You're Doing It Wrong

We spend a lot of time, appropriately, talking about the content we are provided from the multitude of authors within the video game space, measuring their relative merits and endlessly critiquing the shortcomings. This is, of course, as things should be, but there’s a stigma and even open hostility to turning the laser beam focus of criticism onto ourselves as receivers of content.

Let me show you. Pick the game you most recently played that you did not like, and imagine I’ve just said to you, “Well, maybe you played the game wrong.”

Did you feel that kick in your gut? That flood of whatever chemicals it is in your brain that triggers a defensive emotional response? It is a powerful toxin. I’ve felt it plenty of times, and allowed myself to be swallowed into a cathartic rictus of self-righteous indigence. Rarely are adverbs and adjectives more my friend than when someone has seemingly recklessly blamed me as a culprit in what I perceive as a bad game.

But, is it so wrong to ask this question? Is there no culpability in the way a game player chooses to experience a given game? In cases where I’ve initially rejected a game, only to come back later, approach it in a different way and discover that there was actually excellence where I’d first seen failure, who is responsible for my initial negative experience?

I have to admit, the more I think on the matter the more I see that there is an art to playing games, and how I choose to receive my content can play a major role in my enjoyment of the experience.

I did not care for The Witcher when I first played it. Naturally, it would be hard to argue that the reason I didn’t like the game all that much was because it was somehow objectively bad. For all the things you may or may not be able to say about The Witcher series, that it was just not a good game seems like a losing strategy. At this point I have two options, either I can assume there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” game — which actually is an interesting enough angle perhaps worth exploring at a later date — or that somehow the way I received the game is impacting my experience.

It’s easiest to just say, “Well, I guess it’s not my style.” I don’t care at all for shellfish, for example, because I do not like things that are obviously disgusting. However, it seems that others find those “foods” to be delicacies and even a special treat to be savored, so it’s very hard for me to be faced with a plate full of shrimp or lobster tails and make the argument that the problem is with the cook. To be honest, I don’t even know how to frame a discussion about what actually defines poorly prepared shrimp, because from my seat it’s all just a bad idea to begin with.

As I have belabored to death, this is how I feel about a lot of Eastern-influenced games. Not just JRPGs, but basically everything from the Capcom and Atlus oeuvres. I can’t begin to comment on what’s good and what’s bad from that entire hemisphere, because I have no language for understanding the most basic building blocks that lay the foundation for these games.

Not so with The Witcher, though. This is a different beast altogether, which is why I was surprised not to enjoy it when so many other people did. But the more I talked to people who loved it, the more I realized that what they loved weren’t even the parts I was thinking about. I was complaining about difficulty, combat systems and a lack of direction, and they were talking about all the things I didn’t like as though they were exactly the positives of the game.

The thing is, when I went back later — looking at the game through the lens as they had described it — I had a different experience. I realized that I’d been trying to absorb this game as though it were a race to a conclusion, as though it were about achieving some kind of end state, when the whole point was experiencing a complex and challenging journey. I realized that, to be frank, I’d been playing the game all wrong.

Frankly, I think the best recent example of this was with Dragon Age II, which is a game I thought was absolutely phenomenal. Not flawless or without room for criticism, certainly, but both subjectively — and, I think, objectively — the positives of the game vastly outweighed the negatives. For some people, it was their shellfish, a repulsive thing for which they had no common ground. That said, I think a lot of people played the game all wrong, and as a result unintentionally sabotaged their own experiences.

It’s a dangerous statement, I realize, because ostensibly I’m saying that the reason a number of people — maybe you — didn’t like this game is not because it failed, but because they failed at the playing of it.

I suppose it doesn’t matter in the end. The results are the same both ways: Person X liked game Y, while person Z did not. There are no worlds at stake, no grand effect hanging in the balance. But, actually, I think if we can accept within ourselves that we have at least some ownership over the result of our experience, then we are better prepared to get more out of games. It’s hard, particularly in a medium where interactivity is the cornerstone, to cede power to an author to dictate the terms of how you are supposed to receive content, but in many cases by doing so, I think we may be better served in the long run.

Comments

TheHipGamer:

It's an extreme example, but not an absurd one. It's questionable whether a gamer who's "playing" Street Fighter to explore its levels as a tourist game is really playing it at all.

"The fighting's really good in StreetFighter, but you know what it could use? An open-world sandbox environment! It's really lacking in that."

Um, yeah. No.

I wonder if there are a list of game mechanics that me and Elysium are on the oposit ends of the scale for liking/disliking? While I thought Dragon Age two was a terrible game I loved the Witcher from start to finish.

On a side note I don hope EA don't read these forums because I might want to play more Bioware games sometime.

LarryC wrote:

TheHipGamer:

It's an extreme example, but not an absurd one. It's questionable whether a gamer who's "playing" Street Fighter to explore its levels as a tourist game is really playing it at all.

"The fighting's really good in StreetFighter, but you know what it could use? An open-world sandbox environment! It's really lacking in that."

Um, yeah. No.

We're talking past each other.

You are making an argument that we already had about ME2, I think - and we discussed intentionality there. I am trying to get at a different idea here, which is that criticism of games can and should move beyond a discussion of like/dislike, or worse, the rote review trifecta of graphics/control/sound. Both have their place, but serious criticism (the kind that fosters evolution of the medium, rather than just sales numbers) is more interesting, but largely absent or relegated to the dark corners of the industry.

Brian Fargo mentioned, in an update note to his Kickstarter project, that at some point gaming shifted from being controlled by the nerds to being controlled by the guys who beat the nerds up in high school. I am not sure that I dig that kind of juvenilism, but I am sympathetic to the idea: games became a Big Business, and while that produces "hits" in terms of economic performance and mass market appeal, it also exerts prssure upon the development of other games which aren't striving for economic super-success. We end up with a homogenous soup of games (boring, both in terms of personal preference and critical discussion), with only milquetoast reviewers left to tell us how good their newest incarnations are rather than a serious tradition of analysis and thought that shapes and informs a vibrant subculture of games and gamers.

I don't expect Johnny Fratboy to care about games on that level. I get that for some people, gaming is just a place to call people slurs and shoot them over and over again in the same basic virtual military shooter that they have purchased every year since junior high. Whatever; that segment of the market is irrelevant insofar as it doesn't reflect either what GWJ is, nor what I think folks like us (and RPS, and Kill.Screen, etc.) are pursuing. There is no real problem with just accepting that games can (as with other similar media) be looked at both on their immediate terms (e.g., how good the fighting mechanics are in Street Fighter) and in terms of their structure (like how well the game paces itself, if it tells a story or engages the mind of the player beyond the mechanics, etc.).

That said, blending those two types of criticsm, or appealing to absurdist examples, is a bit disingenuous. The example you provided, of a game that is fundamentally about mechanical performance being an inappropriate venue for critical discussion, is predicated upon a false equivalency. It is also orthogonal to the argument I am making, which is that preference and personal appeal are not the mechanisms by which interesting or important games should be evaluated. It's akin to dismissing a discussion of how melodramas from the 50s informed the New Wave of French films in the 60s and 70s by pointing out that there were cotemperaneous action flicks that weren't striving for anything more than your $7.

I think we are talking past each other because I never recall saying that you can't criticize Street Fighter or talk about it critically. I just said that you shouldn't ignore the context of what it is and what it's trying to do. In film parlance, don't criticize a romance comedy for not being very scary; it's not a horror flick.

While I agree that the discussion and the fundamentals of the terminology should not be limited to mere performance and the extent of personal appeal, I also think that it's important to ground every critical discussion on those factors before going off on the more esoteric.

For instance, it's pointless to discuss how Street Fighter utterly fails to create a believable alternate world to explore. Yeah, it's not trying to do that. Playing it that way and critiquing it that way is entirely missing the point of the game - exactly parallel to closing examining precisely how and why Psycho fails as a light-hearted romantic comedy.

It is more productive and interesting to talk about how the frame data and the animation of the characters plays into both the emergent narrative aspects of Street Fighter, and into the way the competitive scene takes advantage of such features. There must be some balancing act there between narrative expression and mechanical balance. How well is this achieved and how is it done? That's an interesting discussion.

LarryC wrote:

For instance, it's pointless to discuss how Street Fighter utterly fails to create a believable alternate world to explore. Yeah, it's not trying to do that. Playing it that way and critiquing it that way is entirely missing the point of the game - exactly parallel to closing examining precisely how and why Psycho fails as a light-hearted romantic comedy.

You're just rehashing the same discussion that occurred in the Effected thread.

This keeps coming back to comparisons between unlike examples, which you see as fundamental groundwork for discussion, and I see as an (unshared) first premise. I think, given our discussion elsewhere regarding the presence or absence of objective intentionality, that we're just not going to see eye-to-eye here.

I'll simply quote wordsmythe, since I think he sums this up well:

wordsmythe wrote:

Reviewer 1 suggests that game A does X badly.
Reviewer 2 argues that while game A may not do X well; viewing game A as if it were about Y makes for an interesting and entertaining experience.

(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...)

TheHipGamer:

Well, here's the thing.

Laying the groundwork for the objective intentionality of a work is a necessary step in talking about it seriously and to have higher order critical conversations about it. Reviews? User experience? Fuhgeddaboudit.

It's pointless to talk about the weakness and strengths of Mass Effect 2 if the other party isn't going to stop yakking about how much the platforming aspect of it is so bad. Yes, it is. That's pretty much the end of the discussion right there.

LarryC wrote:

TheHipGamer:

Well, here's the thing.

Laying the groundwork for the objective intentionality of a work is a necessary step in talking about it seriously and to have higher order critical conversations about it. Reviews? User experience? Fuhgeddaboudit.

It's pointless to talk about the weakness and strengths of Mass Effect 2 if the other party isn't going to stop yakking about how much the platforming aspect of it is so bad. Yes, it is. That's pretty much the end of the discussion right there.

And, in my opinion, you haven't argued convincingly for the presence of objective intentionality in either thread. All of your attempts to do so are of the same basic format ("X != Y, where Y is an absurd/extreme example; therefore, anyone arguing about X in a way I disagree with shall be countered with Y, thus "proving" that X is only X.")

Problem is, X is just your opinion, and as wordsmythe noted, viewing X in terms of Y is critically interesting. I think we just have to agree to disagree here, however, because you're going to argue about the inherent Xness of X (since you take it as an inherent quality, rather than a subjective one).

Well, how about this.

The most basic form of objective intentionality is the genre. Naming a genre and classing a game into a genre is a form of objectifying intentionality.

"This game clearly means to be a platformer, so that's what it is."
"This game has all the earmarks of an FPS and it's a sequel of the game that established that genre, and it has no other notable excellencies, so it's probably an FPS."

To deny objectifiable intentionality is to deny the presence of genre convention and intention not just in games but in any medium. At the point where I can't fault you for criticizing Call of Duty for having guns - I agree, we would just have to stop discussion at that point, since no meaningful discussion can be had when everything is subjective.

Note that I'm not saying that you have to like CoD having guns. That's not it. The point is that you can't call it a design flaw for a genre game to have genre conventions.

LarryC wrote:

Well, how about this.

The most basic form of objective intentionality is the genre. Naming a genre and classing a game into a genre is a form of objectifying intentionality.

"This game clearly means to be a platformer, so that's what it is."
"This game has all the earmarks of an FPS and it's a sequel of the game that established that genre, and it has no other notable excellencies, so it's probably an FPS."

To deny objectifiable intentionality is to deny the presence of genre convention and intention not just in games but in any medium. At the point where I can't fault you for criticizing Call of Duty for having guns - I agree, we would just have to stop discussion at that point, since no meaningful discussion can be had when everything is subjective.

Note that I'm not saying that you have to like CoD having guns. That's not it. The point is that you can't call it a design flaw for a genre game to have genre conventions.

Some games have clear genres; that's not something I disagree with. However, some games -- enough to be significant, in fact -- defy genre. Is Mass Effect 2, to take your previous example, a shooter? An RPG? Do we create some vague term like, "action RPG" to classify it? If so, do we have a crisp set of expectations for what those games entail?

That's why I land on agreeing with wordsmythe's argument: it's more interesting to discuss games in terms of subjective perspective than trying to construct a (flimsy) objective framework and analyze via its structure. In fact, the ability to do just that is what differentiates gaming in 2012, in my opinion, from gaming in 20 or 30 years ago -- and why I think discarding notions of genre (or market performance, or number of players, or whatever) is so important.

LarryC wrote:

no meaningful discussion can be had when everything is subjective

Completely disagree here. Subjective experience in discussing the arts, if we agree to exclude pure solipsistic preference ("this game is bad because I didn't like it"), is entirely possible. You're just not going to be able to come to a singular conclusion ("Mass Effect 2 is good because it starts with intentions A, B, C and objectively does well at all three; anything else is irrelevant because it isn't what was intended"). My point, in both threads, is that reading a game this way does not get you off, scot-free, from a discussion of subjectivity -- even if you're labeling your subjective read of intention as being inherent/objective.

EDIT: The most interesting counter-argument to what I'm saying, I think, is that a subjective framework never allows us to definitively label a game "good" or "bad", and that at best we can note that any game which allows for reasonable discussion of merit is in some fashion worthwhile. That's a weak definition of "good", and it's why most people dismiss serious film criticism -- "Can't you just shut up and enjoy the freakin' movie!!?".

I don't have a good answer there. I can accept that there is no objective analysis framework for games, or movies, or any art, but it doesn't sit well with most folks -- instead, it tends to lead to a dismissal of those things as meaningless or merely preference-based, since they cannot be quantified.

TheHipGamer:

Some games have clear genres; that's not something I disagree with. However, some games -- enough to be significant, in fact -- defy genre. Is Mass Effect 2, to take your previous example, a shooter? An RPG? Do we create some vague term like, "action RPG" to classify it? If so, do we have a crisp set of expectations for what those games entail?

That's why I land on agreeing with wordsmythe's argument: it's more interesting to discuss games in terms of subjective perspective than trying to construct a (flimsy) objective framework and analyze via its structure. In fact, the ability to do just that is what differentiates gaming in 2012, in my opinion, from gaming in 20 or 30 years ago -- and why I think discarding notions of genre (or market performance, or number of players, or whatever) is so important.

Alright. Now follow this closely. Not to be condescending or anything, but this is where I lose a lot of guys on this topic.

I will grant you that there are a significant number of genre-defying games. In fact, that's probably where a lot of reviewers get tripped up over what game is doing what and for what reason. It's definitely done so in many games I know from objective standpoints.

I only referenced genre so that we could have a basis for common discussion - something easy and understandable.

But let's take that further.

What constitutes a genre?

Genre ( /ˈʒɒnrə/ or /ˈdʒɒnrə/; from French, genre French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ʁ], "kind" or "sort", from Latin: genus (stem gener-), Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions.

There you go.

To the extent that the things we put in games are arbitrarily defined by what we find fun - that I can agree is subjective. What is not subjective is what those conventions currently are, and whether or not a game satisfactorily satisfies the conventions it seeks to include.

A game can be a mix or a melding of genre in terms of meeting or including various conventions from different current genres, but it is not subjective how well it meets those criteria.

Example: Even in a genre blend involving fighting game mechanics, if the fighting game conventions of that game are bad (e.g. random hitboxes), then we can say with objectivity that that part of the game is bad.

I cannot allow that it is defensible from a "But it's subjective" perspective to hold a game to a convention that it is clearly (from objective mechanical assets) not attempting to include. That's an objectively bad way to review the game. For instance, Super Mario Galaxy does not include an aiming reticle. That's an objective sign that it is not a shooting game. Therefore, it is unacceptable to say that it is a bad game on the basis that its shooting mechanics are nonexistent.

You are clearly playing it wrong.

Good read. Makes sense, if you ask me. Some games, however, are bad, but for technical reasons, like unmanageable controls, shoddy hit detection, that sort of thing.

I believe games should have some sort of suggestion on how they should be enjoyed, much like certain wines and other sorts of consumables. "Best if played like..." or "Best if approached as..."

LarryC wrote:

What is not subjective is what those conventions currently are, and whether or not a game satisfactorily satisfies the conventions it seeks to include.

Nope, sorry, you can't get that for free.

There are certainly such things are genre conventions, but they are (a) arbitrarily defined, (b) subjective, and (c) mutable. Moreover, you make a leap of logic -- stating that a game is not one genre does not tell you anything about what genre it is, or even it it fits into any genre definition.

Again, we're not going to see eye-to-eye, because you're taking as a lemma that there are objective standards to which games can be measured -- and offering no proof, just opinion, no matter how fervently you state them as such.

EDIT: That reads harshly; I'm (obviously?) passionate about the argument, but don't mean to sound like a jerk to you. I am continually made happier for GWJ's existence, largely because discussions like this can happen.

As a former colleague said once, sometimes reasonable people just have to agree to disagree reasonably.

TheHipGamer:

Nope, sorry, you can't get that for free.

There are certainly such things are genre conventions, but they are (a) arbitrarily defined, (b) subjective, and (c) mutable. Moreover, you make a leap of logic -- stating that a game is not one genre does not tell you anything about what genre it is, or even it it fits into any genre definition.

I don't think you correctly interpreted what I said.

What is not subjective is what those conventions currently are, and whether or not a game satisfactorily satisfies the conventions it seeks to include.

The fact that many FPS's include an aiming reticle is based on an arbitrary design choice (actually debatable, but let's skip that for now), and the value we assign to this arbitrary design choice is subjective.

What isn't subjective is that an aiming reticle is currently considered necessary for that sort of game design and that we can observe them in many such games. This is not so much a logical proof as it is an empirical observation - they're just there, we can both see them, and we can quantify how many FPS's adhere to the convention as a percentage of all FPS games (100%?)

It is NOT subjective that Super Mario Galaxy does not have an aiming reticle. You can get right down to the code level and demonstrate that the code does not exist in the game for this mechanic. That's not subjective.

LarryC wrote:

TheHipGamer:

Nope, sorry, you can't get that for free.

There are certainly such things are genre conventions, but they are (a) arbitrarily defined, (b) subjective, and (c) mutable. Moreover, you make a leap of logic -- stating that a game is not one genre does not tell you anything about what genre it is, or even it it fits into any genre definition.

I don't think you correctly interpreted what I said.

I'm fairly certain I did.

LarryC wrote:

What isn't subjective is that an aiming reticle is currently considered necessary for that sort of game design and that we can observe them in many such games. This is not so much a logical proof as it is an empirical observation - they're just there, we can both see them, and we can quantify how many FPS's adhere to the convention as a percentage of all FPS games (100%?)

Red Orchestra 2 has no reticle. It's undeniably an FPS. Therefore, reticles aren't necessary for FPS games -- and your example of a "genre convention" is proven non-absolute. If the example proves the case, in fact, my own counter-argument about convention being both mutable and at-best merely agreed upon (which you hit at with your qualifier of "currently") is true.

Regardless of how you classify Mario Galaxy, you cannot objectively prove that there is a "correct" way to play it, only that there are different critical lenses through which it can be interpreted. In fact, one of the fundamental things one learns when studying creative works (of any kind) is that intention is only passingly relevant; there are works within many different mediums where the artistic value was the result of an unconscious connection to a cultural, temporal, or timeless quality. That -- to go back to the point I was really making, before this tangent arose -- is why it's critical to get past the preference discussion, and equally why imposing a "you may only view this game in THIS way" framework is a mistake.

One could argue that the right way to engage with games is externally verifiable, immutable, and measurable; appealing to specific features will ultimately allow you to make a statement about the existence or non-existence of a specific feature set. However, attempting to situate videogames within a particular space by enumerating those types of facts fails, because one cannot connect their existence to a priori truths. Exceptions will always be found, and the "suchness" of a game cannot be defined by anything more than general alignment with other titles. Once you're there, it's a short step to the realization that one cannot ascertain any kind of second-order truths about how games are supposed to be experienced by looking at their primary features -- for the very reasons I've already explained.

Okay, now I'm fairly certain that you didn't because you said this:

If the example proves the case, in fact, my own counter-argument about convention being both mutable and at-best merely agreed upon (which you hit at with your qualifier of "currently") is true.

Which clearly misses the point of this:

This is not so much a logical proof as it is an empirical observation

It is empirically true that Mass Effect games use a reticle. That is not up for interpretation; it is not subjective. It is equally empirically true that Red Orchestra 2 does not (though it still uses sights, and thus preserves the core element of a shooting framework).

Having the exception does not invalidate the observation. It merely changes it. So now, we can agree that the percentage of games using a shooter style is less than 100%. We can mutually fix a definitive percentage of that if you like, and we can discuss it as an observed fact-in-transition without resorting to subjectivity.

Regardless of how you classify Mario Galaxy, you cannot objectively prove that there is a "correct" way to play it, only that there are different critical lenses through which it can be interpreted. In fact, one of the fundamental things one learns when studying creative works (of any kind) is that intention is only passingly relevant; there are works within many different mediums where the artistic value was the result of an unconscious connection to a cultural, temporal, or timeless quality. That -- to go back to the point I was really making, before this tangent arose -- is why it's critical to get past the preference discussion, and equally why imposing a "you may only view this game in THIS way" framework is a mistake.

It depends on what you mean by "correct." If you're going to stand on "everyone has an opinion and they're all equally valid," and if you're going to insist on staying within that framework, then no meaningful discussion or examination can be done whatsoever. That is not the way to advance the medium and you cannot possibly talk about anything to any significance beyond "I liked it."

It is not about linking discussion to a priori truths. Making sense of the empirical world doesn't make sense that way - it never has. What I'm saying is that you can make empirical observations about games and then discuss those productively vis-a-vis what could be called an objective quality in terms of observed results.

i.e. We could make or point to an example of a game that no one has ever considered good and use that as an empirically confirmed navigation point from which to compare and contrast, in lieu of and in comparison with observed data on another game in question.

I'll go back to genre. If you're going to say that intentionality is only passingly relevant and that we cannot possibly use it, then we can't use the concept of genre whatsoever.

Note here: you do not have to repeat the case of genre-mixing; I already addressed that and you have not considered what I said. Genres are made up of basic conventions and methods-of-design which can be enumerated and are not subjective. Genre-mixing is simply a matter of taking these genre components and uniting them with other genre components from a different genre. It doesn't mean that we can't say that the shooting element of a game is bad because your chance of hitting a target is completely unpredictable, and the screen completely blacks whenever you aim at something.

In that sense, it is possible to prove that a given way of playing Mario is the correct way to do so. This doesn't mean that it is the only correct way to do so. There may be many ways. Absolute statements and absolute disproving is the product of a rationalist mindset and environment, which I believe is retarding the conversation and criticism of games. If another enjoyable way to play Mario is found, it doesn't disprove that there is a correct way to play it - it just adds to the library of correct ways to do so.

LarryC wrote:

For instance, you could say that Skyrim is an RPG, but it's not an RPG in the sense that you are taken through a role of a character in the series and experience the world through that character's perspective. It's more of a sandbox environment where you can experience a tourist game in a virtual world through a custom-designed avatar. Both Baldur's Gate and Oblivion count as RPGs, but to me they're at different parts of a spectrum where Oblivion is on the one end, and Final Fantasies lie on the other.

RPGs have never forced players to invest themselves in a role, which is why even tabletop communities are full of arguments over "power-gaming," "min/maxing" and "roll playing"—all protestations that someone isn't investing in the role, but in the system (or detached power fantasies). I like to think my Skyrim diaries here show that role play is very possible and can be interesting and rewarding in Skyrim.

LarryC wrote:

There's a considerable amount of objectivity in things that are normally bogged down in "But it's all subjective!" protestations.

For instance, I do not think you will contradict me when I say that there's limited enjoyment to be had out of playing LA Noire if you think that the way to play it is to stare away from the TV, to a wall to watch paint dry, while a partner uses the controller to molest you. I think we can say that if you didn't enjoy that experience, it's probably not because the game was bad.

Hey, I won't say that you're logically compelled to not enjoy that. Maybe that's your kink.

As for the whole objectivity and intentionality discussion, I don't want to re-argue something that has been discussed at great length for decades of critical theory. LarryC's views are completely in line with literary critical theory at least through most of the 19th Century, becoming less and less accepted by the academy over the course of the 20th Century. There is a lot to read on the subject if you'd like to know more. Barthes is probably the most central figure in the collapse of critical focus on authorial intent.

wordsmythe wrote:

As for the whole objectivity and intentionality discussion, I don't want to re-argue something that has been discussed at great length for decades of critical theory. LarryC's views are completely in line with literary critical theory at least through most of the 19th Century, becoming less and less accepted by the academy over the course of the 20th Century. There is a lot to read on the subject if you'd like to know more. Barthes is probably the most central figure in the collapse of critical focus on authorial intent.

I am done with this thread of conversation for basically the same reason; it seems that the discussion has landed upon an argument based on claimed incomprehension, and there's nothing really to do there.

kazooka wrote:
momgamer wrote:
kazooka wrote:

Most of the games that we're discussing here have very real, very significant flaws. The arguments for each seem to come down to, "if you enjoy this facet of the game enough, the flaws don't seem that bad." This is a very different issue than that somebody isn't playing the game properly.

Except what you're calling a "very real, very significant flaw" I may call a feature and that may be my favorite part of the game. ;)

In a lot of ways I'm just echoing juv3nal's point. But something like the recycled environments in DA2--nobody liked that. You either ignored it because you liked the game, or it was just one more thing that rankled you about the experience.

I think that is getting away from the issue at hand. Being unhappy about recycled environments isn't 'doing it wrong, or right.' It's low budget sloppiness by the designers, that can bother a player or not.

Using a set of mechanics available in a game, despite there being a host of alternative mechanics that are done better is not the same thing.

kazooka wrote:

You know, I kinda don't have time to go into this. (And the only time I ever take time to go into these things is when I should be doing something else.) Put it this way: "You're doing it wrong" is more often used to cover up real mistakes and problems with the experience that to train people to look at things more positively.

Definitely a valid point, but the alternative exists too. And I believe that's what this is about.

wordsmythe:

Thank you for the referral to Barthes. I'm reading his essays and they are illuminating as to the meaning behind what TheHipGamer is saying. Needless to say, I am completely unaware of the entirety of literary critical thinking before and after Barthes, and rather unsurprisingly, what I'm saying bears no close similarity to either mode of thought. I'll try to rephrase in better terminology once I'm done.

More references are welcome!

Larry, if you're looking for a general overview of critical theory, the best way to go may be the Norton Anthology. That is, at least in terms of size, the bible of learning critical theory.

I can understand if you don't really want to read 2000 pages of criticism from Plato on, though. Let me see if I can list some schools of thought to focus on. (They should all have good Wikipedia pages to help you along.) Barthes ties directly to Structuralism and Poststructuralism (and thus to Deconstruction). I'd guess you're at least passingly familiar with Marxist and gender theories of criticism, but post-colonial theory hits similar notes about how cultural works teach and reemphasize dominant cultural values (the way an English class in a colony in 1900 taught locals to be more English, less like their families).

There isn't really a bottom to all this theory, though. (The most recent movements I'm aware of are things like posthumanism and cyberhumanism.) You're welcome to read and discuss your thoughts, but don't feel obligated to stop gaming or--you know--saving lives.

No fears. I just can't promise I won't bore them with Structuralist Theory while they're helpless in my clutches! Mwahahaha!!!

Wait, did I just post that?

Thanks, wordy. Saving this post for a more coherent presentation.

One thing to keep in mind is that postmodern theories like these aren't mutually exclusive. A feminist reading of a text doesn't preclude a postcolonial reading, and neither preclude a Marxist reading.

I'm really intrigued by this post, as it reflects some of my own thoughts when playing Mass Effect and Deus Ex recently.

To start with Deus Ex, let me say in very clear terms that I HATED that game (talking about the first Deus Ex here). I tried getting through Liberty Island several times, but always got very frustrated with the game's UI, the uselessness of the stun gun (later I found out it works best if you use it directly on an enemy's thighs), and the loose, unpolished play styles it seemed to offer. I eventually played Deus Ex: Invisible War, and LOVED IT. something about the weight of the choices made (regardless of their outcome) struck a much needed feeling of duty and responsibility in me, and I came out of it thinking it was one of the most unique gaming experiences I'd ever had.

After this, I had to go back to the original Deus Ex, of course. Doing so with this new perspective of "this choice matters, I better think it through", I LOVED the game. Still hated the UI, laughed at the awful (in a charming way) voice acting, thought the concepts were neither groundbreaking nor particularly interesting or well presented, but still loved the sense of atmosphere and the weight it added to my choice-making. Of course, this new perspective made me anticipate and ultimately fall hopelessly in love with Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Moving on, just a couple of days ago I finished Mass Effect 3, and had absolultely NO IDEA what the conmotion about the ending was. I LOVED the ending, and though it was the very climax of the entire franchise. After reading multiple blogs and articles, I realized the opinion of the ending is not one of unified disgust as many fans and websites would very loudly make others believe, but rather divided. Just like it happened because of Metroid Other M, Mass Effect 3's ending has split the fanbase into those that really liked it and those that feel as hopeless and betrayed as wretched Werther. Thinking more about, I've realized the reason for this is just a difference in play styles.

I'm not entirely sure I'm categorizing it correctly, but from what I observed I think the difference is like this: part of the fanbase played the Mass Effect franchise as a way of exploration, looking out for all the possible combinations of events and story outcomes, while another part played it only for the feeling of responsibility and weight that comes each decision, not caring at all about the "what if?" of other choices. In this sense, the first became extremely disgusted after they were stripped of what they expected would be the most climactic choice exploration they would experience: the multiple endings. The latter, not caring about the diversity of the outcomes, found its nirvana in being forced to make the heaviest, most difficult decision in the game. For these people, this is where the game reached its apex, and the shown outcome (ending CG, result of Effective Military Strength, etc) did not matter at all, or at most was a simple failing that was vastly overpowered by everything before it.

So, to make my response more clear, I'm not sure I would say gamers can "play it wrong", but they can certainly block themselves from what would be an amazing experience by not playing a game a certain way, or from a certain perspective. I think this is actually such a perfectly reasonable opinion that it's very surprising gamers are so sensitive about it. Would these gamers be offended if you told them they "did it wrong" when they complain about the lack of action sequences in a romantic comedy flick, or that a Bergman movie is too heavy-handed with its emotion and philosophy?

I'm a bit confused by all the Super Mario Galaxy comments. No aiming reticule? What would you call the small icon that shows where the wiimote is pointing?

I think I may be honestly confused by your definitions of 'aiming reticule'.

Context was "the aiming conventions of an FPS." I hope this clarifies the meaning. Could offer a specific other example to illustrate the point. Offhand, lack of golf play in Counterstrike.