Video game review philosophy in brief

Riffing on a couple of comments yonder.

Video games are distinguished from other art and entertainment media by the real-time loop between control and feedback, or user input and game output. Control and feedback produce a sense impression that is entirely different from other activities. Board games require similar controls, but they lack real-time feedback. Dancing and martial arts give real-time sensory feedback in response to actions, but they require large movements compared to pressing buttons on a keyboard, mouse, or console controller. Movies reward perceptual acuity with real-time sense impressions, but they allow no control.

Good game design recognizes that this real-time control-feedback distinction is the absolute bottom line in making a good game. Everything else is decorative window dressing at best, and horribly cumbersome at worst. To make an entertaining game it has to feel good when you shoot the zombie, and feel bad when you miss. If you don’t do this, but you write a beautiful story that gets rave reviews, you might as well have made a movie or written a book. For the same reason, an artistic game would somehow have to convey a meaningful sense impression when you shoot the zombie. It’s a stretch, I know, and so far I’m not aware of any games that have done this, except maybe Silent Hill 2 or Spec Ops: The Line, neither of which have I actually played.

Examples of games made purely from the sense impressions of control and feedback: Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Guitar Hero, anything you could put in an arcade. These have no analogues in movies, board games, puzzles, choose-your-own-adventure books, etc., although they can sometimes be improved by the addition of narratives and such. For instance, FF3/6 would admittedly have been pretty awful if it were *just* the RPG elements and no grand opera overtones.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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6 Responses to Video game review philosophy in brief

  1. Heaviside says:

    Narratives in computer games suck. Games should take their artistic cues from architecture, not literature.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      Everything I know about architecture I learned from Ayn Rand in, what, three paragraphs? My sister read me some of her assigned reading on architecture, and it made Kant look concise.

      In short, I agree. Not so surprisingly, anime suffers from the same confusion.

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  3. norton.moses says:

    I’ve never thought about it in these terms. Thanks for an educating read.

  4. Pingback: The Talos Principle, part 1 | Aeoli Pera

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