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All posts for the month December, 2007


The Wachowski brothers are back to their usual pop subversions, borrowing a pulp aesthetic and making it Oscar-ready for the cultural exiles of the Academy. Speed Racer is on its way, rawr. I'm not sure why overly hyper-kinetic movies have always been deemed "videogame-like." Am I so desensitized that I don't find the majority of video games all that fast? Or are they really just not that fast, except the few outliers that the non-gaming populace get exposed to regularly? I imagine if their knowledge of what the "videogame aesthetic" is comes from arcades at movie theaters, then the latter is probably true.

But I don't think it's just us gamers. Look at investors, playing their silly game with the Fed. After two weeks of anticipating a 0.5% rate cut, which was a number pulled out of the ass of the rumor monster, the market got 25 points. And boy did they whine and cry, as if any of the trouble right now has the slightest malleability by the Fed. But it's all a game to them, you see, and it's called Guess The Fed. The market itself is apparently too uneventful as is, they need to keep the market fluctuating to feel like their treading and afloat.

It's a great end to an insanely busy week. Tonight's our holiday party, tomorrow is Xstine's, and on Sunday, Dan has to buy me dinner for betting me Mass Effect would be a bomb. I bet a million sales in a month, and boy did it deliver.

The game is awesome in the way watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica, or Star Trek. It's an unabashed sci-fi space opera with great acting, a great cast, and "cinematic feeling" hard to quantify, but wanting in any other game out there. It captures my long-standing belief that sci-fi differs from fantasy not from being about the future, aliens, high-tech weapons, or any such trappings, but by being about defining how something works, and making that integral to the story. And I haven't even mentioned the graphics, which again show the UT3 engine off, and have beautiful art design pulling in the practical futurism of Syd Mead into a real 3D environment. There are levels that look like real-time concept art… I haven't seen anything like this since Metroid Prime.

This is what makes Star Trek science-fiction, but Star Wars fantasy. Sci-fi strives to explain why things work the way they do, and those explanations have consequences on the choices the characters have to make. Fantasy, on the other hand, assumes a world works a certain way, and expects us to accept it, and often that means that the quick answer to the why is "magic." This is how a game like Final Fantasy can be considered fantasy, and not sci-fi, even though there are guns, robots, and high-tech sets. A fantasy you swallow, but science-fiction you dissect.


Wow, disgusting. Sure, this tribute is an honest, sincere, touching expression for their dear friend Gerstmann, but c'mon… this is an unprofessional, weepy-feely, nerd funeral in the worst way. They should grow up and get used to the real, ad-capitalized world that keeps them employed doing a throw-away job. These people seriously think they are on the vanguard of a brave new era, contributing. Per my last post, I believe that is bullshit. Gamespot's own statement about the situation makes perfect sense to all but the kids on game forums who continue to rave over their late reviewer, screaming "fuck you" to the proverbial "man."

Incidentally, talking to our studio head recently, he told me an interesting anecdote about an independent reviewer contracted to cover a major sport title for Gamespot or IGN (he forgets which review site). Anyways, the guy wrote a decent write-up of the game, gave it something like an 8.0 or so, and one of the lead developers wrote to him to say thanks for the fair review, thanks for actually playing the damn game (unlike most reviewers), and offered to send him him an alpha of the next version for him to check out early.

The guy emailed back to say that he probably shouldn't be talking to him. The independent reviewer, turns out, had actually wanted to score the game much higher, at around a 9.0, but was told that was an inappropriate score for a games of its ilk made by big, hated corporations like Sony and EA. He hadn't met their scoring "guidelines." He concluded by saying that his game reviewer stint promptly came to an end, and he decided to give up game journalism and move far away.

So I'm glad Gerstmann was made an example of. In a way, game reviewers are very much like Wall Street analysts, treading a fine line between reporting and currying favor with either the executives or the greedy market. Often, it devolves into a popularity contest with few threads of meritocracy holding the whole system together. Either way, you should take them all with a grain of salt, however much they may seem like the "little guy."

I've been reading Use the News by money honey Maria Bartiromo, and while her book is gossipy and light on practical information, that's what Wall Street is, and her perspective is a great read, especially about those analysts. You can see exactly how she got in trouble over the Bernanke slip, as her personality comes through strongly, but it's an excellent slice of street-think to pore over. If you watch financial news on TV at all, it's certainly worth a read, and will hopefully help you get a handle on your own trading emotions.

Yeah, hot on the heels of EA acquiring Bioware and Pandemic, we have the Activision + Blizzard merger, which is big news and has Xstine wishfully talking about getting a free subscription now… but I have something else on my mind.

You, fair reader, must ask yourself. Was Jeff Gerstmann's review (above) of Kane & Lynch wrong? Was it unfair? Was it a justifiable reason for him to be to be fired from Gamespot after an offended Eidos snatched back stacks of advertising dollars with an angry yoinks? Probably not. But somehow, I don't feel the slightest sympathy for him. I'll tell you why his firing pleases me, and why it should please all those gamers who hope their medium is taking its rightful place among the world.

Criticism. What does it mean? Why does film, art, and music criticism surpass video game criticism? Because criticism, as an artform in and of itself, teaches you something about what it criticizes. It deconstructs the craftsmanship, the message, and the greater context of a work's role in the pantheon. Video game reviews, however, are nothing but paid opinions of what Steve adroitly described as "people who couldn't get into the game industry." Fanboys, backseat game designers, internet experts, and such forth.

Their reviews contribute little to the creation of a better game because these people have no experience working in games. On the other hand, music reviewers can play instruments, art critics can create art, and movie reviewers can have academic backgrounds. What do game reviewers have besides a subjective internal list of what they'd rather vege on a couch playing? I'm not ignoring the flaws of other forms of criticism, but let's be honest here, even at it's best, game reviews are bad. At the end of the day, games are designed for someone in particular, unlike movies which generally can be enjoyed by anyone when done well. Games are inherently fantasy fulfillment, not fantasy creation, and have to be judged on how well they satisfied gamers of a particular type. It is on that level where, for some, Bejeweled can be as good of a game as World of Warcraft.

Gamespot reviewers think that by arbitrarily demanding some games to have innovation, some games to just be fun, some games to be an "experience," whatever their pseudo-standard is, they are "raising the bar." Bullshit. Until there is a real literary quality in games that can be criticized, game journalism is just a recommendation to buy. We all know game advertisement pays for reviews, don't kid yourself. There isn't even anything wrong with that, and I bring up Penny Arcade reviews as an example of it done well. People are simply shopping for the review they need, and for your site to pretend it's creating a golden metric for an immature medium is ridiculous.

To those who want to go out and picket for Jeff, who think the review above sounds like something of senior editor quality at a major game mag, who think they're fighting the evil corporations who are "corrupting" this brilliant stuff with sponsorship, you've already lost. That shit ain't free, nor should it be. Ask yourself how any criticism is paid for. Then demand a higher standard. Abolish this bullshit point system.

Go with the Netflix 5-star system:
:star: hate it,
:star::star: didn't like it,
:star::star::star: liked it,
:star::star::star::star: loved it,
:star::star::star::star::star: unmissable
.

Ultimately, the only two factors that matters for a game are fun and value. Game review snobs demean the whole industry, just like snobs in any other industry.