Title: Is the new age upon us?
Posted: July 13, 2006 (08:51 AM)
This post started out as a response to Zigreid's recent post. But then, it got too long, so I have decided to give it it's own space.
The recent Chuck Klosterman furore got me to thinking. I never before thought about why I play videogames, but I did think about why I review them.
It occured to me that I never actually wanted to review games. Apart from one or two examples, the body of my HG work consists of things I knocked up because I either felt the site needed it, or because I wanted to keep my hand in. I started writing for the site back in the days when Jason accepted editorials, and even though I say so myself, I believe that what I wrote at that time was far and away the best content on the site. And, that is because, with only a couple of exceptions, the editorials are what I wanted to do.
The vast majority of games reviewers in the world fall into one of two camps. Professionals, and amateurs. Professionals are doing a job, and reviewing regardless of what they enjoy. Amateurs are generally reveiwing what they enjoy. (This explains why 99% of fan-site reviews score 9's and 10's.) This is all well and good, since there are nigh-on infinite avenues for practitioners from either side to peddle their wares.
But what of people like myself? Where do we find our audience? Where are the sites asking for our input? I'll tell you where ; blog sites. Only, blog sites want exclusive newsworthy features, they don't care about comedy guides to hosting games night. (Or, if they do, they certainly never linked to it whilst it was still hosted here.) Even Jason felt that the editorials were no longer worthy of server space. I can only assume that this was due to a lack of hits.
This means that the critics, of which I would consider myself one, are left to pretty much host their own content. This is a far from ideal situation, because these days anybody can buy a domain, pay for some hosting, and publish whatever the hell they want. And, sadly, a lot of people have done just this. Sadly, because some of these sites are almost criminally lacking in any kind of quality journalism.
Until one of the major sites hires a critic, there won't be any of note. So, in the meantime, we are stuck with reviews. Reviews are of course flawed in their very nature. How can you expand upon the way a game made you feel, when you are simply trying to convey to the reader whether or not they should buy the game? Similarly, I can not comment on how well a game reflects upon society if I then go on to score it as 4 out of 10.
What is needed is a change of perspective. Reviews are never going to be worthy pieces of journalism, since they are not written with that goal in mind. Even the very best written reviews will only be read with very objective eyes. Nobody reads reviews for entertainment, save other reviewers.
There are other less tangible problems, too. For one thing, to be a critic, one must be extremely knowledgeable of the subject one is criticising. This is inherently difficult in what is seen as a "youth medium", since very few of the teenagers chomping at the bit for Halo 3 followed the genre as it evolved via Wolfenstein and Goldeneye. I have attempted in the past to explain this process to people, only to be attacked, or dismissed as a fanboy.
Another thing is that the critic must be skilled enough to play the game, but also lacking in ego. The critic needs to know if the game is actually too hard to be fun, which is something that few reviewers are prepared to admit to. But, how does one ascertain the level of difficulty that is appropriate for the 'average gamer'? Plus, some games are incredibly easy, or over fairly soon. Is this actually to their detriment? Perhaps when justifying a price tag, but surely this is irrelevant when talking about the game itself?
In these days of freedom of speech for all, opinion is literally rampant. What is needed is some kind of standard, that everybody can agree upon. Or at least agree to accept.
Posted: July 13, 2006 (09:39 AM)
There can never be a standard when it comes to games because too many people have different opinions about what that standard should be. It's like trying to find a standard way to approach a member of the opposite sex that everyone should accept. I say a game is too tough after spending five hours dying on one level and people laugh at me and say I just suck. This after I've made it further than most casual gamers ever will. So obviously, what I considered a standard isn't going to cut it for other people. It's going to be like that with everything because everyone has different tastes they are welcome to. I believe that so long as a review gives not only that reviewer's opinion, but also enough information for the reader to determine where he is likely to stand in relation to that opinion, then it serves every bit the purpose any other form of game-related writing might.
Posted: July 13, 2006 (05:13 PM)
Out of curiosity, who's Chuck Klosterman?
Posted: July 14, 2006 (03:10 AM)
Chuck Klosterman writes for Esquire magazine, and recently kicked up a bit of a fuss by writing this article. There are several response pieces to this, but the most important one is probably the interview with Klosterman himself found here.
I guess you never read him, then. Interesting that you would think similar thoughts at the same time, which probably shows that he is correct. I certainly think he is.
Posted: July 14, 2006 (05:52 AM)
It was a random message board post on another forum that got me to thinking about this, so maybe they had read his article. I'll check it out now. Thanks!