Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not-So-Early Adoptérmon: Prologue

If there's one thing that can often be said about me, it's that I am rarely on the cutting edge of, well, anything. I've spent most of my life a few steps behind the curve. My family was several years late in switching over from cassette tapes to CDs. DVDs came even later. Even when video games are involved, I'm frequently a bit slow to adopt.

So, this should come as no surprise: I've never played a Pokémon game.

No, no -- that is absolutely true. Hell, I've never even owned a Nintendo-made handheld gaming device. My only foray into the handheld world, aside from a few of those depressing Tiger Electronics games, was a Sega Game Gear. I thought it was the future. I was not a quick-witted child.

Anime has never seriously appealed to me. Sure, I've enjoyed some of the genre, but largely, I just don't get it. And to my young eyes, Pokémon was just another anime, full of wide-eyed, spastic young individuals with razor-edged hair and no concept of subtlety. So, naturally, the video game was also promptly disregarded as some cutesy Japanese import "for babies," as they say.

Well, no longer. In my old age, I have fallen into the habit of enjoying RPGs and leveling and upgrading and being a pack rat with non-existent digital items. Pokémon seems to have all these things to varying degrees. And given the fact that, so many years after the Pokémon craze of the '90s cooled off, gamers are still talking about the series even into their late-20s and 30s -- well, I have to consider the possibility that, maybe, I was mistaken.

So! That's where this new series of blog posts -- something I have dubbed Not-So-Early Adoptérmon, because I am clever and you love it -- comes into play. I'm going to finally see what's up with this Pokémon nonsense, and I'll be documenting my experiences and observations right here, on something that will, hopefully, resemble a weekly basis.

I have started playing through Pokémon Yellow. It appears to be a combination of the first two Pokémon games (Red and Blue) and, thus, seems like a reasonable starting point.

Given my propensity for overindulgence, I'm not entirely sure this is a wise venture. Still, as much as I enjoy RPGs, I also have a tendency to tire of them and not finish them. So, we'll have to see which bright, shining side of my personality wins out: The Addict, or The Quitter. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Of critics and their trade

While reading about Kevin Smith's latest bullshit on The A.V. Club, writer Keith Phipps used a particularly thought-provoking quotation to help describe what the function of criticism is. See, Smith is upset that reviewers thoroughly roasted his recent film, Cop Out. Sound familiar, video game world? Apparently, some people don't like to be told when they have failed to achieve their goals.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that this is something I think about often, when I'm writing and sometimes when I'm reading. Just what, exactly, is the value of reviewing another person's work, be it a video game, a movie, an album; whatever? Why do we do it? Should we do it? At what point does "negative" become "too negative"? And so on and so forth.

The following is, technically, a quotation of a quotation, thus making it the equivalent of something that Journalism doodled on a notepad during its lunch break and later used to wipe its own arse. I be not proud. Read:

Film Criticism at its best is nothing more or less than the practice of literature. A humble corner of literature, to be sure — but talent, depth of comprehension and communication are the arbiters of what’s good and true. They always were, always will be. The topic is fleeting, and today’s insight wraps tomorrow’s fish, but the abiding joy comes of saying what you’ve experienced so truthfully and so well that strangers get your meaning whether they agree or not.
That quote originates from the uncannily-named F.X. Feeney, a film writer and occasional filmmaker. The emphasis in the excerpt is mine. I've long been looking for a satisfying purpose, or reason, for reviewing things. I'm sure there are multiple valid ones, but the emphasized portion above hits me right between the eyes: It's communication. Simple, basic, honest communication. "I experienced this piece of art, or this product, and here is the reaction that it elicited from me."

I'm sure that's not why most reviewers critique things. I think the urge to review, to pick apart or to praise, is one that's become instinctive, especially in this, The Age of Internet (echo, echo). We do it because we can, or because we're supposed to for one reason or another, and because someone is bound to come along eventually and say, "Yes, I agree with that," and pat us on the back, or say, "No, you're an idiot who should die," and give us their attention.

But communication for communication's sake? Reviewing for the simple purpose of relating my experiences to others, love it or hate it? That's a purpose I can get behind. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that it's fun, both tearing into a bad product and lavishing praise on a good one. But maybe there's a better way, a better motivation. Maybe a shift in focus is all it takes to make both the writing and reading of reviews fresh again.

Now that I've talked about the motivations of critics, I'll probably say a few words about how content producers should and shouldn't react to negative (and positive) reviews. But I'll do that later. I have pizza to eat and naps to take.

(Header image from Penny Arcade. Obviously, you nit.)