The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on February 24th, 2008 at 3:24 pm.

Papers!
Are you hungover? I’m hungover. So, as I try and relax into the all-too-bright afternoon, I find I like to listen to one of the Afghan Whigs startling cover versions of I Only Had A Heart and read through some of the more provoking pieces of writing on games the week has produced. And you can join me, because in the Sunday Papers I collate a list of such things and present them for your delectation, in a rush before I find myself trying to give a little context to the week’s Kate Bush Audiosurf Drama.

  • I wake up to Greg Costikyan’s typically provocative piece. He decries the conflation of criticism and reviews. To be honest, I’ve got a degree of sympathy for him – I tend to grate when someone describes me as a critic, as occasionally happens, because 96% of what I write about games simply isn’t. But the real trick with criticism is to find someone willing to pay for it. Perhaps there’s some irony that Costikyan’s critical piece notes a problem without really considering the most important critical question: “Why?”. And it isn’t because those drudges called reviewers are soulless drudges.
  • We haven’t linked to anything from Crispygamer yet. Let’s put that failing right – here’s an interview they’ve done with Eidos CEO Bill Gardner. While a CEO-eyes view is a rare thing to see, it’s most interesting to see him talk about the Gerstmann-gate issue…
  • Also widely discussed, Massively ran a column arguing why there’s so much anti-games coverage in the media. Tateru Nino thinks it’s because they’re scared of us taking over. There’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory.
  • Following on from our interview with Soren Johnson this week, Gamasutra ran a long feature with gaming’s other Soren, Neil Sorens, where he talks about stories in non-traditional narrative games. Gamasutra obviously had a load of excellent GDC coverage, but my eyes were particularly caught by an interview with Cryptic’s Jack Emmert, talking about the failings and successes of their City of Heroes. For those wondering the direction of Champions, it’s well worth picking over.
  • Okay, the thing with Bush is… well, you’re in England. It’s the late seventies. There’s no real venues for pop videos, and basically Top of the Pops presents pop to the world. And then, this appears on your screen. Just ridiculously remarkable. As Alec put it, it’s a miracle they didn’t storm the stage and burn her as some manner of witch.

Failed.

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21 Comments »

  1. Dinger says:

    Criticism vs. Reviewer, or making a distinction that does not need to exist.

    Costikyan’s right that a discussion of Ultima IV would not serve as a “game review”: this criticism is not a review. He lathers on the cases, even using the dreaded ‘A-word’. But, just as (to use another dreaded example) from ‘this case of hatred is not a case of contempt’ you can only infer ‘some cases of hatred are not cases of contempt’, and not ‘No case of hatred are cases of contempt’, so too, the only thing he’s shown is that the terms are not convertible.

    What’s wrong with saying that a game review is a form of criticism, a species, with its own specific conventions and rules? If you want to tke the anecdotal approach, all of the (curiously demonstrative) questions he raises as “valid critical approaches” have instantiations in game reviews. Can we excise them?

    Criticism isn’t intended to help the reader decide whether or not to plunk down money on something; some readers’ purchase decisions may be influenced, but guiding their decisions is not the purpose of the critical work.

    As they say in the Virginia backcountry, “That dog won’t hunt.” Criticism exists to communicate to the reader an understanding of the work, contextual or otherwise. With mass culture and mass media, most of those seeking an understanding are those seeking to make the choice to consume. You can’t say that a Master’s Thesis discussing the demeaning objectivization of women through a crude post-coital collecting-card mechanic belongs to the lofty realm of criticism, while denying citizenship to a review that mocks it as “risibly misogynistic”, just because some editor slapped a stupid-ass number at the end.

    Bill Gardner: ‘it’s lonely at the top.’ Madden 2008: yes, if I were CEO, I’d want that too. Money in the bank, every year, for twenty years.

    Anti-games coverage. First off, there is no mainstream media. MSM is a right-wing shibboleth. Second, yes, nothing is more vicious than an elite on the way out. Third, when new social phenomena emerge, the same sectors of society (usually those elites), cast them as corrupt, evil and dangerous. They are asserting social control. The same thing happened (and is happening today) with Stage Plays, Cinema, paperback books and magazines.

  2. Alex says:

    Kate Bush is the best. I love her and her music, even when I can hear it’s a bit crap, I still love it.

    I don’t know how she does it, she just blows away all my critical faculties (.. never heard it called that before..) and all that remains is a Deeper Understanding.

  3. James T says:

    Oh shit — she can teleport!

    Incidentally, how did the ‘Punk like Talking Heads’ page-title arise? TH are my favourite band bar none.

  4. Krawall says:

    According to Gamasutra, that linked article is by Neil Sorens, not Soren Johnson.

  5. The_B says:

    Oh shit — she can teleport!

    “Spy sappin my Wuthering Heights!”

  6. James T says:

    “Kate Bush-rush!”

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Krawall: Ah, yes. I think someone on Qt3 mentioned it was Soren, but (er) not that Soren.

    KG

  8. Theory says:

    I don’t recall giving anyone permission to talk about Kate Bush.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    James T: The original interview with Soren featured a section where he described PC games as punk rock. Here it is:
    “or me, PC Gaming should be like Punk Rock – being able to do whatever you want. And people are forgetting that the Punk period isn’t just the Ramones and the Sex Pistols… it’s Talking Heads, Televisions, Patti Smith, Pere Ubu, Gang of Four… this huge variety of stuff because people were making it up as they were going along. It was easy enough to make music that people did what they wanted to. And that’ll always be the advantage of PCs.”

    Then the comments thread ended in a big debate whether Talking Heads were actually Punk Rock.

    Which they were, in the sense that Soren was talking about.

    KG

  10. Dinger says:

    …all of which bands were featured in a recent boxed set touting itself as ’70s Punk Rock.

    Coincidence?

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dinger: Punk rock bands in enormous punk rock box set?

    Yeah, I’d say it is. :)

    KG

  12. Dinger says:

    er no, the same questionably maximalist view of the genre. Heck, already by 1981 the US TV show was making distinctions between the (bad) Punk Rockers and the (good, but misunderstood) New Wave kids who just wanted to have fun. I mean, there’s punk rock like the Talking Heads, and then there’s punk rock like the Scars. There’s no need to get into a debate over what constitutes Punk Rock, but his list was curious (admittedly from the perspective of the present, with the paths the bands took). If asked to list a series of punk rock bands, most people would probably come up with a different list. It’s what’s striking about his analogy, and what’s striking about the thesis of this particular boxed set.

    Well, it probably is just a coincidence. ‘Cos our poor boy believes in chance.

  13. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Putting a link to a Kate Bush video in this overview may defeat the purpose, because it makes all other linked articles seem dull and uninteresting.

  14. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dinger: Thing is, the Talking Heads=Punk Rock thing is absolutely the standard music critic position. You’d be pushed to find a music writer who isn’t writing – say – for certain hardcore punk fanzines or whatever who’d argue the contrary. I see it less as coincidence, and more just the fact Soren and the compiler of that album are feeding off the same sort of consensus.

    KG

  15. Dinger says:

    KG: Hey, New York, 1977: what’s not punk rock about it? They even toured Europe with the Ramones, if I recall correctly. Anyway, no sense bickering over sources.

    You will, however, enjoy typing “talking heads” “punk rock” into Google.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dinger: I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing, are we?

    Re: Talking Heads/Punk Rock. WIN!

    KG

  17. J says:

    No love for The Clash?

    I’m not really into capital P political music but London Calling is still really great in my books.

    Also:

    I don’t recall giving anyone permission to talk about Kate Bush.

    It’s a right not a privilege.

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    Nothing but love for the Clash. I suspect Soren’s likewise – but when you’re making a list of bands you don’t think about necessarily as punk, you include people like Pere Ubu and Talking Heads, not ‘em.

    In fact, I’m going to listen to the clash now.

    KG

  19. Greger says:

    That Kate Bush video was interesting. The song was kinda crap yet at the same time kinda good. Made me all mushy in the head.

  20. Winterborn says:

    Great video. My love for Kate is overpowering yet platonic.

  21. Zuffox says:

    When aren’t you hungover, Gillen?