Game Reviewing for profit

So how does one get to be a professional game reviewer these days? Is it even still possible?

Unfortunately it is no longer possible to review games for a profit.

About 18 months ago, the last of the human game reviewers were replaced by machines. Now, all reviews are computer generated based on variables fed in by personnel.

But fear not, those machines still need people fix them and do the data entry into them. The “Tom Chick” unit, in particular, is apparently in constant need of repair…

55 views and that’s the only reply. I guess all the jobs really are taken.

I’m far from an expert, but I have a couple very uninformed ideas on the matter.

Be a good writer. You need to write gooder than a rock. Wait, nevermind that. I imagine it does help a littlebit though.

Ok, seriously now. Maybe you could put together a couple sample reviews of about 1000 - 1500 words in length. One being a review of a game you liked, another for a game you didn’t like. I’ve noticed that people have no problem reviewing games they love, but try and get them to give an informed opinion on a game they don’t like and you’ll see their faces contort. Submit your sample reviews to a couple lesser known review site, or even a larger site like Avault that is always looking for people.

Ohh, you could always write for! We’re always looking for people to write reviews and previews. Currently there are a large number of puzzle games (of course) and a few RPG and strategy games that need to be given the once over. Free games, and a little cash. Not a bad deal for reviewing some indie games from time to time.

Once you’ve written a decent number of reviews for lesser sites it should make it that much easier to move into the realm of making money with your work. I could be completely wrong, but it seems that becoming known through your reviews will allow you to get one step closer to making the all important dollar.

P.S. Please ignore everything I’ve said, there are about 900 other people on here more qualified to answer the question :)

Thanks. I’d love to do that actually. Of course, I’m an aspiring game dev, just like everyone else, but I’ve been thinking that reviewing would be a cool thing to at least be quasi-part of the industry in the meantime, and you might not have to know God personally to get in.

There isn’t much money in it. You’d be better off pursuing your job on the development side. The entry level jobs there seem to be in customer service.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t see the progression from customer service to development.

Edit! My plan was to become a hero of the indie game development scene. But reviewing seems interesting in the meantime.

It might be harder now, especially at a big publisher like EA, but a lot of developers started in CS I’ve heard.

I never would have thought it. Fancy that.

I’d say there’s more prestige and profit to be had in being…anything other than a game reviewer. Really. Take a look at the field. It’s worse than you must think, else you would not desire to join them.

There are plenty of resources available on the web about getting a job as a game developer. Tom Sloper does a regular column on it for the IGDA as well as an entire website devoted to it. Kenn Hoekstra from Raven has a web article ( on it and speaks semi-regularly about it. I wrote my own piece on it, but it’s not ready for public view yet; if you’re interested, PM me.

I personally work with people who’ve gone from technical support to art and producer jobs and from test to design and producer jobs, so it can be done. Generally it goes like this:

Get a grunt job (technical support, testing, receptionist, whatever)
Do a good job, take on whatever needs doing.
Build relationships with people, ask questions (gently) and listen carefully.
Work on your skills, and when an opening comes up that you’re qualified for, ask to be considered.

It takes talent, work, dedication, and passion, but it can be done.


It has been known to happen. I started out as a GM for EQ, so did several others who wound up on the EQ Live team (I believe most of the ones I knew followed Jeff Butler and are at Sigil now). Mythic has quite a few people on their development staff that started in CS.

The progression is fairly simple, when a content-development slot opens up, you don’t really want someone fresh off the street, and you have a pool of CS people that are already fairly known quantities to look at for the job. Most content development jobs are fairly straightforward and easy to train reasonably bright people to do. Mythic hires most of their developers out of their CS team these days, actually, artists and programmers are the only thing they look outside the company for (and there they almost always look for people with single-player experience).

The hard part is getting in the door, and the line for positions on the development teams of successful online games stretches for a few miles. Not yet released games from new companies are easier to get onboard with, but the attrition rate is around 95% (maybe 1 in 20 projects will ever reach launch). I’ve been lucky enough to be standing nearby when lightning struck twice in a row, which is a significant part of why I am now a Lead Designer.

You pays your money and you takes your chances, there are no sure things. I would give you long odds that CS will get you into a developer position faster than game reviewing, though. Nothing against game reviewers, just that it doesn’t tell a potential employer much about what you can do for building them.

If you want to do something web-related, most “Community Managers” started out running fan sites of one kind or another. I did that for a while before working at Verant, myself, I ran the EQ Vault for a few months.

Single-player is different only in that it’s the Testing team that they hire from, otherwise it’s the same deal: Only experienced developers with specifically needed skills get hired from outside.


Mahrin Skel
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditu

What is with people giving me grief titles lately? Anyway you mispelled it, it’s viditur.


Wow, I just tried writing 1000-word reviews for three games and I just quit after a while – I have too much to say about games and gaming to fit in that space and I don’t know what to cut. I feel like I’m misrepresenting the game if I take one thing or another thing out and then I can’t quite get the review on balance again. What’s really ironic, of course, is that the second I start writing in Japanese, I was able to bust out something in 500 words which conveyed the bulk of what I thought. (What’s ironic about that, is that complicated expressions in Japanese take many more words usually than their English counterparts. Something like caveat emptor becomes 責任とは言えけど、人によって違う。 That’s eight “words” compared to two, for those who can’t read it, BTW.) Guess it has something to do with a language you’re comfortable in. ;)

In any case, even in Japanese, what I could possibly learn from this if its indicative of any greater trends is that its much easier to write scathing reviews of awful games and explain why they are bad (Elder Gate), then it is to write a positive review about a great game despite its flaw (FFX) or a truly superlative game and explain why its wonderful (Planescape: Torment) even in the same genre!

For people who don’t know about Elder Gate, BTW, that game torments my soul, thought I’d make the fake reviews not so un-useful and post some of it here. You think you play bad games? Ha! Its so much fun to write bad reviews, even though you might not be at all good at it.

The first town has four houses, a river and a sign. It is very green. The rooftops are red and by the texture, were probably made of bad shingles. All people who aren’t important in Elder Gate are either simple men with orange shirts and yellow pants or women with green and a purple dress. So not only is everyone in Elder Gate a communist conformist, but they can’t even dress fashionably. No wonder the party members, the only different designs in the game are “heroes.” They all invariably either talk about a mansion that is needed to forward the plot or give you hints about the game. These hints, by the way, are for elements of the game that aren’t actually accessible by the player. They’re in the manual, but you can’t actually play with them in the game. Perhaps only if you experience nirvana can you see them? [My note: and no, they don’t show up later on, either, regrettably.]

Also, you’ll need to rotate the camera to face the door in order to open it because no two houses ever face the same way and some times the doors are hidden. That’s right, Elder Gate is so innovative it doesn’t even have a door texture, thus implementing an entirely new gameplay paradigm: bumbling along the outside walls pushing the X button until the wall slides away to reveal the black soul of your TV screen. Or at least it would be, but you see the hit detection isn’t that good so you must stand a “block” away from the building and do this until the door slides open. If you are unfortunate enough to be able to get a door open while next to it, then you, the main character, will become one with the door (more of that nirvana I see) and get stuck to the wall, while your party member enters and if there’s no party member? Why Mr. Invisible enters. Mr. Invisible unfortunately cannot join your party, but only shows up when he needs to bail you out.

There are four women and two men in the first town and nobody else. Somehow, though, when you walk out your first randomly generated party member appears and for me, it was an umbrella with a penis. Okay, it was supposed to be your standard healer girl, but I SWEAR it was an umbrella with a penis. With green pubic hair. In any case, she comes out and says she’s been expecting you, even though, according to the plot no one is supposed to have any memory of the gate war or the guardians, and she is a regular resident of the world you created. Anyway, she says you probably can’t get anywhere so she joins your party by humping your head with her green pubic hair and spinning around. But remember how I said there were only six woefully unindividualistic people in the town? Well, apparently people in this world can materialize, as somebody who wasn’t there a second ago walks out of the inn and introduces himself as your second party member. That’s right, he doesn’t say his name, he introduces himself as your second party member. I believed at this point it was the PSX trying to become self-aware and apologize to me for ever embarking on the facade of convincing me I was playing a game on a finely molded, flat shit that spins in a PlayStation.

So what’s the mansion like? Well, apparently it exists outside reality, because of the game’s weird sense of compulsion that it must hide everything important by spinning the camera, you will be obliged to keep pressing the R1 and L1 button continously to be able to see anything. After doing this two or three times, the compass on the lower left side of the screen apparently has had too much to drink and simply continues spinning around and around while you and the camera stay still. Also an incredible part of the level design of the mansion are treasure chests that take a good long shit, read the Nikkei and compose epic poems while you wait for them to open. Apparently, they’re pouting. When one needs a key, its accompanied by a cutscene of your character realizing this deep philosophical truth and punching his fist through his face, while uttering, “Hmmm, maybe somewhere in the mansion?”

And the battle system? Its on a 3D grid. Here the camera starts snorting whatever the compass was on and spins like a ballerina at the merest suggestion of action. When you use that cure spell complete with terribly original pixellated green bubbles and lighting effects, we must stop and view it from every angle each and every time before the appreciation of Konami’s third-rate modeling artists can end. Talk about a pretentious camera. Not only that, I swear I couldn’t tell whether I was looking at my protagonist’s nose or neck while the camera swerved around him as if Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer were suddenly involved with the game. And what are you fighting? Blobs (three different kinds, separated by color!), vomitting dogs and orcs with sex toys. Tactics? Well…there’s keying in a list of attack combos from a terribly nondescript Xenogears-like menu and then trying to analyze the interpretive dance your party members get into all over the battlefield without ever actually doing anything. Its like Dragon Ball Z inspired the battle system. Maybe something happens in battles, I dunno. All I saw were some red sparkles and numbers and all of a sudden, a long fadeout as Ballerina Twirlin’ in a D&D World: A Jerry Bruckheimer Film ended. Things blow up though, inexplicably and no one close to anybody on the battlefield, but they do and somehow people die.

Maybe I’m wrong about who it is that makes those stupid blockbuster movies with the wacked cameras, but I’m not wrong about Elder’s Gate. Consider this, after the mansion, that rock in the cave? Yeah, according to the communist villagers, right after you finished the mansion, it mysteriously rolls into the sea of its own accord, so you can complete the world. This, despite the fact that the cave it was blocking is surrounding by mountains (or strange warping brown forcefields…) and it would need to roll up the peaks before it could get to sea.

Unless you need an easy device for sucking your soul out through your piss-slit, stay far, far away from Elder Gate.

Its so easy to just not say anything actually relevant to why the game is bad and just tar and feather the game.

In any case, my hats off to the good reviewers out there.


If you can’t figure out what to cut you may not make it as a game reviewer :)

Mostly I’d have to say right now the industry sucks - being a pro (that is, living at it) is extremely hard if you aren’t already established or know folks someplace. Freelancing is even more difficult, except for a chosen select few, who are notably reluctant to give up their digs for you.

I fell out of it mostly because I didn’t just burn my bridges, I blew them up spectacularly. So… you hope you make a name for yourself someplace, keep trying at the usual places that pay, and hopefully one day you’ll get in.

Game development is different, but in a way very similar. The assumption that filters around about CS folks is mostly true - a lot of companies filch their service departments because they know the products and the issues involved the best. On the other hand, CS is the crap job in this industry - the hours typically suck, you get paid less than burger flippers, and at times it is so inconceivably boring you feel like dislodging your Adam’s Apple with a pair of eyelash curlers and a bottle of Tabasco sauce.

Like game journalism, some get lucky because they get noticed. Some of Mythic’s folks got noticed because they were well known in one particular fan-based community or another, or ran websites and thought really highly of themselves. Some have no business being in this industry whatsoever, but that’s a different story.

Sometimes the situation you’re in nudges you in the right direction - the stars align at right angles, the moon is full, and the Cubs and Red Sox get into the playoffs.

— Alan

Ohhhhhhh, tell us a story!

By development, do you mean writing code or the other stuff?

Hell, I wouldn’t mind doing that either.

Typically this refers to producer/designer-type positions rather than programming or artwork. It may involve scripting though.

— Alan

Ah, ok. I was wondering how the hell you’d go from CS to writing code…