Review: Killing is Harmless, by Brendan Keogh

by Darius Kazemi on November 27, 2012

in books,criticism,review

It was a formulaic shooter. Keogh’s mission was to play it, extract observations of interest, and then get the hell out of there. It seemed easy enough at first. An inverted American flag. 1960s protest music. A mad Colonel named Konrad, for Christ’s sake. It was on-the-nose, by the numbers, Creative Writing 101 stuff. 1 Someone at Yager clearly read a little Tim O’Brien in high school. Disappointingly, it looked like Keogh’s mission was over. Time to punch out and move on to the next game.

But that’s when things got officially weird.

It started innocuously: a stop sign here, a graffito there. Wait, what are the lyrics to that Vietnam-era rock song playing during this shooting gallery? It’s singing “hush” during a firefight! And it’s contemporary to the Vietnam War! Captain Walker tells his ally to ignore the music, “shut up,” and keep shooting! So. Many. Layers.

Keogh, lost in the sand of virtual Dubai, found himself obsessed. There must be meaning here, he thought. And the semiotic clues left carefully behind by the developer lured him in. Would you kindly note the increasingly unhinged loading screen hints? With blinders on, 2 he pursued these clues in search of that elusive quarry: a game worth critiquing.

Just as Captain Walker comes to Dubai believing that Konrad is there for him to save, Keogh comes to Spec Ops believing that there is a brilliant game for him to unearth. 3 And as with Walker, Keogh is driven mad when the thing he is looking for, his driving motivation, is not there. 4

There is no Spec Ops: The Line. Or rather, there is, but not the game that he claims is there. The real Spec Ops is a middling shooter, fumbling at meaning like a college sophomore trying to shoehorn Important Themes into his shitty creative writing paper. Keogh does not see that game. Consistently, he points out the game’s flaws only to immediately shrug them off. An example:

“Where’s all this violence come from?” admonishes Radioman. “Is it the
video games? I bet it’s the video games.”

It’s almost a moment of dry comedy, the violent videogame reprimanding
violent videogames while I stand surrounded by gore and mannequins.
Radioman breaks the fourth wall a couple of times (E for Everybody’s
thirsty; singing to the background music), but none as explicitly as this.
It’s the bluntest moment that the game explicitly notes it is talking about
videogame violence. On one level, it is a painfully forced and unfunny joke.
On another level, Radioman is exactly right. (112)

Notice that it’s “almost” droll, but Keogh is not willing to commit to the claim. Look at those last two sentences: the book is full of claims structured as “perhaps this is [terrible / a technical bug / unintentional] — or maybe it’s GENIUS.”

Killing is Harmless is (unintentionally) a damning critique of Spec Ops, in the exact same way that Spec Ops is (intentionally) a damning critique of its genre. Look at how broken this is!, they both say. Now accept it and move on!

In the end, he is not even critiquing a game. He is critiquing a mirror. He is critiquing himself. And he is unwittingly critiquing games criticism.

I don’t mean to be unfair to Keogh. Killing is Harmless could stand in for any piece of effusive game criticism. In particular I’m reminded of the elation of the game criticism blogosphere when BioShock was released. BioShock essentially created an entire genre of game criticism, of which Killing is Harmless represents a logical extreme. In fact, in an insightful stroke, Keogh goes so far as to designate Spec Ops a “post-BioShock” shooter.

I’d like to end this review by noting that I am happy that this book exists. It is clearly thought-provoking. It was moving enough to compel me to write this review. Reading it helped me sort out many of the reasons why I had such a visceral hatred of Spec Ops: The Line during and after playing it. I now feel like I understand the game better than I did than before I read the book. While I disagree wholly with Keogh’s reading of the game, I disagree with it on the grounds that the game, Keogh’s game, does not exist. As a Borgesian work of speculative criticism, it is masterful.

Late in the book, Keogh notes: “I don’t think I have ever before projected so much onto the surface of a playable character.” The book is a projection, and an interesting one, but it’s no more or less than that. It shows that anything can be profound to someone.

NOTE: Be sure to check out Keogh’s response in the comments below.

Notes:

  1. This is painful stuff. Some descriptions of the imagery found in Spec Ops, straight from the pages of Killing is Harmless:

    Back on the ground, in the middle of the foyer on the low roof of a booth, a stone angel lies splayed on its back. Looking up after the skirmish is over, I notice that three other angel statues are suspended from the far-above ceiling as though flying in a spiral towards the sky. It is the highest one that has apparently snapped from its chains and fallen back to earth, dead. It’s hard not to read it is an Icarus analogy (85)

    We go past one boat called White Bird as a literal white bird (maybe a seagull?) flies off the hull into the sky. Maybe a ham-fisted metaphor that any chance of peace has flown away from Dubai? (120)

    …even Keogh calls it ham-fisted, although much of the book is filled with praise for the game’s writing.

  2. He sees symbols to analyze where there are none:

    As we abseil out of the building down to the road, doing as Konrad’s voice orders us, there is a reflection in the building’s window beside Walker’s. I can only see it briefly and on my first game, like a Dear Esther ghost, I wonder if I saw it at all. It’s a reflection of a body, hung from its wrists. [...] I’ve played this section over and over, and I can find no body to connect to the reflected, blurry haze of a woman’s strung up body. [...] I suspect this reflection is of the dead woman that Walker has locked in his memory, the one who tried to protect her child from my white phosphorous attack. (88)

    This passage is accompanied by a screenshot of the blur. I see the blur he’s talking about. I can see something that could be a rope leading up from it. All I can see is a graphical glitch. I’m certainly at a loss as to how it could be a body, much less how someone could tell its gender.

  3. Parallels abound:

    I have heard criticisms that The Line is weakened by the same old, fight-countless-enemies-over-and-over gunplay. This might be a fair criticism of shooters generally, but it is an unfair criticism of The Line specifically. Yager, the game’s developers, were told by publisher 2K that they must make a “squad-based military shooter.” Mechanically, the game had to be conventional; Yager had no option but to include countless acts of violence. It isn’t disappointing that The Line didn’t removed the endless killing typical of military shooters; it is commendable that the game subverts the endless killing it had no choice but to include by explicitly acknowledging it. (56)

    Yager were told to make a shitty game, and made the best of it. Keogh found himself playing a shitty game, and made the best of it.

  4. Walker is desperate to find something significant here, but Adams and Lugo note that it is just another base, that the crimes they committed outside were for naught. (85)

    With some very minor editing, that sentence could have stood in for this entire review.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott November 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Oh, man. I do love me some Bioshock.

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erik_a_hanson November 27, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Part of me feels like this is an acceptable step in mainstream games writing, though. It’s something to build from. Sure, it feels like patting a teenager on the head when they first get excited about a book by Orwell, or starts paying attention to the cinematography in a popcorn flick, but that’s also a place where we can take that young, excited person and deepen their knowledge and experience.

So maybe what I’m saying is that there’s nothing so wrong about Spec Ops or Killing Is Harmless, but that maybe they’re better approached as portals to something better.

I guess the trick is that you and I both believe Keogh could have offered something that takes that next step or two—that we feel there are enough portals and we could use less Orwell, more Marx or Weber or … Zizeks (look, it’s a long list, and he happens to come toward the end alphabetically and chronologically).

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Alex November 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I love that Brendan’s experience of Spec Ops is, to you, an exercise in apophenia. It’s essentially glitch art. The search for meaning and aesthetics in something that is really just a broken piece of shit.

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Brendan Keogh November 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hi Darius,

Thank you, truly, for not holding back in your thoughts on this. I had to expect some people to not enjoy the book, considering how many people did not at all enjoy the game, so I am glad one of those people have still bothered to read and dissect it.

So I don’t want to do the whole creator-defends-every-little-aspect-of-his-work-in-the-comments-of-a-negative-review thing with this comment because that would be terrible. Instead, I wonder if perhaps what is at stake here is simply that we have totally different takes on how games criticism should be written (or if it should be written at all).

I suspect (and please correct me if this is wrong!) that you would prefer game criticism to really be about the game object itself, separate from any one player’s engagement with it. Like, in some kind of object-orientated, platform studies kind of way. Or, even further, that game criticism is at its best when it is a game itself (or a piece of carpentry, I guess). Is that a fair thing to say?

If it is, I can totally understand understand why my approach would ruffle some feathers, with its focus on subjectivity and, perhaps, interpretation. I guess, I come at it this way, writing all in first person and putting endless caveats on it that this is just “my experience” that look like they are me trying to defend myself from all angles, because I see my writing as trying to discover the value in the player’s engagement with the game, not in the game itself. What I think I am talking about in essentially all my writing about videogames is a player-game hybrid, and as the only player I can really talk about with any authority is me, that’s the particular player-game hybrid I talk about.

I think, for people that make games, there is little in this kind of criticism that is directly useful. Instead, I write it for players’ sakes. I think, even if I can only talk about ‘my’ experience and engagement with the game, there will be many others who have had similar enough experiences to make that subjectivity worth exploring. I think back to when I first started reading any kind of games writing. I loved the articles that made me go, “Yes! That is totally what I felt in that game but I didn’t have the words for it yet!” For me, that is what I want my criticism to do: give people a vocabulary with which to understand their own experiences with a game.

So in that sense, I think Killing is Harmless is largely a success, as many people have told me it has helped them better understand their own experience with the game. That doesn’t mean they completely agree with my own reading, mind. I think it is telling in this very review, that you note that for all its flaws, the book helped you understand why you hate the game. If that’s true, then I think that makes a case for this being criticism worth doing. It helped you find the value (or lack of value as it may be) in the game.

But that might just be me clutching at straws. Indeed, there are many criticisms that could be made of my approach with its subjectivity which, really, are probably very similar to many of the criticisms the OOOs and similar make of correlationists and the like (it’s been a long time since I’ve read this stuff; hopefully my terms are right!). Indeed, I don’t think game criticism would be any good if this was the *only* path critics took. I think stuff like the carpentry you do and the various other focuses other people take are equally important in a robust understandings of videogames from a variety of perspectives. But, for me, this approach helps me understand the response I have to a game and, in turn, I think it helps other players build a critical vocabular to understand their own responses. I think that is something I can only do through this personal, subjective kind of writing.

As for the underlying suggestion that I am reading too much into the game, finding meaning where it doesn’t exist, I won’t pretend this wasn’t something I was deeply concerned about doing while I was writing. Indeed, I would write a paragraph then wonder if I was just thinking too much about this thing or that thing. The only defence I can offer there is that I didn’t really choose to write 50,000 words on the game and then go and desperately search for content to fill that 50,000 words. I finished the game and had a really, really strong reaction. It was one of those few games I went back and started playing again straight away. And, immediately, I started seeing things like the STOP sign right at the start and all of these things just didn’t seem like they could be coincidences. Many of them I hadn’t consciously noticed the first time, to be sure, but the way they all resonated the themes I took out of the game mesmerised me. So, really, I just started writing, and 50,000 words is the length it was at when I was done. This is to say that I don’t believe I read too much into anything (Except the few times that I caveat an observation uncertainly that in that instance I’m not 100% sure it is valid). Instead, I wrote up exactly the things I saw that I truly thought were worth talking about. Though, to be fair, after seeing the STOP sign at the start of my second playthrough, you could easily argue that I was perhaps looking too hard for these things.

Then there is the whole issue of intentionality and what Yager intended to mean what. This matters to a degree, to be sure (at the end of one of your footnotes you say “Yager were told to make a shitty game, and made the best of it”. I totally agree with this and it is why I find the game so fascinating) but I don’t think it is absolute. I think the meanings I drew out of things means far more than the meanings Yager intended them to have (at least, from a player-response angle, anyway). But authorship and intentionality is a whole different can of worms!

So, yes, I can’t remember if this comment was going to have a final, conclusive point, but ultimately I truly appreciate such a thorough and honest review. I truly think this approach to games criticism is powerful, but I also don’t think it is the sole approach that should be taken. To that end, I am glad you wrote this review if only to highlight the shortcomings of my approach, even if I feel that you overstate those shortcomings somewhat.

Cheers,

Brendan

(One footnote: the reflection in the glass? Totally a ghost reflection of a girl! I swear by it! :p)

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Darius Kazemi November 30, 2012 at 10:13 am

OKAY, finally responding to this.

“I suspect (and please correct me if this is wrong!) that you would prefer game criticism to really be about the game object itself, separate from any one player’s engagement with it. Like, in some kind of object-orientated, platform studies kind of way. Or, even further, that game criticism is at its best when it is a game itself (or a piece of carpentry, I guess). Is that a fair thing to say?”

That’s a good guess, but I’m not trying to state that we should have only some kind of objective critique or anything like that. I do think the player’s engagement is important: I mean, I make games, and I certainly consider the player while I do it, so to ignore the player in criticism is folly. However, I’m glad you mentioned platform studies, and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple days. I do think that more criticism should look like platform studies, provided that the player is also considered as part of the platform. In a real sense, the game runs on both the computer/console and the player’s brain. I think we need to engage with both.

I’m not against pure subjectivity and interpretation, but I do think it’s different from a “close reading” and perhaps even distinct from criticism itself. I do *like* subjective writing about games. One of my favorite pieces of game writing is your Kill Screen Issue 3 article about GTA: San Andreas and anorexia. That piece is wonderful, but I hesitate to call it criticism. (And let me be clear: I think Killing is Harmless is criticism on the whole, but at times it does veer into purely talking about what you’re feeling internally.) The GTA article is a great look at how games in general can mean things for players (by looking at a specific example from one game), but it’s not a close reading or criticism of GTA: SA.

“What I think I am talking about in essentially all my writing about videogames is a player-game hybrid, and as the only player I can really talk about with any authority is me, that’s the particular player-game hybrid I talk about.”

I was thinking about this part too, and my conclusion was that if the subtitle to KiH had been “A Personal Travelogue Through Spec Ops: The Line” or similar, my blog post would have been something like “Hey everyone, check out this great book that looks at Brendan’s experience with Spec Ops.” When I say I enjoyed the book, I absolutely mean it, but I enjoyed it as something other than a close reading.

“I loved the articles that made me go, “Yes! That is totally what I felt in that game but I didn’t have the words for it yet!” For me, that is what I want my criticism to do: give people a vocabulary with which to understand their own experiences with a game. [...] I think it is telling in this very review, that you note that for all its flaws, the book helped you understand why you hate the game. If that’s true, then I think that makes a case for this being criticism worth doing.”

I am still thinking about this, because there is clearly value in what you’re doing. I think my core problem with Killing is Harmless is that the way it’s written, you’re unwilling to acknowledge the game’s obvious flaws, instead contorting to interpret them in a positive light. I mentioned it elsewhere in the comments here, but when I talk about The war of the end of the days, I acknowledge that it is a terrible game, but then I go on to describe what it causes me to feel subjectively, and then–crucially–I make a case for how the materiality of its terribleness helps prove that what I’m feeling is grounded in some outside reality. I would like to see more of parts 1 and 3 to back up part 2.

My favorite segment of KiH is where you look at the pivotal white phosphorous mission, and compare it to the AC-130U mission in Call of Duty 4. It’s no coincidence that it’s also one of the few times in the book that you reach outside of the nexus between yourself and Spec Ops. I think you do a great job of addressing what is actually happening in the game, reaching out to the world for wider context, and then showing how that context and the game and what’s in your head all combine to form your internal reaction. That’s great game criticism.

“Then there is the whole issue of intentionality and what Yager intended to mean what. This matters to a degree, to be sure (at the end of one of your footnotes you say “Yager were told to make a shitty game, and made the best of it”. I totally agree with this and it is why I find the game so fascinating) but I don’t think it is absolute. I think the meanings I drew out of things means far more than the meanings Yager intended them to have (at least, from a player-response angle, anyway). But authorship and intentionality is a whole different can of worms!”

So I really don’t want to be seen as the person going “we need to take the author’s intent into account!” I’m the last person who believes we should do that when looking at the work itself. That’s actually why I’m so intent on calling Spec Ops a terrible game. Because it seems to me that all of the justifications for Spec Ops being brilliant lean on interviews with the writers and that sort of thing. I think the game itself doesn’t stand up to that. When I talk about how it would be interesting to look at the developers and how they did what they did and what their various external limitations were, that’s because it’s relevant to the *project* of Spec Ops, which to me is the interesting thing here. Not the game, which, well, we all know what I think there.

Again, thanks for commenting here!

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Brendan Keogh November 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Thanks for your response to my response to your response to my book on Yager’s game, Darius!

I agree with essentially all of these points! So I won’t ramble on any more here. But just wanted to say thank you again for your commitment and engagement with this!

Cheers,

Brendan

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Jake Eakle November 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm

What a wonderful article, and wonderful response from the author! My favorite quotes from the exchange:

“For me, that is what I want my criticism to do: give people a vocabulary with which to understand their own experiences with a game.”

It’s something I’ve said in many forms many times, but never this succinctly. If everyone just kept this in mind when they wrote about art…

“As a Borgesian work of speculative criticism, it is masterful.”

For all that your response was insightful and productive, Brendan, I do feel that you kinda missed this, and that you are talking past Darius a bit. I think that when you say you intended to engage with the player-game hybrid, that’s exactly what Darius is picking up on here. He expected to be reading about the game /he/ played, but instead he read about an alternate universe, subtly twisted echo of that game, one which he’ll never really have access to since it resides partially in your mind. And he found your treatment of that game masterful!

“I think it is telling in this very review, that you note that for all its flaws, the book helped you understand why you hate the game. If that’s true, then I think that makes a case for this being criticism worth doing.”

“I’d like to end this review by noting that I am happy that this book exists.”

I think that your positions on the topic are really quite similar, in the end. I’m just glad there was enough friction between your frames of reference that it spilled out onto the internet where I got to read it :)

I also feel like, by following this exchange, I have absorbed essentially the full value of the game and the book without playing or reading either, which is excellent.

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You November 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Killing Considered Harmful

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erik_a_hanson November 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

The problem I generally have with audience response crit. of any sort is that it generally stops after it offers one potential “reading” (I’m going to go ahead and use that term now, since I’ll lapse into it eventually anyway). I consider that a half-finished criticism.

Consider a deformative reading as an example. While there’s fun and creativity in deformation, in the context of what the subject does or could mean, a deformed text and its reading provide a strong point of contrast to what the source text is and might mean. (The source is also deformed, admittedly, unless you want to lapse into Platonisms.) So, for example, a reworking of Star Wars Ep. 4 such that Luke is a female may help reveal what’s going on with gender in New Hope by way of changing that variable and observing the differences. Until that comparison of differences is made, however, it’s just a fun magazine feature or someone’s fan fiction.

And I think that’s what’s always frustrated me about NGJ and similar approaches to games crit.: It’s sometimes only a literature survey away from being a strong contribution. “Here’s my reading. This is how my reading looks when situated in the context this work’s para/meta-text.”

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Miguel Sicart November 29, 2012 at 12:10 am

So, since SO is part of a chapter in my forthcoming book on ethics and game design, and since I actually enjoyed Brendan’s book, I feel forced to comment on a blog on the Internet. You are making me do evil things.

I see Darius’ points, but to me there’s a few things that need to be mentioned: SO has a high budget, is produced in the context of the commercial game industry, and it was clearly targeted at a core audience of players. It’s a clever and mature game because it overrides those contextual limitations by flipping them, by making a pomo self referential third person shooter.

(Note: I dislike the game in SO. But that’s just a part of the play experience, so no problem there)

I think SO writing is heavy handed, but above par in the context of production and consumption, and yes, the metaphors are also heavy handed, but again, this is in the context of a military shooter produced to make money.

What I liked about SO is that many elements of it are designed to create a response that appeals to morality. It’s not subtle, but it’s not catered for a subtle audience, and it gets away with it reasonably well. And what is more interesting is that the creative team and the producers took this direction on purpose. In the context of mass produced, mass marketed games, that is interesting.

I see SO as a failed but interesting experiment, and I think Brendan provides a really insightful first person account of the experience. Of course his game does not exist, but his experience does, and when thoughtfully written, that is more valuable than the potential modes of being of the game.

(Also, to troll a bit: I would refrain from praising anybody invoking Borges, who was not only a mediocre human being, but also a bad poet, a competent short story writer, and an infatuated critic. Borges is to literature what Rand is to philosophy: a rite of passage we should abandon shortly after the teenager days)

(Also, apologies for potential incoherences, I’m somewhat sick these days)

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Darius Kazemi November 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

Thanks for commenting, Miguel. The whole reason I have a blog is to compel people to do things they don’t want to do!

In terms of the context of the game, as I said in my review: Yager were told to make a shitty game and made the best of it. I’m a game dev, I worked in AAA development for years, and I completely understand being put in that position.

I agree that it’s a failed experiment, and that it’s interesting in terms of being a failed experiment, but I disagree as to what is interesting about it. Imagine a failed chemistry experiment. What’s interesting is not the output of the experiment, which is the brownish nonreactive goo left in the bottom of the beaker. What’s interesting is talking to the scientists and looking at the material, political, and economic conditions of the lab, and determining why the experiment failed and learning things from that.

It is wholly possible for there to be interesting failures in games where the outcome itself is interesting. I wrote a series of columns on Paste Magazine about “outsider games,” which focused entirely on interesting failures. The actual game, Spec Ops: The Line, is not an interesting failure. It’s just a failure. But I would love to read a book on the development process of Spec Ops, and the negotiations therein.

“Of course his game does not exist, but his experience does, and when thoughtfully written, that is more valuable than the potential modes of being of the game.” This I completely disagree with (the assignment of value at the end). It’s more valuable *to Brendan* perhaps, but not otherwise.

(And to respond to your Borges trolling: he was not a bad poet. He was an abysmally bad poet. Just awful. However, I will defend his short stories with ferocity if called upon to do so. And besides, invoking Borges makes historical sense: he invented (or at least codified) speculative criticism as a fictional genre. It would be like calling something “a Randian libertarian epic novel”: merely descriptive!)

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Sparky Clarkson November 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm

That’s a useful analogy, Darius. As a practicing scientist, I would say that you’re not entirely correct. Sometimes the goo left over after a failed experiment is uninteresting, and sometimes it is penicillin. Sometimes the process of failure is really interesting and teaches us something important, and sometimes somebody let their sample get too warm. What sorts of failures and mechanisms for failure are interesting are likely to depend on what experiences you’ve had. A postdoc who accidentally precipitates all his protein because heating tris buffer substantially changes its pH will find the whole experience fascinating, especially when I put his sample on ice and the protein dissolves again. Although the whole incident bores me, I understand his wonder. So, I try not to to confuse “interesting” with “interesting to me”; that way lies Dan Cook.

I personally found Spec Ops: The Line to be ham-fisted and disingenuous, but I don’t think it’s an uninteresting failure. Now, it may only seem interesting because the field of AAA shooters is itself a graybrown morass largely bereft of intelligent stories, progressive mechanics, and apparent moral thought. In the future world of mechanically diverse games that articulate a full spectrum of human ideas, Spec Ops may well seem embarrassing, like that time we all thought American Beauty was a-MAZ-ing. But, that future will only exist if works like Killing is Harmless normalize having thoughtful reactions to games, even games that don’t deserve it.

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Darius Kazemi November 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm

“But, that future will only exist if works like Killing is Harmless normalize having thoughtful reactions to games, even games that don’t deserve it.”

If I were smarter, that would have been the main point of the last section of my review.

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Miguel Sicart November 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Good points, Darius (noooo! I am answering a comment on the Internets!!). Some quick answers:
- I find the outcome of SO interesting, and I think I have good arguments to support that (Brendan does too, I think). Again, it’s a different kind of failure than that of your “outsider games” (loved that, btw), since the context of production matters quite a bit (AAA, military shooter, 2K games, …). I guess I’ll have to pass along the part of the book where I write about SO to convince you (or so you can demolish it – either way it will be interesting).

- I got carried away with the value statement, you’re right. I should have written “as valuable as” (which I do believe: the experience of a game by a person, when thoughtfully written, is a fantastic source for understanding the game – cue phenomenology etc etc.)

- Don’t get me started with Borges’ short stories. And I agree to a certain extent with the speculative criticism, though I’ve seen it framed (I think more interestingly) as a fictionalisation of (literary) criticism (including a fictionalisation of the work critiqued, of course). But all that metameta ends up annoying me (though his best short story imo is Pierre Menard, Autor del Quijote). (and I trolled because I have some triggers, Borges being one of them, sorry! :)

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Darius Kazemi November 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Funny, Pierre Menard is *exactly* what I was thinking of when reading KiH. So there you go. And yes, I’m interested in reading your take on SO!

Re: the value statement — sure, I am fully willing to accept “as valuable as.” It’s interesting you mention phenomenology. In a private conversation a friend of mine brought up the difference between a rigorous phenomenological account and a loosely associative subjective account. I think the former is probably more valuable than the latter. Of course, where’s the dividing line, eh?

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Miguel Sicart November 30, 2012 at 4:12 am

Darius, what’s your email so you can receive the text? (mine is namesurname at gmail dot com)

Re. phenomenology, Husserl was fairly explicit about how to do phenomenology (the science of the experience). I like to see phenomenology from the Ihde/Gadamer perspective, as a technique for explaining the world systematically and coherently. But phenomenology has always been questioned in some circles for being something like a pseudoscience.

erik_a_hanson November 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I tend to lump speculative criticism in with deformance and deformative readings these days. (See McGann – http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/jjm2f/old/deform.html).

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Chris Bateman November 30, 2012 at 8:30 am

The fact that any game critic is willing to write about a game they didn’t love is already a gigantic step forward for game criticism.

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