DID YOU READ

Drake’s Reception: “Uncharted 3” and video game criticism

Drake’s Reception: “Uncharted 3” and video game criticism (photo)

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Here’s a riddle for you puzzle fans out there: How do 372 little words generate over 1200 responses in 24 hours?

Answer: By being 372 largely negative words about “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception,” one of the most anticipated PlayStation games of the year. Yesterday, The A.V. Club‘s Scott Jones gave “Uncharted 3” a grade of C while criticizing the “woefully faulty” single player gameplay and “superfluous” multiplayer mode. Jones’ review lit up the A.V. Club comments section like a pinball machine on free play. Here is a brief but fairly representative sampler of the outrage. Some of the language is, shall we say, colorful:

Witch

“Is this really an oficial site? i mean, are you serious? O_O

i was so curious about this review when i saw that 50/100 on metacritic so, here i am and still, i can’t believe it….. If u are gonna be that obvious, u could actually grade this game with a 0/100 or F or whatever to inflict more “damage” =/”

ace002

“This was supposed to be a review? This sounds more like a fucking rant from a frustrated ‘gamer’. You’re just saying how bad the controls are FOR YOU and how predictable the game is FOR YOU, and worst of all…you actually put the names of Halo and Call of Duty on the same sentence as Uncharted? They’re not even the same genre, for God’s sake. You are the only person that actually said that the Multiplayer is “superfluous”. All the other reviews that i read so far said that the Multiplayer actually has improved a lot compared to its predecessor’s Multiplayer Mode. Maybe the game is bad for you because you’re a mentally retarded asshole who can’t play a game that has more than two dimensions. When i go to Metacritic and look at this C on the bottom of the page, followed by 8s,9s and 10s, i realize how fucking misleading your review is…did i already mention that you are an asshole?”

Bramaster

“The reviewer at IGN.com said it may be his new favorite game of all time, it’s a 93 on Metacritic, and this reviewer is just like “eh”?… it’s cool that he’s honest, but I don’t feel any one that really has a passion for video games could find so much fault with the Uncharted series.  This series has the best voice overs and cut scenes of any game to date, the graphics are beautiful, and the multiplayer is rock solid.  It’s time to get a new reviewer and get serious about this medium, or just don’t do it at all.  :)”

These reactions are representative of a strange and pervasive hypocrisy in gaming culture. Gamers want video games taken serious as a mature art form but they express that desire only in immature terms. Mister, uh, Bramaster believes Jones is giving his honest opinion (others in the thread accuse him of being a shill for PS3 competitor Microsoft) but still feels that in order to “get serious” about video game criticism, The A.V. Club aught to find someone who loves “Uncharted” to write their review. So thoughtful, insightful, but completely and utterly positive? That’s a pretty warped definition of “serious criticism.”

Jones’ review isn’t the only writer to draw the ire of gamers. Simon Parkin of Eurogamer received hundreds of contentious comments on his review of the game (e.g. “eurogamer thinks its cool to give 8 to the best game the industry produces. arrogant and self indulgent pseudojournalism,” –ulov3) even though his was far more positive than Jones’. Keep in mind these reactions were left before the game’s release, hence these folks were anointing “Uncharted 3” the best game ever before they’d actually played it.

I have played “Uncharted 3” and I do think it’s one of the best games the industry’s produced recently. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect or beyond reproach. Is it art? God, who the hell knows. Would you call the word “OOF” painted on a blue canvas art? The Museum of Modern Art would; they’ve got a piece just like that by Edward Rusha in their collection. Would you call an intricately designed interactive world that required hundreds or thousands of man hours from dozens of artists and technicians art? Some would say no, because a video game is something you play rather than experience. Art will always be in the eye of the beholder.

In the eye of this beholder, “Uncharted 3” isn’t perfect, but it is awesome. On an emotional level, it represents a real achievement for video games. After three “Uncharted”s, the characters of Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan have evolved into an unforgettable buddy combo. Actors Nolan North and Richard McGonagle deliver creative director Amy Hennig’s witty dialogue with brilliant timing and charm. It is a little weird to care about the fates of two characters who are not only fictional but immortal — since you have unlimited lives in the “Uncharted” games, there’s no way to lose — but I genuinely do. “Uncharted 3” pays particular attention to Drake and Sully’s relationship, how it began and developed, and it pays off in an ending that is about as poignant as any in any game I’ve ever played (or, for that matter, any movie I’ve seen in the last couple months).

“Uncharted 3” also gives players the same palpable buzz as a good action movie. Freed from the restrictions of physics and logistics, “Uncharted 3” can send players through wild, over-the-top chases and escapes that would never be possible in live-action. The game features several set pieces, including an escape from a fiery French chateau and a fight aboard a cargo plane, that made my palms sweat. Drake’s endless supply of do-overs dulls the rush a little — you kind of have to trick yourself into thinking the stakes are high — but at its best “Uncharted 3” literally had me applauding (author’s note: applauding when you should be holding a controller is not the best recipe for video game success).

The stuff that didn’t have me applauding was the intellectual side of the game. “Uncharted 3” is clever, but it’s not exactly smart. Gameplay varies between gunfights and environmental puzzle solving, neither of which are overly challenging or stimulating, especially after three largely similar entries in the series. All the “Uncharted”s are best enjoyed with your brain in the off position. Otherwise you’d have to wonder how enormous desert cities remain hidden in the age of geosynchronous satellites or fathom the moral implications of a hero who literally kills hundreds upon hundreds of men in each of his adventures.

So “Uncharted 3” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is a super fun ride. Why isn’t that enough? Why do gamers get so worked up about any break in the consensus or low Metacritic score? I think it has to do with the nature of games. Gaming is about achievement and competition. You play “Uncharted 3″‘s campaign to win; you play its — sorry Scott Jones — insanely addictive multiplayer mode to level up your player, to buy more weapons and boosters for your character, to be the best and look the coolest while you’re doing it. That’s the same impulse that drives these overly sensitive reactions. It’s not enough to get good reviews, you have to get the best reviews. And then it’s not enough to get the best reviews; you have to get perfect reviews. So when Scott Jones gave “Uncharted 3” a C, he didn’t just give it a harsh critique; he screwed up gamers’ quest for ever-elusive 100% complete.

Until gamers recognize that mindset has its place in the games themselves but not in the discussion around them, comment section freakouts will continue to be the norm. “Uncharted 3” shows how far video games — and the people who play them — have come, and how far they still have to go.

What do you think of “Uncharted 3?” What do you think of its reception? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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