10 Overused Game Journalism Cliches

When I first started doing casual game reviews, praising or picking apart a game came easy. Now, when writing game reviews, I feel like I’ve said it all before. The top 10 game journalism cliches (article no longer available) captures the challenges game reviewers face. Here is the list along with my comments.
1. Top ten lists: I rarely do this. When I do, the top ten list article comes out at the end of the year. Sites like Mashable often write “## best sites for [enter a topic].” I prefer “## sites for [enter a topic]” because it’s easy to miss deserving candidates.
2. The historical open: This approach gives the writer a nice way to segue into the review. But during these times of information overload, I try to open a review with what it is along with a subtle hint of whether it’s great or blah. What do you want to know when you read a review? For me, I want reviews to tell me what the game, book, or product is about and whether it’s any good.
3. Headlines with a “?” at the end: I don’t have to worry about headlines since all the places I review for just list the game title as in “Diner Dash PC Game Review.” We could argue for and against this method, but it tells you exactly what it is.
4. 7/10 reviews: This would be 4/5 for some of us where ratings use the five point scale instead of 10, but 7/10 appears frequently in working with one client. The local newspaper started adding comments next to the rating such as “two out of five stars (good).” So, two to five stars are positive while one and zero (never happens) stars is negative. That’s no bell curve. It’s as if the newspaper is trying to be gentle and prevent readers from automatically thinking “two stars… don’t go there!” Reviews should be about serving the reader and potential customer, not making nice with the business. Kids today often get a trophy every time they play a sport regardless how their team played. Getting a trophy should make us proud because we earned it not because we signed up and played. How are we going to motivate ourselves to improve?
5. Realistic graphics: No comments on this one.
6. Quirky: Is it good or bad? Exactly the problem.
7. Fans of X will enjoy it: Guilty. I use this line when I don’t have a clever way to end the review.
8. Only time will tell: Pointless. Just give the details now.
9. Reviews broken up into standardized sections: This refers to “graphics,” “sound,” “gameplay,” etc. None of the places I review for use this. They provide a rating. One uses “pros” and “cons,” which gives you a snapshot of what’s good and bad about the game. I think that’s beneficial. Web writing rules apply here — if the review is long, use bold headers every few paragraphs. I rarely do this, though — it just doesn’t work as well for reviews.
10. “Fun.” I try to avoid this like the plague. Considering its synonyms (enjoy, amusing, cool, entertaining, pleasurable) often don’t work well, reviewers sometimes can’t help but use “fun.”
My biggest problem is describing different things such as the graphics and sound. You can only say the same thing so many ways. One thing about reviewing… it offers writers a wonderful way to put their creativity to work. [Link: Gamewire]

2 thoughts on “10 Overused Game Journalism Cliches”

  1. I agree with the ‘historical introduction’. Here reviewers spout either useless trivia from their 5 second Google research or some gushing recollection of the current game’s prequel or benchmark for the genre. I’ve never read a review that opens about the actual game reviewed.

    Here is an oft used cliche not on the list (but really applies to all sorts of reviews – books, films): the story is ‘great’ but ‘I don’t want to spoil the it for you’. So tired. The story is good, period.

    Something I don’t agree with in your list is when reviews break up the game into standard sections. I think some sort of structure would be good. Too often the reviewer gushes about the game for 80% of the review and after reading it I have no real idea of what the game is about, how it actually plays, sounds, looks etc

  2. I’ve tried the standardized sections approach, and found that it really cramped my “stream of conciousness” writing style, so I ditched it (the sections format). I’ve found that screenshots with accompanying numbers or arrows added through PhotoShop are the best bet when the “words just won’t come to me”. LOL 😉 Great article, I’m glad I found this… thanks, Meryl!

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