My So-Called Second Life: Week 00 (A Preamble)

January 5, 2009 at 21:25 (My So-Called Second Life, Video Games)

All’s been quiet on the Uncertain front for longer than I’d like.  There are a few Finest Fives about ready to roll out but they’re already belated enough that I wouldn’t be doing anyone a disservice by taking a little while longer to make sure my selections are just so.  There are a gang of reviews in varying states of readiness, not to mention an array of preview pieces and news articles long-since gone and, truthfully, all but forgotten.

It could be the post-holiday doldrums – maybe it is, at that – but I seem to have lost much of my enthusiasm for the tried-and-true variety of game journalism that’s been my stock-in-trade these past years.  I don’t doubt that there’s still a place for it; you need only point your browsers toward IGN or Gamespot to see that, assuredly, there remains a substantial audience for traditional, scored reviews and too-optimistic previews, yet the formula of that whole song and dance has sucked the fun right out of it.

I don’t mind being the guy who scored Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 higher than any other game this year – six months on I still find myself coming back to it, time and again, to try my hand at each of its sublime modes, to reclaim from some Friends list interloper at least third place on each of the integrated leaderboards.  I don’t find the fact that my Ace Gamez reviews of XBLA board-game Ticket to Ride and the PS3 port of the lacklustre Condemned 2 have affected the all-important Metacritic aggregates one way or the other.  The numbers were never the point; from the get-go I knew that I’d have nothing more to do with them once they’d been set loose into the great unknown.  Easy come, easy go, and so they were: so they have been.

The problem, then, isn’t the numbers – at least, it’s not just the numbers.  Their prominence certainly grates, the backwards pre-supposition of their importance, but the numbers aren’t a sickness: rather, they’re a symptom that speaks of a larger problem facing the enthusiast press.  The regimented way in which so many game journalists seem content to write their reviews – that’s the problem.  A checklist of largely arbitrary opinions on the pros and cons of a particular game may be the beginning of a opinion, but by itself, such an article is a worrying ways away from what should be the logical conclusion of the sort of thought we owe our favourite form of entertainment.

Thankfully, the internet isn’t devoid of honest-to-God game criticism.  Not so long ago, 1UP alumni Shawn Elliott stirred the pot some with a star-studded symposium on very much the same subject I’ve been addressing here.  I have high hopes that the project doesn’t flounder in the face of the staggering odds it’s surely set against, but we shall see.  In the meantime, there’s what’s left of Ziff Davis.  There’s Sore Thumbs, from ex-EGM kingpin Dan Hsu and his lovely assistant Crispin Boyer, there’s Giant Bomb, Gamespot’s greatest hits, and let’s not forget Gamasutra; then there’s N’Gai Croal from Newsweek’s Level Up, although updates have been sadly scare of late, and last, but last from least, there’s Stephen Totillo’s MTV blog, Multiplayer.

So.  In an attempt to re-invigorate the experience of writing about a subject I still hold dear, and with a particular tip of the hat to Totillo, that purveyor of refreshingly straightforward game criticism, let me introduce you, one and all, to My So-Called Second Life, an exclusive new feature I mean to publish here every Friday.  All pretenses otherwise aside, it’s going to be my game diary.  I’d commit to daily entries but readers, let’s be honest with ourselves: that’s not going to happen – I’ll only disappoint you.  Thus, week by week, expect a no-bullshit account of the most memorable moments of my last seven days of gaming.

These will not be reviews.  I will score nothing.  All I mean to do is offer a no-nonsense, pressureless perspective on the video-games I play, be they for fun or for work.  Inevitably, there may be recommendations, but My So-Called Second Life will be about the essential experience of being a core gamer; its sole currency the moments that stand out to me, make me question my conception of video-games as art and entertainment.  It will be about those things that make me proud to be a gamer.

What better way to bring in the new year?

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