The following reviews should be used when writing any reviews.
Grading the game’s use of graphics, including both aesthetics (theories of beauty, choice of color, contrast, support of authorial intent and expression, presentation and interpretation) and architecture (camera controls, brightness/contrast, visual legibility, presence of visual glitches, UI/UX design). Priority should be given to considering those visual components which promote or prevent player interaction with the subject’s world.
Grading the game’s use of sound, including music (score, composition, use of harmony and dissonance, use of leitmotif and themes, performance), sound design (ambiance, use of silence, sound effects), and vocal performances, if any. Since appreciation of music varies between individuals, the emphasis of the criticism should be placed on what the music is communicating, and whether the sound design overall matches with the intention of the creator(s) and with the general tone of the game.
Grading the game’s gameplay, a word which encapsulates the interactive aspects of the game, including control schemes, demands, player agency, menus, UI, loops, goals, processes, systems, structure, architecture, and composition. Think of gameplay as considering the basic elements of the game: its fundamental pieces, its electrons and molecules, its placement of oil on canvas. As such, gameplay is a broader category which can take into consideration things like difficulty, accessibility, or replay value.
Grading the game’s storytelling capabilities, this category most closely resembles literary criticism. This category should consider cultural, social, and genre context, ludonarrative dissonance, clarity and interpretation, the adherence to the rules of grammar, and considering the various literary elements of action, pacing, character development, conflict, dialogue, mood, plotting, POV, setting, style, tone, as well as uses of cliché or stock characters and ideas.
Grading the game’s thematic ideas involves consideration of the presentation, development, and conclusions of its themes and messages. Thematic criticism is communication criticism (if communication skills can be taught, communication can be critiqued). Note the danger of critiquing a game’s themes based on the critic’s own agreement or disagreement with those themes; that is outside of the consideration of the presentation and “performance” of the themes in question.
Grading the game’s multiplayer involves examining how well it supports cooperative or competitive play between two or more human (non-AI controlled) individuals. Not all games feature multiplayer modes but those that do make themselves open to evaluation of systems which encourage or discourage co-op or competitive play.
Online Play (if applicable)
Grading the game’s online play includes examining its systems and modes that involve internet connectivity, stability, infrastructure, matching, communication between systems and players. This category prioritizes functionality and access.
Grading the game’s accessibility takes two things into consideration: both ease of access for rules (does the game teach the player how to play it well?) and ease of access for equality (does the game include additional features for accessibility for the disabled, color-blind, very young, etc.). Consideration goes to efficient use of tutorials, avoidance of over-tutorializing, conciseness of rules, control mapping, complexity, difficulty, etc.
Grading the game’s difficulty or challenge involves more than just describing how hard or how easy a game is to play with higher scores being given to more difficult. Rather, grading difficulty evaluates how well a game implements difficulty or ease by taking into consideration difficulty curves, player agency, loses attributable to player mistakes, and gameplay elements which provoke statements from the player such as “fair” or “unfair”.
Grading the game’s replayability, that is replay value, includes consideration of multiple modes of play, multiple difficulties, multiple endings, multiple rounds with varied outcomes, and multiple inter-related in-game systems such as collectathons or side quests. Fairly straightforward, describing a game’s replayability counts up the features of the subject that bring the player back to it.
Grading the game’s uniqueness aims to represent the subject’s sense of innovation. Context is vital here. Individual gameplay features can be traced back to their first appearances and new ideas rather than old are cherished by this category, which highlights the development and evolution of gaming as an art form.