Slate annually runs an end-of-the-year discussion amongst leading game journalists that consistently contain great if tangential discursions on the state of the medium (I believe I have linked to them before, sans fanfare). This year’s entry is no different, covering a wide range of topics from the qualities of Red Dead Redemption to the place of fun in video games to the evils of “thumbworms.” I especially liked this bit from Chris Sullentrop on the place of novelty in the industry:
While I’m airing my video-game nightmares, I might as well mention a third concern that has been weighing on me this year, which also relates to John’s desire for a new new thing: Am I interested in video games only for their novelty? I asked myself this question most of all while playing Heavy Rain, which is—in so many, many ways—a bad game. I don’t mean that “it’s not really a game, it’s an interactive experience.” It’s pretty clearly a video game by the contemporary definition, and a crummy one at that—the acting in particular is painful. Yet I was transfixed by it, because it offered me an experience that no other video game ever had. When I cut off Ethan Mars’ finger, it felt agonizing, like I was cutting off my own finger. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever experienced, in video games or any other medium.
I’ve often wondered, how could a game that bad be so good? In part it was because, like the Kinect, Heavy Rain contains the promise of other, better games to come to fulfill its proof of concept. That’s how I took the final line of Seth’s review, that the game “put the world on notice that the future of video games may be closer than we thought.” Now that Seth is upping the ante and writing that Heavy Rain is “storytelling of the highest caliber for adults,” I have to respectfully dissent. Rather, I would say that no other game this year better illustrates Tom’s perceptive observation in Extra Lives: “If I were reading a book or watching a film that, every ten minutes, had me gulping a gallon of aesthetic Pepto, I would stop reading or watching. Games, for some reason, do not have this problem. Or rather, their problem is not having this problem.”