A Few Things to Avoid When Analyzing Games

A Few Things to Avoid When Analyzing Games

Don’t speculate about the development process.

Speculation about the development of a game is usually wrong. Despite this, video game critics incorporate internet rumors and unverified “common knowledge” into their writing. Even if the information is accurate, it’s useless in reviewing a game. The game is what it is, and reflecting on how it got here is not useful for figuring out how good it is.

Speculating on development can also solidify a narrative around a game that removes nuance from discussion. For example: “Dark Souls II is a terrible game because Miyasaki-san wasn’t involved enough. The developers of Dark Souls II must have thought ‘hard is good,’ and so made this terrible game.” This is a common point made about Dark Souls II. It’s unverified, probably wrong, and distracts from good games discussion and analysis. Continue reading “A Few Things to Avoid When Analyzing Games”

Why Totalbiscuit and Erik Kain Are Wrong About Review Scores

Why Totalbiscuit and Erik Kain Are Wrong About Review Scores

IGN’s review score for Prey has caused some controversy. Dan Stapleton wrote the review, and gave Prey a 4/10. The main problem Stapleton had with the game is that it corrupted his save file. Despite receiving assistance from the developer (Arkane Studios), he could not finish the game due to the save corruption bug. Later, a patch was released updating the game and fixing the problem. Stapleton then updated the review and changed the score from a 4/10 to an 8/10.

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Problems and Merits of YouTube Critics

Problems and Merits of YouTube Critics

In the past few years, there has been a surge in popularity of long-form videos analyzing games. These video essays range from thirty minutes to six hours long. The popular videos in this genre have between 500,000 and 1,000,000 views, with a few reaching ridiculous view counts like 11 million. I am encouraged that serious analysis of games is apparently so popular. However, there are a few worrying issues that accompany my enthusiasm.

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Stop Interpreting Games

Stop Interpreting Games

What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more.

[…]

The aim of all commentary on art now should be to make works of art…more, rather than less, real to us. The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.

—Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation

In her 1966 essay “Against Interpretation,” Susan Sontag diagnoses art appreciation and art criticism with a sickness: interpretation. She claims that cinema (in her time) is free from interpretation because of a few preventative qualities of the medium: cinema’s youth, it being mass culture instead of high art, and its formal vocabulary. Films today, of course, are regularly interpreted by the public and academics alike. Those allegedly preventative qualities proved too meek to defend against interpretation. Games are in a similar position. They share the qualities that cinema had in Sontag’s day, and have even more safeguards against interpretation. Despite that, interpretation has crept into gaming and it is growing. Interpretation is more contagious and stubborn than Sontag thought. I will explain why Sontag describes interpretation as a sickness, and why video games need to be cured of it.

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Why Extra Credits is Wrong on “Hatred” and the Value of Sadism

Why Extra Credits is Wrong on “Hatred” and the Value of Sadism

Extra Credits is a popular series on YouTube focused on video games. The series is obnoxious for a variety of reasons including the undeserved professorial tone (the writer’s cartoon avatar even lectures from a podium), the Chipmunk-like effect put on the narrator’s voice, the lack of research, the bad writing, and the poorly thought-out theses. I’ll be responding to their video called “Hatred – Crossing the Line from Violence to Sadism.”

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