My Musings: Game Reviews
Our 200th Podcast Episode is behind us. As I approach my fourth anniversary here at Everyday Gamers, I can’t help but look back and wonder what the future will hold. This article is not a criticism of game reviews, game journalists or yet another criticism of game review scoring systems. It is, however, a reflection on my own writings and look into what the future holds for me here at Everyday Gamers.
Indie vs. Paid Sites
We have stated before that we don’t post all of the press releases and news items that we receive because we feel as if other sites already do all that-and do it better than we could. We’ve also said that most people don’t click our links because they want to read our reviews; they do it because they know us from the podcast and/or Twitter. Many of our fans probably don’t even read our reviews; they simply stop at the impressions we give on the show. Maybe it sounds as if I’m a bit discouraged, but I assure you I’m not. What I do realize is that as an independent site, it behooves us to play to our strengths. Our strengths are the opinions we have, the fans who support us and the editorial pieces we occasionally get a chance to write. The obvious benefit of an indie gaming site is that we can pick and choose what we review, when we review it and what we want to cover. The advantage this gives us is that, both on the site and the podcast, we don’t have to cover all of the same topics as the major outlets. We can review a game 6 months to a year later. We can spend time sorting through PC mods and backlog gems. Now, I don’t pretend to offer opinions for the site as a whole, but these reflections have led me to some conclusions about my own writing.
Curiosity vs. Commitment
Being a gamer with very broad tastes, it doesn’t take very much to make me curious about an upcoming game. I play any genre, really only shying away from platformers and puzzle games. The pitfall that provides is that I can be easily drawn into being interested in a game by a few screenshots and a cool looking trailer. While this is fine for a savvy consumer who buys games when they hit sale price, review a game is a whole different animal. Some of the games I’ve taken on may have been fun to play a few levels of when purchased on the cheap, but playing through them for review makes them take on a whole new connotation. I can’t help but notice that I approach a game very differently when I am faced with the commitment of a review rather than just the casual curiosity that tickles my gaming tastes. Picking that game up on sale also means that I can let it rest on my digital shelf until I am ready to play it, whereas committing myself to a review copy means that game now gets shuffled to the top of my playlist. Mind you, I am not complaining, I am merely pointing out the thought process that is involved in the review process.
Too Much, Too Soon, Too Fast
I feel somewhat silly for succumbing to the same pitfall over and over, but I believe I’ve taken on too many reviews. If I look at this year, within my own gaming habits, I realize that March has bled into June, as I hurtle from one game review to the next. We have some amazing companies supporting us, and I have been blessed to be supported by them with fantastic review opportunities. However, I can’t help but think rushing from review to review has stunted the side projects and editorial ideas I have had for the site. For example, I have an unpublished Strategy Guide episode to get to and some awesome ideas on how to grow that podcast. My opinions on the industry and the perspective we like to show, as a site, have been drowned out in the hours I’ve been sinking in to publishing reviews to satisfy our commitments. I really feel as if my service to the publishers that support us has refocused some of the attention that I like to give to the community that supports us. Being buried in reviews has put a damper on the individuality that I could be bringing to the site and the podcast by dampening that creative flow. If you are a graphic artist working for an ad agency, you are bound by the rules and limitations of the contracts your agency serves. That process, while fruitful, can pull you away from the ‘artist’ portion of your title by funneling you away from your own creative habits and into the box that someone has paid you to fill. Similarly, many athletes have allowed their passion for a sport to be choked out by a pursuit of contracts and sponsorships.
The Family Factor
I’ve had some amazing conversations and revelations thanks to some internal and external discussions I’ve had with friends and fellow podcasters. I don’t want to call anyone out or mention names. You know who you are, and I thank you. Expanding on my glut of reviews, I’ve realized that I’ve passed some great opportunities to enjoy my hobby with my children. My son was thrilled when I pre-ordered Borderlands 2 (and I was thrilled when I got the two copies for $36 each on Green Man Gaming!). Yet, here I am, stalled in the game while my son has completed Vault Hunter modes with my podcasting buddies. This weekend, he’ll be jumping into Defiance, and again, an opportunity presents itself that I don’t want to miss. On our podcast, Episode #203, we just spoke about how there is so much content available and so many games piled on our backlogs. Much like my own reviews, we keep snagging more games on sale and barreling through content without stopping to enjoy the hobby as much as we used to. I can’t help but feel as if my children are still part of the reason I enjoy gaming, and I feel motivated to reignite that with them rather than apart from them. I can’t help but wonder what I could do using some of my own family gaming anecdotes as a basis for podcast and website material. Going forward, I’d very much like to be able to not only enjoy more time with my children but use that as inspiration for podcast and editorial topics also. I might even blog our progress through certain games.
If you’re thinking that it seems odd to write a post about this topic rather than discuss it internally, you may be right. My motivations for posting it here are simply to be informative, to thank our amazing community and to ask for accountability. No, I won’t be swearing off game reviews, but I will be a lot more selective. I also want to point out that we don’t have a post count here. I have not felt pressured from my colleagues at Everyday Gamers but rather, I pressure myself by biting off more than I can chew. I’ve been overwhelmed by the feedback I’ve gotten from my few Strategy Guide podcast episodes. I’ve been flattered by those asking for me to continue it, and I hope that you will hold me accountable. Most of all, I am grateful to the community with which we have been privileged to be surrounded. As I mentioned, I think you come here because of the personal connection that you’ve had with us. I can’t help but think that charging headlong through reviews is not quite what our community really wants from us. That being said, I hope you enjoy what you’ve read, and I hope that you continue to stay with us as I alter my own course and attempt to bring my own contributions in a new direction!