How to Write a Great Review That People Will Actually Read

In this day and age, it's more important than ever to write a compelling review that gets respect AND attention.

This isn't 1988.

We don't have thirty video game magazines constituting the entirety of the industry's coverage. We have the Internet and as such, gamers can find a boatload of information and media for any given game within minutes.

So, how do you write a review that consumers will actually read? If they've got dozens of gameplay videos on YouTube, countless websites and blogs offering daily information, and various promotional material floating around, what reason do gamers have to read your review? Why not just go to Metacritic, check out the average score, and be done with it?

You've got to do it right.

Blend entertaining prose with the necessary informationBecause most individuals can get the baseline information anywhere, you don't have to go too heavy on the standard details. At the same time, you can't ignore them, either; not everyone will know everything about the game when they read your review. You have to blend an entertaining style of writing with the requisite information; it's a matter of engaging the reader while still educating them about the product in question.

If you go too far, it'll come off sounding rant-y and too personal. If you don't do enough, it'll sound boring and stilted. You don't want it to read like an op-ed and you don't want it to read like a press release, so you have to walk the tightrope. Just don't forget that we're talking about a form of entertainment, so it stands to reason that your review should reflect that.

Avoid the "Wall of Text Syndrome"

Formatting may sound like a trivial thing but when you're competing against a hundred other critics in an effort to get your review read, nothing is trivial. Sadly, people just don't read much these days, and the idea that people read more on the Internet is a fallacy. The longer the article, the less likely it's going to make the rounds. It's that simple. Now, reviews can be lengthy, but they really need to be broken up:

For instance, use pictures and videos in between the text to spice up the presentation and also add more content to the analysis. You can also implement break-out sections that bring certain highlights to the forefront. Above all else, don't just write seven or eight long paragraphs and post it on a page; if that's all you've got, chances are, very few will read it.

Be innovative and creative

As there is no universal or standardized scoring formula, you can review a game any way you wish. Maybe you put more of an emphasis on technical elements, maybe you're more of a narrative lover and you focus on the story, or maybe you have some personal anecdotes that relate to the game. You really have to stand out and as such,  you should tap into your creative reserves and come up with something special.

Thing is, there will be lots of reviews out there and if yours reads similarly to everyone else's, you'll get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps you could try approaching reviews from a variety of different perspectives, and see which one works best for you.

And speaking of standing out...

Most importantly, you need to develop your voice. As a critic, you're supposed to have a voice that readers identify. You have to be unique. You have to present the world with a persona and singular charisma that is undoubtedly you, because this is what will keep the readers coming back. All the critics you likely know about? They all had distinct voices that resonated throughout the gaming community; how they got big really had nothing to do with their writing skill or gaming knowledge.

That's the key: The best-written reviews aren't always the ones that get recognition. The critics with the deepest font of knowledge are not the ones everyone knows. Fortunately or unfortunately - depending on how you look at it - you have to be part showman and part critic. Maintaining your journalistic integrity while providing the world with your own showman persona is tricky, but it has to be done.

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published May. 28th 2014

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