Features and articles by game critic Erik Twice. Discover the secrets of games, the people who make them and the community around them.

What’s a review embargo?

If you have been following game reviews for a while, you might have noticed they all tend to release at the same exact time. Moreover, you might have heard this is due to a “review embargo” that prevents critics from talking about a game before a certain date.

In this article I’ll explain what those review embargos are and how they work.

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When does a boardgame become a videogame? Take the test

I firmly believe that videogames and boardgames are two different techniques within the same artistic medium. However, many do not agree and see them as being essentially different but with some overlap.

I’ve created a test to explore that overlap. In it, I showcase 30 games to be ranked in a scale from boardgame to videogame. No wrong answers, just questions to challenge our views of games. How different are they? What separates a boardgame from a videogame?

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The ugliest move I’ve ever made in a game

I’m no stranger to mean-spirited games. The Republic of Rome sits proud on my shelf, bringing back memories of triumvirates and last-moment bribery. I love Dune and Cosmic Encounter but would not miss the chance to play a robber baron in 1830. And I’ve enjoyed my single play of Diplomacy, which should automatically label me as terrible people.

And yet, when I sat down to play to play Power Grid today, I did not expect it to turn so ugly.

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Often, games must be difficult

With the release of Sekiro we have been having the same old conversation about difficult games. Difficulty in games is a form of gatekeeping, they say. An unnecessary quirk of game design which ought to be abandoned. Difficult games are disrespectful, even, and good developers would add an easy mode.

And I disagree. I don’t believe some games being difficult is disrespectful, elitist or wrong but simply necessary.

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Do critics enjoy negative criticism?

It’s often said that critics enjoy writing negative reviews. At least, it’s a common stereotype of critics in media, which are often depicted as tearing up the protagonist’s work and enjoying every minute of it.

Of course, that’s a clear exaggeration. But still many people believe that critics have a particular liking for giving bad reviews or dishing out a rhetorical beating, perhaps because they are incapable of creating themselves or because they feel superior to the creators whose work they are reviewing. And I think that’s a belief worth discussing.

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