Last week, I responded to a Capital New York article by Steven Boone, perhaps vainly attempting to simultaneously defend the video game industry and support the ideas broached by Boone (and echoed by Ebert in a follow-up Tweet).
Since then, Boone has posted a new article including feedback from myself and GameSpot's Carolyn Petit. He concludes by wondering if he's not "projecting the sins of film critics onto the game industry." He also starts by referring to the way in both movies – and now games – are marketed to mass audiences. Essentially, he's saying what I've been saying for several years: Either the marketing/advertising experts only think Americans have the attention spans of hamsters, or we really do have such gnat-like attention spans.
Hence, the rapid-fire method of showing you a video entertainment product. Gamers have probably noticed that as games have started to look more realistic (i.e., more like movies), and as the industry has shifted to focus on a mainstream mass audience, we're seeing such flashy trailers and video clips that refuse to keep a camera in one place for more than half a second. Boone further uses my comments and Petit's to show that in fact, critics can and most often are crucial to sales, and most of us are far more intrigued by the "poets" in comparison to the "killers." I noted that critics very often reward the artistic, the philosophical, and to some extent, the ethereal.
What's important to take away from this is as follows: The more games start mirroring the movie industry – in how they're created, in who they're targeting, and in how they're marketed – the more gamers may get lost in the shuffle. At first, I thought this was a good thing; I thought it would allow our industry to blend with an established and (mostly) respected industry, thereby giving us more exposure. And while that may happen, it's not the kind of exposure I want. I think video games are currently in a more progressive state than movies. I think interactive entertainment is the wave of the future, and simply following film's well-trodden route means we lose distinction and uniqueness.
Boone was interested in learning about why gamers responded to his article about how The Last Of Us left little to the imagination. He wanted to know more about the role critics play in this industry, and clearly has had an interest in gaming in the past. This should prove that not everyone outside this industry looks down on us (although it can often feel that way); it merely shows that we are different and that is precisely what makes us special. That's an especially corny way of saying it, but I believe we need to celebrate the unique elements of interactive entertainment rather than simply adopting the current trends of movies.
Maybe that's how we'll make our mark.
P.S. I have to add that when I was talking about a game we "need" – one of the quotes in Boone's article – I was referring to The Last Guardian. But no harm done; we need The Last Of Us, too, if only to prove that it has more intelligence and soul than certain trailers and footage lead us to believe.