Monday, September 21, 2009

Play Me A Story, Part One: Metal Gear Solid and the Cinematic Game

Recently I've been watching my friend Iceman play through the Metal Gear Solid games. It's been both entertaining and edifying. My own much-delayed foray into the series ended shortly after tossing grenades into a tank in the first game, and it seems that for every hour I watch Iceman play, I suddenly understand another previously-baffling joke or reference I've encountered somewhere.

As we watched the credits roll on the third installment, Snake Eater, Iceman turned to me and sadly confessed that he was starting to doubt the ability of videogames, as a medium, to tell stories.

It's a surprising thing to hear after watching the videogame ending that holds the record for producing manly tears. But I knew exactly what he meant, and why he'd said it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spoiled Treasures and Guilty Pleasures: The Bad Good Game and the Good Bad Game

Reviewing games is harder than it looks. Particularly when the reviewer is tasked with summing up a twenty, forty, or even eighty hour experience into a single number.

The problem is that games are multidimensional. Rarely is a game simply good or bad – most are more complicated than that. An RPG might have a weak plot, but excellent characterization. A platformer might have ugly graphics, but compelling gameplay.

Every so often you'll encounter a game that stubbornly straddles the line and defies binary judgment. It has solid reasons to be considered both good and bad. Reviews of such games tend not to score them very well, but of course that only tells part of the story. Depending on which side of the fence they fall on, they may be a Bad Good Game or a Good Bad Game.