Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Gaming criticism

July 4th, 2006 by Seb Chan

Great short piece from Clive Thompson, a columnist for Wired which answers the question “Why there’s no Lester Bangs of video games?”

Answer C: Game criticism isn’t economically viable enough to support traditional, professional critics.

Do the math: A serious RPG or first-person shooter or strategy game might take 40 or 50 hours to complete. Even if serious critics don’t have time to finish a game, they ought to spend at least 10 hours to experience its complexity. So ask yourself this question: If movies took 50 hours to watch, would there be any movie critics?

Nope. Newspapers and magazines couldn’t pay enough to compensate that sort of time. And how exactly would a single critic remain authoritative? Pauline Kael watched, like, 10 movies a week. You couldn’t play 10 games all the way through in a week if you tried; there are not enough hours in the day. Any attempt to do this would rupture the space-time continuum and release eldritch forces beyond anyone’s control. To cover the field adequately, a single magazine would need a stable of a dozen game critics or more.

This is another reason why bloggers and layperson enthusiasts will always be the most innovative writers on games. They’re infinite monkeys, and they’ve got the weeks to absorb themselves in a game and generate a brilliant take on it.

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