Video game websites are a dime a dozen. There are no shortage of places to go to find the latest news, videos, and reviews from the industry. The problem is quantity doesn’t always mean quality. As a result, it can be difficult for a writer to distinguish themselves among the masses. Video Game Review Headquarters is here to help out.
Rather than focus on posting news and previews and all the other typical content hundreds of other sites are posting, VGRHQ’s mission is to recognize the critics who are constantly putting out quality content.
PS4 Attitude had the opportunity to talk with Ben, VGRHQ’s co-founder, to discuss the site and what it is they’re doing.
Don’t let their name fool you. Video Game Review Headquarters is not just another Metacritic type site that compiles a listing of game reviews. “VGRHQ takes the next step: We select the the very best reviews,” Ben told us. “Going to places like Metacritic and GameRankings will get you an overall average score, but it’s based on a large sampling, and sometimes that sampling includes mediocre/amateurish reviews. There’s a very large gap between those who simply throw their opinions on a blog and professional critics, despite what many gamers want to believe.”
VGRHQ doesn’t just draw from the most popular publications like IGN and GameSpot, either. Their main goal is to highlight the diamonds in the rough; those critics who work hard, oftentimes for little pay or recognition.
“We aim to find our industry’s Roger Ebert. Or rather, multiple Eberts.”
In their search, Ben says VGRHQ is sticking to two criteria; writing ability and personality.
“As the industry is still young, and we’ve still got a lot of critics who aren’t particularly strong writers (they’re gamers first, journalists second), we’re looking for reviewers who produce tight, professional, engaging copy. This is a skill that seems to be lagging right now and whenever we sense that lagging, we’ll try to promote it on our site. People need to remember that critics in this industry don’t just review games; the vast majority are general journalists as well, so they need to know how to write.”
“Personality is another important one, because with so many critics out there, you have to differentiate yourself. What are you doing to stand out? A reader often gravitates towards a unique persona or style; this is what will keep gamers coming back to check out future reviews. We love critics who have an original, charismatic approach.”
These critics ultimately end up on the front page of the website under the Staff Picks section. VGRHQ then gives the rundown of the highlights of their review, explaining why it’s great and hopefully informing the reader of the critic’s strengths. That’s it.
“We wanted to keep it simple,” Ben explains. “We never wanted it to come across as critics critiquing other critics; rather, we just wanted to point out the highlights of our honored review. Consumers are already reading multiple – and often lengthy – reviews, so we don’t want to take up too much of their time. Ideally, we want this approach to highlight the critic, not just the source, so gamers can start to appreciate the work involved.”
VGRHQ’s staff consists of former and current video game journalists and critics with a combined experience of 77 years, 42 industry events attended, 11 different websites, and 3 different newspapers, according to their site. These people clearly know what they’re talking about. They’re also here to help.
One of VGRHQ’s hopes is that the site will act as a guide for up-and-coming critics. “As our staff consists of long-time veterans of the industry, and we’ve been involved in other print and digital industries as well, we know what constitutes a good review,” Ben says. “That’s also why we offer our completely free “Be A Critic” program to anyone who’s interested.”
The “Be A Critic” program allows anyone from the community to reach out to VGRHQ and get their honest feedback and pointers about their writing. They’ll even publish quality content in their Community Corner section of the website if you need an outlet. It all comes back around to VGRHQ’s goal of recognizing quality critics and the work they do.
The video game industry can be very cutthroat at times and the negativity surrounding critics and reviews in general tends to be louder than the rest, so it’s nice to see something positive like for a change. Ben sees that response a lot, he says.
“Many critics are really surprised. They respond with something along the lines of, “wow, we didn’t know anyone actually cared.” The problem is that, as you say, reviewers get nothing but flak for doing their job, and that’s wrong. The blatantly false assumptions that critics are getting paid lots of money, that they’re “in bed with publishers,” that they have personal agendas; all of that is outdated conspiracy theory garbage. It’s not how it works, and it’s about time the gaming public had a better understanding of the not-so-glamorous world of video game criticism.”
As for what the future of VGRHQ holds, Ben and the rest of the team have high aspirations. In addition to “highlighting the best talent in our industry” they’d also like to get the developer’s and publisher’s perspectives of game reviewing and its impact on development.
“This industry relies so heavily on reviews (there’s a reason why publishers often give designers bonuses for achieving a certain Metascore) and it’s so critical in so many ways, so it’s always worth discussing.”
As the site grows they’re hoping that a mention from VGRHQ will really mean something and, like an award, will be worth putting on a resume.
“We’d ultimately like to become like the Oscars for movies; we’d like to become a governing body that specifically rewards our best journalists for their accomplishments. It’s long past time that critics were given a chance to step into the limelight, but they still have to earn that limelight.”