The 8 common mistakes found in video game writing
From reviews to round-ups, there’s a ton of video game writing out there. Gaming publications and independent bloggers share reviews, cover trends, and offer tips. Gamers rely on these articles to decide which games are worth investing their time and money into. And as the video game industry grows, so does the number of people writing about it.
Whether you’re writing about video games for fun or are looking to make a living as a freelance writer, you’ll stand out from the crowd by learning how to write well. Here are the eight most common mistakes found in video game writing and how to fix them.
1. Lack of transparency
Readers want to know if you were incentivized to write your review. Many video game reviewers don’t disclose if they received a game for free or if they are being paid to write a review. A biased review isn’t any less valuable, readers simply want all the facts so that they can make an informed assessment.
How to fix it: Honesty really is the best policy. Clearly disclose any sponsorships, free gifts, or paid posts. This will help you build and maintain trust with your audience.
2. Poorly structured writing
Writing that contains run-on sentences, long paragraphs, and poorly organized sections is hard to read. Clear writing is effective writing. Your review or article should be easy to skim and quickly reference.
How to fix it: Break up the body of your article into short paragraphs that are organized into sections. Add descriptive subheadings that explain what’s covered in each section. Give a concise overview of your thoughts in the intro and offer clear take-aways in the conclusion.
3. Discriminatory language
Like many industries, gaming tends to be dominated by cisgendered, heterosexual men. As a result, a lot of video game writing is biased in favour of this demographic. Or worse, it actively discriminates against others based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. By making your writing inclusive it will reach and benefit a wider audience. In turn, you’ll become a more respected voice in the space.
How to fix it: Don’t make assumptions about, or based on, anyone’s gender, race, or sexual orientation. Use gender-neutral language. Don’t reinforce gender stereotypes (i.e. “she throws like a girl”) or reference gender when it’s not necessary. Don’t make racist or homophic comments.
4. Lack of credibility
If you don’t have much experience gaming or don’t enjoy it that’ll show through in your writing. It’s tempting to hop on a trend—especially a potentially lucrative one—but your success as a writer comes from building trust with your audience. Don’t underestimate your reader. They can tell when you’re not being genuine.
How to fix it: Be transparent about your experience and skill level. If you’re a new gamer there’s still value in your reviews (especially for other new gamers!), but don’t exaggerate your expertise. And if you’re writing about video games purly to capitalize on a trend, consider writing about something else that you have a genuine interest in.
5. Making assumptions
Saying something is true without explaining why or giving evidence is confusing for your reader. Reviewers often make assumptions about a game without backing up their reasoning. For example, they’ll say why they think a certain character was introduced in the storyline rather than reference why the studio actually said they introduced the character.
How to fix it: Do your research. Before guessing why something is true, see if you can find the answer elsewhere. Studios and industry insiders share lots of information about their games that you can reference.
6. Not making enough comparisons
It’s hard to understand something new if we don’t have anything to compare it to. Putting something in context helps people quickly understand what you’re talking about. By describing why and how specific elements of a game remind you of another game, your reader will be able to decide if they’d enjoy it.
How to fix it: When writing a review, compare it to other games in that genre. Explain how it’s similar or dissimilar. Tell your reader what something reminds you of by referencing another game they’re likely to be familiar with.
7. Being too opinionated
As a video game writer, you’ll have to strike a balance between being subjective and objective in your reviews. While your personal opinion is valuable and should have it’s own section, it’s important to offer an objective assessment of the game. Strong writers are able to articulate both sides of an argument and give examples to explain their opinions. Instead of saying, “I hate the main character”, they’d say, “I dislike the main character because they didn’t have as many weapon options as I would have liked. If that’s not important to you, you likely won’t be bothered by it”. They give the reader context so that they can form their own opinion.
How to fix it: Remember that your readers might have different preferences than you so it’s important to explain yours. If you like or dislike something be sure to clearly explain why. Use who, what, where, when, why, and how as prompts to help you explain yourself.
8. Pandering to a fanbase
It’s tempting to pander to a fanbase in order to gain respect or readership. However, this can seriously backfire and damage your reputation as a writer. As an example, when a long-awaited game called Cyberpunk 2077 launched in 2020 many reviewers gave it early, unearned praise. When the game was released and proved to be a flop, a lot of people were angry.
How to fix it: Always keep the main goal of your writing in mind. If your goal is to educate and inform your reader, make sure you have all the information needed to write that kind of content. Always choose being honest over trying to impress a fanbase. You’ll win in the long run.
Above all, focus on building trust
If your goal is to build an audience or land a video game writing job, building trust by establishing your credibility is crucial. Get clear on why you’re doing this kind of writing, how you can help people, and what your goals are. Practice these eight tips and in time you’ll become a better, more respected writer.