While armchair commenters on forums and twitter love to guess about the motives or workings of a video games website behind the scenes, the fact is few people outside the actual employees of a site know how the sausage is actually made. This document gives us a rare look at that, especially for anyone who has an interest in games writing.
And while times have changed since this document was put together when Cifaldi was first given it in 2008 as a freelancer ($0.45 a word for a freelancer is like something from another millennium), a lot of this stuff still checks out. Especially the tips, which are good tips!
Avoid clichés. Ready-made language weakens writing significantly. A few banned words/terms: gaming goodness; any type of visuals/graphics (“slick visuals,” “great graphics,” etc.); crisp audio; mixed bag; daily dose; gameplay; water effects; bump mapping; normal mapping; “if you’ve been living under a rock”; any variation of “Object 1, object 2, and object 3, oh my!”; boasts (inanimate objects do not and should not boast); oozing (“[game title] oozes fun”); however (do not start or end sentences with this, please); “[genre] fans, rejoice!”; anything resembling a recipe (“Add a pinch of Zelda, a sprinkle of StarCraft, and stir in some GTA…”).
Also worth a look are the site’s review score guidelines, which actually explain in detail how a game should be scored by the team. The lengths they needed to go to go a long way to explaining why we don’t give review scores at all, but in hindsight, 1UP’s “A-F” scale was probably the best of a bad bunch in 2008.
We score games using a letter-grade scale (A through F, with +/- tilts to the A-D grades). Please remember that C is the average score. We repeat, C is the average score. We employ our scale to its full extent—take care not to fall into the “7-to-9 scale” trap that many popular magazines and websites tend to advocate.
For many of you this might all be a little too “inside baseball”, but if you’ve ever had an interest in how games are written about or reviewed professionally, this is a good read. As is this similar, more recent guide to news reporting, which Cifaldi put together for another former writing gig at Gamasutra and also shared last week. If you want to write about games, they’re very good tips!