I’ve been asking myself a version of that question lately. I don’t write game reviews very often but, being a new addition to the team over at Analog Addiction, I imagine I’ll be writing them more often. It’s got me wondering: Why do I even bother writing video game reviews?
I think the question is rooted in the desire to do something that matters– that contributes to a positive change in the world. There are things that I enjoy, like video games, then there are things that I believe in, like Jesus, love, justice, equality, honesty… Stuff like that. And I do really enjoy video games and I believe video games are an art form unlike any other. But a straight answer to this question still… eludes me.
I might be having difficulty answering the question because I have an assumed framework for the answer that should come to mind. Similar to when I asked myself why I write, I’m trying to come up with an answer that accounts for the medium through which I wish to convey my thoughts. But this ain’t the way to go, it seems. Rather, I’m much more interested in what I talk about than the actual talking that I do.
So really, that first question is actually two questions. First, why do I bother writing about video games? And second, why do I choose to convey my thoughts through a critical review format?
Why do I write about video games? I probably sound like a broken record player by now. The video game is unique in that it’s an interactive medium, allowing its audience member to be an active agents within its narrative or at least maintaining an illusion that they’re actions make a difference in that world. Video games are also, sometimes foregoing a narrative entirely, which I totally respect. Pure, plain fun has a place in our lives and I celebrate video games for that reason as well.
It’s important to note that the level of challenge in a game has the ability to strongly affirm or distract from the impact of its narrative. I think that’s one of gaming’s strongest narrative tools, so I also criticize games by the synergy of their narrative and gameplay elements, not just either one on their own.
So why video games? Video games have the unique ability to deliver a narrative experience in which YOU are an active agent, in which your actions feel as though they make a difference. And such an experience is a great tool to learn about yourself, others, and the world. They’re also really damn fun and that’s what Jesus made us for, in a certain sense.
Why write reviews about them, then? I write reviews because I somehow got the idea that I had an ounce of insight as to what makes a game fun or its narrative compelling. It’s not so hard, really. I’ve always been an introspective an analytical guy; I’m aware of how I feel and I like to try to figure out why.
My reasoning goes like this: [I believe in video games as a medium and I want them to succeed] + [Video games are about hard facts creating subjective experiences] + [I’m fascinated by the reasoning behind the relationship between facts and experiences] = I may be able to educated a handful of people in my lifetime about video games and why they make is feel the way they do.
And if we understand why they make us feel the way they do, we’ll understand how to make them better. Or uh, we’ll understand our favourite medium better, period, and understanding is always a good thing… I think.
At the very least, I’ll be spreading the news about games that I believe are worth the attention and, hopefully, people will have a little to learn from my analysis of these games as well. Not that they have to agree with my conclusions on whether the game does what it sets out to do or not; we can agree or disagree, that’s not the point. The point is that we learn to pay attention to what makes games great and we learn to communicate our opinions rationally, thus becoming active and effective contributors to the positive growth of our medium.
Our medium. Is there any other medium that its fans so loyally call their own?