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Make Better Criticism

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  1. Make Better Criticism A call for a mature form of critical analysis Matteo Bittanti

  2. Make “Better” Games? • What does “better” mean? • What is “criticism”? “The practice of analyzing, classifying, interpreting, evaluating literary of other artistic works; a critical article or essay.”

  3. The game syllogism • To make better games we need to define what better means • To define what better means we need criticism • To make better games we need [better] criticism

  4. HOW WE GOT HEREor THE SO-CALLED GAME CRITICISM • Magalogs • Official/”Unofficial” catalogs • Promotion as information (and vice versa) Why?

  5. BECAUSE… “Game publications and web sites still mostly employ low-paid hobbyists who are easy targets of lavish marketing events that encourage inappropriate ties between game makers and game critics.” (Justin Hall, “Ethics in Videogame Criticism”, 04.10.03)

  6. THE RESULT • Games regarded as mere commercial products (“toys for boys”) • Mags as consumer guides • Mags talk about games in terms of their technical aspects, using unintelligible, esoteric and self referential argot • Obsession for quantitative evaluation

  7. ACE, ACE BABY

  8. THE NUTRITIONAL LABEL STYLE

  9. TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISMUBER ALLES BIGGER + FASTER HARDWARE = BETTER SOFTWARE

  10. THE TECHNOLOGY GAME

  11. MISSING IN ACTION

  12. THE PORTRAIT OF THE YOUNG ARTIST AS A CRITIC

  13. ALMOST (AS) FAMOUS

  14. SEX, DRUGS AND VIDEOGAMES Chuck Klosterman plays The Sims

  15. JOHN FISKE “READS” TV

  16. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 AMERICA’S ARMY

  17. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 TOM CLANCY’S RAINBOX SIX: ATHENA SWORD

  18. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 STATE OF EMERGENCY

  19. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY

  20. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 FUGITIVE HUNTER

  21. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 MANHUNT

  22. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 KUMAWAR

  23. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 NARC

  24. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 POSTAL 2

  25. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 REPUBLIC: THE REVOLUTION

  26. VIDEOGAMES, CIRCA 2004 THE SIMS 2

  27. LEVEL 2: COMPLETED… (CIRCA 1981)

  28. …BUT WHAT ABOUT “LEVEL 3”? ?

  29. GAME STUDIES • Field is young • Umbrella term(references to RE purely coincidental) • Theodore Sturgeon’s Axiom (90:10) • VG as “texts”, “discourses”, “practices” • No common vocabularyeven within the game studies community

  30. THE RISKS • Niche, anomaly • Me vs. You “These guys using semiotics to study games worry me” (Chris Crawford, 2003) “These Ivory Tower guys need a big tall glass of shut the fuck up” (DoD04 paraphrase)

  31. THE RISKS • Balkanization of game criticism - Baudrillard vs. Counter-Strike

  32. GAME STUDIES • Dissecting a corpse? • Game criticism should not be an autopsy!

  33. WHAT DO WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT GAMES? • We all agree here,right? • Videogames are a bit like pornography (no, I’m not going to use the joystick metaphor here)

  34. WHAT IS A VIDEOGAME?

  35. 1. VIDEOGAME AS TEXT • “Readable” • “Complete” • Made of different elements that have no meaning per se but acquire a shape when assembled • Game as a box

  36. BREAKING THE BOX Small Soldiers, Joe Dante, 1998

  37. 2. VIDEOGAME AS DISCOURSE • “Extended communication (often interactive) dealing with a particular topic” • “System of representation consisting of a set of representational codes for constructing particular forms of reality”

  38. 2. VIDEOGAME AS DISCOURSE • “Dominant tropes within the discourse of a particular historical period determine what can be known” (Michel Foucault) • Dominant vs. marginalized tropes in games

  39. GAME TRIBES STRUCTURALISTS • The subject (= the player) is the product of available discourses (= games). • Games make the player. • Hard core ludologists are mostly (only?) interested in the formal structure of games.

  40. GAME TRIBES CONSTRUCTIVISTS • Allow for the possibility of negotiation and resistance. • The players and the games create meanings. • Cultural studies, fandom studies etc.

  41. GAME TRIBES POSTSTRUCTURALISTS • Deny any meaning (or more provocatively any reality) outside the discourses. • There is no reality outside the Matrix (video games).

  42. 3. VIDEOGAMES AS PRACTICE • “Meaning-making behaviors in which people engage following particular conventions or rules of construction and consumption” • Socio-cultural contexts have crucial importance

  43. 3. VIDEOGAMES AS PRACTICE • What happens in front of the screen matters more than what happens onto the screen • Videogames are rites: they oscillate between the sacred and the profane

  44. MAKING SENSE OF VIDEOGAMES • What makes a game “good” or “bad” is not… Technology “Gameplay” • …But the value that players give to games Gaming is a meaning-making activity

  45. HOW TO “READ” A GAME 1. FASHION MODEL 2. POLITIQUE 3. BASKET 4. ME, MYSELF, AND EYE

  46. 1. FASHION MODEL • Specific games are informed by generic cultural models • Deductive • Texts - and even the media - are not important per se… • …What matters are the cultural models

  47. 2. POLITIQUE • The single text matters • …There is an “Author” • …He is trying to communicate something to me • …Hey, I should pay close attention to each element in the game! (homologies)

  48. 2. POLITIQUE • Cinema studies: Filmology (1946); Politique des Auteurs (1954); Author Policy (late 50s-’60s) Film director as an author in terms of - personality - production worker - number of key contributors

  49. HALL OF FAME Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (Interactive.org) On the right, Jean-Luc Godard

  50. 3. BASKET • = A container • = The amount that basket can hold • = A score in basketball • Like it or not, we all carry a basket full of cultural, aesthetical, political, ideological and ludic knowledge (plus biases, assumptions etc. etc.)