Game Criticism Had Problems Long Before Dunkey Made a Video About It


#1

One of YouTube's sharpest, funniest critics took aim at the media over the weekend. He wasn't kind.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/qvpzk3/game-criticism-had-problems-long-before-dunkey-made-a-video-about-it

Videogamedunky's new video on Game Critics
#2

While I found the article interesting and well written… I just cannot for the life of me recognize the “sharp, thoughtful” critic Patrick seems to see in Dunkey. I think it’s tragic that when there are so many incredible youtubers who do actually thoughtful and in depth discussions on video games, we end up taking up so much time discussing a guy who honestly just seems to be regurgitating Sequelitis talking points.

That time could have been spent discussing Hamish Black and his spectacular video on the discourse surrounding Steam, which even presents a somewhat unique take on anotherwise wellworn subject. It could have been spent on Mark Brown and his Game Makers Tool Kit series which takes snippets of game design and recontextualize them as a broader concept to be implemented in other games by fledgling game makers. Hell, MatthewMattosis, Errant Signal, Joseph Anderson, all of them have put out amazing content for years, pushing forward the dicourse around games, and the list goes on.

Instead, we chose to talk about Dunkey, and I’m honestly still trying to figure out why. My best guess at this point, and one I’m honestly not that happy with, is that it was simply because he was the loudest. He made a loud noise in the general direction of games and we came running, never stopping to think of whether the actual content of the tirade was even worth spending time on. The talking points were scatter shot and felt like they had all been picked up from message boards anno 2006-2012, the argument was riddled with inconsistencies and hypocrisy, and the whole video ended up feeling like nothing more than an excuse to dunk on a few people. Should we honestly be giving this the time of day?

I should also make very clear that I’m not trying to criticize either Patrick or Waypoint as a whole, because if anything you guys have a job to cover the public discourse. We are the suckers who ended up takling about all day online. It just bothers me that a guy like Dunkey ended up taking over the public discussion for entire day by screaming when there are so many more interesting people on youtube who never get that chance.


#3

Was there a reason behind choosing not to reference/link the previous Waypoint Radio discussion in this article? While I could understand not wanting to presume a reader would care to listen to an hour long podcast, I think embedding in a video/audio link of just the discussion at the end if the reader wants to hear more would be great.

Maybe it might be preferred to keep the unscripted, informal talks of Waypoint Radio separate from these developed articles, however, I think a case like this is complimented greatly by proof of how Waypoint has a cohesive voice but individual personalities that shine in that setting.


#4

I have to admit I haven’t watched the video yet, but mainly because I’ve heard so many discussions of it now, not all negative, most of them fair minded, and nothing makes me think this is anything interesting or new. I’m getting tired just thinking about it. Basically, I agree with Patrick’s general point that nobody understands the challenges of this kind of work than the people doing it themselves… and further still, I just think I reject the idea that having a few contrary voices under the same roof is some kind of integrity issue.

And finally I think that the newer field of being a video influencer is MUCH more beset by problems of integrity. Honestly, a ranty youtuber is the last person I would go to for an interesting opinion about this stuff. Perhaps that is unfair, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out.


#5

This was a great write up by Patrick. I really appreciate his take on Dunkey and the video.

Although I think Dunkey’s video was good overall and the “harshness” of it is a little overstated, I agree that it’s all old hat by now. So I’m not sure why the general community latched onto it so fiercely and Dunkey might not either. I just wanna say that I at least respect him for having an opinion and putting some work into getting it out there. For a guy that just makes dumb videos that are mainly meant to be humorous, I’m sure he gets the urge to produce something that helps him speak his mind. Even if they aren’t his best videos, I hope he keeps doing them from time to time.

That being said, I’m hoping his next video goes back to his usual style and won’t spark a fire of discourse like this one. I (and I’m sure many others) have wasted too much time thinking about this over the past few days.


#6

On reflection, I don’t think it is particularly surprising that this video gained a lot of responses. As Austin mentioned on the podcast, the video’s focus on inciting direct responses to specific writers (even just naming them on screen) clearly provokes a defensive response. Writers get specifically pestered about it (both by vitriolic strangers but also by well-meaning fans wanting to hear their response) and their friends and fans are then tempted to voice support. All of this fuels social media algorithms that crave on many emotive quips to show it to more people. This then creates a new wave of the similar effect but with the video creator community to respond back. Plus, having over a million loyal follows to view it in the first few hours could get the ball rolling in a way that other people talking about the same topic wouldn’t have.


#7

Yeah, that aspect of it is definitely not surprising. Emotions are usually the culprit when it comes to how viral a post or video becomes. I’m more of a logical kind of guy, so it’s much easier for me to take the arguments at face value than to have an emotional response to it.


#8

The “sharpest, funniest” label is clearly intended to reference Dunkey’s other videos, since the one we’re all talking about isn’t especially sharp and/or funny. I’m not familiar with Dunkey’s other work, so I don’t have much opinion to offer on that.

The Game Critics video also didn’t do much for me. The main thought that comes to mind is that people who talk about video games seem to really like talking about people who talk about video games. I know that may sound like a criticism, but I don’t (fully) intend it as one. I love a lot of behind-the-scenes, inside-baseball stuff. I just feel like “games criticism” is wildly overrepresented in discussions I’ve heard about the state of industries.

I think it’s laudable that games journalists are introspective about their work and I’ll even grant that it’s cool to make these soul-searching discussions open to us consumers. Maybe the problem isn’t that games journalists talk about their work too much, it’s that game developers, AI researchers, and other professions talk about their industries far too little. Or maybe I’m just not listening to the right podcasts to hear all the shade AI researchers are throwing at each other and their industry (and now that I say that, I know for a fact that that shade is being thrown, and surely someone has done it on a podcast).

Hmm. Well, I’ve rather lost the thread here. Let’s go with this: I don’t care about this video or response at all, but I appreciate that these conversations are happening anyway and why have I spent so long writing a comment about this article when there’s an article I could be reading about neural nets generating Magic: The Gathering cards? I am everything wrong with the commenting on commentary on criticism of video game critics industry.


#9

Dunkey’s critique was aimed at the writers not YouTubers who work at these publications. I think his critique is extremely valid, and definitely worth considering. Just so we are clear: just because he is brash, doesn’t mean his words shouldn’t be taken seriously, rather we should engage with what he is saying.

Dunkey is right. Most game critics suck. I’m 23 this year, so kind of young, but have been reading games magazines and websites basically for as long as I have played, and sadly most “critics” lack the ability to actually think fuckin’ criticically.

For instance a critic will tell you a certain game made them feel a certain way, but not elaborate on why it made them feel that way, what it means that they felt that way, and whether feeling that way was a good thing. We need to demand of these journos that they start approaching games in a manner that allows them to contextualize the worlds and narratives of these games, within our own.

How can this be done?

Stop reviewing games. Reviews tend to, as Dunkey illustrates, confine writers. Usually most reviews will have writers just describing games and putting an arbitrary score on it, and that’s that. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

More thoughtful and meaningful writing can be nurtured if these journos just let themselves return to write about games long after they are released, and they have had time to develop some thoughts on the shit.

Stop giving me news. I can get this shit from developers’ twitter, facebook, and YouTube accounts. Give us analysis, criticism, and storytelling.

And finally we should not let our “love” of games stop us from being critical of them. A writer I love reading, Rawiya Kameir, tweeted that “critical thought is a skill and a media climate that overvalues fandom and enthusiasm doesn’t allow young people to develop”. While this was in relation to music writers also fuckin’ up, I think this can definitely be extended to games media. I could never express what the original Mass Effect trilogy means to me, but that won’t stop me from shitting on Andromeda, and we need to be willing to do this.

Most game sites are structured in a way that does not allow their writers to develop critically, and by extension their readers will never develop as well.

So Dunkey is 133% right. Really his critique highlights some of the problems that these new media types always be crying about, but doing nothing about: “everyone’s on social” (not true, social is also stupid), “write a story on everything” (no, there is enough fuckin’ news in the world), “these millennials don’t read, Let’s shift to video” (N.O. NOOOOOOOOOO)!

Christ, these new media types really piss me off. lames.
What does millennial even mean?

Anyway you should really check out this album by my spirit animal:


#10

I think what bugs me most about the video’s argument, which I’m now regrettably caught up with is that it insults the intelligence of the readership.

I’ve long thought it was useless to treat these publications like monoliths, and I don’t understand why it’s such a big ol’ problem for a bunch of people of varying opinions to gather under one banner.

These places have editors, so if they’re doing their job they’re not going to let anything go out that is against the ethos or general tone of the site, but beyond that could we not just… trust people to understand that there are individuals at work here?

Like take Rock Paper Shotgun for example. I like that site, kinda, but I’ve long come to accept that there’s a certain writer there who I disagree with maybe a good 90% of the time. Really, it’s such accurate disagreement that I once guessed an article was by him just based on the title, not even knowing what site it was from. The other 10% of the time we’ll be in total agreement about the game and I’ll be surprised.

It’s a little awkward, because he once highly praised a game I made on the site.

Anyway, the point is, nobody needed to hold my hand into realising that different people are going to align with me more or less on any particular site. It’s not some big secret that different people write under a banner, its usually the second thing you see after the article title and maybe a screenshot.

In fact, its precisely because people have the wherewithal to follow writers as well as publications that Waypoint found its following so quickly. As good as the site is, its audience didn’t come from nowhere.

I think there’s a very good discussion to be had about good and bad criticism, and how to write subjectively but in a way that gives people a way in who don’t necessarily agree with your ideals. The fact that many bad writers exist is neither surprising nor something that is unique to the medium of writing. I think the decent writers have probably given that at least as much thought as Shouty YouTube Man #4209.


#11

I think that what a lot of people are missing is that Dunkey has a large diverse viewership. They may not be able to name a printed word game critic, but could probably tell you about Gamespot or IGN in a very general manner. They might even know Metacritic and aggregate scores. They end up using these monoliths as measuring sticks of quality because of their mainstream nature. A youtube channel will almost always be viewed as underground/new media/rebellious for the simple fact that they don’t appear as fancy and corporate even though certain youtubers make more than a lot of games media sites collectively. It’s perception. Watching his video could open their eyes to something they never realized.

Also, lets not pretend there aren’t quite a number of underqualified and/or undertalented people in games media that networked their way into the job and aren’t willing to be a dissenting voice in the echo chamber of praise or vitriol. If you were offended by being shamed directly or by association, you could stand to re-evaluate your work and decide whether or not it’s worth taking the knocks for a chance at something that may never come. Yeah, cool, you get paid to review games. That’s great, but you aren’t getting the exposure you think you are.You’re either going to get downsized, go on to another site, go work for devs/publishers, or do something else entirely within five years. Games media is built upon the graves of wash outs, burn outs, cash outs, shutouts, and other varying types of failed dreams and careers.

There are people who think completely delusional about games media. Dunkey provided one of the more level headed criticisms of the industry and its very symbiotic relationship with devs, publishers, and marketing. No reason to get hot about it. KotakuInAction has enough heat to fuel the universe.


#12

This is a really good list of reviewers. Mark Brown’s Game Makers Tool Kit is a particular favorite of mine. I’d also like to add snomaN Gaming as fairly informed video game critique channel.

As for the article and Dunkey’s video, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily unfair in his criticism, but then there’s nothing really new introduced either. A lot of the problems with game reviews and critiques have been known for some time, but I think things have gotten better over the past few years. You’re seeing a lot more thoughtful, retrospective pieces regarding particular video games and how they affected that particular writer’s experience with that game. It’s unfortunate, though, that these pieces don’t carry the same weight that the initial piece does; the Review. It’s similar to how a movie’s success is based off it’s opening weekend box office receipts.


#13

honestly, I don’t care whether or not (or how) valid his opinions are, I’m just disappointed waypoint is driving views towards an unrepentant shitlord http://kotaku.com/banned-league-of-legends-youtuber-defends-his-trash-tal-1730635674


#14

Oh and so as not to be totally non-constructive, I’ll add Noah Caldwell-Gervais and [Satchbag]
(https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCShqXc61KTV5NgGKDq7Fz6g) to this list

edit: oh also forgot Innuendo Studio


#15

Don’t forgot Hbomberguy, who has an extensive collection of high-quality/humorous video essays on topics concerning games, media, the internet, and politics.


#16

Since the other thread has been locked in favour of this one (which makes sense to keep the discussion in one place) I thought I’d link the other previous thread archive for new readers who may be curious. <3


#17

This is the least surprising not quite milkshake duck ever.


#18

I have numerous problems with this entire subject and the way it has been approached by Dunkey.

To be honest, I started watching the video then turned off after the tedium of hearing the same tired talking points started to filter into my brain. A lot of the ones that have been brought up before, in various period of drama/ scandal. So feel free to ignore my opinion if you feel I need to watch the whole video first.

I completely appreciate that the games press has some issues but they always overblown or misrepresented in these analysis/ takedown videos.

The video begins by highlighting the lack of consistency by IGN in talking about Sonic games but… I’m not sure what the alternative being suggested is? I get that he is trying to make the point that a single company is harder to follow than a single person. Then what is the alternative? There is a mandated company line on each game? Every contributor has to tow that line?

As someone else pointed out above, it just as easy to follow indivdual writers as it is to follow any youtuber. They can also provide opinion and insight without having to rely completely on number of views. Dunkey has probably reached the critical mass for that now to not ton be an issue. Many others are not so lucky.

The alternative is obviously supposed to be follow the single youtuber. Ignoring that youtubers have, I would argue more problems with dependency on advertising revenue, there is plenty of good to be found in having a single entity to attract a group of like minded people together. As has been highlighted on this very site.

A lot of the other issues come from the audience. The gaming community has a lot of issues. It is unwilling to accept deviation from the norm. One of the complaints here is the ubiquity of the 7-9 rating. Just look what happens when a reviewer deviates from this norm. There are numerous examples of people going after reviewers who break out of the common opinion. I’m sure many publications would be willing to support this sort of work but it makes it a “thing”. Diverging from consensus should not be something you have to worry about. It is in the gaming community.

Anyway, this whole thing makes me annoyed. I just don’t get why the gaming community (whatever that actually is) has such hate for those who write about games for a living. It feels like they are trying desperately to catch them out, display them as frauds. That has only been exacerbated now that youtubers offer an alternative of a fan come good.


#19

I feel like the responses to this video have been irrational. His discussion of relationships between critics and corporations feels like a punch in the dark (Although Gerstmann really was fired for giving a low score to a video game once upon a time) and his off-hand jab at finishing games before you review them feels like faulty logic. All right. We figured out where the holes are. It’s a youtube video where he isn’t going out of his way to make an intellectual argument or cite his sources, and yet, we’re producing more writing and podcasting content attempting to read into his intentions than he seems to have generated throwing the whole video together. It seems fairly clear that the video is just suggesting that a big bag of critics creates an inconsistent voice across a website and he would prefer individuals to collectives. He didn’t suggest that it’s impossible to figure out who wrote an article, he never suggested that any individual critics were “bad,” he just pointed out that when you have a website where several people who are producing content across the website disagree it feels disjointed. He isn’t asking everyone to go start a youtube channel or asking anyone to stop visiting websites for criticism. Why is this controversial again?


#20

It seems a number of youtubers have a chip on their shoulders when it comes to mainstream games media. They love to harp on about being the only ‘real’ and authentic voices on video games. It’s almost in the same vein as Trump’s attacks on journalists. Wake up sheeple Gamespot and IGN are peddling fake-reviews!

I couldn’t care less about it. Reviews and games criticism are a form of entertainment. Find the sites, writers, youtubers that entertain you, ignore the rest.