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It seems to me that Clint's real main criticism of the game is how the game uses it's medium's unique natural boundaries and integrates this flaw into the games design to 'trick' the player. Clint makes a good point that this is a betrayal of trust of sorts between the game's designers and the player.
However recently I heard a point raised in the age old debate of whether games can be considered art (this is about to become relevant I promise) which basically said that unlike other mediums of art games don't have their unique narrative structure. Bioshock in adopting the limitations of its medium to further its narrative, rather than fighting against them like every other game out there (more or less,) at the very least sets itself apart.
Obviously the answer is not to have the stories of every computer game from now on involving some kind of brain washing just so that we can say our medium has a unique narrative element that no other can match, but I wouldn't be surprised if in the future the idea of incorporating aspects of game design into the narrative takes off.
(recent though minor example is Assassins Creed, where the limitations of your journey through the holy land make sense as you are reliving memories and so have only a small degree of free will.)
Anyway, I just wanted to offer a different perspective on Bioshock's narrative concept.
As an afterthought when I heard your comments on Bioshock on the 1up yours it seemed like your main problem was with the setting rather than the narrative, though if you already didn't like the setting and then didn't dig the narrative twist I guess I can understand how one of the best games of the year "manipulative schlock."
A point of criticism i feel compelled to point though is that though I didn't hear what Jon Blow said, whatever he said it must have been truly at odds with Clint's critique as Clint goes out of his way to make his opinion clear that Bioshock is a superior quality product, just with some conflicting narrative philosophies. For this reason I feel that your representation of his piece would be misleading for anyone who didn't actually read it, and though I may have misunderstood your intentions completely, it also appeared as if you used his piece to justify your own criticisms of the game which unless you have actually finished Bioshock since your appearance on 1up yours (and if this is the case I apologize for this paragraph :P) were as I stated earlier on the setting and feel of the game which were not even discussed by Clint.

PS if anyone actually bothered to read this thank you for putting up with the spelling and tangents, and other problems that arise from posting stuff at 2:30am


Another Montreal connection to all that: Ian Bogost's talk was in part about how we need more game designers (and developers) providing game criticism, just like Jon's and Clint's critiques of BioShock.

Tiff Chow

Fresh out of school with a bachelors degree in Media Studies, I can say with some optimism that there is a brewing academic interest in the study of games and game theory that tags along with an overall pursuit in media literacy. Like you made a point to say, it won't surface so immediately from the likes of the gaming press, but I have hopes that whippersnappers like myself and in the up and coming generations will begin to fiercely question and understand modes of mediation as they become so seamlessly part of our lives.


Longtime reader, ... second-time poster? Can't recall. Anyhow.

Just coming off my MA in English, I can concur with Tiff that there's a growing impulse to look critically at games, but it's coming slowly. I think the next five to ten years, when the boomers start shifting out and the NES generation hits faculties hard, are going to be a real boom time, though.

Having said that, I've had a very difficult time identifying sources of solid game criticism: anyone have any recommendations? Any articles or communities out there that people are especially attached to, with or without the scholarly veneer?

Jose "Prime"

I agree that we need more deeper experiences in video games. But as much as video games are a medium that is always pushing forward on the technical side, gamer are still very conservative in their taste. When games like Metal Gear Solid 2 or Killer7 try something different, we're the first to shout that we want something more traditional. It's a bit sad, because MGS2 story brings a lot interesting topics but most people just want the pew pew and bam bam.


This is actually a point I wanted to bring up at the Journalist Panel but it wasn't a question and I didn't want to offend anyone so I stayed quiet. I'm glad you agree with me though! The fact is, most journalists simply aren't capable of offering the kind of criticism a lot of people are looking for. It has to come from people familiar with the language of game development, not game playing.

I'm also going to suggest that game criticism today is available and good enough. A journalist should not aspire towards a Cahiers du Cinema level of critique. It's not their place. The criticism already exists on the blogs of designers who possess the necessary language.

Some developer in the audience also mentioned that seeing shit games get good scores was not helping their motivation to make more interesting games. Bullshit. Don't read IGN to be inspired about your work, read Clint Hocking's blog and listen to Jonathan Blow (if you worked on Bioshock). There are already incredibly smart people saying games today are crap, and it shouldn't have to be in a magazine to be noticed.

Anyway, you're awesome Jane and I'm glad I attended that panel because now I'm subscribed to the blog of another journalist who isn't a complete asshole. I think that brings the total up to 3.


I agree that we need deeper experiences in games.

However, I disagree that we need deeper analysis and critique of all games. It would make people that want that kind of in-depth viewpoint happy (mostly academics, journalists, and industry professionals) but I would hesitate to call them the majority of people who are interested in games (or critique for that matter). I fear that it would lead to too much chin-stroking and intellectual wanking, while missing the point: Game are entertainment, first and foremost.

I'm sure Roger Ebert can give you an in-depth analysis of movies like "Citizen Kane" and "Blade Runner" but all most people care about is the inevitable "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" at the end.

Did including Randian themes make Bioshock interesting? Surely and many have discussed Bioshock. To death. Ad nauseum.

Did including Randian themes make Bioshock fun?
Not necessarily.

I enjoyed Bioshock, without thinking too deeply about it's "themes", and had a complete gaming experience. I had enjoyed Portal, yet, arguably, a very different experience altogether.

If you disagree strongly, by all means, make games worthy of critical analysis. I look forward to your engaging, interactive narrative that will give this generation their "Catcher in the Rye", but please remember: make it fun.

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