It’s been almost a year since I decided to start this project and I feel like I should share the reason why I decided to become an indie video game reviewer. There are obviously advantages and disadvantages of my approach, and there certainly is hard work to be done. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I consider this my passion project, with me fueling the page directly and not relying on anything that could otherwise make a sellout.
The most important reason is also the most obvious one: I love video games and I like writing.
A passion that is actually two
But surely many other folks love video games as much, or even more than myself. Some of this video game lovers might even be better writers than myself. There is one thing they don’t have that I do, and that is my opinions.
If you are like me, then you have a bunch of thoughts rushing through your head as you play a game. They might be positive thoughts, they might be hateful ones, they might even be critical opinions about a game. As long as I have something to say about a game, I will continue to write.
The strength of an independent reviewer
If I was asked what is the biggest difference between me and one of the major video game outlet I would say it is my inability to deliver a review of a game on time. It might sound negative, but I assure you I do not deliver late reviews because I am lazy or because I procrastinate. I do it because I take my time. I want my words to reflect those of someone who actually spend some time on a game. I wouldn’t consider my late reviews as failures. For me failing would be to provide a half-baked review of a game that exposes the author as someone who barely played the game.
What allows me to write quality pieces is my independence as a writer, free from corporate deadlines. Unlike major outlets, I don’t have a deadline for my reviews. There is no pressure to deliver a review when the review embargo lifts, heck, I don’t even have to finish a review before the game launches. And I don’t have to. A deadline means that my time with a game is limited. It forces the reviewer to cruise through the content as fast as possible in order to “experience” the full game. It works for some games, on others it neglect important aspects to the reader.
Could you imagine if a game like Dark Souls was reviewed taking into account a single playthrough? It would neglect the readers from knowing the beauty of a world that lets you go anywhere. A game where you can go for different builds and get completely different experiences. A story that makes more sense to more you experience it.
But at what cost
I believe this is the best way to review a game, but it is far from being the most efficient one. Being a reviewer is not my job. My real job keeps me busy and pays well. It is thanks to it that I can put the amount of effort I want into every single piece. I do not have to deal with numbers like a certain number of reviews I have to do monthly, or an amount of user engagement my written pieces need to have.
Of course, that also means that my work is not rewarded at all. In case you haven’t noticed, this site is free from ads, or any other way to monetize it. At one point I might add a “cup of coffee” tip extension, but not because I actually need to cover the expenses of my coffee drinking.
Every expense from the site is covered by myself. I got the domain and paid for the hosting. I even paid for the design of the logo from a friend.
As a side not I want to emphasize the “paid for the design” part. The designer was a friend of mine and I knew his work was good, so I approached him. I respect his profession and value his craft, so I never tried to have him “do it for free for a friend”. He is my friend, but I don’t mean to devalue his profession by asking for free stuff as a reward for our friendship. To everyone out there, if a friend of yours is in a business, don’t try to take advantage for free stuff, but rather find ways to promote his craft and give them business yourself.
I used to be in contact with many devs to respectfully ask for review copies if available. Some devs were kind enough to share the copies, some declined giving priority to outlets with more engagement, while the vast majority of them just ignored my requests. I don’t need free games, the actual reason I did it was so that I could play the game earlier and hopefully have a review up as soon as possible. I try to be in touch from time to time, but I stopped asking for review copies once I realized that it made me feel responsible for honoring the agreement and giving them a review as soon as possible.
As a result, I have a website that costs me and games that I procure from my own budget, and yet I love writing about my opinions of a game. Free from corporate pressure, free from any sense of responsibility to the developers and free from any other thing that might skew my view from a game.
Introducing the incomplete reviews
As beautiful as my way of working might sound, there have been a number of games that haven’t sparked a passion in me. You might have noticed that a vast majority of my reviews are positive, and that is because I write about what makes me passionate and usually skip games which have less than good opinions from myself. It makes sense if you know the kind of person I am. I relate with people through kindness, and make sure to always give them the best of me.
If I don’t like a game, I don’t write about it. It really is that simple. Kind of goes in hand with my real life persona, where I don’t say anything if I don’t have anything positive to say about someone.
So why incomplete reviews?
Incomplete reviews are born in part from my habit of taking notes of a game as I’m playing it, and some commitments I have to developers who were kind enough to share review copies with me. I wish I could do thorough reviews of every game, but there will always be games I didn’t like, or perhaps I was drawn to them, only to find out they weren’t for me.
An Indie size doesn’t fit all
It saddens me to find a game that I don’t enjoy, but the healthy thing for me to do is to simply walk away. I would force myself to finish games I didn’t like in the past just to justify my purchases, but I value my time and I can’t devote it to a game that is causing me suffering.
Incomplete for me means that I didn’t spend the necessary amount of time to 100% experience a game. Oddly enough, several of this incomplete games will probably be more complete than most reviews out there.
In the end, it all boils down to not being able to love a game and dedicate it time in the same way you would do to a lover. It would be great to live in a world where everyone dedicated the same amount of time and effort into a review, I certainly tried to shape the world that way with my philosophy. And yet, we will probably live in the shadows of major media outlets who may or may not give a game the spotlight it deserves.
I might be the hero the gamers need, but unfortunately I’m just a gamer like many others who likes some games and dislikes others.