Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Game Criticism

Presentation/speech I had to give for Public and Professional Writing. I didn't really follow the directions, provide visual cues, or even focus on the actual presentation of the thing: I delivered it straight-up as a speech read from my laptop, and ad-libbed two minutes when I realized it wasn't long enough. It's filled with lies and inaccuracies, but I got an A on it anyway.

According to, the new PC game Dead Space garnered a perfect score from six gaming institutions. This speaks directly to a problem that permeates the gaming criticism industry at large; the tendancy for a journalist to enjoy a product so much that they forget the function of their position. Gaming journalists are not employed to be fanboys, are not employed to write about the passion they find in a game, no, although these both are things they may do – however, the function of a gaming journalist is rather to analyze, criticize and demonstrate an understanding not only of the game but the game in the context into which it falls. No game is ever released in a vacuum, and all ideas presented within it are a culmination of those that came before; innovation is rare and is certainly to be celebrated, but the pillars that a new game is built upon must also be acknowledged, and often, many current journalists do not employ this. Gaming criticism and art criticism are terribly similar in many ways, and the tenets that bind both are the same; rigorous examination of theme, composition, flow, and the effect on the viewer are among the chief attributes. However, many gaming journalists fail in this regard, doing a disservice to the gaming industry at large, the readership, and most importantly, the consumer that must spend his hard-earned money on the games they review. By failing that most important aspect, the failure to effectively deliver a fair criticism of a game, they trick consumers into purchasing products that, had they been made more aware of faults found within, would have never purchased.

I humbly request a position at Eurogamer for the very reasons above; I have, over the last decade, learned the art of criticism, both by reading a great deal of it and writing a great deal of my own. I have selected Eurogamer above all other companies because I believe, both through your mission statement and the quality of the work found on your website, that it is the optimal place to provide hard gaming criticism. What I will bring to Eurogamer is just that; hard, effective criticism, driven always with the consumer and he forwarding of the gaming institution at the forefront of mind.

As I spoke about in my personal letter, addressed [date], I am currently writing for my university's newspaper, the Michigan Times. Although I am not a particular fan of the overwhelmingly right-leaning content found in the editorial section, I no less do my absolute best work at criticism for them at all times, and genuinely believe that I have made the Arts section of their newspaper a more informative, intelligent, and worthy place for consumers to help determine which pieces of media are worth paying money for. In the first issue of the newspaper, I wrote about the newest Metallica album, Death Magnetic, and although I found a very small handful of the tracks to be worthy of the legacy originally perpetuated by the band in the late 1980's, I found their newest attempt at metal – which, at this point, is really more hard rock than anything else – to be derivative of other bands writing music in the modern day, stale, and though a great deal of effort was put into it, uninspired. I received a small volume of negative feedback for this criticism from members of the community, and although I read them with the possibility that I had misjudged the album in mind, I found that, in the end, the standards that were determined to be used by the newspaper – artistic merit, ingenuity and a sense of forwarding the art – were higher than that small minority of readers. As an aside, I received more positive and intelligent feedback for my work on Death Magnetic than negative.

My focus in education has been in communication, although I do not have a communications degree – I will be attaining a Bachelor's Degree in the Arts – English shortly, and feel quite strongly that the key to effective communication is to have a clear understanding of the impact, effect and motivational shifts that using the proper phrase, tone, and prose structure can have on an audience, whether they be peers, readers, or superiors. I chose English with a specialization in writing because I feel that analysis and ideas can best be delivered by the written word, and as such, have placed great emphasis on bettering my prose. As such, I feel that my extensive writing background would bring an excellent vantage to your institution.

I have also recently begun an internship for the celebrity-news oriented website (Yes, Kathy, it worked) Although I personally find the paparazii-style celebrity-mongering format of their site deplorable, I have no less contributed my best work to it. In that capacity, I seek to provide news about the media industry at large, and most recently wrote an article detailing the Supreme Court discussions regarding the usage of profanity on prime-time television. I have placed effort also into covering aspects of celebrity life that focus not on specific celebrities, such as their children and love lives, but the issues that affect them, such as wages, film box-office profits, and striking writers. Well, I would have covered that ideally, but I was not yet interning there when the writer's strike was occuring. My editor and boss – a man named Dominick, whom I know primarily as DSMinderino over an instant messaging program – has told me that he is quite pleased with my work, saying that it provides a hard news angle to their website to help put the celebrity gossip which permeates their website into a better context for their readers, and that it has garnered substantial praise from the community.

While I spend most of my time for the Celebrity Cafe covering news elements, I also write music reviews, providing in-depth analysis and examinations of theme, flow, content and outright enjoyability. My work in this context, while typically longer and I would argue more thought-provoking than many of the other, one hundred “I like it or I don't but don't have a reason why” reviews, has garnered further praise from my employer, and solicits more reactions from the readership of the website than many of the other reviews posted. I believe that this has occurred not due to any particular stylistic differences between myself and the other writers, but because my commitment to the Celebrity Cafe is different; although for some simply stating that they enjoyed an album is enough, my responsibility – my overrriding and completely encompassing responsibility – is to the consumer, and to providing them with the information that they need to determine if an artist is listening to.

Throughout my life, I have worked for a number of institutions whose business practice, ethics, codes of conducts and methodologies I disagreed with, both for moral and social reasons. However, I persevered, much as I do at the Celebrity Cafe, and was granted recognition through employee evaluations and employee of the month awards multiple times. This is because my responsibilities to myself are left at the door – when under employment, my absolute focus is not on doing what I personally enjoy, but doing what I am instructed to do in as timely and effective of a manner as possible. Sometimes, this is difficult; selling warranties on a product that you know cannot be fulfilled, providing accessories to items that are useless, and guaranteeing that returns are always painless and easy. Although I performed my functions well and stayed well ahead of quotas, I kept always the good of the consumer in mind, always asking questions of myself like, “Am I selling a product that is the easiest to sell, or am I selling the product that will most benefit the consumer?”

I always chose and ensured I was making the latter decision.

I, again, ask to become a staff writer at Eurogamer. My skillbase, knowledge of gaming, both in PC, console, and tabletop, is terribly high, and I have taken great effort and pride in my attempts in learning as much as I can about the industry. I would use this knowledge, combined with my analytical skills, honed through years of literary composition, to better not only the publication itself but but the consumers that read – and depend on – effective analysis.

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