Limitations in Writing About Games

Recently, after commenting on other gaming sites, I've realized that my perspective on video games is quite limited. But I don't think this limitation is unique to me among those who are interested in writing about games as a medium. Specifically, the number of games I've personally played is crushed under the weight of the thousands of games I've never touched. Not only do I feel the relics of gaming history taunting me to play them, but I'm also able to play only a very limited number of current or recently released games. Historically, I missed everything prior to the NES, and was dependent on the occasional birthday or Christmas present to add to my game collection. Nowadays, I limit what games I buy due to the Japanese language barrier, and I have no experience with the 360, PS3, or PSP.

I also have limitations of both time and money, but primarily time. There's no way I'd be able to acquire every worthwhile modern purchase for every system, let alone for systems that have been long dead. Traditionally, I've rarely bought new games as soon as they were released, instead opting to wait for price cuts and pick up several cheap games at once. The new games I do adopt immediately tend to be first party Nintendo titles (Mario, Zelda, and Mario Kart come to mind). Even if I owned every major system, I wouldn't be able to stay up to date, although I might be closer than I am now.

This leads to an interesting situation: How much can I write about games I've never played? Is it acceptable to write about plots, themes, and mechanics of games I've just read about and seen footage of online? I would be limiting myself too much if I only referenced games I've played. But at the same time, I must be very careful when talking about other games to not over-step my second-hand knowledge. One final problem is that I, like most gamers, favor some genres over others, so I'm even less inclined to play examples of genres I don't particularly like. In my case, I find myself drawn to RPGs, action games, platformers, and a few strategy titles. I strongly dislike most sports games, and am terrible at shooters, so I tend to stay away from them. There are many exciting, thrilling, unique game experiences waiting for me. I just need to somehow figure out a way to manufacture a greater amount of time...


Michael said...

I've run into the very problem you face as well, and I've even written about it on my blog. There simply isn't enough time to play all the games I want to play, nor can I afford to buy them all. I do take advantage of a rental service here in the States, but that doesn't help me with my chronic lack of time.

I do think we ought not write too much about games we haven't played. I can see how it could be useful to reference such a game that falls within a genre you're you're writing about, for example, but I feel very awkward saying much about games I have no first-hand experience with.

The other problem, of course, is length of games. Are we obliged to play through all 50 hours of an RPG in order to write about it? I don't think so, but I'm sympathetic to a point of view that says we ought to. And do I really need to finish every aspect of every game (collect everything, achieve everything, etc.) in order to understand what that game is all about?

Time Time Time. Ugh.

Korey said...

Hey Michael. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it. I look forward to joining some type of game rental service when I come back to the States, as well as getting a new PC, and a some point either a PS3 or 360.

I totally agree about not writing too much about games I haven't played myself. I try to avoid it, and in doing so, find this blog going in certain directions. Particularly towards RPGs, DS games, and slightly older games.

Time is a big factor, I agree. In some ways, movie reviewers have it easier. Set aside 2 hours or so for a film, and you're halfway home. But a 6-8 hour action game is sometimes considered short, and as you mentioned RPGs can run upwards of 40 or 50 hours to complete. At the same time, I don't think full, 100% completion is necessary. Often, the extra collectables and achievements are developed and treated as just that, extras. They're on the side (hence sidequests), and in some games super difficult. As I've written about before, I think satisfactory completion of a game varies by the player. When you think about it, most games demand a rather large commitment from you, but I think it's often worth it.