Sunday, August 12, 2007


Ah, game criticism and academic discussion is advancing pretty quick. It's good to see.

But I always feel like these discussions are a little hollow. Because games are basically a set of rules and content, most discussions revolve around one of these two concepts. We're seeing more talk about balance, about reward patterns, about graphic style rather than graphics... we even see some commentary about the psychological "value" and "art" of games such as Ico.

But 99% of the time, they're talking about the game. I don't really think that you should focus on the game, because the experience is what the game is actually about.

A game can have shitty gameplay and still be very good. A game can have shitty art and still be very good. A game can have shitty balance and still be very good. It can be on tight rails and be good. Hell, it can have no bad guys at all and still be very good. This is because what experiences games provide varies from game to game.

I'm not talking about categories of play, or the four different kinds of player, or whatever other academic nonsense somebody has come up with today. Categorizing these kinds of things is worse than useless, because it implies boundaries where there shouldn't be any.

But it is worth remembering that your game is not a collection of rules and art. It's an experience that many different kinds of people are going to live through.


Mory said...

Good point. I also like how you point out, in passing, that there shouldn't be any boundaries. I don't know if you've mentioned that before, but it's a good thing to remember.

Craig Perko said...

Well, as themes go, it's background. :)

Textual Harassment said...

I'm with you on that in the sense that the player's experience is the final product of a game, and therefore paramount. The problem is that it's very hard to quantify.

Wasn't that what "new games journalism" was supposed to be about?. Alot of people hated it because it was so subjective. There's something more satisfying about describing the object itself than your emotional reaction to it.

Craig Perko said...

I don't necessarily mean that everything you say should be subjective, just that it should have the experience of the player in mind.

For example, in Halo you can only carry two guns. This is a mechanic, and not a tremendously cool one. However, the mechanic creates a tense set of choices as to which weapons you'll carry, unlike most FPS games. IMO, this was the defining feature of Halo, behind the story.

But you don't really see it talked about - just mentioned in passing. After all, it's just a small, simple rule, a tiny part of the actual object... even though it's a huge part of the experience.

A big problem with this kind of thinking is that it's hard to be objective about subjective experiences. But I'd like to see people try, because it's important.