L.B. Jeffries bids adieu to the Moving Pixels audience, but before he goes, he has a few words to share about writing game criticism, noting that "the difference between a critical analysis and a game FAQ is that somebody who has never played the game can still gain something from good analysis."
Due to a massive increase in my workload, I’m not going to be able to keep posting regularly on Moving Pixels. This blog has been a wonderful creative outlet for the past few years, and I’ve learned a great deal about games and writing while working here. Thank you for your time.
For this final post, I’ve decided to offer a few tips and tricks for writing about game design. When I started writing about video games, I relied on a mostly “narrative-centric” approach. I think this is very normal for people because we’re all familiar with content and discussing it. We do it when we talk about books, television, or movies, and it’s natural to apply those skills to video games. From the writer’s and publisher’s perspective, it also makes better business sense because more readers will understand what you’re saying if you focus on content. The issue is that not every game really fits into this single perspective. A lot of them don’t have plots or have stupid ones, but their gameplay is still superb. Sometimes people will glorify the story of a game far beyond its meager offerings just because they like the gameplay, or worse, give it a low score because the plot is silly despite the game’s quality. It’s for this reason that I think the best game critics are ones that can handle multiple approaches to a video game depending on if it’s a story game or a design-oriented experience.
Most people understand game design when you talk to them about it in terms of what they like or dislike, but the actual discourse as the critic begins to examine the nitty gritty details can be so mechanical that often readers are understandably put off by the process. You’re just rattling off rules, after all. There’s also the more fundamental question of how you go about criticizing a game’s design without devolving into just whining about difficulty or frustration. Here are some of my personal tips on writing a design-centric article. To keep things accessible, I made spiffy headers and will offer a brief explanation for each point as I go.