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Critiquing video games: Let's not get ahead of ourselves

Blake Snow

GameDaily has posted another excerpt from the forthcoming Videogame Style Guide examining the difference between reviewing games versus critiquing them and how the latter will ultimately help advance the medium. Author David Thomas explains that reviews merely define what something is, while critique aims to answer what it means. For instance, basic critique aims to share if what's being reviewed would be liked by others. Do you, would you, or would we collectively like this game?

The gist of Thomas's argument is that even though game reviews have advanced past mere explanation, our industry will never garner the respect it deserves until game journalists first embrace developed criticism; criticism which attempts to address what a game means beyond that of feelings. "Many writers shy away from these big questions because they feel that bringing up these kinds of issues is pretentious or making a big deal out of a little thing -- a videogame," says Thomas. It is pretentious. Saying video games need developed critique at this stage is like saying b-movies are worthy of profound analysis. Intellectual questions should only be addressed when the medium itself has completely developed.

Until game storylines and their execution fully mature (think of the many embarrassing game dialogs), there's no need in trying to figure out "what it means" if the authors can't even share a believable story. Note: I'm not suggesting the interactive experience of games as a whole are b-movie quality, but their storylines and ability to galvanize emotion generally are. On a double note: Current game writers need not be blamed nor ostracized as a majority if not all started out as designers or developers. But they do need assistance in the form of training and/or contributions by professional screenwriters if that's were we want to take this thing. Our medium's stories are still underdeveloped. Let's not jump the gun on their critique.

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