Do Reviewers Really Understand Innovation?

Yet another nice piece from the Guardian; Keith Stuart takes up the issue of innovation and whether or not reviewers really get it. Using Mirror's Edge as a launching point, he notes that there seems to be too much focus on some of the little details and not enough emphasis on deconstructing the experience:

Many reviewers have criticised the combat, the repetition, a smattering of trial-and-error moments. There has been a general compulsion to counter the sequences of innovative genius with niggling doubts about core mechanics.

This is frustrating and I think it highlights one of the key issues of contemporary gaming - what exactly is a videogame and what are the fundamental elements every game must provide? Because, if it were a movie, Mirror's Edge would be critically lauded by the specialist film press - it would be considered a forward-thinking masterpiece. Sure, it's dangerous to compare two such different media, but there are key similarities - one is the way in which critics should be able to deconstruct the experience on offer and draw from it undeniable values that outweigh concerns about basic construction.

I don't entirely agree with this line of thinking (many people reading reviews want to know if the game is worth playing, and those niggling details probably matter quite a lot), but I always enjoy reading 'reviews' that are more along the lines that Stuart is discussing — deconstructing the game and looking at it from a broader perspective. There's room (and need) for both, I think, and I'm not sure it's reviewers not 'understanding' innovation so much as reviewers producing what audiences want to read.

Do game reviewers really understand innovation?
[The Guardian via Rock, Paper, Shotgun]


    Innovation? Where exactly? Most things that I would see as innovative are pretty minor. When people use the term innovative to describe something they usually mean significant or ground-breaking. Or are we setting the bar really low these days?

    So called "specialist" films get bad reviews too. There's no rule that says something specialist or innovative must be praised or even nrecognised.

    It's not often you'll find anything that's critically acclaimed by everyone and Mirror's Edge doesn't come close.

    Let's not forget purpose here. What was the purpose? To entertain? To show off innovation? To make money? To satisfy gamers unending desire to play the perfect game?

    Sounds like Mirror's Edge is a game that's failing to entertain and satisfy some people.

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