Criticizing Videogame Critique, Part 2, with Richard Terrell

ETAO Podcast, Episode 28.


Last week, Richard Terrell outlined his framework for taxonomizing and evaluating game criticism, and we spent some time using that framework to disagree vociferously about whether Arin Hanson is any damn good at talking about Zelda.

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This week we get into the weeds about the Zeldas themselves, and here’s the crux of the issue: Richard feels about Dark Souls the way that I feel about Skyward Sword, and vice-versa. Where he sees rawness and jank in the Souls games, I see a certain stark, boneheaded elegance (as well as jank). Where I feel patronized and slowed to a crawl by the last few Zeldas, he feels nourished by them: “I accept that that stuff is good for me,” he says, meaning the descriptive text and careful tutorializing and all.

That might be an unbridgeable gap of taste. But is taste what we’re talking about here, or is there something more objective at play? (It will not shock you to learn that Richard thinks there is, and that I disagree).

———
• Here again is the Design Wheel that Richard refers to, as well as the Design Oriented search engine.

• Here again is Richard’s Design Over Time series.

• And Richard was also good enough to share his notes for this conversation, including the ones on Egoraptor.

• When researchers talk about people overestimating their own competence, they usually discuss it in terms of Dunning–Kruger effect.

• Unthinkingly and in the heat of the moment, I used the word gamer. Icky.

• I’m honestly not sure whether the hey-player-here’s-what-a-bomb-is-again thing in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword is a bug or a feature. Richard remembers hearing that it was a bug in an Iwata Asks, but neither of us can find the quote (or one that says the opposite, for that matter). Interestingly enough, if it is a bug, then I suppose Richard would say it’s a useful bug—accidentally prodiving the player with helpful refreshers, kind of like how the slowdown in the first Zelda accidentally makes hectic rooms a shade more approachable.

• David Hellman wrote the seminal piece on fussy long-windedness in Zelda games.

• Innuendo Studios did a fantastic piece about semiotics in games and game criticism, using The Beginner’s Guide as a jumping off point.

• And here’s Cogwatch.

• Richard did a Design Over Time about Bloodborne, in direct response to a video by one Monsieur HBomberguy. He was still working on his video at the time of our conversation, which is why we didn’t discuss his critique of Bloodborne (and/or of the Souls fandom) in more specific terms.
———

“All The People Say (Season 2)” by Carpe Demon.
“Shut That Gate” by Dick James and Ted Daffan, performed by Dick James and the Coast Ranch Hands.

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