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Refining Critique

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I've taken sometime to rethink my critique when it comes to video games as I feel it has some flaws.

 

Firstly I don't really have specific opinions when it comes to video games. some of the opinions I've given were really hamfisted and I felt like I was trying to make a point across but didn't truly know what that point was.

 

In terms of objectivity I think that it's best that I give myself a stated goal when it comes to these critiques. My previous critiques were pretty aimless outside of saying what I don't like and there's not a whole lot of conversation that can come from that. I think that goal for me is to help this medium progress in terms of it's design and mechanics. So that would I mean I would encourage new ideas, applaud games for taking risks. For some critics being for the consumer is their goal but I think being for the medium suits mine.

 

Lastly I don't think that any mechanics or game design are inherently bad and saying so was a complete misnomer. Poorly thought out implementation is what's bad. I've encountered so many instances on so many occasions that proved my opinion to be just downright wrong. Just because bad or unimaginative implementation may be the norm for some mechanics and games should by no means speak for all of them. IMO this point especially is where I failed the most with my critiques because I fell for only letting the majority speak for all mechanics and game design which wasn't at all the case and that giant misnomer plagues all of my previous critiques. From a logical perspective is a horrifically misleading way of thinking.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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Do you have any examples of criticism you've written for games besides what you've posted here Helio? I don't think anything you've ever posted regarding gaming in general or specific titles has ever been aimless, I always enjoy reading your stuff. Mind you I agree with your sentiments that resorting to a "thumbs up/thumbs down" approach for most critics can result in rather dull commentary.

Good critics will elaborate on a particular game's thematic context or look slightly beyond the actual games content to the development and "real world" reception of it. My perennial poster boy for art criticism, Hal Foster, speaks of there being a crisis for criticism in his topical medium in regards to how the discipline can retain a healthy distance from the commercial and vested interests of modern art. Whilst the myth of unfathomable pseudo-pornographic elitism marrs the popular imagining of modern art, gamings relative "newness" by comparison means that it's suffers from a less rigorous mode of self-reflexive critique and analysis - from both critic and audience alike.

I think many fields of creativity, gaming included, are equally suffering their own cultural misdirection from their original intention - if some of investigative work of Jim Sterling and others is anything to by. In a way gaming and contemporary art both have issues regarded disingenuous reviewing and financially powerful bodies possessing an undue influence on the reporting of their output.

When close friends speak ill of close friends

they pass their abuse from ear to ear

in dying whispers -

even now, when prayers are no longer prayed.

What sounds like violent coughing

turns out to be laughter.

Shuntarō Tanikawa

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There is no "correct way" when it comes to critique, as everyone has their own style to it. Still, depending on piece you are writing, you need to be able to adapt your style. For example, if you write reviews, you should focus more on bringing good & bad sides out. You got one good thing going for you at moment- you aint afraid to point bad things out, but as you said yourself, you often overextend bad stuff.

anyways back to topic at hand- in reviews, only mention stuff relevant to that particular game you are reviewing. Means you can hate EA (just because) for x thing, but if they didnt do anything major related to game you review or there wasnt any controversy, leave EA alone (NB! im NOT saying you do that, thats just 1st example of what person shouldnt do in review (2am here)).

Feel free to look at my reviews for what i mean: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?700592-Mass-Effect-2

Jack O'Neill: "You know Teal'c, if we dont find a way out of this soon, im gonna lose it. Lose it... it means go crazy. nuts. insane. bonzo. no longer in possession of ones faculties. 3 fries short of a happy meal. WACKO!!!!!!!!"

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After some consideration I don't think being a reviewer is something I want to be. I'm sick to death of drawing lines in the sand and the inherent positive/negative camps that come from doing so. I don't want to be telling people what's "good" or "bad". I want to tell people my thoughts and add to the overall conversation surrounding video games as a medium. I want to be something akin to a video game philosopher if you will like MrBtongue https://www.youtube.com/user/MrBtongue and Noah Caldwell Gervais https://www.youtube.com/user/broadcaststsatic .

 

Also while I have nothing against listing my grievances with various titles I can't help but feel like there's something wrong with quantifying them as a product in a review. The value you get out a video game is entirely subjective so what's even the point of a review when it's from the reviewer's perspective and not mine? In order to truly know if I like/dislike a video game I must play it for myself in order to get the whole experience that is only subjective to me. Until I'm able to play the video game for myself I'm unable to l see the whole picture and I'm only able to view it from the reviewer's perspective. This is one of the limitations that the concept of reviewing a video game pose.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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true, reviews are subjective, but main point of reviews should be short summary of story (its style & buildup), gameplay aspects description (you can say what you like or wont, but thats minor point as people are more interested in wheter game actually functions properly). Thats after all what good reviews do- they have personal touch, but you get enough neutral information out of it, that you can formulate your own opinion, wheter you like it or not.

Jack O'Neill: "You know Teal'c, if we dont find a way out of this soon, im gonna lose it. Lose it... it means go crazy. nuts. insane. bonzo. no longer in possession of ones faculties. 3 fries short of a happy meal. WACKO!!!!!!!!"

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true, reviews are subjective, but main point of reviews should be short summary of story (its style & buildup), gameplay aspects description (you can say what you like or wont, but thats minor point as people are more interested in wheter game actually functions properly). Thats after all what good reviews do- they have personal touch, but you get enough neutral information out of it, that you can formulate your own opinion, wheter you like it or not.

Yes, but that's if you're interested in looking at a game from an objective standpoint for the benefit of the consumer. I'm not interested in doing that and I disagree with this approach entirely as I believe video games are subjective experiences as opposed to objective products.

 

As I said in my initial post my stated goal is to help video games as a medium progress in terms of design and mechanics. This does not entail that my insight is for consumers to base their purchases on as that isn't it's purpose. I'm a subjective philosopher, not an objective critic and it's only just now that I've recognized that.

 

What really gnawed at me about my critiques is that I couldn't tell subjectivity apart from objectivity. I do not fully understand nor appreciate the general consensus of the consumer and as such I refuse to create anymore critiques under the false premise that I am for the consumer. So with my newly found consensus I'm choosing to dive head first in to subjectivity instead.

 

Remember when I said I hated fast travel and you called me out on it? You knew that I was talking out of my subjective ass. Hell I knew that but that's still how I felt about that mechanic. Do you see what I'm saying? I am subjective to a fault so I'm not exactly the best choice when it comes to critiquing video games.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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After some consideration I don't think being a reviewer is something I want to be. I'm sick to death of drawing lines in the sand and the inherent positive/negative camps that come from doing so. I don't want to be telling people what's "good" or "bad". I want to tell people my thoughts and add to the overall conversation surrounding video games as a medium. I want to be something akin to a video game philosopher if you will like MrBtongue https://www.youtube.com/user/MrBtongue and Noah Caldwell Gervais https://www.youtube.com/user/broadcaststsatic .

 

Also while I have nothing against listing my grievances with various titles I can't help but feel like there's something wrong with quantifying them as a product in a review. The value you get out a video game is entirely subjective so what's even the point of a review when it's from the reviewer's perspective and not mine? In order to truly know if I like/dislike a video game I must play it for myself in order to get the whole experience that is only subjective to me. Until I'm able to play the video game for myself I'm unable to l see the whole picture and I'm only able to view it from the reviewer's perspective. This is one of the limitations that the concept of reviewing a video game pose.

I think you'd be much better off calling yourself a critic in the sense that visual/conceptual art critics define it. Criticism in artistic parlance isn't divisive in the way other creative fields are. Historical progress and evolution in contemporary art aren't as clearly demarcated as they are in music, fashion, etc. and often the borrowing/repurposing of old tropes is conflated and circular, because arguing about medium and movement in our current multimedia climate is perceived as being rather besides-the-point and trite. The way I see it is that reviewing a title or even subjecting gaming industry practices and culture (ala Jim Stirling-esque style) is rather different to taking a broad and analytical look at gaming (either as individual titles or as a cultural field) in the way an author like Brendan Simms does to the subject of European history, or the way Dylan Trigg subjects horror films to philosophical and phenomenological scrutiny. There's a huge amount of unknown territory to mine within a given medium if you have the will and inclination to read it through different branches of thinking. On the one hand you might think there is little to broach two seemingly disparate individual subjects as HP Lovecraft's goofily misanthropic mythos and the so-called speculative realism of the 90's/00's, but it has been achieved by the writer Graham Harman in his marvellous book Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy. If he can develop a peculiarly positive ideology on the back of something so innately nihilistic as Lovecraft's worldview, is it really so unimaginable to cast a particular element of gaming through a Hobbesian or Žižekian lens? I'm well aware I'm dropping pretentious names in what amount to literary willy-waving because that's how I roll, but having read your stuff on the forums on numerous occasions, I think you might be capable of penning much more original and accessibly conceived criticisms of gaming.

When close friends speak ill of close friends

they pass their abuse from ear to ear

in dying whispers -

even now, when prayers are no longer prayed.

What sounds like violent coughing

turns out to be laughter.

Shuntarō Tanikawa

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@Selfsurprise yes, I very much feel this way. I have numerous written concepts and essays that I have yet to publish in any capacity as I'm concerned with their overall quality. but my writing will be up to my standards eventually. I have so many unique insights that I wish to offer to others and make them think about it. I want to make people go "Oh, I've never thought about it that way before.". That's just a basic reaction but I think you get my point.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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