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    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    Deadlines & How Long Reviewers Spend Playing Games – The Truth

    The RAM Raider spotted a discussion on a fansite writers' forum recently about deadlines. The comment “I think 2 days is a bit short notice” particularly caught my attention. After all, we’re talking about an unpaid writer coming up with shit about a game, for free, that nobody will read.

    These people have no idea. As a professional games journalist, two days is a bloody luxury. The RAM Raider has often been landed with reviews from magazines with a day to turn around up to 1000 words, plus screenshots, plus captions, plus boxouts. The record has to be 22 hours from one of the major PC mags – that’s to play a game, and write up the review plus bullshit extras.

    Remember the Headhunter: Redemption debacle, where that poor guy from Official Xbox Magazine had his name dragged through the mud by the game’s developers who revealed on the magazine’s forums (which were naturally deleted by Future, but there’s
    more here) that he’d simply regurgitated facts about the game from an old press release, revealing that he hadn’t played it properly? Despite Future’s desperate attempts to deny the accusations, the RAM Raider has learned from one his colleagues on the mag that he actually had barely played the game at all, as he was completely snowed under with a load of games and not enough time to review them.

    How much time is spent playing a game for a review isn’t always down to the deadline though. As a general rule, the less space a review takes up, the less time the reviewer will spend on it. If it’s half a page in a magazine, the reviewer can expect £40-50 at the most, and less than half of that for a quarter of a page. For that kind of money, it’s just not worth spending hours on a game, so more often than not, a review will be knocked out after a couple hours of play at best.

    So, the next time you’re reading a review section introduction with the lofty promise of a magazine’s reviewers playing games right through to the finish, you can now confidently think to yourself, “bollocks”. Yes, dear reader, quite often the review of a game you’ll be thinking of spending £40 on in a magazine that cost you a fiver will have been cobbled together by some poor/lazy guy who’s played it for a couple of hours.

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