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Industry Insights: From The Industry Side

A Note About Creating a Good Promotional Campaign

by Paul Franklin
December 22, 1998

 

So You Want To Do Reviews for RPG.net?

This column is intended for people doing their first review for RPG.net and the old-timers. The goal of this column is to help you produce the best reviews that you can and reviews that other people want to read.

 

So, how do you write a good review? Well, of course everyone has their own style, below are a few guidelines to help you along.

 

1) Know your material. If you are going to review a game book or supplement, make sure to read most of it. This does not require you to read each and every single word, but you should have a good knowledge of the product beforehand. If you are unfamiliar with the game system, make a character, play out a few combats, and maybe even write up a quick choose-your-own adventure style adventure to see how it plays. The essential thing here is to give the readers the idea that you are familiar with the product and are qualified to review it.

 

2) Make an outline. Why should I do an outline for a review? Yes, I simply write down an idea for all the major points that I want to touch upon in the review. Go back over your ideas when you are done and fill in the blanks. Using the ideas as the starting sentence, I usually build upon the thoughts that I had about that particular part of the game.

 

3) Make a list of good points (if there are any, they can't all be golden) and bad points (we all have one of these sitting on our shelves). Don't be afraid to come out and say that a product is poorly written or poorly illustrated. As a reviewer, it is your job to tell people about this product and based on what you say, a person may or may not choose to buy this product. However, try to balance the good and the bad so that your review is not a single harsh criticism of someone's product or an overly gushy worship of the product's creator.

 

4) Cover the entire product. When you write your review, try to cover as much of the product as possible, while at the same time keeping the review to a reasonable size. Most people do this by "mini-reviewing" each chapter, which is an excellent way to describe the game. Some games are so large as to be prohibitive to review in a few pages. With items like these, pick out the high points, and the low points, and condense to a reasonable size. Be sure to mention points that you thought were important.

 

5) Write your review before you go online to post it. Use a plain old text editor or whatever works best for you, spell check it, grammar check it, and have someone else read it before you post it. I cannot stress this one enough. Nothing looks worse than a review that has barely comprehensible grammar combined with bad spelling. This is one of the easiest parts to accomplish in writing a review and should take relatively little time.

 

6) Be patient. Sometimes reviews are skipped for a week (sorry Sandy, I can get a bit grumpy sometimes) or things happen. One way to check if your review has made it to the database is to look up all the reviews with your name with the database search engine.

 

7) Watch the Reviewers Page on RPG.net. Sandy regularly gets items for review and sends them out to reviewers so that they can evaluate them for RPG.net. If you feel you are up to the challenge, step up to the plate and swing away.

 

8) Watch the offers start pouring in. Actually, I am kidding. This stuff takes time, and certainly don't quit your day job to become a reviewer for RPG.net. The gaming industry is in a state of flux right now and people are moving out of the industry into real jobs all the time. Maybe, just maybe, your review will be noticed and someone may contact you, asking you to review a sample of their product for RPG.net.

 

Well, those are my tips on how to write a review, and now on to some other helpful advice about doing reviews.

 

Q: What should I review?

A: Games, and gaming related items. That includes rulebooks, supplements, boardgames, some computer games, wargames, table-top games, card games, and last of all miscellaneous. The key to reviewing an item is thinking whether or not other gamers would want to know about this. A review of your sisters diary from 1996 would probably be out of place, but a review the newest board game from Germany would be right in there.

 

Q: Will I get paid for doing a review?

A: No.

 

Q: Do I have to pay for the products I review?

A: Unless you receive items from RPG.net's slim collection of donated items, yes.

 

Q: Why are there so many positive reviews, and not as many negative reviews?

A: Since RPG.net is a volunteer review board, the books that the reviewers pick up will be the ones that they want. Rarely do I purchase a book I know I won't like.

 

Q: Should I review products that are out of print?

A: Yes. With the advent of the Internet getting out of print items is getting easier and easier. A review of a product that is a few years old is helpful to people who are purchasing out of print items.

 

Well, that's about it. This isn't a glamorous industry and name recognition is something almost unheard of among gamers. Someday though you can gather your gaming group around and tell them how you published your first big game, and it all started by doing reviews on RPG.net!

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What do you think?

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All Industry Insights

  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews China Mieville, April 24, 2002
  • lizard's Condensation of All Game Fiction, April 18, 2002
  • Sandy's "God or Whore?" GTS'02, March 26, 2002
  • Allan Sugarbaker with GAMA Trade Show '02: An Inside Report, March 22, 2002
  • Aldo of Impressions on the GamePlay CD, January 3, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Ken Hite, February 8, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Tim Powers, January 18, 2002
  • Aldo Ghoizzi on Inside the Making of GamePlay, January 3, 2002
  • The RPGnet Awards Cabal presents the RPGnet 2001 Awards Results!, December 5, 2001
  • Ken Whitman teaches us with A Note About Creating a Good Promotional Campaign, October 12, 2001
  • Sean Jaffe on The Fallout, September 27, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • Sean Jaffe on Interesting Times, September 21, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • GodLike: Dennis Detwiler and Greg Stolze, September 14, 2001
  • Jared Nielsen on Tribe Gamer, August 31, 2001
  • Mark Bruno teaches about Copy Editing, August 16, 2001
  • Ratings not just kid's stuff for RPG industry, reported by Matt Snyder, August 9, 2001
  • GenCon '01 News, reported by Matt Snyder, August 3, 2001
  • Origins Report: Would you send your mother to buy from them?, part 4 of 4
  • Origins Report: Booth Babes, part 3 of 4
  • Origins Report: Overview, part 2 of 4
  • The Origins Awards, part 1 of 4, reported by Jason Paul McCartan
  • Gary Gygax Interview, part 1 of 3, by Scott Lynch
  • Why I Write Gaming Materials by Greg Stolze, November 16, 1999
  • Blowing out the Nostalgia Candle by John Wick, October 19, 1999
  • Interview with Sean Pat Fannon, Shards October 5, 1999
  • Portuguese is not Spanish! by Thad Blanchette, September 14, 1999
  • Intuition and Surprise by M. J. Young, July 27, 1999
  • Fear and Loathing in the Wizards of the Coast Game Center by John Tynes, January 26, 1999
  • Breaking In,, on how to break into writing for RPGs, by Steve Kenson, December 22, 1998
  • ALT.RPG, first of a series looking deeply at what gaming is all about, by Matt Miller, September 1, 1998
  • The Night They Tore Old Mecca Down, GenCon report by Randy Porter, August 20, 1998
  • GenCon Fun: con, city, and even housing tips from Randy Porter, June 30, 1998
  • GenCon Lore Vol 3: Program Books, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 23, 1998
  • The Missing and the Dead, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 2, 1998
  • The Definitive Count on who is and isn't attending GenCon 98, by Randy Porter, April 28, 1998
  • How to Scam Games Part II by Steve Johnson, March 24, 1998
  • The Perils of Penniless Publishing by Aaron Rosenberg, February 3, 1998
  • Polyhedral Dice & Mirror Shades, by Greg Costikyan (or, the death of paper).
  • Ken Whitman: A Love Hate Relationship by (of course) Ken Whitman
  • Interview with Sean Punch, GURPS line editor, by Bob Portnell, October 1997
  • YOU DID WHAT? Perspectives On Becoming A Full-Time Writer In The RPG Industry, by Steven Long, September 1997
  • A Resurgence of Role Playing, by Gary Gygax, August 1997

    Other columns at RPGnet

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