Tag Archives: games journalism

Back to basics

Never mind all this world traveling, old-school journalism reporting, and cavorting with high-profile game designers. What Dennis does best is spouting his mouth off, so I got some pieces out today.

First, I wanted to praise Edge magazine for holding back their Halo: Reach review. I can’t afford the town criers, but I can post something up on Bitmob. It’s hard to be too proud of Edge for holding back the review considering that we already have more reviews than we really need. That’s the thing about reviews; because they are traditionally so devoid of criticism, you only need to sample a few before you get the idea. And when writers do try to work criticism into their reviews, depending on the website, it might bite them hard on the ass, as Abbie Heppe found out over on G4. 🙁

Second, I try to pay more attention nowadays to how I feel while I play video games, as I’ve decided that I’m down with “New Games Journalism,” partially as a reaction to having some event coverage under my belt. There’s certainly a style and an art to writing up previews and reviews from these events, but there’s still such a stilted quality to it. I like to write pieces that have some heart in them, and so emotional experiences while gaming are precious gems for me that I have to hold onto.

In the case of this cblog for Destructoid, I reflected on that phase of any RPG that I’m playing, towards the end of the main story, where I run around finishing all the loose-ends of quests I have to get through, and how essentially silly that is. Product of being a perfectionist, I suppose.

Wanted: games writer thesaurus

Leigh Alexander, news editor for Gamasutra, used her monthly Kotaku column yesterday to opine about the inability of gamers to describe their gaming experiences to non-gamers and blamed it on the language we use to discuss video games.

Why should we ever expect to develop a lexicon by which we may explain our experiences to those who don’t share in them with us?

I used to be a jazz musician. I could never really discuss jazz with anyone who didn’t play jazz but I could, to some degree, discuss it with another musician because we both spoke the language of music. I never could have discussed jazz with someone whose musical tastes had never elevated beyond pop music.

I was a film major and went through years of foreign film courses and learning about genres that most Americans will never hear of. I might be able to explain why Fellini is a genius to someone with a basis in painting or fine literature because there is some commonality there. I can’t explain why Fellini is great to someone who has no regard for art whatsoever, thinks that Harlequin romance novels are good writing, and who thinks Avatar is truly the greatest film ever made.

The reason we develop a shorthand in the spoken language of art is because experience is the greater sum of what it means to understand it. What makes us think that video games will somehow stand apart from the thousands of years’ worth of art forms which came before and still have not managed to develop language by which the uninitiated may understand the same mysteries that the adepts comprehend?

Leigh Alexander’s parents may play games, but it sounds like their gaming experience is very limited. Leigh’s perceived inability to convey to them her experience of playing Fallout 3 wasn’t a failure of her language – it was an extension of their lack of interest in the larger, video game world.

Why does it occur to me sometimes that established games journalists make up things to talk about? I rarely, if ever, hear gamers talking about the shortcomings of gaming language. If gaming language exists to serve gamers, and therefore that is the language games journalists employ, and no one other than the journalists are complaining, is there really a problem here?

Is this what Tony was talking about?

No amount of linguistic development will ever make up or account for a lack of interest or education in video games, and that’s okay. Game writers don’t need to flagellate themselves for it.

[Note: this piece was promoted to the front page of Bitmob]

Are we gamers or critics?

Two weeks ago I had dinner with Mitch Krpata, the games reviewer for The Boston Phoenix, who also contributed to the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, and who blogs at Insult Swordfighting.

While most of the evening involved my picking his brain for advice on getting started in this industry (for which I would again like to express my gratitude should he be reading this) there were a couple of subjects which we didn’t have time to delve into too deeply and which I hope we can take up at a later date, such as the value of the terms “hardcore” and “casual” in defining different kinds of video game players, the nature of game reviews vs. critiques and whether they need to remain separate or coexist within a single piece, and the existence of the “larger conversation” I want to be a part of.

That “larger conversation,” in my mind, revolves around substantive discussion of video games. Historically my conversations with friends about games have revolved around whether I liked a game or not, and were based in personal feelings and opinion. I never spoke about design decisions and game mechanics in a general sense, or how developers and publishers related to one another, or how the industry worked in general. None of that was relevant to me as a pure consumer.

Clearly things are different now, and it feels like peeking behind the curtain, an evolving process of dissolving mystique. It’s very similar to my experience as a film student at Boston University, and that worries me a little. Tony DaSilva expressed a similar concern over on BitMob recently, which is what inspired me to finally finish this piece I began after dinner with Mitch two weeks ago.

Read more: Are we gamers or critics?