I am extremely pleased with how this piece turned out. Still not sure about the profile picture I'm using, however:
My only regret is that I didn't have more time to talk with Karen over email, but even if I'd been able to run through a second round of questions, there's no way in hell I'd have been able to fit all that extra material into a 2,000-word feature. The information would have been purely for my own edification...but it would have been awesome. Maybe I'll ask her anyway, just for me.
I've been busy on G4 lately. I took some people to school in University Week last week.
Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer blog wrote on Sunday about the need for critics to “let go of our preoccupation with gameplay as the primary criterion upon which to evaluate a game's merits,” and to “stop fetishizing mechanics as the defining aspect of game design.” As someone who has fallen on the side of seeing video games mostly as narrative experiences in the present day, I still have to disagree with Abbott’s argument. Games are, at their heart, a set of rules and mechanics, and everything else is a modifier to that base definition.
Abbott’s example of Tertence Malick's film Tree of Life failing on the technical level but still being brilliant when viewed holistically doesn’t feel apt. Film, at its best, is about conveying character and emotion as a primary goal. Film can afford to suffer technical errors as long as the primary goal of the medium is accomplished. Video games, at their best, are about providing solid and engaging play. Play is about rules. Rules are enforced by mechanics. Video games therefore have far less leeway than film in the technical errors they can support before the end product is critically flawed.
Video games can afford to suffer some modicum of technical errors and still be playable – we routinely look past the regularly-scheduled bugs in Bethesda titles all the time without letting them ruin our fun – but if their mechanics are so broken so as to preclude play? Without play, there is no game, at which point nothing else matters.
I think the salient aspect of Abbott’s post starts midway through, when he expresses his frustration with the term “video game.” Rather than trying to redefine what the term means, in order to fit everything inside the same, comfortable box, however, I think we need new language entirely.