One thing that gamers often forget is how off-putting the initial experience of diving into the medium can be. The interfaces and inputs-using a gamepad’s right stick to control an in-game camera, for example-can seem like a foreign language at first. And it’s part of a critic’s job to help translate and tease out what’s worth paying attention to in a new aesthetic environment. But they have to want to do it.
That’s the premise of N’Gai Croal’s excellent column for Edge Magazine. He pins the central idea on Roger Ebert and Nicholson Baker’s recent grappling with games and how they differ. I like how Croal compares and contrasts Ebert’s refusal to engage with modern video games with Nicholson Baker’s open-minded exploration of the form.
Here’s a key bit:
And while there’s a strong sense in which Baker wasn’t writing for you or me – who have played many games and are highly conversant about them – it’s invaluable to be reminded just how much interactive literacy high-end console games require; how many conventions and assumptions go unchallenged; how far they have to go and how much the interfaces may need to evolve in order for the medium to become truly massmarket.
The whole thing’s worth a read and serves a great reminder that, while video games may be capturing the public consciousness, they still have a long way to go in terms of seeming friendly to non-gamers.