For a while now I’ve been ranting about games criticism. (If you’ve been paying attention, you’re probably sick of me ranting about games criticism!)
As much as I’ve ranted, I’ve found a few signs that maybe – just maybe – some writers, websites and print publications are making some progress toward legitimate games criticism. One of the signs is the increasing seriousness with which the New York Times covers game news and offers useful game reviews.
Mostly, I appreciate what the NY Times does with games (when they do anything at all). But today the Times ran a review of “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” (no, I’m not making that up) – a review that left me shaking my head in confusion and dismay.
Here’s a link. Go to this link. Go directly to the Amnesia review. Read it and come on back.
Sounds good, right? I kinda want to play the game. I marvelled at the writer’s tantalizing hints at what the story might be. I enjoyed the author’s clear case for the game’s emotional impact and lingering resonance.
Then I noticed that there’s NOT ONE WORD ABOUT WHAT PLAYERS DO IN THE GAME in the review!
Not… one… word…
Seriously? Can anyone reading this review tell me what the game is about from a play/verbs standpoint?
That seems like a critical oversight (pun not intended but very much enjoyed). The piece reads like something an editor got hold of – an editor who knew nothing about games but had to save some column inches so he or she hacked out the bits that would have made the review make sense to a potential consumer. Honestly, I HOPE that’s the case because the alternative is far worse!
However it happened, it happened. We have here possibly the first game review I can remember that doesn’t actually discuss the game under discussion.
Look, if this review had mentioned the game’s genre (however the reviewer chose to define that word in the context of games), if he or she had talked a little about the play patterns and then wrapped up with a paragraph talking about how the play and the story work together to create the powerful, resonant emotional impact the game clearly delivers… Well, I’d be cheering.
As it is, I’m left shaking my head in confused wonderment.
If the author of the review reads this (fat chance, I know!), I’d love to know the backstory on the review. But even more, I’d like to know something about the game so I could decide whether to play it or not.
(Oh, and can we all vow right here, right now, never to make another game that starts with a player character who awakens in a strange place suffering from amnesia? Thanks. I appreciate it.)