Getting Your Game Reviewed: Do These Things, Not Those Things…

3D and UX Design for Games, VR and Animation

Getting Your Game Reviewed: Do These Things, Not Those Things…

May 9, 2012 Uncategorized 5

You’ve busted your butt trying to make the game you need to see made. I’m snowed under a pile of applications with too much to do and too little time to do it in. How do you get me, the Judge/Media/Publisher, to review your game for more than 5 minutes??

Every week I review games to spot friction points where you might lose a player. Right now I’m coaching 8 startup games companies through their IndieCade submissions. I’ve sat with many a games journo who feels rotten about not being able to play everything submitted to him – yet he knows there’s no way he ever could.

These 8 Do’s and Don’ts of getting your game reviewed are for you, for me and for them.

  1. Quick to Launch and Load: I don’t have time to bug fix the install from my end or hunt down drivers that have gone unsupported for the last five years. Package it up neat and tidy, load it on a few different machines, have a total tech newb try to run it without you pointing out what they need to do.
  2. Make it Easy to Play: If it isn’t immediately clear how I start the game, if it doesn’t load or I can’t tell what the hell I’m supposed to do when I start playing – I’ll quit to desktop and move on to the next one. Sorry, I know you worked your ass off trying to get this done, I simply don’t have time to chase you for a version that works.
  3. Bring the Fun to the Front: Don’t ask me to wait for the game to get good. If the experience isn’t engaging within the first few minutes I find it highly unlikely that it’s going to get engaging later (Just going to take this moment, right now, to remind you that the word “foreplay” exists. It is a VERY important word. I’ll leave you to draw the appropriate conclusion as to which analogy I’m trying to illustrate).
  4. Do Apply ALL the Submission Criteria: Want to know what it takes to get us to look at your game for more than 5 minutes? It’s all there, in stunningly clear bullet points, in every FAQ and Submission Criteria page published on news portals, competition websites, etc. That is your checklist. Do those things and you immediately improve your chances of getting your game played.
  5. Take into Account Different Learning Styles: This one’s from John Halter over at the Indie Game Developer Facebook page: “I don’t know how the judges will approach my game, so I’ve been trying to create a variety of resources to make learning the game easier and therefore make that first 5 minutes as productive as they can be. I’ve been working on an in game tutorial, separate txt file (or read me), a wiki, and videos showing how to play the game.”
  6. Don’t Expect Criticism or Feedback: I know you need it but you should be really be getting that from IGDA meetups, your local game design college and from forums where you’ll find the folks who most want to play your kind of game. Why won’t you get criticism and feedback from us? Take a moment, imagine me at 3am after a week of crunch, probably in tears: a) I haven’t communicated with another human being for hours and really want to communicate with my pillow b) do you really want a sleep deprived and overworked me giving you criticism? I’m a short, Italian, alpha female. I get scary when grumpy 😛
  7. Don’t be Absent or Arrogant Online: If I like what I play then I’m immediately going to want to find out more about you. I’ll go through your website, google your name, see what others have to say about you. What I’m trying to answer is: “Who are you? Why are you making games? What are you trying to do?” Share your story, your progress and your goals. We need to get an idea of what you’ll do with this opportunity.
  8. Don’t Depend on Us for Your Success: You have to be able to do this on your own. Give us everything you can through your application and your website to show us the kind of studio you run and answer the question “Can they really pull this off?”. Come across as needy or desperate and you’re communicating to us that you’re not ready to hit the ground running if you do get this opportunity. I don’t want to do that to you.


Got something to add to the list that’s worked for you? Post it in the comments! Even better, check out the contribute page and submit your own how-to article!

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5 Responses

  1. Epona says:

    I reckon you’re wondering where you might find more competitions to submit to right now – here’s three sites that I’ve been checking for competition updates. All still very US and UK centric but a good spread nonetheless:

  2. Noble Kale says:

    Reasonable points – some should be self evident, but it’s still good to have them said rather than ignored.

    Item number 5 is the standout here – it’s a rather reasonable point to state that having different resources to ‘learn’ a game makes it significantly more successful.

    Let’s consider Dwarf Fortress – the game is fun (aka: !!FUN!!), but the interface is absolutely hideous and difficult. If it were not for the wiki, r/dwarffortress, youtube videos….. well, the game would most likely not have succeeded nearly as much. It doesn’t have to pander to expectations (I actually despise in-game tutorials, especially those that are mandatory), but you should make different resources available if needed, certainly.

  3. Morgan says:

    Pretty true, I listen always but only act some times and here is why. Once a game gets to a certain point it has a life of its own, and the difficult part is actually staying focused on your original design. Your original design is probably good if you got there anyway; because you have already worked out the kinks. The biggest way to slow down release is to follow feedback too closely. Feedback like wouldn’t it be cool if, is what I’m talking about. There are many examples of where this can happen. No addition of a new feature or sub feature of game will make it 1000% times better stick to your plan and your core its much better delivering always than not at all.

  4. Alan White says:

    I love item number #5. Its a good point to have a presense online because most likely the judges are noteworthy and imagine having someone noteworthy looking you up without being told to do so.

    hrmm, there seems more to compitions than what I first thought.

  5. This is very useful information, thanks for giving an inside viewpoint for those of us trying to get exposure for our products.

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