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On Games Growing Up, Players, Art, Sunset, Tales of Tales, and the IBTimes

growupA few days ago, Edward Smith wrote a piece for the International Business Times where he makes the suggestion that the attitude of players towards games like Her Story and Sunset are killing the video game industry. His argument stems, unsurprisingly, from the recent bankruptcy of Tales of Tales, the studio responsible for Sunset, and his perception of the general reception of Her Story, an FMV-driven narrative with minimalistic player input in the tradition of Night Trap. Edward explains how he longs for video games to grow up and become an artistic medium, and that player’s receptions to art games are preventing the medium to grow up. This is by no means the first article of its kind. Indeed several commentators have decried how the medium has yet to grow up and how players are preventing the medium from reaching maturity. I disagree with their premise.

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The Problem with Game Reviews

Sleepy-Game-ReviewI was having a conversation with a colleague about whether Youtube has made game reviews obsolete. She suggested that because on Youtube players could see people actually responding to the game as first impression videos, showing game footage, and discussing glitches. However, these are all things that can be done in print form. A game reviewer can write about first impressions, embed images and videos, and write about glitches. The question of whether Youtube video commentary is a “more interesting” form of review than written reviews is, honestly, a question of personal preference. All things being equal, I personally prefer a written review as I can skip over things I deem irrelevant, whereas fishing for the content I want on a Youtube vid is a bit trickier. But the problem is that my friend’s main claim is partly correct. Game reviews ARE obsolete. The thing is that Youtube is not what made them obsolete, it is the reviewers’ approach to reviews that made them obsolete.

There are plenty of comments talking about how reviewers as buyers’ guides are obsolete because reasons, that reviews should become criticism, and that reviews will never be relevant again. I disagree with all these statement. I think that there is much need for games criticism, both the formal kind found in peer reviewed game studies journals and the informal kind found in blogs and in an incredibly small number of Youtube channels. However, games criticism is fundamentally different from game reviewing, and I think that there is also a need for solid, consistent, well thought out frameworks for game reviews, and while I acknowledge that most current forms of reviews are useless, it is not because of Youtube and I do think that they can make a comeback.

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