Saturday, October 18, 2008

Protoss: "Snobbery Has Arrived"

Good 'ole Kieron recently said that game critics are starting to move in the direction that other critics of other media are. He points out that one of the practical uses of critics is that they turn us on to titles we may not otherwise have heard of.

I mentioned it in chat with him the other day and he said he may have changed his mind about it. The money isn't really in that kind of criticism, at least not yet. But we still have it. It's still in operation. Braid is a game many would not have heard of had the critics not jumped out and said "OMG BRAID! LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL!" Maybe not everyone is an artist, and maybe not everyone looked at it for very long, but many people went to the exhibit.

King's Bounty and World of Goo. Man, World of Goo has been all over my twitter feed and were it not for Michael Abbott or RPS's frequent references to it, I'd have not known about it. I once saw a trailer for it a very long time ago, but I'd long forgotten the name. And how would I have found it? Little Big Planet? A bit bigger scale, yes, but the buzz and prereviews have to have boosted its reach. Partially due to shows, events, and meetings that only game journalists and writers get to go to, sure, but still.

Blogs like Leigh's, Mitch's, Tom's, Michael's or N'Gai's will sometimes politely and quietly turn me on to hits before many people, even Internet readers, hear about them. And the Twitter feeds! Oh man. Yakuza 2, a recent PS2 exclusive, fits this pattern. Note the comments and where people say they are hearing about it.

Onion AV, Paste, Variety and of course Penny Arcade are financed operations that will still cover some of the bigger titles, but also make sure to find gems for you too. As in, "Hey, here's this one. Did you guys know about it? It's actually quite good. I don't see anyone talking about it. Sad, because I need some to talk about it (or play it) with."

There are plenty of "gamers" who have played so much that they are demanding and wanting to see the new big thing. This isn't because they are picky (even if they are), but because they have seen so much that they have a vampire's hunger for the blood of the new and sensitivity to the blindness of the redone or reused. Whenever another freaking first person shooter comes my way, I am always sniffing for the difference.

Game criticism has really gotten somewhere. If you say "I didn't like Braid," that's like saying you don't like the Dark Knight or that you didn't like Ulysses. This may sadden us, but really, if we've gotten to game snobbery where it's cool to like or dislike something, it means games are being taken more seriously.

Obsessed with innovation? I think not. Games are not nearly as broad or diverse as other forms of entertainment. They are also expensive. Why would we use money, time, and even perhaps emotion or curiosity on something so similar to what we already have? This type of criticism may not have the money in it, but just wait; the demand for this will inevitably grow.


Blogger pixelvixen707 said...

We not only need more attention to smaller/indie titles - I'd argue we need a publication that swears off anything that comes from a big publisher, and focuses solely on the little guys. Something like an early Pitchforkmedia for games or better yet, a Maximum Rock 'N Roll. Simon Carless just touched on this when he noted that nobody's covering Multiwinia; imagine a publication that treated that game like the biggest launch of the fall, because AAA-titles like Fable II or Left 4 Dead just weren't on their radar.

And the critics at this imaginary dream blog should be scenesters - but they should also be merciless. Indie game blogs like TIGSource and PlayThisThing do a good job of coverage but they skimp on the details. Each game gets a blurb, a link, and a quick recommendation, but nobody regularly gives us a thorough critique or a vicious rebuke. Almost nobody ranks and rates the indies - they just urge us to try them. That would be snobbery we can believe in.

7:21 PM  
Blogger L.B. Jeffries said...

I've always found the inevitability of being judged for my tastes instead of what I actually write kind of ironic. For as much as people poo poo the tackiness of looking at someone's 'Favorite Books' or 'Movies I'm Watching', it is that comparison we use to see how much the person's tastes coincide with our own. And if they promote something we've never heard of? Well, that means we probably will like it.

If it's any consolation, I'm too broke to afford anything and the only people who are ever happy I'm reviewing them are indie developers. I can't say I miss AAA stuff all that much.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Etelmik said...

Oh, I'm not going to be nothing but happy for this turn of events, sure.
I am realizing I'm turning into one of those people who take media too seriously, and that's something to be lamented. NeoGAF's pride along could swallow the earth.

I'm simply optimistic, though, because it seems a necessary and unavoidable stage that the world of games must pass through to get to other places we do want them to be. Some steps or stages are regrettable, but if games are actually making it through them, hopefully we have things to look forward to. Right? I hope.

12:55 PM  

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