Art or not, games are much more than the just sums of their parts. Any idiot can write a review that simply describes a game
‘sfunctionality and tells you that it is technically superior to similar games that have come before it. A good writer can take the same game and evoke for the reader the experience of playing without directly explaning the minutiae of the control scheme, for instance. They can place the game into the pantheon of the medium and the wider culture it ‘sa part of and explain its impact, if any. This is the heart of good criticism, I feel.
Of course, this is easier for some games than others. The more derivative, generic and mediocre a game is, the harder it is to find something interesting to say about it. But the goal or the critic should always be to find that interesting angle, that evocative turn of phrase, that description of the game as experience rather than object. Anyone who is content merely describing a game and its most objectively measurable qualities (?killer graphics,? ?tight controls?) should stop writing game criticism and start writing instruction booklets or press releases.
This gets into what I consider a fundamental split of all game evaluation into two distinct types: game reviews and game critiques (Never mind that almost all outlets call every game evaluation a review, just bear with me here). In my mind, game reviews are mainly commercial tools, meant to help consumers decide whether or not a game is worth their money and time. Game critiques, on the other hand, are more concerned with the totality of a game
‘sdesign and what a game does to advance the state of the medium or even society as a whole. The former considers mainly whether a game is fun, the latter whether it is worthwhile. —kyleorl —It’s Our Fault That Games Are n’tConsidered Art (VGM Watch)
I’m a bit puzzled by this: “A critic’s writing should betray deep feelings of ownership for the industry they love and study and write about.” That’s a bit like saying drama critics should be chummy with the actors and directors whose work they evaluate. But if the author here means a game critique shouldn’t be a negative, whiny rant, then I say amen.
There’s a lot that could happen in between fanatical raves and petulant rants.
Maybe it’s the word “industry” that troubles me. If you replaced it with “genre” I’d feel better.
Of course, novelists and dramatists and poets want to make money, too, but there are fewer technical enablers and middlemen in the “literature industry,” so in literary genres, it’s easier to maintain the soul-nurturing myth of the solitary author.