Game journalism's imminent reset. Or: What if a film critic had never seen Citizen Kane?

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  • Dr.Haggard 2 Aug 2012 15:01:25 4,259 posts
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    I don't recall ever seeing this discussed before but I could be wrong. It's something that's been bothering me for a while and I wondered if anyone else had an opinion about it, or if it's just me getting old and tetchy.

    If you were an aspiring film critic and you'd never seen Citizen Kane, or Vertigo or whatever, and to do so would require either buying old equipment or spending time fiddling around with emulators, or DOSBox, and once that was done it would then take anything from 10 to 30 odd hours to actually watch (whilst suffering its unbearably low resolution and primitive visuals) would you bother?

    If you didn't, would that gaping hole in your experience of the medium render your opinions less authoritative?

    I know a couple of very young people (in their early 20s) who currently write reviews and opinion pieces for gaming sites. One of them writes very well, and although journalism isn't his long term career goal there's every chance that at some point he'll end up freelancing for more widely read sites.

    That's all well and good, and I only wish him the best. However he hasn't been gaming all that long, relatively speaking. He's probably been a gamer for most of his life, but that isn't very long.

    He's certainly played a lot of what he'd undoubtedly refer to as retro games, but naturally there are huge gaps in his experience of the medium. Enormous, gaping holes where - in my opinion - memories of significant games ought to be in any non-specialised games journalist's head.

    Those memories aren't there so associations don't get made, references for comparison aren't there which ought to be, and in some cases those missing experiences even result in factually incorrect statements.

    This isn't an isolated instance, and will only become more and more widespread, so should we be worried? Can we really regard as reliable the opinions of people who are so young they simply don't have the experiences that they ought to have in order to write authoritatively on the subject?

    When gaining those experiences and earning that authority is terribly time consuming, and in many cases quite difficult to achieve, is games journalism destined to 'reset' every few generations?

    Gaming is unique in this regard. Any aspiring film or book critic can relatively easily gain the experience, if not the insight or ability, to at least give their opinions that weight of knowledge and familiarity with the medium. New game journalists can't - even if the means are there, albeit often tricky, the time probably isn't.

    I wonder if I'm just worrying about nothing, but it does piss me right off when I read something that's just flat out wrong because the writer only knows of the game he's referring to, but hasn't actually played it. I'm sure I read somewhere recently that Diablo is an RTS...

    Edited by Dr.Haggard at 15:05:27 02-08-2012
  • Physically_Insane 2 Aug 2012 15:06:18 9,297 posts
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    tl;dr
  • CosmicFuzz 2 Aug 2012 15:07:00 25,658 posts
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    I don't think you need to play old games to be a "gamer", and as long as you can write well etc then there shouldn't be anything stopping you passing comment on the current game.

    If you're actually getting stuff wrong then that's nothing to do with not having played old games, but of not having knowledge of them. I've never played Diablo or many RTS's, but I know the difference.

    Come listen to us discuss the Playstation Experience in Episode 11 of Open Source. zoolophage writes in!

  • Stranded87 2 Aug 2012 15:10:16 1,009 posts
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    It is potentially a problem. But then I doubt many game critics of any age have played every innovative, significant or important game old or new. Again it comes down to the time investment involved as well as having the right console or pc specs.

    I read factually incorrect or generally ignorant comments from critics older than me all the time.

    Edited by Stranded87 at 15:11:13 02-08-2012
  • Syrette 2 Aug 2012 15:11:45 44,301 posts
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    Hang on, people in their early 20s are "very young"?

    Get in, I'm only 25 myself!

  • Deleted user 2 August 2012 15:12:20
    It's an interesting point. I suppose a reasonable comparison might be modern car reviewers who have never driven things like a Model T or an Austin 7. There must have been a tipping point when reviewers started to not have the same level of experience as the first couple of waves, but eventually it becomes the norm.
  • LeoliansBro 2 Aug 2012 15:18:13 44,965 posts
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    You can limit yourself to the best examples of each evolving genre through the decades. Just as film critics haven't watched the vast majority of films that have ever been made, only the best and most influencial.

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • Deleted user 2 August 2012 15:18:33
    i think if you asked any film critic, or music critic, they will have gaping holes in films or music they havn't seen,heard or read. Its goes further beyond that i think to be a good critic you need much wider reading than just the medium you are reviewing as well. i think you need to absorb as much as you can.

    Another problem is that gamers, new ones, mostly don't aprricieate older games. Graphical quality being that obvious barrier, it be interesting to see if aspiring games journalists will verse themselves and understand the gameplay of older games.

    The other problem with reviewing gaming is that alot of film critics or music critics came from being into one genre of film. Using him as a example mark kermode i think started out as a horror critic. That was his passion. So obiviously studying that genre you pick up on the all films, texts, etc that are relevant to what you are reviewing.

    Games journalism doens't really seem to have that, its feel more broader. I guess there are critics that do specialise in genres, but gaming is a new medium that is built up on normally movie experiences.

    Also game reviews are still in general quite jeuvenile, there are only a few sites i think that are starting to properly review games on the same level as other mediums.

    Edited by joelstinton at 15:20:05 02-08-2012

    Edited by joelstinton at 15:21:00 02-08-2012
  • Deleted user 2 August 2012 15:18:44
    It's different with a car in that there is a greater degree of objectivity possible, games and film are a lot more subjective and affected by too many other factors like story.

    If you review a game purely based on its mechanics then I would agree that they are similar and experience is extremely important to review them well.

    You don't need to have seen Citizen Kane to write a good review about Transformers 3 being shit and for that review to have weight, likewise for games. You need to be able to recognise your own enjoyment and be able to express it well.
  • Mola_Ram 2 Aug 2012 15:19:29 8,325 posts
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    I reckon it'd be a bit more difficult for youngish game reviewers to appreciate old games, than it would be if they were young film reviewers seeing Citizen Kane or whatnot.

    Although I might change my mind about that once I think about it more. :p
  • OldCrow 2 Aug 2012 15:22:02 148 posts
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    I myself write reviews, articles and opinion pieces for a gaming website, I've been playing games since I was 6 but I never owned an N64 or anything like that. My first console was a PS1 and my first handheld was a Gameboy Color. I played games like Pokemon, Wipeout, Digimon and some racing games but never anything anyone would really class as "big games" but I was 8, did I really care at the time? Once I upgraded to a PS2 I played Star Wars Battlefront and Kingdom Hearts all the time along with a few sports and racing games. This is all off memory so I may have played a few more "big titles".

    Not until I was about 13/14 did I really start playing AAA titles regularly, I still did invest a fair amount of time in that damn game called Runescape. I'm 17 now and I would like to say I know a fair bit about games, if I'm doing an opinion piece I will research that area and I will read about games I've not played on the internet. I'm not too fussed that I've never played Ocarina of time or the early Medal of Honors, that means I won't do a review on a Zelda game.

    What OP talks about has crossed my mind a few times. It has annoyed me a few times when people have ranted on about how MW3 is amazing but they've not played COD4.

    If a journalist wants to write a strong opinion piece then playing the game will help like Tom Bramwell did with his recent Proteus article. As I said earlier if I'm going to do an opinion piece I'll do research but if I'm discussing how modern day games have more emotion, while I could compare the ending of FF VIII and the ending of FF XIII I've only played FFXIII so I would have to get a second hand source on that and judge that way.

    Yes there will be a reset, it won't be that bad. New IPs will arrive and will replace games like Mario 64 and Counter Strike and the generation that hasn't played those games won't be talking about the old games, they will be talking about and playing the new IPs that will be created and that journalists will play so we're informed on games that matter.

    tl;dr Reset isn't that bad. I've not played a Zelda game.
  • pinebear 2 Aug 2012 15:25:47 8,565 posts
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    Or: If a games critic hasn't seen Citizen Kane, then how will they be able to recognise the Citizen Kane of video games?

  • shamblemonkee 2 Aug 2012 15:27:02 14,661 posts
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    Not a big problem, the further knowledge could add depth but i doubt many people care about dead platforms or games that are virtually impossible to run anymore, for consoles all you'll be interested is i nreferences against other games available for that media.

    PC is a slightly different beast.
  • Syrette 2 Aug 2012 15:29:57 44,301 posts
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    I'm not sure people rely on reviews as much as they used to anyway. I certainly don't.

  • mal 2 Aug 2012 15:31:06 22,842 posts
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    With cars though, they don't make cars like the Model T any more though, so having direct experience of them is only useful in showing you where cars have evolved from.

    In movies people are still making movies in the same style as Vertigo or Citixen Kane, using the same tropes, even if the mainstream hollywood ideal has moved on, so it's worth having those in your repetoire as a point of reference.

    In games it's a bit of both, and to be honest you should have expeience of games back to the 8-bit era and the NES IMO. I don't think you need that experience to enjoy games like VVVVVV but to review it, you probably do. And certainly if you only have experience of modern mainstream western games then you may have difficult interpreting the stuff that Japan pumps out, which has often developed in a different direction, now the west has stopped copying everything Japan does.

    Cubby didn't know how to turn off sigs!

  • Deleted user 2 August 2012 15:45:55
    mal wrote:
    With cars though, they don't make cars like the Model T any more though, so having direct experience of them is only useful in showing you where cars have evolved from.

    In movies people are still making movies in the same style as Vertigo or Citixen Kane, using the same tropes, even if the mainstream hollywood ideal has moved on, so it's worth having those in your repetoire as a point of reference.
    Yes, but I thought we were talking about video games, hence my original comparison.
  • neilka 2 Aug 2012 15:46:13 16,553 posts
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    Dr.Haggard wrote:
    Enormous, gaping holes
    +1

    BAAANG!!!!! EXPLOTION!!!!!

  • pinebear 2 Aug 2012 15:55:11 8,565 posts
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    graysonavich wrote:
    I remember when I first started playing quakeworld on my 33.6k modem I felt and was treated like a know nothing noob because I wasn't around when it was cup and string.

    It's all subjective. And vertigo was one of hitchcocks worst films. Just no one told the recent influx of media students
    Exactly. True old guard know that Cit Kane was Hitchcock's peak.

  • Stranded87 2 Aug 2012 15:55:23 1,009 posts
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    Contradicting my previous comment I don't think it's that hard to get relevant knowledge/experience. I'm 25 and I've played akalabeth among many other things that were before my time.
  • thedaveeyres 2 Aug 2012 15:59:07 11,599 posts
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    I'm 37, what the fuck is Akalabeth?

    If you surveyed gamers of my age I bet you'd find one in 50 who'd played that on release. :)

    On the other hand, I'm not sure I'd trust the opinion of a reviewer who hadn't been through the golden days of the Speccy and C64. Best not to know just how ignorant they are.

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  • faux-C 2 Aug 2012 16:01:57 9,647 posts
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    There's a difference between proper film critics, who have a real grounding in film and have enough background knowledge to be considered authorities, and your average magazine reviewer hacks. The same will be true of game critics.
  • Dr.Haggard 2 Aug 2012 16:04:31 4,259 posts
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    Syrette wrote:
    I'm not sure people rely on reviews as much as they used to anyway. I certainly don't.
    Sure, but whether their conclusions influence you or not the accuracy of the content (and arguably to some degree the authority of the reviewer) surely matters.

    Besides this isn't just about reviews but games journalism in general. It can be pretty depressing to read an article of any kind containing factual inaccuracies, and even worse when that misinformation has influenced the writer's opinion.

    It's probably not particularly important, but it is annoying when you read inaccurate things written by someone who ought to know better, and it either undermines the reader's confidence in the writer or spreads that misinformation when the reader doesn't know any better.

    Something as harmless as namedropping the high point of a particular genre, or the originator of a genre or game mechanic, and getting it wrong because you never played the game before the one you mentioned which actually did it first. That sort of thing. It's not a huge deal, no one's going to die, but it's annoying and perhaps the writer really should have known his or her stuff.

    This will happen more and more as the medium gets older and new generations of journalists come in, but those of us who've been around long enough to notice will represent a decreasing percentage of the audience and no one will really care if, for instance, some kid reviews Deus Ex 9 and doesn't namedrop System Shock even once because he's never heard of it, or thinks Uncharted invented stealth, or Halo was the first FPS.
  • Dr.Haggard 2 Aug 2012 16:21:02 4,259 posts
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    thedaveeyres wrote:
    I'm 37, what the fuck is Akalabeth?
    I have no idea either /o\


    Mola_Ram wrote:
    I reckon it'd be a bit more difficult for youngish game reviewers to appreciate old games, than it would be if they were young film reviewers seeing Citizen Kane or whatnot.

    Although I might change my mind about that once I think about it more. :p
    Yeah that's is one of the most interesting aspects of this I think. Besides the fact that it's often difficult to obtain and run some older games, largely distinguishing it from other entertainment media in that sense, there's also that huge difference in fidelity which is naturally quite a hurdle for people to overcome.

    It's likely the low resolution and crude visuals of a 15+ year old game will affect the opinion of someone playing it for the first time now, so what's the point if it's just to gain that experience? They'll have very different biases from someone who experienced it in its time, so maybe it's actually counter-productive. I don't know. For greater knowledge and understanding it's certainly worth it, but maybe it's too late to form a relevant opinion.

    Edited by Dr.Haggard at 16:24:02 02-08-2012
  • Stranded87 2 Aug 2012 16:25:05 1,009 posts
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    Dr.Haggard wrote:
    thedaveeyres wrote:
    I'm 37, what the fuck is Akalabeth?
    I have no idea either
    It's the precursor to the Ultima series and one of the very first graphical RPG's.

    Edited by Stranded87 at 16:25:32 02-08-2012
  • thedaveeyres 2 Aug 2012 16:29:43 11,599 posts
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    Ta, I looked it up. Nobody owned an Apple II. :)

    Ultima IV was the balls.

    Edited by thedaveeyres at 16:31:31 02-08-2012

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  • robthehermit 2 Aug 2012 17:00:36 4,332 posts
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    I don't think it matters with games. Games need to be compared to their contemporary peers. It's all very well saying that game x is reminiscent of game y from 20 years ago, but most gamers aren't going to have a clue what game y actually is, so not having the reference won't hurt anyone. It's only us crusty old timers that remember the 'good old days' of cassettes and one button joysticks. And to be honest, the good old days while good at the time, are frankly (with a few exceptions) rather shit in these new fangled modern times. Personally speaking I would rather lose a lot of the comparisons and references to the classics. I don't care if a game 'will take me back to the good old days' all I care about is 'Is it better than the last game I played in this genre' and 'is it better than other currently available games that I haven't played in this genre' Beyond that it doesn't matter.

    Take Halo CE Anniversary as a naff example. The original Xbox game may have been the greatest shooter ever made, but it's not anymore. By todays standards it's fugly as hell and I think I managed to spend all of 5 minutes with it before I put in something altogether more pretty. Halo Anniversary on the other hand looks quite nice, so now I don't care if a game is 'better than Halol' I want to know if a game is 'better than Halol Anniversary'

    The new generation of writers are writing to the new generation of gamers. It doesn't matter if they haven't picked their way through the history of gaming and played all the classics, because the chances are their target audience hasn't either.

    GT: robthehermit

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  • chopsen 2 Aug 2012 17:38:04 16,290 posts
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    It must be a right fucker for war correspondents what with the time machine not having been invented.
  • Deleted user 2 August 2012 17:41:22
    heh.. Were the Nazis "Mongol bad"
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