Sep 062011
System and story

This is not a manifesto. I don’t believe your approach to writing games criticism sucks. I don’t know you, and I can’t tell you what to write, or how to write. I’m only speaking for myself here. If you need advice on where to start, plenty of people will be happy to tell you how to think about games. The narratologists will insist you focus on storytelling, on plot and character and setting. The ludologists will tell you that only the rules and mechanics that make up the system really matter, and that narrative stuff is just window dressing. There [Read more…]

Jul 122011
Actor, Director, Producer: The player role in RPG battles

I have more to say about Final Fantasy XIII, but that post is so depressing to write I thought I’d hold off for now and elaborate on a point I made in my post discussing its combat mechanics. Role-playing games tend to get broadly divided into “turn-based” and “action” categories, distinctions that are not particularly informative, often get used inaccurately, and don’t usefully elaborate the relationship between the player and the system. The battle systems in RPGs can be described in a variety of orthogonal ways, each of which has some value for describing the game’s engagement with the player. [Read more…]

Two (too?) easy games

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Mar 312011
Two (too?) easy games

The most difficult part of reviewing a game is reviewing the difficulty. A few games — Super Meat Boy, I Wanna be the Guy — can uncontroversially be called hard, but the essential question is actually whether they are too hard. Since that level of difficulty depends not only on the individual player’s skills and experience, but also on his values, it can be difficult to state what goes over the line. It is even harder to accurately say whether a game is too easy, primarily because most reviewers are skilled and experienced gamers, many of them drawn to the [Read more…]

Nov 052010
Cinematic Action Games: A Brief Critical Assessment

Many of the games I named in my previous post about the cinematic action genre have been criticized for their lack of value. Because these games are short and linear, and rarely have life-extending multiplayer modes, the validity of charging full price for them has been questioned. Simplistic gameplay and action-movie inspired plots have led some critics to call these games shallow. Yet, several games that belong in this genre — Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Sands of Time — are regularly trotted out as examples of the best that the medium can achieve. To categorize cinematic action games [Read more…]