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Haute Of Breath

Written By mista sense on Thursday, December 16, 2010 | 9:09 AM

If you haven't had enough retrospectives yet, Slate is doing its year-end conversation between prominent critics on games. It's one of my favorite features generally (oh-em-gee so flippin' stoked to have participated last year). This year, in addition to Slate's MC Chris Suellentrop, there is my friend Tom Bissell, NYT's Seth Schiesel and a dude with whom I confess to being totes unfamiliar, and they seem to be having a good conversation.

As I type this they seem to be debating how seriously to take video games; Schiesel likes Call of Duty: Black Ops best and says that it's fine for games just to be fun; Bissell says fun is not the point, that Black Ops is cynical and that Schiesel's favorite of last year, Dragon Age, is "boner-killing" (yes, thank you).

I have to side with Tom here. I definitely think Seth has a point about a contingent of haute critics so desperate to be taken seriously and/or for games to be treated like "art" that they elect to see depth where fallows lie; in last year's roundup I think I chided my friend Jamin for weighing Uncharted's Drake, whom I see as a fairly basic action-hero construct, a knockoff of Indiana Jones, as, like, a meaningful protagonist (despite me finding the franchise to be one of the finest-crafted couple of games we currently have to hold up). I cringe at my own past blogitorials, where I whipped a few poignant play moments into frenzies of gravitas (no, I will not point them out).

Seth says we should just be past that, and if we like blowing things up in Black Ops, it's cool to just admit it, like the millions and millions of people who've bought the game. Games are accepted now, so we no longer really have to worry about their souls. Just like what you like!

I am not the biggest fan of that line of thinking, because it embraces the idea we want a furtherance of the medium of gaming just so that we can be "accepted" or "feel cool" (the main idea of my column in Kill Screen Issue Zero), when I think some of us just want to see how far games can go, want them to be richer and more inclusive.

Either way. Black Ops is a spiritually dead piece of work, and I don't want to reward that. And that's all beside the point: Even if games, or just some games, were just for fun, Black Ops isn't that fun.

I think there's a fair lot of people so desperate not to take games seriously that they see "fun"where there isn't any.

Ultimately, when intelligent people get together to discuss their favorite games, the conversation turns out similar: Why do we play? What's good and valuable about this game versus that? What are our values as critics? I'm not always prepared for these debates, especially as I think the people involved won't always agree. I get tired just reading the back-and-forth. So tired! That's why when people want to ask me what's my game of the year I blurt it out and then I wander off so I don't have to discuss it.

Oh, yeah, my game of the year. Not time for that yet. But! The developer of my game of the year is listed in my colleague's article today on 2010's best developers. Actually, there are two developers listed in here whose games could top my list, but I am trying to work out where to draw the line between "the best" and "my favorite", which I am not convinced are the same. Sometimes I think it matters and sometimes I don't.

[today's good song: galleries + foxes in fiction, 'borders']

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