Trying to come up with the perfect headline can drive even the most gifted auteur to the brink of madness. In just a few short words, you have to convey the subject, tone, and opinion of the article, while being accurate enough to not mislead readers, yet sexy enough to make them want to read it in the first place. If you're anything like me, you also have to constantly fight a competing goal: to make the punniest joke headline you can possibly stomach.
Review headlines are the most fertile ground for joke headlines, and our reviews editor Joe Juba does an admirable job as G.I.'s watcher on the walls, bravely fending off the bad ones for the sake of our readers. However, every now and then a headline accomplishes all of the above – it's informative, accurate, clickable, AND contains a groan-worthy joke, at which point Joe has no option but to approve it for print. Few brave editors pursue this wicked brew of punny perfection, but just like my efforts to aid amateurs with my Professional Gamer insight, I consider it my duty to keep on trying.
As such, I've put together a master class for coming up with awesome headlines, yet another service I've offered before to great acclaim. For each entry I'll be looking at one of my fellow coworkers' review headlines, offering a much-improved headline of my own, and then – most crucially – explaining why mine is awesome and theirs sucks. While this exercise is geared mostly toward writers, the sheer wisdom on display should enrich the lives of anyone who reads it. Enjoy, and as always, YOU'RE WELCOME.
Actual Headline: Large-Scale Warfare At Its Finest
Awesome Headline: World War FUN
Bertz's review headline for Battlefield 1 makes it clear that DICE has successfully returned to its roots of competitive FPS matches featuring big player counts. That's pretty good – but it's not as simple or as bold as "World War FUN," which plays off the global conflict the game is centered on while simultaneously letting readers know how much they're going to enjoy it. Some may scoff at making a pun about a horribly brutal war that killed millions of people – but if that's the case, they probably shouldn't have made a freaking video game about either!
Actual Headline: Somewhere Beyond The Stars
Awesome Headline: Eat, Prey, Love
"Somewhere Beyond The Stars" appears to be the title of a song by Gandalf's Fist, which I can only assume is some millennial hipster band that Javy really likes. However, it doesn't really tell you much, other than the fact that the game is set in space (uh, DUH). In contrast, my headline riffs off of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir, which is like a billion times more popular and will surely resonate with hardcore gamers. It also tells you that you'll love the game – and that you eat food in it. That's not exactly a huge detail, but it's informative nonetheless.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Actual Headline: Adapting To Harsh Frontiers
Awesome Headline: It'sTinder For Alien Pervs
Leave it to our reviews editor to come up with a pretty clever headline, which alludes to not only the challenges that NotShepard faces in the game, but also the challenges that BioWare faces in continuing the series and transitioning to an open-world format. That's good, but it tells you nothing about what Mass Effect fans REALLY want to know – how many aliens can you bang? Like a horny Salarian, "Tinder For Alien Pervs" lays it all out there, and could be read as a positive or a negative depending on your proclivities, so no one will disagree with it.
Snipperclips – Cut It Out, Together
Actual Headline: A Nice Slice
Awesome Headline: Walk To The EShop And Buy This Game Right Now!
It shocks me to say this, but Shea's review headline isn't awful! "A Nice Slice" conveys that Snipperclips is a short but fun experience, and even plays off the gameplay mechanic of trimming your characters. I opted for a more straightforward approach, informing readers that they should buy the game immediately, but while still promoting safe behavior – because we all know you can't run with scissors. Shea's headline might convey that the game is good, but mine could potentially prevent you from losing an eye! I think we all know who wins that match-up…
Super Bomberman R
Actual Headline: Falling Well Short Of Super
Awesome Headline: It's A Super Bummer, Man. RRRReally.
Ahh, now this is closer to what I expect from Shea: profound disappointment. Sure, he figured out that he could riff off of the game's name – but he only included one word. My headline, on the other hand, includes THE ENTIRE TITLE, while capturing how bad the game is. Granted the "R" was a bit tricky, but I think I nailed it.
Actual Headline: Taking The High Road
Awesome Headline: Well Owlboy Damned – This Game Is Fun!
"Taking The High Road?" Someone was high when they wrote that headline, alright – Suriel. I guess it sort of conveys that Owlboy is a quality game, and alludes to protagonist's ability to fly. But no one will give a hoot about any of that when they see my masterful headline, which conveys the ecstatic surprise of discovering and indie gem. "This Game Is Fun!" acts as an added reinforcement for the dummies who are too dumb to figure out the wordplay.
Actual Headline:Of Gods, Monsters, And Precious Loot
Awesome Headline: The Real…Injustice…Would Be Not Playing It – Yeaaaaahhhh!!!!
Reiner's play off of the Justice League's Gods and Monsters series embraces the epic, good-versus-evil showdowns that Injustice 2 serves up, while also calling out the addition of collectible loot. All good stuff – but not "CSI: Miami opening stinger" good. To really sell my alternate headline, I'd also replace the review's header image with a shot of David Caruso putting on his sunglasses, which is worthy of a 9 out of 10 in its own right.
Actual Headline: Shooting For The Moon
Awesome Headline: More Like Fartpoint
Bertz's headline captures Farpoint's setting, main gameplay mechanic, and the uphill battle that developers face when trying to make a quality VR game. However, based on the lackluster review score, Farpoint turned out like all the other VR games that came before it. Hence the "More Like Fartpoint" headline, which is a lot more straightforward.
Actual Headline:Campy Horror Crippled By Technical Shortcomings
Awesome Headline: More Like Wilson's Fart
Coincidentally, this headline approach works for every VR game.
Rock Band VR
Actual Headline: Falling A Little Flat
Awesome Headline: More Like Rock Fart
Okay, maybe not every VR game. But the sentiment still rings true!
Coming Up Next: The quest for the perfect review headline gets more extreme…