a few more random ideas on game criticism

I was just decompressing after watching the trailer for the new Prince of Persia, and had a few thoughts about game theory.  

[By the way, just so you know — I still cite Sands of Time as one of the best video games I’ve ever played, so, you know, I’m probably biased.]

Nothing like practicable ideas, I should say.  But perhaps some that will open routes of inquiry.  

When I’m absorbing art, and that’s any kind of art, I’m looking for a feeling of beauty.  I’m going to wax maudlin at you for a moment.  The best kinds of art instill in me feelings like I get almost nowhere else.  I’m in the middle of some kind of perfect storm of great stuff here, too — the new Decemberists song does this for me, as does a book I’m reading, Dhalgren (in between the frightening dystopia bits).  I just started Silent Hill 2 in a bid to write a paper on the Gothic in video games (yes, you’ll likely hear more about that as the semester wears on).  

What I’m getting at, and not very well, is that some video games have given me that same feeling.  Prince of Persia did it, and so did Shadow of the Colossus.  So I may try to write critiques, proper entries here, for those games, to try and get at what makes them what they are, rather than choose-your-own-adventure stories with prettier pictures.  I know, somewhere inside me, that some video game stories couldn’t be told any other way, while others (much as I love it, Legend of Zelda springs to mind) could.  They wouldn’t be as good, but they would still work.  But writing up Shadow of the Colossus for a novel version would involve so much new writing it would be a different thing, whereas you could write up Wind Waker and the effect of the story on the audience would be unchanged.  Not that I have a problem with that, I’m not asking every game to fuck me up like a new Lord of the Rings.  

I feel like I have a way to tackle this problem through my genre and myth criticism ways, too.  Certainly there are enough romantic elements in the games I’ve mentioned to get me started sometime.

[I should say that whenever I use the word "romantic" I mean it in the original sense, that of a story of medieval style romance.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, think King Arthur.  Those stories, especially those from the French tradition, were romances.]

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  1. Pontifus

     /  21 October 2008

    I just started reading Iser’s “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach,” and…

    [Laurence] Stern’s conception of a literary text is that it is something like an arena in which reader and author participate it a game of the imagination. If the reader were given the whole story, and there were nothing left for him to do, then his imagination would never enter the field, the result would be the boredom which inevitably arises when everything is laid out cut and dried before us. A literary text must therefore be conceived in such a way that it will engage the reader’s imagination in the task of working things out for himself, for reading is only a pleasure when it is active and creative. In this process of creativity, the text may either not go far enough, or may go too far, so we may say that boredom and overstrain form the boundaries beyond which the reader will leave the field of play.

    goddamn this is relevant.

  2. You’re right. I should re-read the Iser essay in my book. I just looked it up, it’s call, appropriately enough, “Interaction between Text and Reader.”

    The thing that’s dangerous about reader-response critics is that they only admit that a certain group of people are capable of responding to a text. Stanley Fish made it terribly obvious, and I was told by one of my professors that, upon being asked, he finally broke down and admitted that yes, only certain people could understand a text correctly. Of course, we can just excise that, but it’s good to keep in mind.

  3. I suppose art is a difficult thing to define in gaming, especially since it’s so subjective, but that’s also what makes it more interesting to hear a formal critique on said “artistic” games, even if it’s just a personal opinion. In a broad sense, I suppose that’s what critiquing is.


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