Are deeper game reviews due?


On the rare occasion that I pick up a newspaper, the articles are mainly compressed or, even more frequent, subjective interpretations of something I can read up on by spending 5 minutes on the net.

The reason why I'm writing this blog is because I want to relay an article I was both surprised to read, while also finding relevant, considering gaming has become such a large part of the entertainment industry.

I have not been able to find the article on the web, but the question asked by the columnist, who had observed his son playing video games, was whether game review sites should analyse more than just the graphics, game mechanics or deviations from the previous entry in the series.

In general, most game review sites have a similar points that weigh in on the score that the game will receive. However, games being a form of media, it is inevitable to see a form of social commentary emerge, even if they may not always be intentional or obvious in their own right.

Looking at high-profile titles, such as the Call of Duty series, there does not appear to be much more to the games than a highly refined, solid shooter.
But what might, for instance, the presence of the Covenant in the Halo series try to convey to gamers in comparison to our own society?
Is it just a plot device to have humanity face off against overwhelming odds, or is there a deeper thought behind the basic premise?

Sometimes, however, the commentary lies much closer to home. To give an example from a game which has been widely praised for it's storytelling, Bioshock also indirectly makes a statement about storytelling and progression in games. Without spoiling too much (and if you haven't played the game I highly recommend it), one of the main plot elements in Bioshock centers around being constricted all the while trying to figure out what happened in the underwater city of Rapture.

Much in the same way that the main character in Bioshock is without control, the game the developers of the game have, consciously or unconsciously, made a point about "open games" and the nature of choice in gaming. By forcing the player to accept a given path, regardless of whether it a. fits directly in the story or b. is in the best interest of the parties involved, the illusion of choice might still exist in the sense that you can chose in what order you want to complete your next 3 objectives, but in reality the progression in games is still very much linear, and you still have to climb all the ladders to reach Donkey Kong at the top.

Another example is Braid, a game in which the player is given the ability to twist and bend time, much in the same way the story has to be entangled with each level, all the while becoming more challenging to understand.

This has been brief post on a few thoughts that I've wanted to share, although I haven't been able to find the articles where I first read them. If I find the original source for the articles I'll try and link them.

explicit_baron's picture

Nice post, I think what ultimately matters is, is the game fun, is it enjoyable. Graphics, game mechanics and large budgets are very important today but, a game with horrible graphics that cost $5.00 to make could be equally or more fun than a Call of Duty.

Razzler's picture

I think a good starting point would be reviewers not buying into the hype or marketing for a game as much. 90%+ was a really rare occurance 10 years ago, now it seems that even the shitty games get 70's at minimum nowadays.

John Tarr's picture

I think the main point you were trying to make is whether or not game reviewers should do more than rate Graphics/Story/Gameplay out of 10, and get more in depth about what the developer was trying to convey?

Other than BioShock, Braid, and a few other exceptions, I don't think Developers really try to have a deeper meaning (in the way that Kubrick or authors typically use symbolism).

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