Game Designer vs Game Reviewer Pt 1 – The Pros

So for today’s blog piece, I want to touch on a notion that’s been tickling at the back of my brain box ever since I made the decision to put pen to cardboard and design my own board and card games; is it OK to be a Game designer AND a Game reviewer?

Before I started out as a designer I wrote reviews for games for Geek Pride UK, a website devoted to geeky pursuits in general. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to stretch my writing muscles and dissect some of the games in my collection, to see how they ticked.

But now, I’m concerned about the implications these two facets of the table-top gaming industry have when mixed. So I reached out to the good people of the Internet to get the general consensus of how designing and reviewing can interact when done together by the same person. The response was fantastic, so much so that the information and insight I gained would be too much for a single blog post (I don’t like to be too wordy!). So for today’s piece, I thought I’d focus on the pros of being both a designer and reviewer, with cons coming next week. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

  • A designer (usually) has good analysis skills as part of figuring out what works in their own games, therefore this should translate into the same dissection of other designers’ games. A designer should have an easier time ‘looking under the hood’ of games and therefore make a better explanation for why mechanics are in a game and whether they fit or not. This in turn helps readers to determine if a game is for them if they have certain preferences for game types or mechanics.
  • Good, solid, well-received reviews provide credibility to a designer’s reputation. A designer who shows they have the objectivity to give honest opinions of what they regard as good and bad will find they start to generate a following. This can build over time, and in turn be the first step in creating the buzz many designers need to get their projects noticed, by publishers and general gamers. Our industry is a small one, so any traction, any kind of a splash is more likely to get the attention a designer may be seeking. A more mercenary pro of review writing, but an important one.
  • A designer’s opinion is just as important as any others, and should be treated as a separate entity to the designer’s prospects or endeavours. Not really a pro but more of a validation of what a designer produces in a review. Their views, if given with no agenda or prejudice, should not be held against them or seen as a personal attack on a designer or publisher. ‘Everyone’s a critic’ holds true in this situation, and a designer should not be made to feel they can’t give their opinion on the off chance it is misconstrued or perceived to be self-serving.

So do any of these points ring true for you? Do you think a designer can be truly objective in their reviews? Are there any other benefits I haven’t considered in my list above? As always, we’d love to hear from you!


  • Chris Renshall

    For me, designers make for great reviewers because they can cut through most, if not all, the fluff and tell me what I really want to know. What is the game play like? I think a designer offer interesting prespective because they have probably played other designer’s games and tested their own games. This puts designers in a unique position to know the true value of “pure feedback” and are used to giving the same kind of feedback to other designers. If a designer takes that approach to the way they review published games, I think that makes for a better review.

    • Bevan

      Hi Chris, thanks for the feedback!
      This is exactly what you’d hope for from a designer doing their reviews, so long as this breakdown of mechanics and theme doesn’t become too onerous.

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