Critical Literacy: Game Criticism for Game Developers
Well Played Journal, v2 n2, 2013
The Well Played Journal is a forum for in-depth close readings of video games that parse out the various meanings to be found in the experience of playing a game. This special issue specifically focuses on the theories of well played: What does it mean to be well played? By what criteria? By whose criteria? And for whom, and to what end?
Game criticism is essential for games to mature as a medium, and critical literacy is essential for game criticism to flourish and be valuable for the community. Games are a growing subject of discussion and it demeans them if the community cannot reflect upon their experiences with or express their ideas about games. The critic is uniquely positioned to elevate culturally significant work, provide crucial feedback for developers, and curate vocabulary and grammar for the medium. This paper surveys the current state of criticism, explores the limitations of review and the potential of criticism, and discusses a mentality for fostering critical literacy.
BioShock and Portal: A Discussion of Poetics
Well Played Journal, v1 n2, 2012
The Well Played Journal is a forum for in-depth close readings of video games that parse out the various meanings to be found in the experience of playing a game. My article demonstrates a process of comparing two games by using Aristotle’s Poetics, and examines if this framework is well suited for analysis of games.
Poetics, as outlined by Aristotle (350 BCE), serves as a framework for analyzing dramatic and literary works of art. In his treatise, Aristotle defines the basic elements of drama to be plot, character, theme, diction, music, and spectacle. More recently, Janet Murray (1997) posited The New Poetics, in her book Hamlet on the Holodeck, which updated this framework to include immersion, agency, and transformation. The combined use of these frameworks creates a powerful structure capable of elucidating the parallels and distinctions between literary works. This essay compares 2K’s BioShock and Valve’s Portal along the aforementioned dimensions to explore if such a structure is well suited to examine why both of these games achieved critical success.