On game reviews

Originally posted via twitlong, 16 Sept. 2014


A lot of tat is flying around in regards to objectivity in game reviews, and I thought I’d revisit the topic further for the sake of making my opinion heard. I discussed this once,


and thought I would use it as a starting point for further discussion. It strikes me there are two key elements of review and criticism at play:

1. Qualitative analysis of the technical merits of the subject, and strength and consistency of narrative if present.

2. Sociocultural commentary and criticism of the subject.

Setting aside questions of payola and conflicts of interest which by all rights should be cut-and-dried issues in regards to game reviews…

Both elements are inherently subjective, and that must be accepted at face value by reasonable readers. There is nothing wrong with that. However, what I and many other gamers perceive and fear is the intentional conflation of the first and second element, and supersession of the first which by all rights ought to be the fundamental of game review by the second, and more damning exclusively on a purely topical basis without analysis of works’ own narrative context.

To illustrate the point, I’d like to draw attention to three controversial, but classic and highly influential, films: ‘Birth of a Nation’ by D. W. Griffith, ‘Triumph of the Will’ by Leni Riefenstahl, and ‘Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom’ by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

‘Birth of a Nation’ is considered one of the greatest films of all time for its numerous technical innovations and the internal consistency, depth, and concise nature of its narrative ( http://www.filmsite.org/birt.html ). It was also white supremacist propaganda the immediate influence of which was the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan.

Much of the same can be said of ‘Triumph of the Will’ ( http://www.logosjournal.com/kelman.pdf ), despite being pre-war Nazi propaganda.

‘Salo’, on the other hand, is not merely technically innovative, but its pervasive, explicit content (including depictions of violence against women) is instrumental for its symbolic representation and condemnation of fascist Italy (as well as the topical failures of the sexual revolution). (http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2010julsep/pasolini.html ) (http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/04/15/pasolinis-salo-a-film-that-bleeds-onto-other-films )

Are we to disregard any of these films on the exclusive basis of topical sociocultural criticism? Are the first two films’ technical innovations and influence negated by their content? Is the thirds’ symbolism and theses negated by pervasive, explicit depictions of violence against women? No, of course not, it’s a laughable concept.

Why do we accept different from game reviewers?