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The Function of Criticism

Criticism - do we review games or do we critique them like art, and what's the purpose of doing either

It’s rare that I hear about a game and decide that it’s a must-buy. Rather, I prefer to take the softly-softly approach: wait, see what the community consensus is, read some reviews of the game and (if it’s a board game) the rules and then make a decision. Often, however many reams of text I end up digesting in the course of this process, it’ll be one paragraph, even one sentence that makes me choose one way or the other. Increasingly, I’m asking myself why I bother.

It’s also come to my attention that a lot, probably the majority, of people don’t choose stuff this way. There’s much more of a tendency to impulse buy stuff. And if you read a lot of the comments that people make on game reviews you’ll notice something else: it’s quite clear that a lot of the people who read reviews and comment on them have already played the game in question. They’ve come to the review seeking either validation of their own point of view, or the opportunity to disagree publicly with the opinions of the reviewer. And this begs the question: what’s the purpose of a review? Perhaps more importantly, is the perception of what most people want from a review the same as what reviewers believe they want?

I’ll tell you what I want from a review. I want to get a sense of what a game feels like to play, what the experience is like, what sort of emotions it engenders in the player(s). I like a bit of logistical information too and I want a clear reviewers slant telling me whether they think it’s a good game or not, and why. Personally I think you can do all that and still provide people who might not agree with you with enough information to help them decide whether they might think it’s a good game or not. That’s what I’d look for, and so obviously that’s what I’ve tried to provide in my reviews. I’m not sure I succeed all that well, too often getting sucked down into the mechanical detail needed as a foundation to explain why I think certain things about certain games, but I try. And frankly whether I’m happy with what I write or not, I do think it’s better than a lot of other stuff out there which seems to boil down to some mixture of verbatim instructional re-write, comedy value or “New! Shiny! Awesome!”

There’s a reason for this. I can’t claim the insight for myself, but our very own Michael Barnes has been pointing out for several years that professional criticism of all sorts of games is a relatively new phenomenon. In the video game sector, progress has been held back by a pathetically patronising long-time perception that games were for kids, and kids didn’t need proper reviews, although it’s finally starting to come of age. For tabletop games, a stubborn celebration of amateurism seems to have become entrenched, no doubt partially due to virtually zero professional coverage of the genre. And without a professional attitude, you can’t have the self-examination necessary to ask what the purpose of a review is, and thus how you might go about improving it.

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But perhaps unsurprisingly if you turn to the more mature formats of books, films and plays, vast amounts of ink have been expended on the subject of the purpose of criticism. Equally unsurprisingly given the subjective nature of the material, little agreement has been reached. At the heart of the discussion seems to be the tug between wanting to help and inform readers whilst avoiding preaching to them. On the one hand, it’s likely that any given game reviewer probably knows a bit more about games than the audience in terms of insider industry information, the longer history of gaming and wider exposure to different current generation games, and therefore is in a better position to explore whether a game is not only any good but also genuinely innovative than the reader. On the other hand taste is of course entirely subjective, so how does a bit of education and eloquence give a few elite authors the right to dictate that something is good or otherwise, often in the face of popular opinion?

All opinions are equal. But some are more equal than others.

It seems that one of the common answers to this is to say that criticism is an art form in and of itself and so has no particular rights or wrongs outside the eye of the observer. I can see the attraction to this as a way of answering the dilemma of whether a critic should inform or preach, but it’s a get-out clause, an unsatisfactory answer for a number of reasons. For starters, in any form of criticism, it’s circular: it the work of an art critic is itself art, then that makes the criticism a valid target for other critics and so on. And whilst this is true, it turns a subject and its critics into a closed circle, which is liable to stagnate and is useless and impenetrable to outside readers. Which is pretty much what’s happened in the modern art world if you ask me, but I digress. It also comes no closer to answering our initial question. And when it comes to games there’s another problem, which is the question of whether a game is art in the first place.

This is a complex question that’s been tackled by others elsewhere and I can’t properly do it justice. In the past I would have argued that all game design is inherently mathematical, and that makes the status of games as art dubious. But more recently with advances in AI technology, emergent gameplay and multiplayer collusion it’s become far more of an open question. Nowadays I would say that they can be art. In video games the existence of titles like Journey bridges the gap between games created deliberately as art pieces and those created for playability. Board games have been skirting round this territory for longer, and in rather different ways, but arguably politicised games such as War on Terror or GMT’s Labyrinth and story-telling games like Once Upon A Time or Tales of the Arabian Nights fulfil a similar function.

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But of course just because some games can be art, doesn’t mean they all can. I’m reminded of the chapters in American Psycho where the narrator offers in-depth analysis of rubbish pop bands such as Huey Lewis & The News. A lot of games, the majority, are just empty-headed shooters and platformers after all. But if some games have the potential to be art, even though many are not it strikes me that perhaps they have to be reviewed as though could be art. After all, one can write a clear and compelling review of mass-market rubbish while comparing and contrasting it with more rarefied examples because both, ultimately, spring from the same source. Film critics make much of their money doing exactly that. And if that’s the case perhaps a review can never be truly helpful in guiding people toward relevant purchases. In my years of reviewing I’ve struggled hugely with trying to address the question of how best to do this, continually being thwarted by the amorphous nature of my subject matter and the wide spectrum of taste in my audience. A lot of art critics don’t feel that advising readers is a key part of what they do and perhaps its part and parcel of game criticism maturing that authors and audience alike abandon the pretence that reviews are a realistic way of helping people decide what to buy.

Not all critics are good writers

So if we’re not in the business of giving commercial advice, why are we here? One of the things that I enjoy about writing reviews is that the process of organising the text helps to get my own thoughts into a coherent, sensible order and perhaps more importantly to explore them more deeply and see where they lead. That seems very insular as a stated purpose for something that is intended for a wider audience, but perhaps reading a review serves the same function, to offer clarity to the jumble of concepts we all carry around in our heads as we think about and play games. The existence of reviews has a further advantage of particular use in the internet age and that’s to engender discussion on the subject which hopefully leads to new avenues to explore and, in extreme cases, to new concepts being adopted by designers, developers and publishers. But you can achieve these same goals through editorial-style content such as this very piece: it may be that the thoughts they clarify and discussion they engender lack focus in comparison to the effects produced by a review of a specific product, but that seems a poor reason for reviews to exist as a stand-alone concept. You’d get the same effect sooner or later from a succession of opinion pieces.

So it seems that a good way to answer the question of why we write and read reviews would be to look at what – if anything – makes a review distinct from a less focussed opinion piece. And I suspect that the answer is actually in the question: focus. By forcing the writer to concentrate on a specific piece of work and comment from their, it means that what could be an opinion piece is actually an analysis piece. Instead of offering airy-fairy thoughts, they have to anchor what they’re saying in reality, provide evidence and reasons for their opinions. You could do the same in an opinion piece of course but you don’t have to, and I imagine most of us are familiar enough with the more extreme forms of fact-free journalism promulgated by the tabloid press, and the manner in which it is often swallowed wholesale, to understand the value of being rooted in reality. Furthermore because that analysis is focussed down on particular, individual products, the discussion that it engenders has a much higher chance of resulting in something equally concrete, feedback that a developer or publisher can take on board, react to, use to improve the quality of their output. Reviews and criticism entertain and inform readers certainly, but their final purpose may well be their ability to push the envelope of design, development and publishing. The ongoing furores over the re-sale of used games and the lack of creativity in AAA titles suggest that without people capable of articulating what’s right and wrong with existing games and starting meaningful discussions around those subjects, the industry has little hope of delivering improvements for their own sake. But sadly, it seems to me that the current poor state of reviews on far too many outlets has little chance of managing to making a lot of difference. At the moment, that’s still up to the fans, and the fuss over the ending to Mass Effect 3 demonstrates that it’s not always desirable that fan power should win over artistic integrity.

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I suspect that the answer to my original question that we have arrived at is a lot less interesting than the journey we took to find it. And that highlights the final point I want to make, which is that although we may have found it reasonable to suggest that games reviews share a lot of common ground with the critique of high art there is a long, long way to go before we can meaningfully compare them on the same level. But there is hope that one day we might get there. And perhaps most importantly of all there is certainty that in the exciting, gruelling process of forging this new art, there is room for all of us to contribute and to help shape whatever it is that rises from the flames into something we can hold up and be proud of.

A big thank you to Jesse Dean of 2d6.org who started the ball rolling in my head on this subject. He’s posting his own series of pieces about it, starting by wondering why the flawed A Few Acres of Snow got a free ride from reviewers.

Matt Thrower

Matt is a board gamer who plays video games when he can't find anyone similarly obsessive to play against, which is frequently. The inability to get out and play after the birth of his first child lead him to start writing about games as a substitute for playing them. He founded FortressAT.com and writes there and at NoHighScores.com

32 thoughts to “The Function of Criticism”

  1. This is similar to thoughts I’ve been having on the subject. The difference is that I decided, long ago, to lower my threshold for defining something as art. Mass-market art can be bad art.

    Sculpture doesn’t necessarily speak to everyone on a concrete level about the human condition. But looking at sculpture produces some kind of emotional reaction, even if it’s boredom. I can look at a landscape and acquire the same range of feelings. But a person made the sculpture. Maker’s Intent+finished artifact+User Experience=Art.

    If you start there, the navel gazing falls away, and review becomes an articulation of the User Experience. It also throws the value of criticism into focus.

    If I want to know whether to buy something, I find someone who will describe their User Experience in a way I understand. If I really gave a rip about polygon counts and frame-rate, I would find reviewers who have spoken that language in the past. If I want a paean about a game’s emotional content, I come here.

    Games criticism doesn’t lack for criticism. It lacks snobs. Say what you want about snobs, but without them, what would be the difference between cabernet and merlot?

    Gaming has Partisans, certainly. Console and PC defenders, FPS and turn-based afficionados, people who think RPG=Stat Whoring versus people who think RPG=Dialogue Choices. But not many people can say exactly *why* having a faster aim/turn time in PC shooters makes those shooters better. And to get that, gaming needs a better class of snobs.

    If gaming has any real, unique setback in this regard, it’s the focus on winning. A real snob doesn’t need to explain why he prefers one thing to another. He just does. But I hear *much* argument on the intertubes on not only what someone thinks, but also why every other opinion is inferior. It’s a type of snobbery, maybe. But not the kind that gets anywhere.

    1. Absolutely. What you frame in terms of snobbery is precisely what I was getting at when I talked about maturity – there’s plenty of people articulating an opinion but few people who seem interested in articulating them in a constructive, helpful manner that’s actually going to drive forward discussion of a single game, let alone game commentary as a whole.

      I like your idea of “User Experience”. It seems a strangely sterile and artificial term to use when talking about what should be predominantly an emotional response to something, but those two words do strike to the core of the matter. “Experience” take us away from empty feature counts, while “User” focusses on the value of providing a clear, solid, opinion.

      1. As I was telling Jesse below, I’ve spent some time thinking about this. Theater is art, but most definitions of art focus on the artifact – the thing that’s made at the end “is” or “is not” art.

        So theater majors actually have this fight in school. A stage play is only a “thing” in the very loosest sense of the word, and then only for a brief window in time. But no one argues that *theater* isn’t art.

        Our definition ends up with art being a verb, not a noun. The equation is sterile, but it provides – your word – focus, doesn’t it?

        I also think it’s important to let art be bad. Calling bad or mediocre art “not art” may feel good, but it doesn’t make our thinking on the subject any clearer. There can be bad chairs and bad foreign policy and bad sandwiches. So in my view, calling Hollywood cash-in movies “bad art” is more helpful.

        1. I like your description of “Bad art.” It should become a more stinging insult than “not art.”

    2. Typo fix: second sentence of last para should be: “A real snob doesn’t need to *convince others to prefer what he prefers*.”

    3. I like your concept of user experience, but I disagree entirely with regards to the snob factor. I think its great that gaming does not have some “critical elite” who make decisions about the worthiness of art for us. As a fan of novels, I can say that I am enraged that the critics dismiss entire genres out of hand. If a book doesn’t meet the very narrow qualifications as to what “literature” can be, good luck trying to find a professional review. Do we really want a gaming world where only, say, RPGs (or shooters, platformers, whatever) are considered to be “serious” games?

      Furthermore, you say that snobs don’t have to convince anyone about their opinion. I’m sorry, and intend no offense, but that’s nonsense. If you have a strong opinion about anything, and can’t make a strong attempt to convince others of that viewpoint, then your opinion is worthless. Some games may just strike your fancy, and that’s fine, but you any intelligent person should be introspective enough to figure out why that game works for you. If you consider yourself to be informed about anything, then your opinions need to be backed up by something. Make comparisons to other works, bring up statistics (if appropriate), use formal logic, but don’t just say “I like it”.

      1. Agreed. The ‘snob factor’ is a large part of why modern art is as described in the main article.

        Now, the somewhat related idea that is needed is ‘respect’. There are certain art critics, and movie critics, and so on who have accumulated a body of work that lends what they say a certain amount of respect. No one seems to have gotten to this place in the video game industry, ever (there is an argument for Tom Vassel in board games). I don’t know why, but then I don’t really know how the mechanism works in other art forms either.

        1. I think its just a time thing. I mean, Roger Ebert is respected in film because he’s been a working critic for several decades, and film criticism has been seen as a serious thing for even longer than that. I’ve been playing video games and following the industry for 15+ years, and I feel that deep game analysis (like what happens at this site) is only 5 years old (at most).

        2. I have to disagree here, but that’s largely because I feel some people have elevated to that status. What do you think when I throw out the name Tom Chick?

          Most people probably have an opinion of him, but that’s because he does exactly what Matt is suggesting. Love him or hate him you know he isn’t ashamed to share his opinion, and back it up along the way.

          Others I feel hit this standard are John Walker and the guys at RPS, Troy and Rob on Three Moves Ahead, and here at NHS. Each have moved the discussion forward in their own way. Tom is the master of the polarizing but informative review (he uses the whole scale?! BURN THE HERETIC). John is known for his in depth look at issues in the game industry and providing thoughtful analysis. Troy and Rob don’t review titles, but give detailed discussions that really are required listening for any developer, or strategy aficionado. NHS puts up articles that inspire debate through presenting a thoughtful question (like Barnes did with his indie screed).

          Are these types of informative reviews the minority, sure. Do most people care, probably not. True criticism is there, and healthy for those wanting to look for it.

          1. You have destroyed my argument with people I respect. Congratulations. 🙂

            On the other hand, it does show that the audience is too fractured and incohesive. I only know of Tom Chick through TMA. I’ve never actually read a review by him, and I wouldn’t know where to go to find one. The light at the end of the tunnel is there (or should I say, it’s here), but it’s yet to really spread through a decent part of the community to have the same kind of effect. Though developers are certainly paying attention, and that’s a good start.

      2. I tried to address just this point (I think) by changing the original wording from “explain” to “convince”. Of course one needs to be able to explain. But I’m okay with us agreeing to disagree on the importance of convincing others.

        And it’s because I limit the “job” of a snob to refining his or her *own* taste, as opposed to that of others, that I’m not applying a negative connotation to the word “snob”. Would “afficionado” do the job better?

        My point is, people don’t normally *start* drinking beer for the taste, but some eventually get to that point. And likewise, most of us start gaming for – what? a power fantasy? – and then only later develop tastes for more complicated fare.

        If I muddied the waters by using the word “snob”, I’ll trash it if there’s a word that works better. The kind of person I’m thinking of is not the gatekeeper of anything, and I feel the same way you do about the panning of “genre” fiction.

        1. I think the term “aficionado” would work much better for your purposes. “Snob” has pretty universally negative connotations, mostly revolving around belittling everything that the “snob” does not care for. “Aficionado” is generally just focused on his interest, and therefore matches your purpose well.

        2. Yeah, I think I was just freaking about over the word snob there. To me it translated into intellectual elitism, which I think we can all agree sucks. Aficionado works a lot better.

          And you’re right on with the beer comparison. At least for me, the two interests have taken extremely parallel tracks.

          1. Funny, I may use have started using it for exactly that reason. I was the guy drinking Guinness while everyone else was binge-drinking Miller High Life in college. People would ask me why I wasn’t partying “for reals”, and I’d just shrug and say I was a beer snob.

            I’m also the guy who doesn’t need to defend the Star Wars prequels to admit that it was a formative part of my introduction to genre fiction. (bonus points: google “Machete Order” if you haven’t heard of it already.)

            I’m the guy who can explain D&D to non-gamers without making their eyes glaze over.

            And to me, that skill set is the most valuable part of what Matt is trying to hone in on as a definition of criticism: if you’re not introducing new people to nuance constructively, or you’re not sitting with the Guinness drinkers, really digging into the value of a particular kind of hops, then you’re doing a Consumer Reports product review.

  2. Reviews from “professional” websites are useless to me, for the most part.

    Most of them sound the same, read the same, and are as flavorless as stale gum.

    It’s not that I don’t trust game reviewers, I just find the majority of them incompetent at what they do. I have bought games based off reviews, got the game home and wondered what the hell the writers were playing.

    Film, book and music critics, IMO, are much better at what they do than almost all game writers. It’s like game writing has yet to graduate to full on professionalism and they still are written by hipster doofuses without any semblance of authorship of what they are saying. There are exceptions and those exceptions are usually ostracized by “fans” who give all gamers a bad rap. Its a catch 22. Be a thought provoking writer with an opinion that doesnt mesh with the majority and you are looked at as outcast/hater.

    As for what I want from a game review? I agree with Matt. Give me an idea of the experience. What its like to play. For gods sake dont rattle off features and tell me that the game supports 2-8 players in multiplayer with deathmatch mode or has 24 mission campaign unless you can say something significant ABOUT IT.

    Dont tell me “the graphics are pretty” Shit you may as well not even say anything at that point.

    Truth is, most game writing sucks, written by children for children.

    Maybe that will change as the industry matures but in the meantime by ‘favorites’ list has bout 4 sites on it that are worth the time to read.

    1. “As for what I want from a game review? I agree with Matt. Give me an idea of the experience. What its like to play. For gods sake dont rattle off features and tell me that the game supports 2-8 players in multiplayer with deathmatch mode or has 24 mission campaign unless you can say something significant ABOUT IT.

      Dont tell me “the graphics are pretty” Shit you may as well not even say anything at that point.”

      This.

    2. Interesting point that people who are capable of writing with depth and vision can sometimes be pulled down by the crowd. There seems to be an increasing bifurcation happening the industry between mass-market titles and hobbyist-lead indie ones. You see the same in film and books of course, but there criticism has grown up the other way round: it’s not so long ago that he majority of books (especially) were objects of art and deserved of in-depth analysis. Mass-market titles came later. Gaming has *never* had that initial phase of art-lead criticism, and in all seriousness when you think back to the ZX Spectrum and the SNES, why would it have had? But I think it’s hampering the industry journalism now.

  3. I think what you are pointing at is exactly right. It must be exciting to be at the infancy of mature criticism of any medium. You are there in the trenches helping to build the very vocabulary people use to talk about the subject you are passionate about.

  4. I typed a long comment, but the browser crashed/closed without giving his reasons. Now I’m to lazy to reproduce it all. So here is the short version.

    If primary purpose is profit –> not art, but entertainment product. Hollywood movies and fantasy novels are not art to me for that reason.

    1. I would have agreed fifteen years ago. But I was a theater major, and I’ve seen a lot of artists quit the business because they were actually starving to death. I refuse to allow the argument to be as simple “profit is the opposite of art”, because it implies that “real artists should be willing to starve”.

      1. I don’t try to say artists should be willing to starve. And profit and art are not opposites. But not everything that needs some creativity in the production process is automatically art. Designing a car could be seen as art, but for me that does not make an engine a piece of art. If the primary focus is to sell more copies and you are willing to change almost everything in order to sell more, then, for me, you are a product designer and not an artist. If you try to express yourself, but have to accept some limitations because you have to make a living too that is different. Video games can be art. But then the primary focus should be on artistic expression and making money a secondary concern.

        Same thing with calling StarCraft tournaments “e-sport”. It takes skill to win and you can have competitions, but that does not make it a sport. Both are just different routes to get to a wider audience and gain social acceptance.

        1. Okay. I get that. Is there a fuzzy line in there somewhere, then? An amount of “artistic compromise” that turns bad art into product design?

          1. I’m not sure there is a fuzzy line. It is more a question of intent. A well designed product can have more “artistic value” than bad art. Let me try to explain it by using paintings instead of video games. Some rich guy hires you to paint a portrait. That would be on the art side of the fence. You paint the same body and background over and over again and add the face of a paying customer, then the result is a product. I’m fully aware that this definition makes some of the stuff considered high art today fall into my product category.

          2. No, I like it. It’s a working definition you can work with. I was thinking about “artists” in the Renaissance, who painted mostly reproductions, were solidly in that category.

  5. Consumers guides can’t be criticism. The term “review” somehow has come to connote both, perhaps because mainstream criticism has so declined in this country (of all art forms) that in order to keep up appearances, we’ve extended the definition to consumer guides so we can obscure that. And video games have never had serious criticism to begin with.

    In any case, criticism requires familiarity with the work, with surrounding works, with history, and it requires some insight on the part of the critic. The question of criticism is not “should you buy this?” or even “is this good?” Those are consumer’s guides, and they serve their own useful purpose. Critics appraise the role of a work in a culture, in a time and place. They draw out elements that may be dormant for the layperson, and they evaluate the success (the spirit, the honesty, the virtue) of the work. Criticism is best read when the reader is already familiar with the subject of the critique. I’d love to see more game criticism.

    1. Very well articulated. And as I said in the piece, I think a crucial understanding in driving this forward is that reviews, in most respects, are of very little use in guiding the consumer. So there should be a powerful impetus for writers to move forward toward real criticism: the genre has enough now in the way of depth, history and culture to make this plausible.

  6. “But of course just because some games can be art, doesn’t mean they all can.”

    I don’t see how they can avoid being art. They are creative endeavors designed to produce a reaction. That’s art.

    1. I believe that is an overly broad categorisation. Press releases are often highly creative endeavors, and they are definately designed to produce a reaction. But I hope you aren’t suggesting they are art.

  7. I think you’ve described two important uses in modern game criticism: helping those who haven’t played the game make an informed decision, and functioning like a kind of “book club” where those who have played it can try to “explore them more deeply and see where they lead.”

    I’d say that the problems come from when a writer or reader confuses the two. Confusion is the natural result when we aren’t able to address bias openly.

    If you are acting to inform your audience for a potential purchase, then you don’t need to pull out the spin guns. “Fanboi” readers of similar taste will already grok what you’re talking about. There should be no need whatsoever to defend your “opinions” the way most of the Mass Effect discussion has gone. The informant is like a field anthropologist, describing to the best of their abilities what they observe as well as their own biases.

    On the other hand, “book club” style discussions can also be informative for those trying to decide about making the purchase. I assume there are many more of these kind of “reviews” of the Mass Effect ending out there than clinical descriptions. So for the buyer, it is simply easier to find an inflammatory debate than a detailed and impartial review.

    Maybe these bias-heavy opinion pieces could represent useful criticism in addition to serving the “book club” purpose if we could be more open about the biases involved. No one blames a pastry gourmet for liking mostly baked goods. We celebrate and rely on them as a kind of authority. As a childhood Star Wars fan, I consider the Plinkett reviews well-informed in terms of lore, and this lends some credibility to the reviewer’s comments on filming. Those reviews are obviously aimed more at being a kind of “book club” kind of debate-starter. They can even be cathartic.

    This doesn’t make them informative for people who just want a dumb action/fantasy flick, and have a future decision to make. Given the example and the level of self-parody involved, I don’t think the Plinkett character really needs a disclaimer. The problem is all the copycats who use similar artistic critiques while maintaining an air of absolute authority.
    see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MlatxLP-xs&feature=player_embedded Golem Rising posted in Michael Barnes’ Post-Mortem.

    Even Yahtzee admits to being unfamiliar with most genres, and IT’S HIS JOB to be inflammatory for our entertainment. He still pulls it off. I don’t know to get other hyper-competitive people on the internet to leave that ammo at the door.

    1. The Plinkett reviews are a weird sort of phenomenon. At times it seems like his persona, while at times overbearing, is mainly to prevent a hostile audience from taking him too seriously, which is often the issue in marginalized media genres. I feel like this need to defuse criticism with an affected agenda is also the reason why video game reviewers pretend to a “consumer reports” style in their pieces, even when shooting for something deeper and subtler.

      People compare video games to so many other mediums, but I think that speculative fiction’s grueling climb out of the genre ghetto over the past couple decades is particularly informative. If the industry produces art at a level of consistently high quality, and if there exists a body of critics willing and able to discuss it on the level of contemporary pieces, then opinion will change eventually, given a generation or two.

  8. The world is grey

    Art is subjective in that if you think it is art it is art to you.

    Art is generally the combination of the aesthetic and an idea. The quality of art can be gauged by your appreciation for these two elements.

    Games have the addition of a game mechanic which different people will appreciate differently.

    The product review should therefore cover these elements but different reviews will give more focus to a particular area. I feel NHS tends to focus more on the ideas and mechanics which is partially why I read them. I also tend to agree with the reviewers assessments so I trust them.

    However, I’ll still by Halo 4 at launch, I’m committed, and there are few games I’ll end up buying off the back of a review alone so I read these reviews for other reasons.

    Partly it’s so I can play vicariously through the reviewers experiences (I don’t have time to play them all) but also because I enjoy the act of reading them. I enjoy the writing style and the ideas explored so I’m classing them as art.

    Whether reviews drive the industry is another matter that’s dependant on wether game designers read them and take note or whether the gamers will take note of the reviews and only buy ‘good’ games.

    I doubt they are or will, our old friend Hollywood is testimony to the power of style over content for the masses, but the industry continues to grow giving more room for the Jouneys (which I’ve still not played because I had to finish Gears3 (mums Xmas present))

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