Whether or not reviewers actually play games the way they were meant to be played, is one that I’ve been asked by friends on more than one occasion. Before moving any further to answer that question, I think it’s important to clarify that I don’t think that there’s just one right way to play a game. Some think the right way is to clear a weekend and bulldoze through the title in just a sitting or two, while others prefer to gently sip the experience over the course of a few weeks or months. Some believe in digging as deeply into a game as possible by spending time in every area and game mode the title has to offer, while some gamers like to find their favorite niche within the game, and linger there. None of these ways are wrong, and I’ve certainly done it all for one game or another (although while reviewing a game I make an effort to explore as many different ways I can play the game, in order to be able to deliver a complete review). Semantics aside, I think the question here is whether a lot of people believe there’s a different thought process or mindset we reviewers employ when reviewing a game, versus enjoying it for pure entertainment. In truth, it’s a little bit of both.
On a basic level I don’t believe there to be a fundamental difference between reviewers and normal gamers. Before any of us ever reviewed a game we were all just fans that loved and played games for our own personal enjoyment. Otherwise we never would have started writing about them in the first place. However, I think it’d be incorrect to state that we don’t think about a game a little differently while reviewing them. Certainly, at least personally, there is a lot more on my mind when writing a review than when I just throw in a game to kill some time, before a meeting or dinner. It isn’t that I care about things any different. No matter the situation I always care about tight controls, good voice acting, a solid soundtrack, and so forth. The difference is, that while playing on my own accord, I try to not think about them too much and just let them exist and pull me in. And while playing for analysis I need to be constantly thinking about each of these aspects and more, so that I can form a cohesive explanation of my thoughts when the time comes.