I Am Games: The Reviewer’s Life

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

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Baten Kaitos Storybook - I Am Games: The Reviewer's Life

I’ve always played video games, for as long as I can remember. My perspective changed completely, though, at the beginning of 2013, when I officially became a contributing writer here at oprainfall. I talked about how that got started in my last I Am Games article, so let’s pick up where we left off.

Destinia Title - I Am Games: The Reviewer's Life

Ah, the first game I ever reviewed. The memories.

That January, I began writing news articles feverishly, in an effort to show that I was everything I’d promised to be. My first review came somewhere in the midst of that, and although I signed up specifically to review Android games, it was the only mobile title I ever covered.

I wrote up an editorial in March, applying my most recent understanding of story to the video game world. It was something like a compare and contrast essay between storytelling as I knew it from other media and the way it’s used in games. While I’d now argue that my take on the subject was a bit immature and simplistic, it definitely marked a major bit of progress in my time here. It was one of the first times that I felt that I was writing freely as myself. I made it known that I was a writer, and that I cared about story.

Tales of Symphonia Stream 5 - I Am Games: The Reviewer's Life

Games were played. Shenanigans were had.

Moving along past my contribution to our April Fools’ segment that year, I continued working hard at more staple news and reviews, including covering quite a bit for E3 of 2013. On a more personal note, though, I finally found what I felt was my “thing” within the site: the Tales of Symphonia playthrough stream.

Tales of Symphonia had always been my favorite game of all time, with its complex, interweaving story. Over the course of about the next year, my friends and I played through the entire game on the Twitch stream, just a few hours at a time every other weekend. I continued reviewing games in between these sessions, including both Tales of Symphonia itself and its Chronicles remaster for the PlayStation 3.

Tales of Symphonia Title Screen - I Am Games: The Reviewer's Life

We all ended up looking at this title screen a lot.

That era taught me a lot about what it takes to have a great game. By writing lots of reviews, sometimes on very similar games or sequels, I was forced to not only decide if I liked a game, but also articulate exactly what I liked about it. Conversely, because our reviews are scored in the end, I could no longer just observe a particular part of a game without deciding whether it was actually good or not. Before long, I found that my brain had been rewired to evaluate everything about the games I play, even if they’re supposed to be just for fun.

Meanwhile, the Tales of Symphonia stream—and the series of other game streams that followed for several months afterward—made me conscious of these things not only from my own perspective, but also for both my friends and the viewers. I even came to acknowledge the flaws in my favorite game as I watched everyone get thoroughly sick of playing it.

Kirby Air Ride - I Am Games: The Reviewer's Life

The spark that started it all.

By the beginning of 2014, I felt ambitious and confident enough to be sure that all my newly-gathered knowledge could come together to make a great game. My first encounter with the Unity engine backed that up, and, inspired by the continued popularity of Kirby Air Ride with my friends, I began prototyping a little game I called Project WEAPON.

Thus, rapidly training myself in coding and reaching out for resources to help me bring my idea alive, I took my first step on the path to becoming a game developer. Of course, the journey wasn’t complete just yet. I had some tough learning to do. But I’m not here to talk about Project WEAPON. I’ll cover the important lessons that came out of that next time.

About Phil Schipper

Phil N. Schipper joined the Operation Rainfall staff to review Android games, but soon fell in love with writing news articles and Games of the Past. His dream is to make a living writing sci-fi and fantasy novels, which is why he leads the Obscure Authors Alliance in his free time. Still, even in his stories, which usually involve insane people, video games are one of his strongest influences. He describes himself as "a Mr. Nice Guy with a horrible, horrible dark side."