Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Stylosa, aka Sty, aka Unit Lost, aka Unit Lost Great British Gaming. He publishes daily videos detailing techniques and strategies for Overwatch. He is one of at least hundreds. But his content is high quality, easy to follow, useful, and most importantly delivered with a friendly yet commanding British accent. His videos get 100k views regularly, so I know I’m not the only who enjoys his elegant mouth sounds and next level analysis. His content is excellent and expands the player’s enjoyment of Overwatch.
Literary criticism (explicating meaning and value from a text or even film) at a baseline level functions in a similar way. It expounds on the original text and inflates the value of that work. Critics in the traditional sense are not Roger Ebert or IGN games journalist. I would argue (I’m sure some French Literary Studies PhD student will tell me why I’m wrong and should give up putting words together) that criticism is about meaning mining. Literary and film critics dig out the values of a text.
Game criticism exists, but not to the extent which meaning mining is a part of the conversations around Game of Thrones, Inception, or the Bible. Uncovering meaning is inherent to how we process stories. It’s a mechanic. Games force us to deal with problems, gameplay, upfront. The same way a difficult text has you deal with a problem of syntax or semantics. But gameplay is what matters because the aesthetic pleasures of games have little to do with story and everything to do with the challenges that interactivity propose.
Game content (wikis, next level strats on Youtube, forum discussions about nerfs and buffs) trumps game criticism in sheer amount of content and participation. Interpretation and evaluation in the mode of literary criticism is next to irrelevant in this space. I try to do it because it interests me (and hopefully a few others) and gives me something to write about everyday. But the vast majority rather understand how to counter a Bastion in Overwatch than contemplate the commodification of play that the game presents. One brings added value to the experience of the game. The other seems to ruins it.