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(11-14-2012, 01:45 AM)
DocSeuss's Avatar
I was going to create a thread about this, because I wanted to focus on some of the stuff Totilo said here. Unfortunately, the topic is now about games journalism, so the bulk of my post will be as well. However, I do want to make a brief statement expanding on what Totilo said about shooters.

Most people don't understand shooters, and, to be honest, I think most shooter devs don't understand shooters either, which is where games like Medal of Honor come from. They're smart games for smart people. Sure, they're easy to understand, pick up, and play, and they're particularly great if you're impatient or don't have much time, which means that they can appeal to a broad range of people, but they actually require some of the most intelligent thought of their players.

In comparison to shooters, there isn't all that much intelligent in planning your next move in a turn-based game, because ultimately, you've got time to think. You've got room to breathe. The longer you can think, the better your decision is likely to be. It's not to say that turn-based games are dumb, because that would be a really stupid thing to say. They absolutely can require a significant degree of intelligence on the part of the player. However, the only real intelligence players are using in a turn-based game is generally logic/mathematical (with a degree of social), which I personally don't find nearly as stimulating as the type of intelligence that shooters provide.

I find that, quite often, the people who belittle shooters make arguments like this: "well, shooters are just about pointing and pressing a button." Bad developers seem to think that this is the case as well, which is why their shooters are good.

Chess is a fairly easy game to understand, for instance, but it would be absurd to say "chess is a dumb game for dumb people because it's really simple to pick up and play," yet people say this thing about shooters all the time.

Here's how shooters utilize various areas of player intelligence:

  • Logical-Mathematical: shooters are about resource management. How much ammo do you have? How much ammo will you be expending? What benefits can you purchase with the currency of your ammunition?
  • Spatial: Where are you in relation to everything else? Where are the enemies shooting? Where are the enemies going? Where are you going? Where are you shooting?
  • Social: How can you ensure that your enemies do not send death your direction, and how can you game them into moving into your line of fire?
  • Bodily-kinesthetic: How can you move within the area you are navigating with your spatial intelligence?

Oh, and you're doing this on the fly, which adds the pressure of real-time to you.

Are you denying the right area? How much ammunition do you have left? How can you usher someone into the right kilbox? Will that enemy who disappeared attempt to flank you?

When playing a shooter, you are considering this stuff all the time. Sure, anyone can play a shooter, but to be good requires a significant amount of intelligence and dynamic mental gymnastics on the part of the player.

They are absolutely some of the smartest games out there. I don't care about memorizing button combinations or spending minutes planning out my next move in an RPG. That doesn't require much intelligence of me.

Shooters? They require a lot. Smart games for smart people. Awesome.

Originally Posted by AppleSmack

In that case the article fails in my eyes. When I read reviews, the general concensus of "buy or not" is exactly what I'm looking for. I hate reviews that don't take a clear stance on things.

But it's not a review.

Film Crit Hulk is my favorite journalist in the history of journalism. He's not technically a journalist--he's a Hollywood person who worked on the production side of things and writes under a secret identity--but he does a ton of reviews/columns, which is more than enough for him to be considered a film critic.

I imagine you'd dismiss his excellent writing on the basis that most of what he says isn't "buy or not." That makes me somewhat sad. Film Crit Hulk's writing exists, in a large part, to help enhance the enjoyment of film. He wants people to care, to feel, to appreciate, and to think better.

I believe that was Totilo's intention here. People who don't understand shooters see them and think they're little more than shooting galleries. He was explaining their appeal, and the reason that they're a lot smarter than they appear.

Is Totilo's piece as good as a Film Crit Hulk piece? Eh, personally, I'd say no. In fact, I'd say if this is good gaming journalism, then journalism has a long way to go. Maybe Totilo was limited in how much he could write, or maybe he just doesn't see how much there really is to FPSes and their appeal (I could write several thousand words on the many reasons shooters are excellent, and I'm no journalist), but this piece talked too much about the details of the games and not nearly enough about the appeal of shooters as a whole.

Originally Posted by Oersted

I will reply with another reviewer:

There is a reason why videogames are not taken serious.

The problem isn't the medium, it's the developers, media, and fans. They're so busy stuck on the antiquated notion that video games (a misnomer now, though appropriate when all people did were things like Pong) are primarily games that they seem to have missed the idea that the medium is actually a method of communication, through which many kinds of ideas can be communicated. The medium can be a tool for education (Serious Games, the genre is called), artistic expression (games with stories, among other things), or purely as games (Chessmaster, Pac-Man).

The artistic games--the ones that would be taken seriously--tend to have poorly-written stories and use combat as the primary method of interaction with the world.

Transformers is a big spectacle. Uncharted 2, a game with all the spectacle and polish of a Michael Bay film, is critically lauded as some of the best the medium has to offer, even though it has more stupid plot points and fundamental story failures than any movie Michael Bay has ever made. I think if people would focus more on using the medium to its artistic strengths (gameplay as a language for storytelling, for instance--most people seem hellbent on using cinematic or literary techniques to tell stories that could be told through the act of playing the game instead, for some reason, giving us games like Max Payne 3 and Uncharted 2), respect for the medium would grow immensely.

The number of stories I would consider to be as good as the literature I've spent my life reading can be counted on just one hand, and that's the fault of the developers who focus on gameplay first (this is like making a movie thinking about the images first--like Transformers; if you put the story first and use the strength of the medium to support it, you'll end up with something as awesome as The Avengers) and the media and audience who demands it.