No Culture? Gameplay Aesthetes

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Sure, it’s about a board game, and a forgettable one at that, but Greg Costikyan makes a point that it’s important to know about the history behind even bad or un-interesting games:

For what godforsaken reason are we featuring Twiggy Game today? To make a point: the danger of lack of culture.

What do I mean by “lack of culture?” Just this: with novels, cinema, music and every other form of art, we have long-standing traditions of criticism, analysis, reviews, and discussion. People know something of the history of the forms in which they are interested, something of the process of creation, and over time develop individual aesthetics, ideas by which they judge the merits, or lack thereof, of a particular product.

As critics, we can’t help but applaud this sort of sentiment – and while Costikiyan says “We do, at least, have something of a videogame culture” which is aware of it’s history, it’s hits and misses, it’s important contributors, he decries the lack of ‘nuance’ in games discussion:

…gamers passionately debate the merits of the games they play. And yet, those discussions are curiously uncultured, too; the average gamer’s ignorance of the history of the form, of the contributions of different creators, of the evolution of genres, is staggering. Games suck or rock; no nuance here. And gamers have been trained to expect and reward spectacle over originality

Criticism is important for more than just ensuring the value of products for consumers and obviously we here at Critical Distance think it’s important. Perhaps it’s even a prescription for us for things we’re missing.