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Ten Phrases It Is Now Illegal To Use When Writing About Games

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Because I make the law. Don’t ever forget that.

1. “Overall…”
The big one. There are many variations of this. The most popular would be to have previously written a paragraph detailing a couple of negative points, before claiming that “Overall, though, it’s a game worthy of your attention.” See also “Despite these flaws, however…” and – grounds for immediate execution – “In conclusion…” If you’re writing well, I should be able to tell you’re summing up. You don’t need to shout it in my face.

2. “(no pun intended)”
Aha HA HA HAR, no. This is shamelessly ripped from Maddox, by the way, who rightly states that writing “No pun intended” is basically akin to telling a joke, assuming the listener isn’t clever enough to understand it, so trying to subtly mitigate your explanation of it because you think they’re such an idiot and you pity them. I’d argue it has a second use, as well, which is when the writer wants to point out that he or she is so naturally fucking hilarious that they didn’t even realise they were making a pun! Aha! Ha! Except you obviously did intend it, because if you didn’t, you’d have gone back and erased the bloody pun instead of writing that you didn’t intend to make it. Death will come quickly.

3. “Fans of hardcore simulation games will enjoy this; everyone else should avoid.”
Great! I’m a fan of hardcore simulation games! I mean, I was getting this already, because I’m a fan of hardcore simulation games, but awesome! This review has confirmed that, because I am a fan of hardcore simulation games, I will enjoy this hardcore simulation game!

4. “The graphics are so terrible it looks like a bad PS2/Xbox/Dreamcast game.”
Ah, the old “compare its engine to a game of the last console generation” doozy. This one’s a timeless classic. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this applied in a case where it was actually true. It’s one thing to come down hard on something and make a point with your language. It’s another to just fabricate nonsense out of the ether. Stop it. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in a bad PS2 review.

Actually, while we’re on graphics…

5. “Graphically…”
Not allowed, unless you’re saying something like “Graphically, the cut-scenes show your character dismembering the enemy’s limbs one by one, then dancing around while pouring the still-warm blood onto his tongue.” If you’re using this transition for anything else – for example, saying that you are going to now start talking about the graphics – you need to re-evaluate your purpose on this planet.

6. Ending an interview write-up with a ‘witty’ quote from your interviewee.
Okay, not a specific phrase. And okay, one that I’m guilty of all the time. To the point where I’m going to use one of mine as an example: ‘Worried about taking the plunge on such a surreal game? Carlos Bordeu has some words of encouragement. “Play the trial when it’s out and give it a try – I’m sure you’ll be surprised,” he says. “Where else can you play a game where the antagonist is a huge hermaphrodite creature, eh?”’ OH GOD I’M REALLY SORRY.

7. “The game has X different classes/game types/weapons/whatever.”
Unless you’re making a point about each and every one of them – and unless you’re writing a sort of general overview or a Wikipedia entry – I don’t care. If you are making a point about each and every one of them, you’re now required to have the common decency to work out a way of incorporating the features neatly into the prose, instead of doing this, which will now result in your having five different anuses.

8. “Aesthetically…”
Because, honestly, you mean “graphically,” don’t you? So not only are you breaking Rule 5, you’re also doing so with the aid of a thesaurus. Ever see that Friends episode where Joey signs a letter “Yours sincerely, Baby Kangaroo”? Yeah. Exactly.

9. “The problem is it tries too hard to be clever.”
Pinched from Quinns. Whom I might as well just quote: “A game cannot try too hard to be clever. What you’re saying is that the game somehow purposely devotes itself to being clever, and that’s a statement which tells the reader very little but does carry the obnoxious subtext that you hold no sympathy for people who try to make smart games.”

10. “For gamers, by gamers.”
If your publication’s slogan is any variation of this, no matter how far removed, it will be immediately be fired into the outer reaches of the universe. Because obviously, of course, people who work hard enough to make a living writing about games are clearly not gamers at all! This is doubly bad if you are professional journalists but use the tag anyway, and triply bad if you somehow imply that other publications’ reviews are not “real” enough for you. And that’s without even getting started on that egregiously positioned comma. Ugh.

More, I’m absolutely certain, will follow. What are your bugbears, people?


6 responses »

  1. “For what it is”

    Yes, for a smugly insipid action game that provides nothing more than the opportunity to waste twelve precious hours of life while you dispatch lobotomized goons in warehouses full of crates, I guess this game is pretty damned good! All its flaws have now been washed away by a sudden downpour of tautological generosity!

  2. Brilliant. 10 is something that bothers me everytime I see it plastered on a site header. Who else is going to be writing this stuff?

  3. Oh gosh, I’m pretty guilty of using number one quite often. Sometimes I get lazy and just wrap it up poorly, but other times, I just don’t know what to say. I’ll try harder next time, I promise!

    I agree with number two, ‘no pun intended’. Saying that just kills the joke. If I see a pun without any indication that there was a pun, I’d probably give an, ‘..oh, haha.’ But the author happens to mention his little joke, my reaction would be more ‘..oh.. ha. ha. *rolls eyes*’

    Nice article

  4. I agree with all of the above, though I have seen reviews with “this game has X classes,” and simply goes on to state this is a nice variety and why. However, if they don’t actually delve into it even slightly, it does sound a little like they’ve simply deleted the bullet point from in front of that bastard sentence, and stuck it in willy-nilly.

  5. Pingback: ShoNTell #22: Gaming Doesn’t Get Tougher Than This! « You Have Lost!

  6. Also, people that divide reviews blatantly into graphics/sound/gameplay/overall sections should be shot. They should be shot twice if they actually use graphics/sound/gameplay/overall as section headers.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t mention all of those, but dividing your review into “Graphically…”, “The sound is…”, “The game controls…”, and “Overall…” is just so juvenile and thoughtless.


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