Tom Chick

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About Tom Chick

My first paid review was for US Navy Fighters in 1994. It was a flight sim. Things have changed a lot. Flight sims are as rare as paid reviews. Actually, that's not quite true, because I played a flight sim in 2017 (IL-2 Sturmovik, while testing VR support).  But I haven't written a paid review -- or any kind of article -- since around 2010 (UPDATE: I was paid to write this!). In the years since then, I tried to make a living running a site called Quarter to Three. That didn't really work.  The site was losing 80% of its income to ad blockers. So it's now an ad-free site with no means for income.  If you enjoy the site, and if you appreciate what I do, I hope you'll consider supporting me here.

So what are you getting if you contribute to this campaign?  A few things, including supporting the community at Quarter to Three, my podcasting, streaming, and occasional videos.  But my own priority is on written reviews.  Not the usual reviews. As you may know if you've read stuff I've written, I feel very strongly about what a review should and shouldn't be.  So if you'll bear with me, I'm about to hold forth at length.  Ahem.  Here goes...

A review is a carefully articulated expression of a person's experience with a piece of entertainment. Preferably by someone who knows the medium well. In my case, that's mostly videogames. And preferably by someone who uses his own medium well. In my case, that's mostly writing.

Sorry for the boldface up there, but that's 99% of it. At this point, I hope you get a sense for whether my writing is worth your support. But if you want to know more, well, get comfortable. I've got a lot more to say!

My reviews are not recommendations and they aren't intended to be a measure of quality. They are snapshots in time of my experience with something. There is a date and a byline at the top of every review for a reason. I hope you can infer from a review whether you'll like something, but I can't possibly know what you'll like or won't like. I can't possibly know whether something is worth your time or money. That's a fool's errand.

A review should contain some insight and not just be a checklist of features followed by an arbitrary declaration of whether it was "fun". I consider it a point of pride that you won't find the word "fun" in my reviews. Not because I hate fun. There's always a better way to articulate that idea when you're trying to talk about something on a level deeper than an informal conversation. There's always a better way to express something to someone who might not share my idea of fun. Calling something fun is as lazy as calling it boring.

I believe reviews should be critiques instead of just buyers' guides or consumer reports. We can get to the interesting parts if we just skip past the description of how it plays, or a count of how many levels it has, or a list of what weapons are included. You're not reading what I've written for a list of features broken down into bullet points. You can read that stuff anywhere else on the internet.

I don't believe a review should grade a game. I am not a teacher and the people who make games are not my students. On the contrary, they know much more than I do about making games. It's silly for me to presume to tell them what to do, and it's just as silly for me to grade them on their efforts as if they were taking a pop quiz. It's even sillier to break down their work into component parts and stick numbers on the graphics, sound, gameplay, and fun factor as if I were evaluating a toaster.

I do, however, like ratings! Ratings are simply a measure of how much I like something. There's no reason to confine that measure to the 7-9 zone that comes from people thinking of ratings as if they were grading papers. Why do some people still behave as if they're in grade school? Why do some people who've never made a game presume to grade the work of professional game designers? But in terms of having to distill my opinion down to a number, as a thought exercise, as shorthand for my experience, I like ratings. I like aggregates. I enjoy seeing how a game is doing overall. Data can be fun! Yep, fun. This isn't a review of data, so I can say that.

A review is based on the game at the time it is played. A review shouldn't be based on potential. It shouldn't assume the developer will patch it or provide DLC or deliver great stuff with their season's pass.

Reviews don't have to be rushed launch day events. The relevance of a discussion shouldn't be tied to a game's release date. Yet most sites need to have a review up the day a game comes out, if not earlier, because that's when it drives the most traffic. And as that date passes, the game becomes less relevant. Guess who benefits from that? The publishers. They wouldn't have it any other way. Coverage and marketing go hand-in-hand, and most sites are total suckers for it.

A review should be of value to you, the reader, long after you've played a game, whether you simply dabbled in it or sank dozens of hours into it, whether you hate or love it or don't even particularly care about it. A review, or any kind of coverage, can be relevant and interesting long after a game has come out. I would love to be free of the expectations publishers create with release dates. I would love to write about Bioshock 2, Red Dead Redemption, or Civilization IV instead of something coming out next week. I would love to not care at all about what titles drive traffic. I would love Quarter to Three to be supported by Patreon, which doesn't care about traffic, instead of advertising, which only cares about traffic.

Reviews must be willing to be negative about big releases and positive about small releases. I will use a five-star rating as freely as I use a one-star rating. There is nothing sacred about either end of the spectrum. The extremes don't mean perfect or broken. They are simply an indication of how much I like something. A Halo should be able to get one star, just as a Gone Home should be able to get five stars. The inverse is true. But there are no points for production values or marketing budgets. There is no cap based on public awareness or genre.

I see no distinction between reviewing and criticism. Criticism is intended to make things better, to highlight what works and why it works, to put entertainment into a larger context, to compare it to other entertainment. It should come from a place of respect for the medium and the people working in it. Smug self-satisfied takedowns are not criticism and they certainly don't come from a place of respect. It's easy to exaggerate how bad something is for dramatic or humorous effect. But ridiculing something just to be funny isn't the same as articulating a defensible opinion. Too many writers do this. Too many sites carelessly sling ridicule at games that can be safely dismissed and used as whipping boys to show that you sometimes range outside the usual 7-9 ratings system. That will never happen at Quarter to Three. A review is not ridicule. Although a review should be entertaining, that is never the primary goal. The primary goal of a review is to provoke thought, to provide a different perspective, to discuss it more deeply than whether it looks good or how long it is or whether it's fun.

All that stuff is the "why?" of Quarter to Three. That's a lot of what I have to offer at the site. But you might also have other questions! Let me try to answer them.


Quarter to Three is an odd bird. Much of our traffic comes from a small forum community, recently integrated into the front page instead of hiding behind it. We're a group of people, some of whom have known each other for years. There are some incredibly smart people in there and they do an amazing job keeping the place civil, lively, and welcoming. I invite you to join us. The rest of our traffic is for the front page, which consists of news snippets of interest, sometimes links to videos, reviews of videogames and boardgames, and too infrequent game diaries (game diaries are basically written Let's Plays, so it's no surprise they've been largely supplanted by Let's Plays). We also cover movies sometimes, and television, and even the occasional book.  Our movie podcast has been going steadily every Sunday night since 2009. I wish I could say the same about our games podcast, which falls in and out of a regular schedule. On the site's Twitter account, I try to Tweet things more interesting than what I'm eating for lunch. I've got a YouTube channel and a Twitch channel. Every other weeknight (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) at 6pm Pacific, I livestream for an hour or so, with Wednesday consisting of viewer requests. All of this is under the banner of Quarter to Three. Quarter to Three is all of this.


Quarter to Three was started by me and Mark Asher in, uh, 1999-ish as part of cnet's family of sponsored web sites. Our timing was impeccable, because cnet canceled the program shortly after we started the site. The internet bubble was popping. So we kept it going as best we could. Since it wasn't a viable way to make a living -- I was freelancing back then -- Mark moved on to a job in the real world. In 2008, I got a job running what was supposed to be a gaming site for the Sci Fi Channel, but it never got the support to be anything more than a one-man blog. With the horrible name Fidgit. It wasn't nearly as bad as some of the other possible names floated while we were setting up the site. I could have been the editor of,, or When Fidgit was shut down in 2010, I had two options: return to freelancing, or make a go of running Quarter to Three full time. I made the latter choice. It's what I've been doing ever since and I haven't regretted that choice for a second.

When Fidgit was shut down, I was happy to step away from the daily slog for content. Sometimes I simply didn't have much to say, but it was my job to find something to say anyway. I don't miss that one bit. But some of what I wrote was meaningful. Worth writing and I hope worth reading. However, when the Sci Fi Channel (redubbed Syfy by that point) closed Fidgit, they didn't even archive it. Every single thing I'd written for the last few years instantly vanished. That's also the case with many of the things I've written for websites and magazines that are no longer around. But since I write solely for Quarter to Three, which has been the repository for all my work since 2010, I can be assured it will never vanish. Short of me, you know, accidentally deleting it by pressing the wrong button in WordPress or something. I try to keep my fingers away from buttons I don't understand.


Quarter to Three is no longer based on advertising.  It is based entirely on your support.


Well, the internet. But I live in Los Angeles if that matters.


Because I'm my own editor, I don't have to write about things that are popular. I can cover smaller independent games with as much enthusiasm as I want. I can be openly critical of larger profile AAA games. I can jump on a bandwagon or let it drive on by without me. I can simply decide a game isn't worth writing about. I can miss deadlines, because I don't have any.

Since I've run Quarter to Three full time, I exist almost entirely outside the bubble of marketing and PR. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't go to press junkets or get preview builds or jockey for exclusive coverage. I watch or ignore E3 -- mostly the latter -- from the comfort of my home. I don't even read previews. I am just a guy who picks up a game that looks interesting and plays it, just like you. I am not a games journalist and that suits me just fine. My site is a place where me and my contributors write about things we find interesting. Enthusiasm is never manufactured. It is never set up by PR or publishers. It is entirely ours.

I sometimes hear that I'm a contrarian, that my reviews are too harsh, or that someone never agrees with my opinion. I find all of those hard to believe. The contrarian accusation implies that I choose to feel a certain way because it's the opposite of how others feel. It implies that what I write isn't genuine, but is instead contrived based on other opinions. Given that I never read reviews before I write about a game, and that I'm terrible at following social media, and that reddit is too confusing for me and NeoGAF is too busy for me, I'm usually unaware of these other opinions. In other words, I'm too oblivious to be contrarian.

As for my reviews being too harsh, that's a matter of opinion and the inverse is just as possible. I will accept that I can be too harsh so long as you also acknowledge that I can be too forgiving. My opinions can go either way. Furthermore, your judgment of whether they're harsh or forgiving is entirely subjective. Much like the opinion you're judging. You might find something I've said too harsh and that's fine. I'm sure I'd feel the same way about some of the things you say. But it makes no sense to suggest all of my reviews are characterized by harshness.

And as much as I appreciate the sentiment behind supportive comments like "I rarely agree with Tom Chick, but <insert approving comment here>", that strikes me as absurd. I've reviewed hundreds of games and movies on Quarter to Three. I've reviewed hundreds more for other publications and sites. Although I hope there's some unique value in how I express my opinion, I'll bet you dollars to donuts the majority of my opinions aren't very different from the conventional wisdom. I loved Grand Theft Auto V. I hated EA's online SimCity. I gushed over Mario Kart 8, Diablo III, Arkham Knight, and Gone Home. I was disappointed by Gearbox's Aliens game, Rome II, Sid Meier's Beyond Earth, and Resident Evil 6. There is nothing special about the degree of my enthusiasm or disappointment with these games. There is no reason to dismiss my overall perspective as if I'm some sort of consistent outlier. For the most part, I'm a lot like you. And like you, I feel more strongly about some games than others.

Don't you have a conflict of interest?

Fair question! Even though I'd rather you didn't call me a games journalist, there is some justified concern these days about ethics in games journalism. So I should tell you that I have written reviews for publishers. These are called "mock reviews" because they're not "real" in that they're not for public consumption. They are strictly for internal use to get a sense of how the press might react to a game. Sort of an early finger held up to the wind.

I have done this very rarely and only three times since 2014. Frankly, I don't anticipate doing it much at all, given that it's become a cottage industry. Several former games journalists have started companies that offer this as a service to publishers or they advertise their services as professional consultants. But for me, the process was no different from writing any other review. Of course, I have recused myself from an official public review for those titles. I haven't, however, recused myself from freely talking about the games in question. The latest games I've written mock reviews for are The Sims 4, Battlefield I, and Final Fantasy XV (hated it, kinda liked it, hate it).

I wrote the manual for Galactic Civilizations II and provided input during the development of Ashes of the Singularity. The guy who runs Stardock, the company that published those games, is a good friend of mine. I consulted with Chris Park at Arcen Games, who I also consider a friend. He hired me to help him brainstorm for the name of an upcoming game. When it comes out, I'll recuse myself from reviewing it.

Finally, I am friends with a guy who does a lot of voiceover in videogames. Yuri Lowenthal was one of the Princes of Persia and the credits of JRPGs are lousy with his name. I am also friends with a woman who was an artist for a popular franchise and now works for a really cool developer that makes a game whose name rhymes with Trey, but I'll refrain from naming her so as not to out her to her coworkers, many of whom probably don't like me for things I've written about their work.

There. You now know the sum total of all my potential conflicts of interest. I will update this section if it develops.
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