Welcome to my office, bright young reviewer. You’re new to the staff of Computer Entertainment Monthly Illustrated, so before you start work I, your editor, am going to have to explain a few things. So many of our new reviewers coming out of college seem to have picked up some strange notions from their professors (those pinkos). If you insist on writing reviews of video or computer games for magazines, you’re going to have to leave those trite notions of journalistic precision, sobriety and detachment at the door.

First, you‘re going to have to drench your brain in the popular culture, so that you can make lame, purposeless references at the drop of a backwards-pointing-baseball-cap. If you are a guy, you are going to have to study, in detail, the current state of the supermodel industry, including illustrations, in order to build up the necessary supply of adjectives describing the female anatomy needed to describe such characters as Lara Croft. If you are, in fact, female, you‘re going to have to pretend to be a “grrl,” though if you are applying for a job as game reviewer, you probably are one already.

You will have to learn that there are only two kinds of game: the best ever made, and the worst: reviews read better when highly polarized. All good art is “jaw-dropping,” all bad art is hideous, and that only if you can’t come up with some pained joke involving urine, feces or vomit. If enemy AI is good, make sure to play up how the players will “get their asses kicked,” or “will have their brains spread in an even layer across the floor.” (For some reason, gamers seem to like this.) If the AI is bad, make a joke like “The enemy soldiers play like they have all had a brain transplant with a spastic hamster.” (For some reason, gamers seem to think this is funny.) If you are writing a feature on a game in development, then your job is twice as easy. In that case, the game written about is (or will be) the best ever made.

Instead of proscribing to the outdated notion that it is your job to merely present facts, you should attempt to involve the user in the review. Use the personal pronoun “you” often, and repeatedly push your opinions upon the reader in this way, in an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Example: “You’re gonna load your drawers the first time you see (this boss enemy) in (this game)!” By raving about the game in this fashion, you increase the chance the reader will react positively when they see it, and thus will increase the reputation of the magazine.

I think that the writing style described by Milen above may only hold for American games mags. In the UK, games mags tend to fall into two camps : those written for kids (a la Computer and Video Games), and those written for adults (or at least, twentysomething kids), such as PC Zone. The kids mags tend to read like Viz, with good games getting glowing reviews and 96+% scores*. There are generally lots of in-jokes that only sad people of similar age to the writers will pick up on (such as Mind The Oranges Marlon). The "adult" mags adopt a stricter reviewing policy, and can only describe any game in terms of others in the same genre that have gone before it, leaving newcomers to that genre totally mystified. The toilet humour is ramped up to the max in either case though.

I think the difference in writing style stems from the fact that the US never had a mag like Your Sinclair to subvert the tried-and-tested formula. Instead most US mags seem to be modeled after Nintendo Power and EGM, which could probably only stoop any lower if they'd removed any trace of editorial altogether. There's also the element of self-effacing humour. UK games mags tend to be quite jokey. Attempts to sound "cool" would not endear a reviewer to the readers and would look very out of place.

In any case, the games journalist knows that the only part of the review that's going to be read is the score, regardless of writing style.

* Although at least in CVG they quietly make an apology a few months later if they go a bit too far.

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