Getting where we are now took quite some time, LifeisXbox receives around 80% of what we request from publishers. It wasn’t easy getting the trust from PR people when we just started. Luckily I knew some people in the industry so that helped in the early days. This isn’t really a guide on how to start reviewing games (feel free to private message me if you want help with that) but more an explanation how writing a review actually works.
Getting the review game
Receiving a review game if you build up trust with the publisher is simply sending a mail requesting the game. In case of indie-games it happens quite a lot that developers mail us asking how they get their game on our website. Building up trust is all about actually publishing the review and in a timely fashion. There is not really a point to publish a review if the game has been out for a month. Personally speaking I am always very grateful when a publisher or developer sends a review game, I’m quite sure that LifeisXbox has never not-published a received game. Having it on release day is sometimes difficult but publishing the review is very important and simply the most respectful thing you HAVE to do.
Playing the review game
The most time consuming aspect about writing a review is actually playing the game. Depending on the size and scope of the game this can take up to 100 hours, or two hours if it is a very small game. I have heard from other reviewers that they play a game differently when they have to review it, I honestly don’t do that though. I just play the game as if I bought it, I do keep notes about some stuff that happens so I remember to add it in my review. (Evernote is awesome for that!)
A bug happens do I mention this or not? This is of course the most difficult part about writing a review, when do you mention something or not. The moment something frustrates me I note it down and write about it. When a game crashes only one time I don’t tend to write about that because things like that can always happen, and most of the times it isn’t the games fault but the console itself.
When it comes to online gameplay this can be a real nightmare for reviewers, we want our review online in a timely fashion but you need to have online players to experience the online modes. I am not a fan for releasing a pre-online review like some websites do, I just take a few extra days to enjoy (or hate) the online play and write the review a few days after release.
Writing the review game
I have one big rule for myself, I never read a review from someone else if I have to write a review about the game. I know for a fact that many other reviewers do this but I don’t want to influence myself and change my opinion because other people like or dislike something. Writing about a game seems to be easy but trust me after publishing more than 100 reviews things can become repetitive. Not to mention that having to write it all (the famous writers block) can become an issue.
After writing my review in the WordPress editor, I try to at least re-read it two times. I am from Belgium so my English is far from 100% I am aware that this can be annoying for readers so I try my best to remove silly mistakes like double words or obvious spelling errors. Spelling check from WordPress is a blessing, so I always use that one too.
After publishing the review game
The review is done and it is published on LifeisXbox, yay! You would think that the work is done now but that’s not the case. Now sharing the review is very important to get extra readers, LifeisXbox has a large base of regular readers but sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and other things really helps with luring new readers that hopefully visit often afterwards.
Sometimes developers will mail about the review too, asking more feedback or just to chitchat. I really like this aspect because you get some inside information about what they do with all the feedback or how they thought the gamers would act on a specific feature. Not all developers do this of course, some of my main PR people have become friends too. makes sense because you meet these people on events and almost work on a daily basis together. Same can be said about other similar website editors, most of them are all really friendly and talkative and will contact you to talk about something you said about a specific game. We’re all one big (happy) family!