Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Games: Video Game Critiques

It used to be so simple. You munched around a maze avoiding ghosts. The invaders were moving back and forth and getting lower and you shot at them and hid behind little crumbling fortresses. You killed the bad thing. Or you just aligned blocks or found the way out of mazes. Games were simple. If they stood for anything or had any deep significance it was usually in the mind of the beholder and not the mind of the creator.

In simpler times there were simple reviews. Was it worth buying? Were the graphics good? Was the gameplay challenging enough without being impossible?

Things are different now. Games have huge budgets. There are complex stories. There are themes and ideas woven into the fabric of games even when the game seems to be nothing more than "shoot the bad things and survive". Which leads to longer reviews and deeper critiques of games.

Good writers with good ideas and a good understanding of what's being presented in video games now have a chance to show us what's good and not so good about games. And I'm not talking about whether the graphics are up to par or not.

Case in point is Metroid: Other M - The Elephant in the Room by MenTaLguY and Tuvia Dulin. It may have started life as a simple review but it changed into something bigger and deeper. A critique of some of the underlying issues inherent in the story of this particular Metroid game.

Metroid is a series of video games in which the hero turned out to be a heroine. The main character is Samus Aran who goes around protecting the galaxy. Metroid: Other M takes that simple formula... and... well... let's say the writing isn't up to scratch and the new take on the character is a feminist's nightmare.

What's interesting is that this particular critique goes beyond taking aim at the bad writing and occasionally painfully bad scene and looks at the story in it's entirety. It's a worthy piece of literary criticism in it's own right.

It's nice to see well thought out and well written critiques of video games. It's nice to know the medium can deserve such treatment. It's just makes me sad that this particular criticism of the mishandling of a story and a character is even required.

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