Monday, March 7, 2016

How I See Games

I’ve played a thousand games in my lifetime. I’m planning on playing a thousands more. Just like any consumer, the more time you invest in it, the more natural analysis starts to happen. Impressions, criticisms, opinions. I grew up reading multiple video game publications, and even though their review breakdowns were different (some were by stars, some number scales, some had criteria for replayability, etc.) they were fundamentally the same. There are ingredients that go into making a good game. I used to agonize over what those were, exactly. “What criteria does every great game need to nail dead-on in order to transcend to perfection, right?” What a waste of time.

And then I listened to Randy Pitchford simplify the ingredients of a video game on the Nerdist Podcast, and he simplified the way I see games. Games are made of story, style, and design. Each of these elements feeds into and off of the others. No game can exist without one of these. A triangle needs all three sides to stand; without one of its edges it’s just a flat-line. Story inspires a game’s style, its style aids its design, and the game’s overall design informs the flow of its story, and so on.

When I write game reviews for this site, I won’t bother assigning a numerical score. That’s not to say I don’t see the value of a quantifiable scoring system (is there a pun there?). Instead I will focus qualitatively only on these three criteria to determine if the game is ultimately engaging, pleasing, and fun.

Writing game reviews can be difficult. I did it before, years ago. (Shout out to Doug Flowe and! Wherever you are!) This simplified system of looking at a game’s story, style, and design gives me a much clearer direction.

If you want a further breakdown of Randy Pitchford’s game philosophy, I urge you to listen to the Nerdist Podcast, episode 378.