Tips for Reviewers

This is a short post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now. Over the years I’ve had many Steam friends ask advice on writing quality reviews.

Here is my 2cents:

Writing a solid, digestible text-based review is actually fairly simple. Although I am fairly surprised at how many poorly built reviews I see on Steam (and other places). I’m not talking about joke reviews either – I’m talking about people that are actively trying to be a respectable reviewer.

Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Text walls are bad. If you feel passionate and need to write a metric ton of words, then there are a few strategies to mitigate text walls. First, make sure you break things into bite-sized paragraphs. Secondly, use some flair to separate really important sentences (such as bolding a sentence as I have done here). This trains peoples eyes to the really important stuff – and is particularly useful for people who are ‘skimming’ your review. I use the bolding tactic as a variant of the TL;DR.
  • If you need to write a lot of text, consider having a section at the end that summarizes everything up in neat bullet points, or something similiar. My reviews end with a ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’ list. The ‘Pros’ use ‘+’ (plus signs) for bullets and the ‘Cons’ use ‘-‘ (minus signs). Again I am spoon-feeding information to the reader. Don’t make them work for it. It shouldn’t be a chore to extract information from a review. It works well, and is well recieved by readers.
  • Be consistant with how you structure your reviews. You want  your audience to know exactly what to expect, and how things will be set up. Here is my  structure:
    • The first sentence summarizes my feelings on the game. It is usually bolded.
    • The first paragraph (including the above first sentence) generally explains where this particularl title ‘fits’ within the gaming industry. What does it compare to, etc.
    • The second paragraph explains how the game plays. The first sentence is always italicized and starts with ‘Essentially, this game is about micromanaging X with Y etc’. That first sentence is how the game works, in a nutshell. The rest of the paragraph explains more details about the game mechanics.
    • Further paragraphs are optional. Usually the third one is either high praise, or me just damning the game and exposing its fatal flaws.
    • Next is the ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’ list.
    • Finally, there should be between 1-3 sentences at the very bottom giving another TL;DR. Usually this is where I’ll mention if it’s worth full price, wait for a sale, or pass altogether.
  • This should be obvious, but please use spell checker. I’m guilty of making mistakes, but yeah, if you want to write professional reviews – act the part.
  • It is distasteful to dump on seriously indie games. To be crystal clear – I’m not saying to upvote if it is bad, I’m saying be tactful with how you do it. I’m not talking about ‘indie’ games like The Binding of Isaac or some other big money title. If some dude is selling his senior high school project labor-of-love on Steam and it sucks, you have a community duty to downvote it – just be tasteful about how much you curb stomp it.

Alright, well that’s my list. Hopefully there was something someone got out of it. Thanks for reading.

Take care.

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