My favorite spanish literature book is The Savage Detectives by the late Roberto Bolano. In a memorable scene one of the many protagonist'sfaces a dilemna of his book to be subject unfairly to a poor review (politics between the writers and friends). Arturo Belano challanges his would be critic to a late evening duel on the Barcelona beach. The scene ends with the writer and the critic clanging their swords under the moonlight.
On the eve of the biggest video-game show developer and critic are once again clanging their swords on the internet. The cruxe of the issue is video game criticism is going in the right direction and if it serves the betterment of the art.
The blunt critique on the current state of games criticism comes from developer Dan Cook in a lengthy blog post on how currents games writing does not help the art and the science of our meduim.
Few developers have pubicly stated a revamp on games should be critique, either at the preview or review stage. For example the Too Human controversy that Silicon Knights' Dennis Dyack faced off with EGM after a harsh write-up from an E3 showfloor preview.
But back to Cook. In one of his bulletpoints he argues "
Game criticism is not about improving games. It is about studying what exists: I understand that there are people who prefer to be historians and catalogers of culture. There is still room for both catalogers and people who dream about the future. Perhaps not under the banner of 'game criticism' but certainly within games as whole."
The type of criticism or a peer review only exists in the review of a History book of the Civil War or in some JSTOR article about the study of the growth and weight over time in American Grizzly Bears.
The ever wonderful Leigh Alexander responded on video-game focused developer site, Gamasutra, rebutted much of Cook's post in her essay. Alexander focus on two aspects. First, games critics are gamers first. They write based on their experience. The type of criticism is similar in movies, music and literature. Second, the feedback given should be useful for designers in their language.
Games criticism is not without its' share of problems.My issue with current game reviews is the approach of attaching a numerical rating, because with the passage of time the game itself changes, and our contemporary critique becomes detached.
How does a videogame itself change over time? Let take for example the Mario series, started out as 2-D sprite, side scrolling platformer with its' contemporary being a 3-d adventure played on a sphere. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy are two great games, based on a 3-D engine that scored roughly the same, with Edge Magazine giving a 10/10 and Gamespot placing a 9.4 and 9.5, respectively, scores.
If I were to replay Super Mario 64, I would recognize the charm, and the great joy that I experience in September 1996. I fearfully cringe at the though of missing Super Mario 64, only to return to it in 2009, coming away from the experience as being a stepping stone or an innovator for 3-D platformers
But maybe Cook and Alexander should meet somewhere in the middle ground.
In a NY Times book review, De Witt Clinton professor in History of Columbia University Eric Foner wrote a "review" of the Gary W. Gallagher's Civil War book, The Union War.
Who would not want a Kojima review a Jaffe?