Sliced Gaming Feature: An Analysis of AnalysisWriter: Nick Schaedel
Posted: 22nd September 2010, 5:24pm
I’ve reviewed games for years. I started contributing to a little Australian gaming forum back in February 2004, and now here I am editing a gaming website myself instead of writing for someone else. I’d like to think in that time I’ve also sharpened my analytical prowess, and now possess the ability to specifically identify aspects of media that I dislike for the purposes of criticism (it’s a blessing, and a curse). But is there something fundamentally different between reviewing videogames and reviewing films or music? Is there something I’d have to teach a novice videogame critic that is different to film or music criticism?
There are two key differences, I think. The first relates to the critic’s interaction with the product, while the second relates to the obstacle of time investment. So, to the former: the inescapable difference between static media like films or music and pliable media like videogames is that as an audience to the former you are passive viewer, while in the latter you are an active participant. As a result, the videogame critic is not merely responsible for assessing the presented product, but ensuring that the product is presented at all. Where the viewing of a film or hearing of a CD requires no learned ability on the reviewer’s part, in order to review a game, the critic must have the physical skills to complete the experience. There is a burden placed on you to perform.
In a CD review you can decide (albeit ideally after multiple listens and reflection) that you dislike a song, and move on. In a game, if you dislike a level or mission, the question is not merely “is this part unenjoyable?”, but “am I not enjoying it because I am not good at it?”. Am I not skilled enough at this type of gameplay? Have I not spent enough time levelling up to beat this stage? Am I tired, or distracted? For example, a year or two ago I was reviewing F.E.A.R. 2, a game that’s was a bit out of my comfort zone, and as the name warns, I was getting freaked out. I had to finish the game, but was faced with the unusual limitation of only wanting to play in daylight. Sad but true.
Of course, not unlike with static media, personal preferences play a role too. Some people don’t like horror films, or electronic music. Likewise, others prefer adventure or puzzle games to first-person shooters or massively multiplayer online games. As a critic, you’re forced to be objective about the product you review, and must attempt to put your own proclivities aside. Could a homophobe respect the filmmaking of Brokeback Mountain, or someone over forty enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs. The World without the innate geek knowledge of those born in the 1980s? You’d like to hope so, and as a critic, it is important to try.
For example, when presented with a title like EA’s Madden 2011, I’m faced with a particular challenge. First, it’s an American Football game ...(continued next page)
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