write PC Game Reviews

By John Walker on November 9th, 2010 at 5:25 pm.

How to use a keyboard.

A question we’re often asked is: How do you get into games journalism? Well, to put that question to bed once and for all, below is the definitive guide by Howcast.com. Every single one of our trade secrets given away. The industry is going to be inundated. Those without moderate gaming knowledge need not apply.

We don’t think it’s a joke. Cheers to Will for the spot.

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141 Comments »

  1. Krimson says:

    “The audience is people like you”

    What was that about writing skills?

    • Doeke says:

      I don’t think that’s grammatically incorrect.

    • Mark Raymond says:

      I think “audience” can be used in the singular or plural sense. I’d welcome an authoritative opinion on that, though, seeing as I only learnt to use grammar and punctuation properly after I graduated from university. :P

    • Dolphan says:

      It’s grammatically correct, but stylistically rubbish because it reads like the bad grammar (‘is people’ jars, basically, because it would usually be wrong).

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Well “the audience are people like you” sounds strange. Though that could be correct, don’t know.

    • mandrill says:

      Try this on for size:
      “The audiance is people like you.
      against:
      “Your audience are people like you.”

      The use of ‘the’ in the first example implies the singular, so ‘is’ is implicitly correct (but yes it does grate,)
      ‘Your’ is more ambiguous but leans towards an implication of the plural, so the use of ‘are’ would be suggested.

      Stylistically there is no winning with that sentence and it doesn’t quite sit right no matter how your put it together. A better way of putting it may be:
      “The people you are writing for are people like you.”
      This neatly sidesteps the whole ‘audience’ question but means the same thing and is stylistically more appealing. (and in the world of the freelancer you get 4 extra words out of it, and words are money in the bank*.)

      *That’ll be $20.55 @ $0.15 per word please ;P

    • Corporate Dog says:

      “The audience is made up of people like you.”

      There it is.

    • hitnrun says:

      Ahem. Audience is a collective noun, so the singular “Audience Is” would be correct unless the usage was unambiguously plural, e.g. “The audience took their seats.” I wouldn’t call this authoritative, as my English degree is from an American university, which I figure is worth half a donut on this blog, but there you are.

      Some of the confusion might be dialectical: Brits have a number of exceptions to the antecedent rule, for example with sports teams, which are always plural even when the noun is the expressly-singular name of a city or nation. E.g. “Mexico are kicking ass today,” which sounds like a knife on a chalkboard to my American ears.

    • Mike says:

      I think the point is that he means “audient”.

    • Isaac says:

      Corporate Dog wins the prize.

    • pagad says:

      I think there’s a transatlantic divide here: British English treats collective nouns as plural whereas American English doesn’t (I think). So, in British English “audience are” is correct.

    • Stephen says:

      Not really, British English treats “audience” as singular the minute it puts “an” in front of it. You don’t get two an audiences.

      I think the transatlantic thing is a red herring. There’s really not a divide – a herd of cows is one herd of cows no matter where you are. What happens is you’ll see people who say “yeah, but there’s two people in that audience and they like the show” so therefore “the audience like the show”. That’s just using the name of the group to talk about the people in the group.

    • televizor says:

      THX – The audience ARE listening

    • amishmonster says:

      I think pagad is mostly correct – my editing colleagues all note a similar difference. You’ll note similar tendencies when Brits vs. Americans refer to companies – e.g. Blizzard are/Blizzard is. It’s not a hard rule but it generally applies.

    • Jahn says:

      Can’t resist jumping into a grammar battle on the blagoblag.

      REGARDING COLLECTIVE/MASS NOUNS: Audience isn’t a mass (collective) noun. You can have one audience, you can have two audiences. Mass nouns refer to things like “pudding” or “money” (SOME pudding vs. A pudding). On that note, neither British nor American English treat mass nouns as either singular or plural, which is (incidentally) what makes them collective nouns. You do not have a single “pudding,” but neither do you have several “puddings.”

      “Your audience ARE people like you” is not correct, because “audience” is singular in this case. “Those in your audience are people like you” would be fine, because the subject changes.

      Granted, having “is” next to a plural noun sounds strange. A more fluid way of writing it would be: “Remember that your audience is MADE UP OF people like you.” Or something along those lines.

      Here is the Wikipedia article if you don’t believe me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_noun

    • shasha nicholson says:

      that is so dam lame it suck like u suck a mans balls or dick if your a boy i sucks like u suck a girls pussy

  2. Jacques says:

    But he’s using an apple keyboard!!

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah I noticed that. I thought, it’s probably best to get a PC you can game on before you start writing reviews.

    • Jacques says:

      It doesn’t even have a numpad!

    • Red_Avatar says:

      KILL THE APPLE TRAITOR! *throws rotten eggs at John* That’s like drinking expensive wine in a McDonalds!

    • Demiath says:

      Well, he’s obviously using Bootcamp. Alternatively, he has something of a ClipArt identity…

    • Javaguy says:

      I have an Apple keyboard hooked up to my gaming PC! D: Its fine! Unless you want to control things in Garry’s Mod…

    • DrGonzo says:

      I find their keyboards really uncomfortable, same with laptops, I need keys that press in. I blame all those years of piano and guitar. I have to bash my keys and press down hard or I get cramps. They are very pretty though.

    • Dozer says:

      Notice what they don’t have in the ‘Requirements’ section.

      They don’t say you need to have the game, or a PC/system to run it on!

      Just an opinion, ‘moderate knowledge’ of gaming (such as, say, watching other people play), and the mechanisms to move your opinion from inside your head to your audience.

      When I saw that list of 4 requirements, I thought the video had to be a joke. But I think it is played straight. I feel sad now.

  3. Auspex says:

    Wow this PC game reviewing lark seems a pretty easy way to earn some extra green. I’m going to go get myself a personal blog or gaming website right away!

  4. Mike says:

    Later, suckers! I’m off to make some green.

  5. Starky says:

    Thanks to this guide, I can grow up to be just like Kieron Gillen…

    A washed up alcoholic loner staring at the TV night after night wondering were it all went wrong, eating microwave dinners and wishing for the heady yesteryears of Amiga power.

    • Daniel Johnston says:

      Partway there with the spelling at least.

    • Starky says:

      So I misses a ‘h’ out in where, that’s a typo not a spelling error. World of difference.

    • Starky says:

      Missed… Bleh, I really should become a writer.

      Then again I am using my gaming keyboard which is a bitch to type with.

    • Jacques says:

      Starky, typos are a just a natural step in the process of becoming Kieron Gillen.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Missed *an* h. Boy I’m anal, but I hate a’s that sound wrong.

    • John Walker says:

      “a’s”? What’s that apostrophe replacing?

    • Velvet Fist, Iron Glove says:

      Using an apostrophe when denoting the plural of a letter is a common practice among writers, although less common today than among previous generations. It may be less prevalent in your locality; please check your local authority’s apostrophe by-laws to determine if such usage is subject to additional taxes in your area.

      This post brought to you by A’s and I’s and U’s and E’s*.

      *(and muscular arms and flexible knees).

    • Nick says:

      To stop it looking like you wrote as.

    • Wulf says:

      I always liked that there were days when Kieron couldn’t spell for shit, though, it was endearing. And half of the time, it actually gave the impression that he just didn’t care too much about the spelling, considering how mutable a thing that language was, and that it could be skipped over because he was saying intelligent things anyway. Often, people who have absolutely perfect spelling/grammar are trying too hard, and probably devoting too much of their mind that pursuing those goals instead of actually having something worthwhile to say.

      I realise the irony here, but I just wanted to say that, because it was one of those things I respected about him. Kieron didn’t need to try hard to have perfect grammar/spelling, because I was often too engrossed in what he’d actually written to notice, my mind didn’t care to be anal about his writing. And in my opinion, it’s better to have something at least a bit interesting to say than it is to have flawless grammar/spelling.

    • Gap Gen says:

      “a”s is acceptable. As are things like CCDs or WMDs.

      I mean, WMDs actually aren’t acceptable at all. But you know what I mean.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Well now I’m just confused. Am I allowed to say a’s?

    • Dozer says:

      I thought a’s is what Ali G used to say.

    • Torgen says:

      I agree with Gap Gen. use quotation marks (or whatever passes for such in your browser of choice, in this instance) to denote the plural of a single letter. It’s as easy as your “a”s, “b”s and “c”s.

      Also, there is no “being overly worried” about spelling with today’s modern computational machines, as they have the friendly squiggly red line under suspect words. Your only enemies are the synonym and slang/acronyms.

  6. jti says:

    That reminded me of Look Around You. Here’s a taste: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBcrTucxiRc

    • jeremypeel says:

      Look Around You is my favourite comedy show. Ever. Every time I dig it out again, I explode a different internal organ through laughter.

      Series 1 is superior, but both succeed in different ways.

    • Xercies says:

      Wow i never knew i wasn’t using my computer for my full potential…

      I must organise a funeral now!

    • Thants says:

      I also enjoy look around you, obviously.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Ha, yes. Always admired your username from afar.

    • Shazbut says:

      I’ve never heard of this show before. You’ve made my evening

    • Phydaux says:

      Wow, how have I never heard of this show before?

  7. Xercies says:

    No i didn’t know that…thank you video.

  8. monkeybreadman says:

    They’re saying your job is easy

  9. Dean says:

    It was clearly a joke from that bit right at the start where it says you need ‘writing skills’.

    (Present company excepted).

  10. Danny says:

    It’s shown me that I’ve been going wrong all these years!

    Jesus, I wish getting paid for it as easy as that.

  11. N says:

    keep things hip.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Good advice in all walks of life.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      Keeping things hip is definitely where I fall short. Can anyone link to a Howcast on how to keep things hip?

      Thanks in advance!

    • Stense says:

      I live my life by that mantra. Most hip. Though I may need hip replacement surgery at some point.

    • Quasar says:

      I’m so hip I have trouble seeing over my pelvis.

  12. Jon says:

    Well, this certainly makes me question the credibility of some of their other instructional videos. I’d been a pretty firm believer in “How to Paint your Pregnant Belly,” but now I’ll have to revisit it with a more critical eye.

  13. Wilson says:

    Wow, so that’s where I’ve been going wrong. I just needed to get some writing skills. Prepare to see the internet covered in my game reviews for people like me in the next few days. Then I’ll buy a mansion and a unicorn and live happily ever after.

  14. westyfield says:

    John, you have failed to keep things hip.

    Your employment at RPSCorp will now be terminated.

  15. jeremypeel says:

    Ha, enjoyed this when it was flagged up on Twitter earlier. I wasn’t entirely sure there was zero spoof involved until I researched Howcast.com.

    I’d write more about the video, but I’ll be careful about giving away the ending before everyone’s seen it.

  16. Toby says:

    But of course! it is so simple.

    *Runs off to start Rock Paper Assault Rifle*

    • Corporate Dog says:

      I hear there was a fire sale on the name ‘Edge’ recently. You could use that.

    • DevilSShadoW says:

      @Corporate Dog

      Rock, Paper Edge of Scissors!

      i will be rich

  17. kutkh says:

    CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS

    RAM: 5
    Excitement: B
    The first computer game was created in 1958 by William Higginbotham, who called it ‘Tennis for Two’.
    8/10

    Please provide payment for my opinion and words.

    • Quasar says:

      Sir, I wish to inform you that your wit caused me to physically emit a loud noise, indicating mirth, upon reading it.

    • John Walker says:

      Oh my goodness, I laughed so hard at that : ) Actual tears.

    • kutkh says:

      Ahem. Payment for my opinion and words.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      Dear Kutkh,

      Thank you for your opinion and words regarding CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS. Please post your address, account number, and full name below. Payment will be sent to you shortly.

      Regards,

      Internet Ministry for Game Reviews: Division of Opinion and Words

    • kutkh says:

      You are treating me as if I were the sort of person who has not picked up a book or a magazine.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      Dear Kutkh,

      We received notice on NOVEMBER 9TH you used the optional game review requirements listed below:

      Books
      Magazines

      Your earnings for the OPINION AND WORDS submitted to the INTERNET for CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS on NOVEMBER 9TH will be credited an additional amount of $101.93 in accordance with item B101.323.6443.

      Best Regards on your future OPINION AND WORDS,

      Internet Ministry for Game Reviews: Division of Opinion and Words

    • Quasar says:

      Please never stop commenting on things. Either of you.

    • The Hammer says:

      “Replay: The game can be played many times but you must not lose the disk.”

      Hahaha, chuckle-worthy stuff.

  18. PigmonkeY says:

    You start by not writing your PC game reviews on a mac, ahem.

    • Stephen says:

      I hate to be that guy but it really doesn’t matter what you write gaming reviews on. My A4 sheet of paper doesn’t run Crysis and yet I can write about gaming on it.

    • Thants says:

      And, actually, my mac does run Crysis.

    • Stephen says:

      Also very true.

    • Mickiscoole says:

      @stephen

      Have you been living underneath a rock? They released a gaming model of A4 paper earlier this year. Has an app marketplace and everything.

    • Stephen says:

      Goddamn, now i’ve got to upgrade my A4 paper.

  19. Alaric says:

    As a game reviewer I can certify that this is precisely how everything works. Except they forgot to mention all the hot women, fast cars, tropical islands, and mounds of coke that we enjoy as a part of our luxurious, decadent, and overwhelmingly fun lifestyle.

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Ah, so this is where all the music journalists have gone.

  20. DevilSShadoW says:

    by George, this is the missing piece of my life’s puzzle! I knew reading RPS will eventually lead me towards salvation!

  21. Greg Wild says:

    Where’s the bit advising people that writing games reviews is boring as fuck?

    Talking about games is great. Trying to tell people whether or not they should buy them is not.

    • Alaric says:

      Silence, you!

      Don’t you dare to dissuade people from applying for these jobs.

      They come in thinking that all they gotta do is play the awesome games they already like, or new games they are excited about. They also hope to interview people like John Carmack and Ray Muzyka. And a few months later, when that little spark inside of them dies … why, that’s a thing of beauty in and of itself. If they stop coming in, it will rob me of an immense evilgasm each time this happens.

    • Haplo says:

      That…

      Is one of the most sexily evil things I have ever seen (on this site).

      I don’t know how to respond to that.

  22. Andy says:

    Aha, this is where I’ve been going wrong! And it’s all so simple!

  23. Armyofnone says:

    OH BOY I’M GONNA BE A GAMS JOAURNALIST

  24. MarkN says:

    “Are” is correct for UK English but “is” is used in US English, or that’s my understanding anyway.

    As a Brit I’d say “Arsenal are a football team, Orange Goblin are a rock band, the RAF are a bunch of people with planes, and that herd of cows are in a field”. I believe (although correct me if I’m wrong) an American would say “LA Galaxy is a (hnnngh!) soccer team, Monster Magnet is a rock band, the US Army is a bunch of people with guns, and that herd of buffalo is on the prairie”.

    So yeah, “audience is” is fine for the US English speaking peeps, but grates with us UK types.

    • MarkN says:

      Reply fail. I are stupid.

    • Stephen says:

      I don’t think that’s true. The whole “American English is a completely different language to British English” thing is a bit exaggerated. It doesn’t really matter if you think colour is better without a u or not because you can still count.

      I don’t think anyone, no matter where they live, would say that you should say “Arsenal are £200 million in debt” instead of “Arsenal is £200 million in debt”. It’s confusing because there’s more than one person that works for the football club called Arsenal but, and I’m sure all gunners fans will agree with me here, there’s only one Arsenal. Therefore – Arsenal is a football team. Celtic and Arsenal are two football teams.

    • Alaric says:

      What Stephen said, because the verb to be is applied to a noun, which can be either plural or singular. A sports team is a singular noun. A band is a singular noun. An audience is a singular noun. We can test it by making sure that each of those have a plural version. If there is a team and there are teams, then Arsenal is a team.

    • golden_worm says:

      Yes they is.

    • MarkN says:

      As a Brit and an Arsenal fan for over 30 years I promise I’d always say “Arsenal are”, never “Arsenal is”.

      Arsenal haven’t been in financial trouble, but Portsmouth have. Here’s an article about it by the BBC:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/p/portsmouth/8453406.stm

      “The Premier League said on Thursday it would continue to work with Portsmouth, who are £60m in debt overall”

      Feel free to browse the BBC sports news (or other UK sources) for more examples – I’d bet good money you’ll only find “are” used for teams.

    • Stephen says:

      As someone who can use Google, Arsenal does owe £200 and a bit million. That’s just fact. I’m not saying your team’s in trouble. I’m literally quoting the FT. What’s your problem with Portsmouth? That was uncalled for.

      The very first paragraph in that story says:

      “Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie says the club are “working hard” to convince the Premier League that they are financially stable.”

      Does that not sound weird to you? The reporter made a mistake, he’s wrong too.

      “Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie says the club is “working hard” to convince the Premier League that it is financially stable.”

      Stop speaking for my entire country. As a Brit (I can say that too) I would say a team is. That’s because a team is a “collective noun”. Lots of people are working hard to make sure that Portsmouth is stable. There’s only one Portsmouth even though there are lots of people.

    • MarkN says:

      I never intended to speak for the country, and mostly never did. I was speaking for myself and my understanding of the situation. Only in one case did I assume that other Brits thought using “is” would grate. Hardly a major offence.

      Anyhow, here’s a link to the British Council website:

      http://www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish-central-grammar-collective-nouns.htm

      It explains a few differences between when “is” and “are” should be used with collective nouns – and they’re both valid at different times in UK English. The crux for me being:

      “In British usage, however, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals:

      The government have not announced a new policy.
      The team are playing in the test matches next week. ”

      That’ll do for me. Feel free to choose your own path though.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      I am plural and so can you.

    • MacBeth says:

      @Stephen

      There is only one Arsenal, they are a great team.

      The club isn’t in trouble with debt, and are going to play Wolves away tonight…

      Clearly one can switch between singular and plural, but personally I find the ‘is’ usage grating if it follows the team name, (“Chelsea are top of the league”, while a painful fact, is ‘better’ than “Chelsea is top of the league”) and if asked, I would have said it is by far the more common usage in the UK…

  25. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Great, I was hoping this would be actually factually useful! I work for a news/media company, and may have the opportunity to submit a few reviews from time to time, but I wanted to make sure I was ‘doin it rite’ before submitting anything :(

    Thing is, I know there’s a hell of a lot more to it than just bashing out some words, I just need to know what that ‘more’ consists of. There’s a whole edifice of critical theory around film, music, literature and art, but precious little about games.

    Come to think of it, now would be a pretty good time for an enterprising games journalist to start formulating their own critical theory of games, thus forging their own cultural paradigm. Or something.

  26. Navagon says:

    Even if they do insist on using a haircut PC, the least they could have done is replace that button slab thing with an actual keyboard.

    • Thants says:

      Have you tried it? The button slab thing actually works pretty well.

    • Navagon says:

      Not owning a Mac, I’ve been spared that experience.

    • Stephen says:

      Well that makes everything you say about it a bit irrelevant then, doesn’t it?

    • Ted says:

      I’ve tried it.
      felt like a toy keyboard.
      that brand of computer doesn’t have much in the way of games, so using it in the visuals is counter-intuitive.

      and hey, them forgetting the little step of PLAYING THE GAME isn’t acutally a misstep, because this is writing for IGN, just the title got a little too long!

    • Navagon says:

      Everything I said about it? That it’s not an actual keyboard? Which it clearly isn’t? That’s now irrelevant now, is it? Well now. my whole perspective on things has been radically altered, hasn’t it just.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Actually, I find that these mac keyboards are very enjoyable to use. Although I must say those keyboards without numerical pads are silly.

  27. mbp says:

    Um…What about

    Step 1: Play the game

    • noobnob says:

      That’s too much work, just watch someone else’s Let’s Play on youtube. You can skip the boring parts too and just write about the good stuff.

    • mod the world says:

      LOL, you are so naive.

    • Navagon says:

      Well you only ever need to play one version of the game. Then you’re qualified to write a review that covers every game that goes by that name on every platform. /eurogamer

    • Lacero says:

      If you had really had moderate gaming knowledge you wouldn’t need to play the game.

  28. Clovis says:

    Tom goes to the mayor?

  29. FernandoDante says:

    “Http/1.1 Service Unavailable”

    That’s not a funny joke. Not at all.

  30. geldonyetich says:

    This video on how to write PC Game Reviews is completely wrong. You’re actually supposed to grade according to how much money the development house sent you.

  31. The Walker says:

    Oh man! I want to be paid for my opinion and words!

  32. Drug Crazed Dropkick says:

    Yay! I’ve been doing it properly!

  33. mpk says:

    It’s interesting that that video is so amazingly banal that most people are picking up on a bit of dodgy grammar rather than the batshit mentality of it all.

    That said, I’m now canvassing for websites who will share their advertising revenues. Now that I’ve sat through that gruelling training video I’m sure I can be making the green. Although you don’t get many £1 notes these days…

  34. Andy says:

    My favourite part was “125 MB graphics card”.

    Madness!

  35. The Hammer says:

    Two things.

    1) Our Mac keyslabs at uni are exactly like the one in the video. Spooky.

    2) What a nice man providing the voiceover.

  36. Inglourious Badger says:

    Dear Rockpapershotgun,

    I have just watched this video and wish to submit my reviews to you for posting for a share in your advertising revenues. I understand you will pay me for my opinions and words. I notice your current reviews do not meet the standards expected by this teaching video, so can only assume you will be happy to share 90% of your revenues with me (by my calculations, £2.39 per month?).

    Please e-mail me for my bank account details and I shall send my first review. (It is a review of Freecell).

    Very thanks,

    Inglourious Badger

  37. Sir Derpicus says:

    …(what does knowing about some radar station in 1958 have to do with writing PC game reviews?)

  38. HeavyStorm says:

    If I knew it was that easy…

  39. Birky says:

    Damn, so close but I lack anything which could be construed as an opinion.

    (Plus this is clearly a tutorial for New Games Journalism as it doesn’t instruct you to rate the game out of 10)

  40. UW says:

    This is exactly the formula I use for my gaming reviews.

    I suppose you’ve all heard of my site.

    …No? I wonder why…

  41. GoodPatton says:

    Jazz hands also required.

  42. Jack says:

    It’s so simple! Be back soon, gents, I’m just off to make a billion dollars.

  43. Tony M says:

    Next time I want them to teach me how to be an astronaut. I hope I don’t have to read a book for that too.

    Tony

  44. terry says:

    Wait, I need a Mac? What?

  45. Richard Pippy says:

    This video seems 5 years too late. It describes how to write the reviews I read in 2005 and 2006 but stopped reading because they are too long and uninteresting. The only thing this video promotes is mediocre writing.

  46. x25killa says:

    I do not understand this. All I heard was a nice man talking with lots of flashing images.

  47. basil says:

    Of course it’s not a joke. It seems to describe the process 99% of game “journalists” use to write their crap.