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May 28, 2012

Book Review - Critical Path by Dan Amrich

Those of you know me well, or even just a little bit, probably know that I'm a big video game fan. So it should come as no surprise to you that I jumped at the chance to read a book on video game reviewing. Especially a book by that game reviewing legend, Dan Amrich.

I first came to know Dan from the Official Xbox Magazine podcast and then saw some of his reviews in the magazine. I followed him when he went to Activision to become their social media manager (or whatever the official title is) and now religiously listen to his One of Swords podcast about Activision games and gaming (though it is so much more than that).

Anyway, he has been working on a book about game reviewing for a long while, and he's finally self-published it. Dubbed Critical Path (a brilliant name, if I do say so), it gives the reader all of the ins and outs on becoming a game reviewer. Some may not know this, but I did, for a short while, entertain the idea of becoming a game reviewer. I even started my own game review blog (which I haven't posted to in over a year). If I had read this book first, I wouldn't have bothered entertaining that dream, because I know I wouldn't have the dedication and energy required in order to do so. It was a casual flirtation, so it's good that it died there.

The reason for that is that Dan pulls no punches. He doesn't discourage readers from trying to become game reviewers. But he does tell you exactly what it entails, with no sugar-coating whatsoever.

My review of the book has gone up on Curled Up With a Good Book.

From the review:
"Critical Path covers everything you're going to need in order to get your dream job of reviewing video games. He even mentions things that you might not think of but which are very important to keep in mind, such as having a bit of empathy for the game's creators who have spent many long months, if not years, putting together this game that you're getting ready to trash with a horrible review. He suggests trying your own hand at developing something, even if it's something simple, just so you get the feeling of what it's like.

The book covers a steady career path from getting your work noticed to becoming a freelancer to finally getting your dream job working at a gaming magazine or web site. He also shatters many illusions that young people who want to do this job probably have. You're not going to get rich doing this, and it's not just going into the office at 9am, picking up a controller and playing games all day, then going home at 5pm. It's actual work. Amrich pulls no punches in his description of just what this job entails and how hard it is to do when you go into it with blinders on. It's not discouraging in any way. He just wants to make sure you're going into it knowing the truth. He even addresses issues like dressing professionally and developing the social skills that you're going to need for interacting with people in the business. Again, it's not just hiding out and playing games all day by yourself."
It truly is a wonderful book, despite the minor issues I point out in the review (and Dan has rightly commented to me, and I've asked the editor to update the review, that the screenshots actually do come out very well if you have a Kindle Fire or something like that to read the book on. I was reading on a basic Kindle, and they were totally worthless on that platform).

Reading the book just reinforces the fact that I'd love to sit at a convention (maybe it would have been Pax, but those tickets sadly sold out almost overnight *sniff*) with Dan and have a beer, just talking video games.

If you have any love for video games whatsoever, go read this book!


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