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Walking the Critical Path'

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New book offers advice to budding video game journalists
The bookshelves of the world - virtual and real-world alike - are packed with 'how-to' books. There are books out there that will purportedly teach you just about anything that you want to know. However, not all of these books will actually prove helpful. It all boils down to the knowledge and skills possessed by the author.

Which brings us to the new book 'Critical Path: How to Review Video Games for a Living' by Dan Amrich, available at Amazon and assorted outlets. Amrich is one of the most respected game reviewers in the business, having worked in just about every possible capacity in game journalism. From freelancer to executive editor and everything in between, Amrich has done it all.

'For years, the number one question I'd get asked was How do I get your job?'' Amrich said during an interview with The Maine Edge. 'So I started to chip away at a book. During the rise of online gaming information, I was able to do rewrites and keep things current. The advice [I give] is vetted by my ability to build on the experiences I've had.'

One of the things that Amrich makes clear early on is that getting a job like his is far from easy, while keeping it is even more difficult than that. There's a lot more to being a game reviewer than just liking video games. It involves being, wella journalist.

'We live in a constantly evolving world,' said Amrich. 'As long as we have [advances in] technology, people will want to play games with it. Realistic criticism of games can exist; it's a reasoned critique, just like any other art form.'

'Critical Path' is a wonderful blueprint for working your way into the world of video game reviewing. Amrich walks the reader through all the steps, from just dipping your toes into the water as a freelancer to gaining a spot on staff with a publication to earning your way to an editorial position. It's all there.

First and foremost, however, you must be able to write. In the book, Amrich mentions one of his go-to turns of phrase when talking about the business: 'Welcome to the world. Spelling counts.'

'I've used that line for years,' Amrich said. 'And it's only gotten worse with [the advent] of Twitter, instant messaging and texting. It's just reminding people of the fundamentals of writing. You have tools, you use your tools.' He went on to add that, in his opinion, the best game reviewers are writers who play games, rather than gamers who write.

Amrich's reviews have long demonstrated true writing prowess - an ability to strike the proper balance. His conversational tone and humor blend nicely with his professionalism and overall gamer savvy. Happily, 'Critical Path' reads much the same way. He conveys a wealth of information while still being entertaining. The book is rife with clever, subtle jokes and all manner of 'inside baseball' sorts of references. Truly, anyone looking to get their foot in the door as a game reviewer would do well to start right here.

However, while this book is intended to steer burgeoning game reviewers, the fact of the matter is that the lessons found in 'Critical Path' apply to all manner of professional reviewing. Whether you're looking to write about art or film, books or the theater, you will find advice worth heeding here. The specifics are admittedly all video game related, but almost every single tidbit that Amrich offers can be applied to any genre of criticism.

'Critical Path: How to Review Video Games for a Living' is the best kind of guidebook - the kind written by someone who has already scaled the mountain that you hope to climb. Dan Amrich knows plenty about all facets of the business. But perhaps most importantly, he can write and write well.

Anyone out there who dreams of reviewing video games (or reviewing anything, really) professionally should own a copy. Let Dan Amrich help you find your way along the 'Critical Path.'

Last modified on Tuesday, 06 March 2012 11:04


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