Why Game Writers Need To Be Specific
Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 12:21AM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid)

For this article, I wanted to clearly illustrate why game writers need to be specific. I'll use two articles I found as examples not with intention of correction, but illumination.

The first article is by Tae K. Kim titled "Why games need to be shorter." Here's my response to the article in order by paragraphs. 


Paragraph 1

Paragraph 2

"Games go on for way too long these days, and for all the wrong reasons, the biggest being gamers have arbitrarily decided there is a minimum number of gameplay hours they will accept—eight seems to be the magic number—and the longer the better."  

Paragraph 3

Paragraph 4

Paragraph 5

Paragraph 6 

Paragraph 7


We (everyone who talks or writes about video games) need to learn how to form debatable-substantive-arguments. It's simple, really. Instead of trying to convey a large concept, just pick a game you have experience with, say something about a specific aspect of the game, and find a few examples to back yourself up. You want the example to do all the "debating" for you. If you can link to a video or a playable example, even better.

I'll close with a review that actually provides a video example to support a bold claim. From the second page of this gamesradar review of Donkey Kong Country Returns:

"These cart levels in DKCR approach Battletoads speed tunnel levels of annoyance, as they repeatedly fail to give you any clues as to what the correct action should be. Jump? Duck? Dodge that or land on it? The only way you’ll know for sure is to try, and probably die in the process."

This statement is completely clear and completely wrong. Remember an article I wrote years ago about how game reviewers need skills or at least they need to know how their lack of skill may affect their perception of gameplay challenges? Since I was a kid playing Donkey Kong Country, I've known that bananas are the universal clues. Like Mario coins, if you see a banana, you know that you can obtain it without dying. In addition, bananas are used to outline paths of travel when the fast action or screen scrolling might obscure the path otherwise.  

In the video evidence, it's clear that bananas are used as they always have been. See for yourself in the video. And in the Battletoads speed tunnel example, there's only 1-2 obstacle sequences that have questionable warning cues; the "!" jumps at 2:40 and the fast up and down obstacles just afterwards. Otherwise, that challenge is legitimately fair.

The beauty of being specific is that it encourages responses/rebuttals to be just as specific or more so helping the whole debate move forward. Unless we take these steps seriously, we'll never get around to talking about video games. 


Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
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