Tag Archives: jonathan blow

What I Want from the New Console Generation

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The reign of the launch-day killer app is over.

The launch line-ups for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, both due out by month’s end in North America, include no game-changers, no Halos or Mario 64s. New consoles are now sold more on the promise of innovation and multimedia integration than they are on a single game any self-respecting manchild simply must own by Christmas Day. Perhaps that’s for the best, the thrill of the console launch replaced with appreciation for the medium’s continual evolution. Yet here we are, weeks away from newer, more powerful gaming devices, and I’m still not sure what gamemakers hope to achieve with them beyond making things bigger and shinier. Perhaps we’re at the point where games are a robust and diverse enough medium that console generations are no longer indicative of their evolution. Perhaps AAA developers just didn’t have an innovative way to shoot people in the face ready for launch day. Whatever the case, new tech and rapidly changing distribution methods will undoubtedly alter the games industry; here are a handful of ways I think those changes could be for the better.

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Braid (2008)

A major, usually entirely subconscious reason people disdain criticism with which they disagree is, simply put, that no one likes feeling stupid. The ugly, reactionary, lizard-brained response to a contrary opinion (and I am speaking almost exclusively about genuine, well-reasoned criticism, not the infuriating, troll-infested ping-pong table that passes for discourse on the majority of the internet), is to deny, dismiss, save face by any means necessary. If this is a reply born from our lower instincts, it is not always one born from our most devious ones; if anything, our desire to shoot down those who disagree with us speaks to the sort of ardent, inexpressible emotional attachment that subtly informs nearly all our relationships with art and with each other.

This is especially true of video games, a medium whose appeal is primarily built upon joy and frustration, those mighty pillars of visceral reaction. Say what you want about the gamer community, but it is a passionate lot, and perhaps too used to playing on the defensive end when its hobby is criticized.

If you love or hate a work for an inarticulate reason, one you have no desire to pontificate upon beyond what is intuitive, then that is more than fair; not everyone is born a Pauline Kael or a Robert Christgau. Art is a personal journey, one in which we develop our own values and taste, and video games – where entertainment is still often seen as key as artistry – especially must make room for the thrill-seekers and literalists alongside the chin-scratchers and conceptualists. What concerns me is the difficulty these different schools of thought have coexisting when discussing games, and the deep vein of anti-intellectualism that outcasts and derides unpopular opinions, even when they are well-articulated and kindly phrased. Nowhere is this attitude more prominent than in the baffling, often venomous response to whenever Braid designer Jonathan Blow strings more than two words together. Continue reading

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