Sunday, February 24, 2008

Building the Pyramids

I was flipping through one of my favorite game blogs, Play This Thing, when I spotted the hyperlinked post to a criticism of game journalism and the need for a greater critical movement. As the commenters in the blog note, there's a ton of great critical game thinking out there. But even I have to admit...there isn't much that's very accessible. Even the best of these pieces are still stuck on the greater problem of constantly analyzing the static elements of the game rather than the interactive portions. It's all well and good to talk about the social commentary of Bioshock but you might as well be going on about a movie if you're doing that. How do you talk about game design critically? The nearly as I've detected in my own work, is that people are still making that part up.

The other problem is that the damned game industry is overflowing with people declaring the medium to be art and that we need greater critical thinking but a little bit short on people actually doing it. It's fun to say that video games need their Lester Bangs, but no one seems to be stepping up to bat and actually trying. And for good damn reason. For starters, no one is going to thank you until you're dead when it comes to intellectual thinking. The highlights of the process include digging in mud with a stick until you find gold, dragging heavy blocks around to build things, and having it knocked over by some other intellectual whose doing the exact same thing you're doing (only at your expense). And speaking of, get pumped for the giant piles of shit that are going to be thrown at you because there'll be a lot of that too.

But someone, hell A LOT of people, are going to have to start doing this shitty job if video games are ever going to take off. I'm going to start posting personal essays that critically analyze the interactive portions of games and their relevance to society then & now. If that excites you, then start doing it yourself. Send me a link, I'll comment on your blog. Go this blog or one of the other folks trying to elevate the conversation.

I don't mean this as an insult to Costikyan. The man has done more for video games than most will ever be able to claim. But if I had an intelligent, artistic, and creative game for every time I read a goddamn essay of someone wishing there was one, then video games wouldn't be doomed to the comic book status iceberg they seem to be headed for. It's gotta start somehow. So pick up a shovel, grab yourself a pick-axe, and get to work. It's not going to get any better any other way.

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