Monday, July 03, 2006

On Video Game Criticism

Girls With Guns: XXX
Originally uploaded by peter-noster.
Clive Thompson absolutely demolishes Chuck Kloesterman in his recent article about game criticism in Wired. In the process, he sketches out what makes games so different from other media.
Games aren't like movies or TV. They might have narrative in them, but what defines them -- what makes them games -- is not a storyline. It's that they create play. They thus have far more in common with basketball and backgammon than with a movie like Gone With the Wind. Every gamer implicitly knows this: We bitch about the fact that the Paladins in World of Warcraft are overpowered, that the damn guns in Halo 2 obscure the screen, or that the final boss in Tomb Raider: Legend is unkillable.

What we're most passionate about is the design of play -- the invisible rulesets that govern our virtual worlds. You don't write about Grand Theft Auto as if Rockstar has shot another Godfather. You write about it as if it Rockstar had created the next football.

With games, we're in the realm of ludology. It's an insanely rich field of human art and meaning, but it's utterly neglected. It's not taught in schools. It's not written about in newspapers. So we're just now scratching its surface. The game criticism of tomorrow won't look anything like the stuff that Pauline Kael wrote. It'll be some crazy, unruly spawn of sportswriting, gonzo journalism, analytic philosophy, memoir and investigative reporting. The Lester Bangs of gaming is going to be a philosopher of play. |Wired|

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