Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mike Tyson's Punch Out is the Citizen Kane of Video Games. Part One: Deal with it.

Actually, you don't have to deal with it. You can argue against it if you like. Hell, you can even call straight bullshit on it. I'm an asshole, but I'm not the kind of an asshole who will just type a headline, write the words "Deal with it" behind it and then expect everyone to accept my argument uncritically. That would be narcissistic and absurd. After all, who am I to make declarative judgments on cultural icons and then expect everyone else to uncritically agree with me? A person who would do such a thing would not be a serious critic or writer.

The phrase "the Citizen Kane of video games" is often thrown about by video game critics and journalists who have nothing interesting to write and also know next to nothing about the film Citizen Kane. I would venture that most of them have never seen it, only know it by reputation and that those who have seen it have completely missed the point. Basically, the kind of people who make these statements are this:

Video game journalists and indie hipsters. The kind of people who were laughed out of art school and film school, so they went into video games where their self-indulgent, pretentious bullshit was welcomed with open arms.  Video game journalists talk a lot about maturity and growing up while acting like spoiled children whenever their analysis or critique or journalistic standards are put under the slightest scrutiny.

It is all so comical.

They all look at film and film criticism and see it as serious, adult business and envy that. They covet the validation. Yet, none of them have even the slightest idea of how film came to be considered art. None of them even considered to have a serious look into rather or not being considered art had a serious effect on film and if it did, if it was positive or negative. They just assume that art means instant validation. It is art because we say it is art. Rather or not if it is good art or bad art is irrelevant, this medium needs to grow up.

The fact is, the video game industry has grown up. The video game industry has never been more cynical, petty or greedy. But it has also fostered an indie game movement where the likes of Journey and Gone Home can exist. Not only that, but these more artistic expressions have the chance of being successful. Maybe not as successful as the latest AAA blockbuster. But then, Ingmar Bergman films never made as much money as the latest big Hollywood spectacle. They never lost as much money either.

Video games is big business, it will be the dominate cultural medium of the 21st Century. In fact, indie games have a distinct advantage that independent film did not throughout its cultural domination of the 20th Century, democratized distribution.

With Steam and GOG Galaxy, distribution has never been cheaper or easier on a major platform. There is a large segment of the population that do take video games seriously as a cultural medium and art form. They expect better storytelling, better mechanics, better characters and more diversity in gameplay, stories and characters. People who would take a chance on an indie art game. Who will fund small developers through Patreon and Kickstarter. It's such a shame that all of those people were declared dead by Gamasutra, Kotaku and Polygon.

Video games and gamers have already grown up. Now it's time for video game journalists and video game critics to do the same.

In the next part, we'll take a analytic look at Citizen Kane and probably talk even more trash about video game criticism. Fun stuff. Promise.

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