gaming reviews vs. criticism

February 24th, 2008  |  Published in media queue

I’m not a gamer, but I found this article, linked to from BoingBoing relevent not just to gaming but other types of media:

Similarly, there would be no point today in writing a review of Ultima IV, since it is long out of print. A useful work of criticism, however, is entirely conceivable: discussing, perhaps, its role as one of the first games to consider the moral implications of a player’s acts, and to use tactical combat as a minigame within the context of a larger, more strategic title. Such an article, well-written, ideally with an understanding of the influence of tabletop roleplaying on the development of the early western CRPG, and of the place of this title in the overall shape of Richard Garriot’s ouevre would be of interest to readers today, even if they’d be hard put to find a way to buy the damn game. And it might find a place in anthologies and studies of the 20th century origins of the popular medium of the game, going forward into the indefinite future.

The truth is that, for the most part, we don’t have anything like game criticism, and we need it — to inform gamers, to hold developers to task, and to inform our broader cultural understanding of games and their importance and impact.
Read more at Pro Gamer Review.

I swear I’m going to stop writing about meta-discussions of punk subculture, but this makes me ask the question – does punk’s (and other musical subcultures for that matter) reliance on the review as a source of dialog about media objects narrow the vision for its social relevence and fail to push media producers to make music with a consciousness of its place in history and the current social context?  Also, what is the impact, with the rise of web content and media review (I heard a piece about metacritic.com on Morning Edition this morning) coupled with the rise of consumption and review of technological commodities, on punk (and musical subculture in general)?  Clearly, a generation of young people, deeply invested in this review culture intersects the listenership of subcultural music.

I single out punk just because if you look at any of the popular punk fanzines (MRR, Razorcake, etc.) an incredible amount of the content is dedicated to the reviewing of zines and records.  I guess this is true of music media in general, but I am, of course, most familiar with punk, and I want to challenge the idea that punk is somehow ahead of the curve when it comes to cultural behavior.  Looking at mainstream media, I find it even easier to criticize the review because they are increasingly blippy, often dedicating less than a paragraph to a discussion of the content.

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