So in my blog-crawling this morning I discover there's a thing called "New Game Journalism." Supposedly, it does for game journalism what Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe did for music journalism in the seventies. Here are a couple examples. I particularly like that last one, even if Tom Chick is reviled by my friends for dissing on Deus Ex. In fact, if it wasn't for the treacly ending, that last one could stand out as an example of the kind of modern day literature I love, a Microserfs for game geeks. (And I'm not saying that because he mentions Spider-Man 2, I'd decided that before I even got to that part. I swear.)
I try to tell Mark about it.
"I still don't understand what it is," he says.
"They have a manifesto," I say.
"Oh my god. That tells volumes," he says.
Ignore Mark's cynicism. This stuff excites me for a couple of reasons. One: I've read four pieces so far, and three out of the four have been quite entertaining. Two: this kind of journalism only works on nondisposable games. To be able to tell a story about your experience in a game, your experience has to be different from other people's. It won't work for the linear thrill-ride sort of console game that is the bulk of the industry.
For example, a review of Prince of Persia that says, "And then I ran along the wall and jumped and just barely grabbed the ledge!" is not interesting. As interesting as it might have been to experience at the time, it's not a story worth retelling, because everyone who played Prince of Persia ran along the wall and jumped and just barely grabbed the ledge.
On the other hand, Deus Ex is a fine target for New Games Journalism. To wit. It's second person instead of first, but I think it should be considered a good example of the style. None of the "best of New Game Journalism" articles I've seen so far actually mention this one, and that is an oversight.
So: if this kind of writing starts to take off, it might encourage the making of more games that allow the possibility for emergent stories, emergent gameplay, and custom content. And I think that's a good thing.
But don't get me wrong. I actually love games that are linear thrill-rides. I'd just like to see more balance between them and the others.