Monday, 30 May 2016 00:00

What's In A Game?

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As a passive, lifelong gamer, I'd never really asked myself that question.

I played for enjoyment. I played for relaxation. I played for no real reason other than to finish to completion. The minute it stopped being fun, I'd put my controller down and walk away, only to be drawn back to it moments later, my hands itching to feel the smooth buttons and ergonomic handles at my fingertips.

But only on occasion would I dig deep and look for more meaning in a game. Final Fantasy X was probably the first game I truly analyzed inside and out, forwards and backwards, over and over. It consumed me like no other game had before. I was so captivated by the story, the characters, the gameplay. I was thrilled each time I booted up my PS2, excited for what was next.

It was this game that reignited my passion for video games - a passion that had waned for a year or two in my youth. I resumed playing video games with such intensity that they were more or less my entire life. I loved video games for what they were supposed to be for: good, solid fun.

What's in a game?

As a game reviewer, that's what I now ask myself. What's in this game? How are the mechanics? How are the controls? How is the story? How are the characters? How are the graphics? How is the concept? How is...

The fun, once easily forthcoming, has slowly but surely declined. Games are a dime a dozen and no longer played for the pure enjoyment. Each game, no matter how simple or how dull, must be analyzed with obsession. They must be scrutinized to find fault. They must be replayed, over and over, to find depth or character.

What's in a game?

That is the purpose of a game reviewer. To play each game so you don't have to. So you can read about our enjoyment. Our struggle. Our annoyances. Our grievances. Our frustrations. Our successes. Our accomplishments. Our critiques. Our pleasures.

What's in a game review?

A dream, perhaps envisioned during a long, tedious commute to work or during a mundane, routine shower. A developer, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, staring at his lover, tormenter, tool, and closest companion at every opportune moment. A child, born out of code and graphics, tears and sweat.

A million headaches. A thousand long hours. A hundred missed dinners. A dozen redos. A couple, overlooked. Too many days, weeks, and years sacrificed.





One through ten

One through one hundred

It doesn't matter the scale

Thirty seconds is all it takes to read the score and dismiss, casually.

What's in a game reviewer?

Patience, and yet impatience. Hope, and yet cynicism. Excitement, and yet boredom. Contentment yet discontent. Commitment yet shallowness. Curiosity yet disinterest.

There's a desire - a temptation - to be mean. To punish those that made us sit through a bad game. An ugly baby. A foul creation.

There's a push to remain impartial - objective - to uphold journalistic integrity. To see a game through the eyes of a robot. An android. A machine.

There's a need to be considerate - understanding - of another’s feelings. To recognize dedication, perseverance, and hard work.

To be judge, jury, and executioner to entertaining lines of code is not as easy as it seems.

What’s in a game review reader?

Casual disinterest. Unimpressed snobbery. A not-so-inner Gordon Ramsay, ready to insult the game, developer, and reviewer at any turn. The game sucks, the developer is a noob, and the reviewer should go die.


What do they matter?

The game, painstakingly crafted over the course of several years.

The review, carefully constructed to portray the feel of the design and architecture.






“F this sh*t”.


What do they matter?

A developer, who sacrificed much, takes them to heart. They will either fuel his desire and conviction to make a better game or they will snuff the flame of creativity, the fires of passion succumbing to the harsh “criticism”.

A reviewer, who felt responsible, takes them to heart. They will either encourage her energy and tenacity to continue writing or they will diminish the spark of poetry, the lightning-fast analysis that had been learned now shelved with frustration.

Disheartened. Disenchanted. Disillusioned.

What's in a game review?


Words that bring anxiety. Words that bring laughter. Words that bring distress. Words that empower. Words that hurt.


Words that have meaning. Words that mean nothing.


Words to justify an arbitrary number.

What's in a game?

Blah blah blah

Blah blah



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Heather Johnson

Heather has been playing video games ever since she can remember. Starting off as a PC gamer at age 2 with edutainment games and progressing to the NES and beyond, she has always had a love for everything gaming, PC and console. She’s carried a hand-held console in her back pocket (now purse) since the 3rd grade and is probably the only person in her mid-twenties that still enjoys street-passing. She lives in Los Angeles and currently works for Bandai in the marketing department – she doesn’t make toys, she just makes toys look good. Right now she is actively avoiding planning her upcoming wedding by playing Skyrim. Other hobbies include trying to go to the gym, watching documentaries, sleeping, and tormenting (see: showering with affection) her beloved Maine Coon, King Henry VIII. Favorite games include FFX, Katamari Damacy, Saints Row IV, Skyrim, Catherine, and Phoenix Wright. She has her phone surgically attached to her hand and is happy to help whenever possible.