In the face of undying cynicism, can one man make a positive internet video? Unfortunately, no, he can’t. But he can make… whatever mess this is. Which is kind of unfortunate, really.
This was certainly refreshing but must admit that less entertaining than the negative aproach.
Can we try a different structure for criticism? Instead of saying the usual “this and that was good but all the rest was crap”It could be far more interesting to to state sience the beginning that it´s rubbish and then explaining how many good things it has despite being rubbish.
I did it this way when I was teaching when commenting on my student´s work and it worked!
I think that the general cynicism inherent in game reviews is one of the reasons I appreciate TotalBiscuit’s “WTF is…” series.
They’re not reviews. They’re not criticism. They’re just someone who loves games showing you something new and shiny, and letting you decide for yourself if it’s something that interests you. All in all, that’s much more useful to me than a review and a numeric rating.
Zero Punctuation was funny at first, but as time goes on you start to realize that there’s no sincerity behind the snark. Even the games he likes he tears apart, because that’s his schtick. There’s no value in what he produces, because at the end it’s hard to separate genuine criticism from nitpicking and snark for snark’s sake. If you took all of his words at face value you’d miss out on a lot of wonderful experiences.
Angry Video Game Nerd gets a bit of a pass from me because he’s purposefully seeking out poor titles for criticism, rather than just destroying everything in his path. When he strays from the dreck he normally deals with and talks about something he actually likes, you can tell that he’s a man who’s genuinely passionate about games. His series is less criticism as it is catharsis through shared frustration. And I’m ok with that.
I actually really enjoyed this.
Like you said, games conducive to reading are rare so it’s worth taking the opportunity to do so. In general I think any constructive discussion is a good thing, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Unfortunately it just seems there’s a lot more negative to talk about in games.
I think your approach to game reviews is what we need more of. The close reading you make is well supported and does not focus too heavily on any one piece of the game. Its definitely no junior high level literary analysis. You weave together game mechanics, mis en scene, story elements, etc. to make a complex claim about the game. This is fun, insightful, and hopefully encourages people think more about/pay attention to the games they play and life in general.
Nice work. I hope to see another soon.
Your literary analysis definitely is NOT junior high level…
uhh…meaning it’s far better than junior high level >_>
First I’d like to say: you’re awesome. Reddit lead me here (your Mirror’s Edge retro was posted) and I’ve been noodling around since. You’re really insightful, and clearly have high standards.
Second: With this particular review, I really appreciate what you’re reaching for. Glib cynicism is terrible. Cynical thought seems always to covertly intone: “the world is shit, why should we expect anything different.” The problem with cynical criticism isn’t that it rejects mediocrity, but that is presupposes that greatness will always be the exception, and that failure is our collective destiny. What I appreciate about your attempt at positive reviewing (an attempt that I think is largely successful) is that it suggests an alternative baseline assumption: “greatness can be the norm, we just have to work a little harder to get there.” Positive critique (or “constructive criticism”) can still acknowledge failings, but it is fundamentally encouraging, while cynical critique is fundamentally discouraging.
So, in that vein: keep going forward. You haven’t found the right voice or tone yet, but you will. This is a great, worthy project that you’ve embarked upon. Find the right tone, the right voice, and the right perspective. Carve out your style, and become the voice that says, with every review, “if we try a little harder, gaming will be great. Listen to me, and we’ll get there together.”
What a great review of an absolutely wonderful game. Perhaps it is easier to be critical, but easier doesn’t always mean better. I love a good Zero Punctuation review as much as the next guy, but sometimes its worth taking a moment and pointing out what gaming has done right. Especially in the state of the gaming industry today when so much of what we’re given is big-budget FPS gaming candy.
I honestly have difficulty being critical of your work here, as I find it wholly refreshing to find a gaming blog of this intellectual level. Please continue to do what you do.
Hoo boy, is this late. Blame me for only just discovering your work through finally getting through my Spoiler Warning backlog.
I greatly appreciate the way you took the time to look into the narrative in particular. As someone with not enough experience analyzing visual media (being the age of 17 and not having English as a native language tends to do that to you), though I must admit to having a slightly different take on Bastion.
I won’t dismiss the whole breakup subtext in the game, I think there’s too much evidence to really avoid that, but I would like to discuss the binary choice in the end. Both options are equally valid and non-judgemental, though they stand apart in one fundamental aspect:
The new game plus.
I recently played through the New Game Plus and found that more than once, the narrator actually had a piece of dialogue in which he’d remark on getting deja vu, like in the beginning of the story where he’ll go “wait, haven’t I said this before?”
This, to me, changed the entire paradigm of Bastion’s story. The new game plus isn’t just a new game from scratch, it’s just what happens when you pick the “restore Caelondia” ending. Nothing at all changes. History goes on to repeat itself again.
At that moment, I think the game’s strongest message echoes even stronger: there’s no point in reliving the past because no matter how you look at it, the same mistakes will be made. Looking to the future, even if it might look glum and dark, is nonetheless the future. Change, especially when it relates to moving on from somewhere where you used to be happy, is fundamentally painful. And yet we need to keep moving because we can’t live in the past.
Anyway, that was just my take.
I didn’t buy the game because the monsters hit me too much and hitting them seemed like I just had to click around near them randomly. They weren’t really “there” in the sense I could maneuver around them or target them. Kinaesthetics. So it was cool to see all the spoilers. One thing about negative reviews is that I want to know all the bad things about a game before I buy it, so I don’t buy it. With good reviews, I don’t want to see them till after I play the game to find out why I thought it was so good.
It’s too bad sourced footage is so difficult, because it raises the level of analysis. I see why you thought it might look junior-high ish, because the underlying structure is the English paper with quote blocks. They’re just video quote blocks. What we need is for games to be structured somehow so quotes are easy to find. Search by level/setting/dialogue, it returns the start and end point.
So I break up with a girl, come home, num, paralyzed, browsing the net…. and find this. Thank you. I feel a little bit better now.
Great analysis. I didn’t put the romance metaphor together myself, but it makes a lot of sense. I agree that the single choice at the end made me stop, dumbfounded, and stare at the screen for a solid five minutes. I didn’t know what to do. I cared that much.
In the end, I had to go with Rucks, and I noticed precisely the same thing as Mathias. When I started up the New Game Plus, there were little bits of dialogue here and there to suggest that not only does the game know you’ve restarted the world (and fallen into the reset trap), but that your first time playing through the game wasn’t the Kid’s first time experiencing the post-apocalyptic world.
Despite the presentation of a choice, despite that choice being difficult to make, I can’t help but feel that we’re always meant to choose Reset the first time. Only after we’ve made that mistake can we learn from it.
As for the tone, a little bit of snark never hurt anyone. Even NYT’s A.O.Scott couldn’t be bothered to keep a straight face for the entirety of his Captain America review, which ended up bashing Thor and Green Lantern, too, for good measure. Not that Bastion would have deserved any of it… but Fallout 3…
[…] Links mentioned in this episode : Errant Signal – Bastion : http://www.errantsignal.com/blog/?p=184 James Portnow – The Aesthetics of […]
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