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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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