How 1UP Reviewed Video Games Back In 2008

How 1UP Reviewed Video Games Back In 2008

With the site now little more than fond memories and a dead front page, former Senior Editor Frank Cifaldi has dug up and shared an old copy of 1UP's "Review Crew Handbook".

While armchair commenters on forums and Twitter love to guess about the motives or workings of a video games website behind the scenes, the fact is few people outside the actual employees of a site know how the sausage is actually made. This document gives us a rare look at that, especially for anyone who has an interest in games writing.

And while times have changed since this document was put together when Cifaldi was first given it in 2008 as a freelancer ($US0.45 a word for a freelancer is like something from another millennium), a lot of this stuff still checks out. Especially the tips, which are good tips!

Avoid cliches. Ready-made language weakens writing significantly. A few banned words/terms: gaming goodness; any type of visuals/graphics ("slick visuals," "great graphics," etc.); crisp audio; mixed bag; daily dose; gameplay; water effects; bump mapping; normal mapping; "if you've been living under a rock"; any variation of "Object 1, object 2, and object 3, oh my!"; boasts (inanimate objects do not and should not boast); oozing ("[game title] oozes fun"); however (do not start or end sentences with this, please); "[genre] fans, rejoice!"; anything resembling a recipe ("Add a pinch of Zelda, a sprinkle of StarCraft, and stir in some GTA ...").

Also worth a look are the site's review score guidelines, which actually explain in detail how a game should be scored by the team. The lengths they needed to go to go a long way to explaining why we don't give review scores at all, but in hindsight, 1UP's "A-F" scale was probably the best of a bad bunch in 2008.

We score games using a letter-grade scale (A through F, with +/- tilts to the A-D grades). Please remember that C is the average score. We repeat, C is the average score. We employ our scale to its full extent — take care not to fall into the "7-to-9 scale" trap that many popular magazines and websites tend to advocate.

For many of you this might all be a little too "inside baseball", but if you've ever had an interest in how games are written about or reviewed professionally, this is a good read. As is this similar, more recent guide to news reporting, which Cifaldi put together for another former writing gig at Gamasutra and also shared last week. If you want to write about games, they're very good tips!


    Still kind of miss 1UP, it was a mainstay of my gaming interest/internet habit for a long time. The 1UP Show and 1UP Yours were *brilliant* at the time. Giant Bomb fills a very similar space for me now.

    boasts (inanimate objects do not and should not boast)

    "Boasts" can apply to inanimate objects as well.

    Oh the lament for old games writing.

    Gamespot and IGN during the late 90s/early 00s produced reams of "thinky" stuff about the Video Game and its place in society, but good luck finding any of that nowadays.

    Tragic waste.

    One 'Feature' Gamespot put together was a fascinating 'here's what little kids think of old games' piece. At the time, they were knee-deep in the 3D renaissance but the 2D and 8-bit eras were alien to them.

    But you can't read it today of course because it was nuked off a server by vandals!

    Do any sites use a letter grading scale these days?

    How does one objectively define a cliche? Are they actually cliches or are they just things he thinks are cliches? Would his perspective of what qualified as a cliche have changed if his tastes went in a slightly different direction? Some of these cliches and the reasoning behind them sound arbitrary. He cites language convention as a reason for not writing one thing and then ignores it later on another thing. Consistency would be nice.

    No more 1UP, no more GameTrailers. :'(

    any variation of “Object 1, object 2, and object 3, oh my!”

    Christ how I hate this.

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