Writing game criticism for an audience that doesn’t read

My first post gave an overview of how the medium of games push for favored criteria used in gaming criticism. Looking back, I didn’t touch on how gaming criticism function specifically on the web as opposed to in magazines or print mediums. In fact, the analysis of mostly prose features would be useful for writing for gaming magazines if those were, like, still a thing.Basically, that first post is super helpful for anyone who finds themselves writing reviews for Electronic Gaming Monthly after stumbling into a time machine set for the mid-90s.

Mascots with 90’s baditude and generic space backgrounds make for a wonderful kind of terrible.

The focus on prose features fails to take into account the way people read gaming criticism online and how writers compose based on online expectations. A lot of this applies to web writing in general but there’s plenty non-prose features unique to game writing. I guess I forgot the internet is a place where people communicate mainly by Game of Thrones GIFs instead of reading.

Fun fact: My dad refers to Game of Thrones as “that HBO medieval show with the little guy from Willow.

Fun fact: My dad refers to Game of Thrones as “that HBO medieval show with the little guy from Willow.

Tony posted a video on May 29th that examines the way video game tropes depict women. Not only is everything expressed in the video well argued—historically, gaming has been a boys’ and it’s definitely a problem—it also represents the multi-modal trend of game criticism online.

Take a look at the below video by popular gaming commentator Egoraptor about why Megaman X is the best video game sequel ever made. Yeah, he says fuck a lot. But much like Tony’s video, it follows standard methods of argumentation but doesn’t feel like an essay because moving pictures, son. The video is a good watch for non-gamers too. If anyone is even remotely interested in software usability or how visual cues push users towards desired outcomes, this video is worth checking out. I’m looking at you, New Media people.


This video was produced as a standalone entity; it wasn’t created to elucidate concepts discussed in an accompanying prose review. I would argue that if the content in the above Megaman video appeared as a long-form write-up, it would not pulled in a fraction of traffic. For this reason, gaming blogs include a trailer or something to accompany a write-up. Touch Arcade, a popular review blog for iOS games, includes gameplay videos at the end of every single review.

It goes without saying (although here I am saying it anyway) that this is necessary because of how people consume web content. The more visual elements the better. Again, this isn’t unique to online game criticism but the prevalence of video commentary reinforces the ludological approach to game criticism I discussed two weeks ago. If games should be assessed based on the interaction between game mechanics and player, it doesn’t make sense to write lengthy prose describing this interaction when a video with some dude talking over it does a much better job.

That’s not say prose game criticism is dead. Giant Bomb, another popular gaming commentary blog provides video commnentary in addition to traditional reviews that could appear in print. If you click through Kotaku, Destructoid, Joystiq or any other number of popular gaming blogs, it should be clear that game criticism online is a multi-media affair. These sites have a nice mix of text and visually driven editorial content.

The popularity of Twitch TV and similar sites that stream people playing games further reaffirms this trend. It’s a trend that even as a gamer I have hard time explaining. I don’t know why I like watching people stream gameplay but it’s definitely a solid way to pass time between seasons of Dowton Abbey.

In fact, videos of people playing games are so popular that Nintendo is demanding YouTube videos that showcase their games must contain ads. Naturally, the ad revenue goes to Nintendo and not the producers of the video. This recent legal action opens up a big-ass can of worms about what constitutes as original content. Pretty much everything on the web is repurposing someone else’s intellectual property but that’s a problem far beyond the scope of this course.

The main thing here is if a corporation is trying to monetize a method of online game criticism, it’s safe to say it has 1.) hit a critical mass and 2). is here to stay.

When in doubt, follow the money.


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