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What's Shakin' at the Bacon

The WatchmanThe Watchman Owner

Don't forget - This Sunday is the NerdBacon Game of the Year Awards Spectacular! - 8pm EST on

nerdberryNerdberry Owner

Hope everyone is safe during these hurricanes and wildfires! Irma and Harvey are total b-holes.

elder grapeVariand Owner

Framework and several plugins updated. Several issues fixed. Let me or other admins know if you find goofy stuff

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Thinking of doing a stream series soon. The theme: Retro games I never beat as a kid and want to try again. Thoughts?

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Tips for Writing Better Reviews

Here are some very helpful tips from resident Assistant Admin Variand about how we can all write better reviews.  Having trouble figuring out where to start?  Want to write stronger articles?  This is a great place to start.

This should not be construed as a list of rules, mandates, or obligations.  This is meant to act as a guideline for those who wish to improve their reviewing skills.


Be Objectively Subjective, Not Subjectively Objective

This might sound like an oxymoron, but there is some logic behind it.  Our reviews will always have a level of subjectivity as we offer our expert opinions; however, to keep a level of professionalism we must remain as objective as possible.  If we explain the reasoning behind our opinions and back them up with facts and logic, readers can identify with us and our reviews.  This doesn’t mean we should give cold facts and boring information, but instead use them to bring more credibility when reviews start to become too subjective.

The flip side is giving facts tainted with opinion.  While we doubt anyone would try writing something this horrible, the example would be something as bad as, “There are three main characters, and all of them are stupid.”  This could be a very valid statement, but because it’s not backed up with reasoning or facts, the rest of the review will be ignored as being a subjective opinion rather than a subjective review.  Proofreading and practice make this easier over time.

A Little Effort Planning Saves a Lot of Effort Fixing

This is fairly self-explanatory but there are a few tips that can greatly help prepare you for the actual writing.  These include keeping a notepad and pen nearby when playing the game and writing your thoughts down as you play.  An example:  When I played Infamous, I wrote down the line, “Runs around the town working up a sweat, but cannot touch water – Smelliest man alive.”  This line that took only seconds to write can be the spark needed for inspiration when hitting writer’s block.

After you’ve finished playing the game and are ready to begin writing, use the list of items written while playing as a cheat sheet for creating an outline for the article.  Keep a list of all the times you wish to write about and consult it often while writing.  Don’t be afraid to trim this list down as you’ll find that a single line can be heavily expanded upon when backing up your thoughts and opinions with facts and logic (being objectively subjective).

Strong Introductions Keep them Reading

When you begin writing, start out with a strong and attractive first paragraph.  The better the first paragraph is, the more the reader will read the article.  The opposite is true as well.  If your first paragraph is boring and full of uninteresting data or poor rhetoric, the reader might not even make it through the paragraph.  The absolute worst scenario is when the reader only reads the first sentence or two and then skips the entire article to view the photos, hoping something catches their attention.  Admit it, you’ve done this yourself.  Put a lot of effort into that first paragraph!

Have Flow to Your Review

Your article should flow cleanly between sections.  Sometimes you may need to reorganize the sections of your review to flow more smoothly.  If you mention something in the closing of one section, the next section should be where it is explained.  If an article is too disconnected, regardless of how well its organized, it will end up alienating the reader.

Include Relevant Information, Exclude Minute Details

Keep in mind that you’re writing a review, not a Wiki page.  People are reading your page to learn what the game is and if it’s worth it.  They aren’t looking to learn every minute detail about a minor character from a single stage with no dialogue.  Keep explanations to a more general level rather than trying to explain too much.  If you go into too much detail, you run the risk of boring the reader.  Do you need to spend three paragraphs explaining every playable class or describing every customization option when a couple of sentences will suffice?  Remember the Shakespearean quote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”  This is ever so much truer in a review article.

Have Personality, Charm, and Most Importantly, a Sense of Humor

Anyone can write down dull facts and tiresome descriptions, but part of journalism is selling the subject matter.  This is done through making the reader enjoy what they are reading.  Allowing your personality, charm, and sense of humor to flow into your reviews will make them more fun to read.  Use colorful analogies, point out funny inconsistencies, or even play cat-and-mouse games with the reader.  The more entertaining the article is, the more likely it is to go viral.  A funny quote or a great screenshot is great publicity for

A word of caution:  While pushing the envelope and walking the line between crude and class, be careful not to be too offensive.  You run the risk of alienating the reader.  A good way to judge is to read the review aloud to your mother.  If you’re comfortable saying it to her, it’s safe to put in the article.  If you feel embarrassed saying it, then it’s probably right where it needs to be for a great line.  If your mom would slap you and never talk to you again, let’s just leave it out.

Be Sure to Cover the Strongest and Weakest Parts of the Game

While it’s not always necessary and usually comes out naturally, it is always a good idea to cover both the strongest and weakest parts of the game; these are usually one of the first things people are looking for in a review.  These help people know if the type of game elements they enjoy are the strongest portion of the game or if their pet peeves are in full effect.

Avoid Spoilers

Some people mind spoilers.  Others don’t.  You can still write a good review without them, so there’s no reason to tick off anyone by including them.  If they really want spoilers they can go look it up in a Wiki.  You really don’t want the nerd rage directed at you.

Be careful.  Not all spoilers come from direct statements.  It is possible to give hints about spoilers by speaking about events, character developments, and often times basic gameplay features.  Make sure you review your post for any possible spoiling hints.

Example:  “Bob’s shoulder mounted arrow slinger comes in handy when fighting off the Lobster People.”  Now the reader not only knows that there are Lobster People, but that Bob gets a shoulder mounted arrow slinger.  Ask yourself, did Bob have the slinger from the start or did he get it early in the game?  Was the slinger a reveal in any way?  Was Bob a revealed character?  Where the Lobster People a reveal?  As you can see, that seemingly benign sentence chould have a lot of implications.  Always be leery of these hidden spoiling gremlins – they sneak into the best reviews.

Yours is Not the Only Opinion

While we all consider ourselves experts, we still have our own tastes and our readers have theirs.  Avoid insulting them because you might not like something that others enjoy.  If you don’t like sports games, don’t insult those who do.  Most people like several genres and this can make you look less professional.  This will not only hurt you, but also have a negative impact on

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This one might be a hard concept to grasp at first, but it’s one that once you get the hang of it’ll become second nature.  SEO is a practice of using meta data, keywords, and phrases to increase a page’s “weight.”  The more of the keyword, the heavier the weight, and therefore a higher ranking for search engines.  However, there are pattern searches checking for people who just say “review, review, reviews, reviewreview” to try to buck the system.  If you do that the page gets black listed and won’t even show up in a search engine at all.

The best way to do this is to use the SEO Check option within WordPress (WP).  It will give you a good rundown on your SEO worthiness as well as break it down into the areas that need more optimization.  It’s very easy to get “green lit.”  Here are a few steps on how to accomplish this.

  • Set the “Focus Keyword” to the name of the game in all lowercase.
  • Fill out the “Meta Description” with not only a catchy message, but make sure to mention the game title (and platform) within.
  • Fill out the “tags” and be  excessive.  Include things like the name of the game and common misspellings of the title.  The system it’s on, developer and publisher names, release date, and other pertinent information as laid out in the header.
  • When writing the review be sure to mention the game title several times.  A good aim would be at least once per every other paragraph (a bit more spaced out if it’s a longer review).  A good goal to hit would be approximately 10 or more times.  Don’t let your review suffer from overuse of the title either.  Care more about the humans reading it than the computers listing it.

A Provocative Closing Will Keep People Coming Back

Your last paragraph should provoke thought and conversation.  Ask questions that will get people wanting to give their opinions and prompt them to give it in the comments section.  If you can get a conversation running, you will keep people coming back to the site and your review.  This not only increases your fame (or infamy) but it also helps as well.  Active communities bring more people in, which means more publicity for all of us.  It’s always a good idea to prompt for interaction at the end of a review or to “stir the pot,” as it were.  It’s sometimes forgivable to sound somewhat ignorant in the closing to instill in readers a need of expressing their own “expertise” and knowledge base.  Just remember, moderation is the key, and you don’t want to come across looking like a complete idiot, as that will negate the entire review.

Images and Their Captions Can Say Things that Don’t Fit in the Review Itself

Images are great for giving visual examples to your review, but they can also be used as a tool to express points that did not necessarily fit within the review itself.  A good image with a descriptive caption can say a lot more than trying to forcefully explain it.  A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

If You Reference Something But Don’t Explain It, Link It

If you make a reference to a goofy viral video, link the reference to the YouTube video.  This way the reader will get the reference instead of spending the rest of the review trying to figure out what you mean.  Better yet, if you reference another game that has a review posted, link the text to that article!  Do your fellow team members a favor and give them some free publicity.

Be Logically Correct

When you say something in a review, don’t contradict it with a later sentence.  This may mean you’ll have to proofread your article twice or more but this isn’t a bad thing in the long run.  When you contradict yourself, it nullifies any ability to take the review seriously.  Contradicting yourself is tantamount to lying – it throws everything you’ve ever said into question.

Don’t Exaggerate or Overstate

Be extremely careful when you make a claim or comparison.  It’s best to always remain concise in what you say.  I’ve seen some reviews that mention a game is very similar to another when in reality it only shares one feature that was a trend of the times.  If a reader has any experience or knowledge of the two items being compared and doesn’t see the statement as valid, it make syou and look ignorant and uninformed.  Professionalism is lost and we’ve lost a reader as well as anyone he or she might have referred to the site.  This is part of fact checking, so don’t overlook this issue.

Stick to the Game

If the game has had a movie, book, music, theater production, or anything of the like made from it, let them find it themselves.  It’s usually worth a mention, but it would rarely warrant anything more than a mere sentence or two to say all you need to say.  You’re reviewing the game, not all the other media that used it for inspiration.

The only exception would be if the game and movie heavily influenced each other.  An example would be the Enter the Matrix game and the film The Matrix Reloaded.  The storylines of the two are interwoven and seeing the movie could enhance the gameplay experience, and vice versa.  This would warrant a decent write up on the experiences, but it should not turn into a movie review.  Instead, anything about the movie should be written as to how it affects the game.

Don’t Give Advice or Suggestions that You’re Not Qualified to Give

Don’t offer advice or suggestions if you haven’t gone through with it yourself.  Examples:  Don’t suggest avoiding a second play-through unless you’ve played a second time and found it pointless.  If you haven’t played through a second time, and don’t believe that others should either, then explain your decisions to have not played through again rather than suggesting that others don’t either.

Avoid Overuse of Parenthesis

Parenthesis are often overused (even by the best of us).  Most of the time all of use them too much (even me).  However, (when used properly) they should be able to be plucked out of the review without the sentence structure being compromised.  Three out of every five times the message contained within should have been part of the sentence itself.  One out of every five times, they’re used completely incorrectly and the last one of five is used perfectly fine.

Parenthesis should be used for a message that is outside the general flow of the review or article.  It should not be used as a free commentary.  Instead, use them to add clarity, a quick example, or even adding in links or jokes.  For every set of parenthesis re-read the sentence and ask yourself if the parenthesis are needed.  Does the sentence still make sense with the parenthesis ignored, or does the message give the context needed for the sentence to make sense?  If the latter, remove the parenthesis and work the message in cleanly.  Use parenthesis sparingly, if at all.


The absolute worst, cardinal sin you can make is to have incorrect information.  This cannot be overstated.  When you have incorrect information or something that is just wrong, you not only look ignorant, but also like a lying idiot, and this reflects even worse on for allowing such falsehoods on the site.  You compromise everything journalism stands for with incorrect data.  Two things generally happen when a reader finds a lie in a review:  1) they will blast the ever-living crap out of you in the comments, which makes you get on damage control (never a good place to be) and 2) (the worst) they stop reading and never come back to the site.

You might not think people never coming back is a bad thing, but return visitors are the life blood of any news/review site.  If you alienate the readers, you’ll likely find yourself alienaing the management as well – and that will never end well for you.  The best way to avoid this is to fact check EVERYTHING.  If you’ve made any claim, hint at a feature, or even listed something from the game, double check it.

Here’s a solid method.  Play the game, write the review, play again, and then proofread your review.  You’d be amazed at how much you’ll find in that read-through.  Quality should always be your major concern and you cannot have that with speed, so slow down and read your review several times.

Inspirational List of Items

Use the following list of items as discussion topics for your review if you’re suffering from writer’s block.  You should have at least covered four or five of these minimum in your review.  Not all need to be in every review.

  • Fun factor?
  • Gameplay Experience
  • Story (if applicable)
  • Replay Value
  • Graphics
  • Sound (Music and Effects)
  • Controls and Usage
  • Receptions (Press, Community, etc.)
  • Lives us to pre-release hype?
  • Greatest Moments in Game
  • Poorest Moments in Game
  • Legacy or Effects on the Industry

Quick Checklist:

  • Did you proofread?
  • Did you use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation?
  • Did you read it aloud? (this will help catch errors in grammar and sentence structure)
  • Are you overusing any words or phrases that don’t help SEO ratings?
  • Did you add enough SEO?
  • Did you Fact Check?  Everything?  Double Check?
  • Are your images copyrighted?  If so, are they valid under Fair Use?  “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Did you fill out the “Social” tab for your article’s meta info?  Specifically a Facebook photo?
  • Did you check your parenthesis for correct usage?
  • Did you add links for references and/or jokes?
  • Is your opening paragraph attention grabbing?  Is your closing inspiring?
  • Did you check for logic and contradictions of statements?
  • Did you double check for spoiler hints and Gremlins?

Journalistic Fundamentals (source)

The following list is from an article at about becoming a game industry journalist.  These fundamentals should be used as a list of commandments for any time you write any review or article for  I also suggest reading the entire article.  You’ll notice it reiterates a lot of what’s above.

  • Whether you like the game or not, you owe it to the developers to finish the game before you write the review.
  • Keep biases in check.  Erase all previous impressions of the game you had in your memory:  the good press, bad press, outrageous boasting from the lead developer, dozens of passed release dates, memories of old screenshots, secret hatred of the genre, un-returned phone calls from PR people, and what your Uncle Vinny keeps insisting he heard from his high-placed “contacts.”  It’s your job.
  • Avoid using “non-descriptive” descriptors like “awesome” and “amazing.”  Find words that more precisely describe your opinion.
  • A good editor will demand review quality over quantity and speed.  You should, too.
  • Back statements up with proof.  You might find it useful to keep a notebook around while you play.  When it comes time to take the gloves off and slap around a game, you’ll need to be able to back it up wit proof.
  • The bigger the stick you use to savagely beat the game, the wittier and classier it should be.  If you pull it off you look like a true professional and it’s much more hilarious for the reader.
  • Show editors that you’re serious by taking the time to check spelling and grammar.  Otherwise the’ll throw your review i the burn barrel along with their copies of Extreme Paintbrawl 2.


In the interest of knowledge sharing, I’ve put together the above list of tips, tricks, and pothole warnings that I’ve learned throughout the years in the hopes that it may be useful to others.  Many of these are things that I’ve learned through practical experiences, college courses on game design and game journalism, and additional sources found through personal research.  I hope everyone can take away at least one thing from this list, and even better, hopefully add even more.  I’ll keep this page updated whenever additional information is found or shared.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions or suggestions.


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