Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Articles You Should Read

I'm always on the lookout for smart videogame journalism (if you want to call it that). It seems, though, that most of the writing out there is either pretentious (The Brainy Gamer, Sexyvideogameland) or dumbed down to appeal to teenagers and college kids (Joystiq, Kotaku, Gamesrader). I do enjoy the work of Giantbomb, but the reviews there can be too formulaic and the Bombcast sometimes turns into a dudefest (especially during E3).

I'm not interested in a basic review that breaks a game down into its constituent parts with the purpose of telling me whether or not I should buy it. Nor am I interested in a review that attaches a number-score to itself, thus nullifying everything that was just written. I want writing that is mature, critical, and smart; that treats video games as an expressive, artistic medium; that looks at the issues within and that surround the games themselves. But I don't want it to sound like a chapter out of a critical or literary theory textbook. There are a few writers who have accomplished this, and I'm posting links to their articles. I'll do this from time to time when I feel that you should be directed to an important or interesting article. Check them out after the page jump.

Eric Kain, The Hedged Knight
Kain writes for Forbes, amongst others. His articles are usually brief and, sometimes, subjective, but give good discussions on games, gameplay, and game issues. Check out his article on the death of the console, Long Live the Video Game Console. A quote to whet your appetite:
The almost gleeful projections of the decline and fall of the console – be it Wii U, PlayStation, or Xbox – strike me as wrong-headed from a gamer standpoint.

The Moving Pixels blog at PopMatters.
This blog features many excellent writers, but I am particularly fond of the work of Eric Swain and Nick Dinicola.
Eric Swain has an interesting article on story set up in The Implicit Promise and the Uncharted Series, a series that failed to impress me. Here's a quote:
First impressions matter because it tells so much of what is yet to come. It tells us what to expect and puts us in the right frame of mind for what is to come. Works that betray such a promise feel shoddy, unfocused, or an overall mess. Sometimes without anything being technically wrong with anything that comes afterwards.

Again, from the Moving Pixels blog Nick Dinicola looks at Spec Ops: The Line in The "Payoff" of 'Spec Ops: The Line'. Here's a bit from the first paragraph:
Spec Ops: The Line is a military-themed, cover-based, third-person shooter. You’ve played this game before, many times over. However, it’s still a game worth playing. It offers a different kind of story than the one normally attached to such shooters.

Finally, over at Grantland, Tom Bissell looks at why we play shooters in Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Shooter, Spec Ops: The Line and why we play violent shooter games. This one is excellent. It has a unique and interesting structure that I absolutely love.
Many, many developers have tried to craft a shooter with great characters and thoughtful scenarios and most of them have miserably failed. One possible explanation for this: A shooter works by effectively training its players to ignore things like great characterization and thoughtful scenario-making.

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