|Settling for functional
||[May. 12th, 2010|09:23 am]
I'm consistently surprised by how lax most video game reviewers are in their criticism. It's a good thing we have Zero Punctuation to even the scales. If you look at IGN or Playstation: The Official Magazine, you'll see the reviewers throwing around words like "exceptional," "groundbreaking," and yes, even "art," for damn near every big new release. The fact of the matter is, by definition, most of these games are average. Few of them genuinely strive for art. I find it disheartening that big budget flagship releases seem to be rated on a scale of 4 stars to 5 stars.|
I think the problem is that, after a rocky childhood in the '80s and '90s, the video game industry is ready to pat itself on the back just for releasing a game that's functional. We're far past the time where it should be acceptable for a game to crash or be unfun. The industry isn't a babe mewling in the wilderness, trying to take its first steps. Now that video games gross more money than movies, I think we need to treat gaming like what it is: the dominant art form in our country.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear about the amazing acting in a video game. Yes, there are some great voice actors out there, but most video game acting is abysmal. Even first-rate cutscenes can't compare to an average movie or TV drama--yes, even in Metal Gear Solid IV. It's time to stop lying to ourselves and admit that most video game acting is crap slathered on a crappy plot.
This lack of genuine insightful criticism is a sign of the medium's immaturity. If I were to write an essay with beautifully-constructed sentences and typeset them with a nice font, would I automatically get at least a B? If a filmmaker releases a movie with decent special effects and a coherent plot on crisp, 35MM film, is that enough for a passing grade?
I think it's time we set out some basic assumptions about what to expect in a video game:
- The game shall be playable. Bugs shall be kept to a minimum and no crashes or data corruption shall be tolerated.
- The game shall be fun. Tedium and irritation are not acceptable substitutes for "fun."
- The game shall make good use of both visual and aural elements. It is not "revolutionary" to include the latest and greatest visual effects or to record a live orchestra in a studio. Those pieces form the baseline level of competence that we should expect from a big release.
- If the game includes voice acting, the quality shall be on par with acting in any other medium. (I don't actually expect this to happen, but it would be nice.)
What do you think? Did I miss any important commandments?