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03/22/2005

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No. 7

Indeed the whole oeuvre of video games writing has contributed much to modern cultural aesthetics. The idea that we must confine ourselves to narrow bands of meaning is, at best, a diatribe against our own freedom of thought and emotion. Germaine Greer's thoughts on the matter can be summed by her statement "The essence of pleasure is spontaneity", wherefore is the spontaneity in a single rating? A mark fixed tightly in the bounds of the natural numbers.

Many people point out the so called greats of video gaming history, Toshihiro Nishikado, Toru Iwatani, Namco, Atari, et al. But where would they be without the strength and insight brought fourth by the towering lights of journalistic literature such as Amis? I severely doubt how many teenagers in the 1970s and 80s would have so readily parted with their precious coins had they not been shown the way by such giants of gaming journalism. Without such flowing prose I doubt we would have a gaming industry to speak of today!

The assumption that gaming can be treated as anything other than a players personal journey through their life is simply closed minded. 'We' are not fighting against an iconic representation of alien invasion when 'we' play Space Invaders, 'we' are attacking the bounds that society puts on our would view. A simple way to pass the time? I think not! This is our summer holidays, our first innocent kiss, our fear of our drunken uncle and his nightly visits. There is no conceivable way that such experiences can be broken down a sectioned into neat categories such as 'playability' or 'graphics'. We must therefore embrace the subjective, not review, but revelation of a game, experience it change our life as we too change its own existence.

auslander

Consider the bat. An abstraction of form and substance, an avatar of violence. A device reinforcing the phallic needs of the man to assert his authority upon all that he views. Imagine, if you will, the competitive spirit existing within all of us, our primal need to prove ourselves superior to others, to rise up and be counted. To strike out, lash out, break out. To feel the rush of energy, the firing of the neurons in response to the stimuli of the light and sound. Miss the ball, and you lose. Your failure mocking you as a mammoth incandescent integer. Again, again, again cries the hippocampus. The thalamus pushes you forward, intent to win, to achieve, to be the big man. A strike, a motion, all our hopes on an recondite ball. We hope for nothing other than our opponent missing the serve. We strive for procreation of our numbers, our integers, to see the single digit burst forward into the glorious pregnancy of the double.


Pong : 9 out of 10.

Hamhock

Your original, useful comments undoubtedly need telling.

san

I'd like to see a bit of "new games journalism" written discrediting "new games journalism". What we have instead is a seven-point screed of which only one sentence The writer is not the most important person has any merit, and a bunch of deliberately magniloquent passages that stretch the boundaries of even their own whimsy. (A recondite ball?)

A piece of writing is not good because it relates its subject matter to the work of Jean-Paul Sartre (Who is Jean-Paul Satre, anyway?) But it's not bad merely for that point, either. What has happened to, I didn't like this, and I'd didn't like this one, but, oh, I did like this one? Because a game review or film, or music, or book is a good thing to have when going shopping, we should not have writing that considers broader issues or tackles the whole thing from a different angle? And a little navel-gazing does matter. Without thoughtful consideration of existing art, we wouldn't have a lot of new art. We certainly wouldn't have the variety of video games we have today.

Mike

I would like more literary interpretation of games. I don't know what you'd call it (I don't want to call it journalism, but it has its place).

What was good about the older form of journalism you describe is that people asked why they enjoyed it. And the answer wasn't "Good controls, good graphics." The answer involved digging into our experiences with the tropes of other media and placing us within the agency of acting within those tropes. I like that.

I want to know why a game works, but not for technical reasons. I want to know where a game's elements originate from.

If someone can write an annotation of "Kill Bill," we can get an annotation of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."

No. 7

Indeed, technical understand of a game should be avoided at all costs. It is a baffle against reaching the truer meaning of a game hidden deep by the artists involved (the term developer is of no use to us and should be discarded to the realm of grey suited business men and their spreadsheets).

Simple mined folk may just assume that the GTA series of games is just a loose collection of crime fantasies bolted together for the teen/20-something market. They are blinded by the belief that shallow concepts like 'gameplay' or 'fun' actually count for something. Yet if you spend just a few minutes exploring the semantics of the interactions between player and game you'll become aware of the subtle details presented. Was shooting the policeman chasing you simple an act of point scoring, or was it a comment on the Scissor Sisters' concert the reviewer went to last night? With such complex social constructs as we live, we may never know.

The comparison with films is a good one, where once we were obsessed with details of editing and lighting, the quality of the script and actors. Now we have progressed beyond those worthless details and instead see the film for what it truly is. Gone are the days where films are heralded for their technical achievements, who cares if 'Citizen Kane' pushed the boundaries of directorial techniques, so what if Hitchcock could weave together the strands of tension so precisely in 'Rear Window'. Today we know better, we know that 'Kill Bill' was a masterpiece because Quentin Tarintino created it, and everybody says he's cool.

So too, with the reviewer of games. What's more important, his interest in gaming or his lifestyle? As NGJ has proven, the latter is far and away the key to good games reviewing, nobody cares about the quality of the game, they want to know if they'll be playing the same game as some guy who's snorted coke off the toilet seat at a White Stripes gig. They want to buy into the lifestyle and NGJ offers them just that.

san

"'Citizen Kane' pushed the boundaries of directorial techniques" - OGJ
"Hitchcock could weave together the strands of tension so precisely in 'Rear Window'" - NGJ

I don't think you hate the "new games journalism"; I think you hate self-aggrandizing elitists of cool. Surely they are to be reviled and scorned. But they work everywhere, in all genres of writing, and are not the exclusive hobgoblins of the "new games journalism".

Mike

I love the non-sequitor that NGJ is written only by hipster 20-somethings who only listen to their music live, and in audiences with thirty-or-less participants.

There is space for reviews and literary interpretation within games. Both have their importance and their uses.

Just because a writer wants to look into a game deeper than "is it fun?" does not mean the writer is ignoring that fun, nor does it mean the writer is some hipster cocaine addict who refuses to watch movies in color. Some people just want to look a measly bit deeper.

Is it really just masturbatory navel gazing to investigate what a game is saying? Can't game developers make a game fun and contribute something to the discourse of modern society?

Old school games aren't a popular subject because they're hip. They're a popular subject because they've contributed a style and perspective to that period of time. Many people analyze those games because they became a filter through which to view other aspects of the time.

But, perhaps that view point makes me a hippy communist who will only buy albums in vinyl and will only drink coffee at small-time shops while reading alt-weekly newspapers.

No. 7

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. Here I am trying to capture the very essence of NGJ and I find that so many people just do not understand.

Poster 'San' seems to believe that NGJ is simply a matter of pumping a normal review through a thesaurus. That a simple sprinkling of flowery language can somehow transcend the periphery of games dialogue. I sorry to say that both quotes used are, in fact, of the old world, not the new! The very concepts pushed forward by the NGJ movement are hard to appraise due to the very characteristics of its subjective and metalexical nature, the subject matter is more important than the language, and the subject is not always easy to define.

Poster 'Mike' seems closer to the mark, but somehow he lets preconceived notions about lifestyle deflect him, in short I think he fails to capture the critical heart of the cultural zeitgeist. Yes retro gaming shows us the viewpoint of an earlier generation and their rejection of polygons in favour of a more base depictation of such abstracts. And yes, the deconstructionist interpretation of the new literature that is the video game is crucial to it's future, but you must open yourself up to the wider spread of philosophical insight present. We have new space to explore, it is within us.

CFoust

A review is what you read before you buy a game. NGJ is what you read after you've played the game. Nobody is making you read NGJ. You can keep reading reviews; nowadays you can get the same information in a dozen publications and websites, or just by browsing a message board for a few minutes. Or if you are really desperate to know ifa game is good or bad, why don't you play it yourself?

People who write essays about their personal experience with a game are not secret narcissists, trying to make him/herself seem cool to you, the hapless reader. They are writing about the game, or gaming in general, but instead of using such meaningless phrases as "fun" or "good gameplay", they opt to show you by describing what they got out of it. By reading you may get a better understanding of your own experience, but it's purely optional. If you aren't interested in anyone but yourself, then don't read it.

People who go to movies never cared about the lighting, editing, special effects, etc. As a rule, if you notice it, it is because it was done wrong. In the same way, the player doesn't need to know about the technical details of a game. A movie exists to deliver a story; a game exists to deliver a gameplay experience.

Modern game reviews have been boiled down so that many of them review a game as you would review a word processor. A game is still a software product, and it needs to be technically sound, but it is also a work of art, and the art is the apect of the work that begs to be discussed. Even Roger Ebert analyzes the story a bit and gives his own opinion when he reviews a movie.

Robert Ashley

All the freshman lit majors who want to abandon the technology side of games for story can have fun polishing turds and looking for the slab steak under all that cake icing. Games are art, but not for their storytelling or imagery (Psychonauts excluded). The gaming press focuses on gameplay, control, and visuals because interactivity is the heart and soul of gaming, the connection between you and what happens on-screen, what you see, feel, and do. The way you interact and affect virtual worlds matters more than the contents of that world. Art style, dialogue, characters, and anything else you care to graft over the core design elements serve as window dressing. The failure of the gaming press is not over-focusing on issues of basic design, but the opposite, not understanding or recognizing recurrent patterns. People don't seem to mind playing the same game with a thousand different window dressings.

Robert Ashley

All the freshman lit majors who want to abandon the technology side of games for story can have fun polishing turds and looking for the slab steak under all that cake icing. Games are art, but not for their storytelling or imagery (Psychonauts excluded). The gaming press focuses on gameplay, control, and visuals because interactivity is the heart and soul of gaming, the connection between you and what happens on-screen, what you see, feel, and do. The way you interact and affect virtual worlds matters more than the contents of those worlds. Art style, dialogue, characters, and anything else you care to graft over the core design elements serve as window dressing. The failure of the gaming press is not over-focusing on issues of basic design, but the opposite, not understanding or recognizing recurrent patterns. People don't seem to mind playing the same game with a thousand different window dressings.

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