Thursday, November 29, 2012

Killing is Harmless: Some Reviews

In the last couple of days, three really interesting reviews of Killing is Harmless have appeared on the internet. Each in its own way rightly points out that the approach of criticism I use in Killing is Harmless is not the be-all-and-end-all approach to videogame criticism. In response, I want to write a post that states just why I think this kind of 'personal experience' criticism is worth doing and just what it achieves, but I've decided not to rush that and maybe wait a few days before I do it so I don't just come across as some slighted artist complaining that you just don't get me, man. Instead, for now, I'll just point you to the reviews, recommend you read them, and make some really small remark about each of them:

First and foremost, good friend, talented developer, and intimidating intellect Darius Kazemi's review rightly notes that Killing is Harmless doesn't discuss the game so much as my experience of the game. Darius brilliantly highlights the shortcomings of my approach—what it can't do—and the conversation in the comments has been incredible.

Tristan Damen makes a similar observation in his review. Though Damen goes so far to say that Killing is Harmless isn't criticism of the "game itself" so much as a discussion of my own experiences. I guess my rebuttal of this would be that criticism of 'games themselves' isn't what I'm interested in doing. The game-as-played is certainly the area I am interested in. But that can wait for another post.

At Medium Difficulty Bq Roth's review also rightly notes all the things Killing is Harmless doesn't do. Roth notes throughout the review that I said multiple times before the book's release that I wasn't attempting to do these things in the first place, but I guess it is still valid to note what it doesn't (and can't do). Roth also discusses the press's fixation with the book's length to make some telling observations about our confidence about the state of the medium (the medium of game criticism, that is, not the medium of games). I think this fixation came from my own regular tweeting about the number of words I had written, as well as my reluctance to actually call it a 'book'. Regardless, his observations on this are interesting.

At This Cage Is Worms, Cameron Kunzelman has written a really great analysis of the book, too. Of particular interest is how he scrutinises my far too casual and flippant references to mental illnesses.

I have more opinions on all of these, and I will write more about them in the coming weeks, but for now I just want to flag them as all totally worth your time to read.


Rob said...

I've enjoyed reading the book (so, thanks for writing it). While there are clear moments in which you highlight your experiences of play, the overall process of engaging with the game and your play-though as a process of meaning making is worthwhile. It was the moment sod critical reflection that you embarked upon whilst detailing the play-through experience that I found interesting and refreshing.

Of course, you could have employed all manner of different structures and approaches to address the game (eg thematic, theoretical, aesthetic, mechanics, etc) but this doesn't detract from what is a valiant and valid piece of long form criticism

Rob said...

* It was the moments of critical reflection

jyothi said...

I've enjoyed reading the book (so, thanks for writing it)