Debate: Are Critics Too Infatuated with “Arty” Games?

Abzu is another highly anticipated "art house" game, so will critics give it the benefit of the doubt?

Abzu is another highly anticipated “art house” game, so will critics give it the benefit of the doubt?

If you recall, 2012’s Journey ended up winning just about every conceivable industry award. From the smallest sources to raking in multiple DICE and BAFTA accolades, Thatgamecompany’s surrealistic, highly artistic game won the hearts of critics everywhere.

Since that time, we’ve seen quite a few independent titles that put a heavy emphasis on the the artistic side of interactive entertainment. This includes games like The Enchanted Swanrain and the recently released Entwined, along with previous titles such as LimboFlower and echochrome. Great games all, but how great?

Do critics tend to give the “artier” games the benefit of the doubt? Most games don’t have the depth of mechanics or content that other games have, so perhaps those high scores are indeed due to a professional bias. And if that’s true, perhaps it’s because journalists continue to infuse legitimacy into a supposedly mainstream industry.

Limbo is another one of those "artsy" games that, while damn good, might not be THAT good.

Limbo is another one of those “artsy” games that, while damn good, might not be THAT good.

As critics, all of us here at VGRHQ admit to falling into the trap: Because we grew up in a time when gaming was mocked and not taken seriously, we’re always looking for games that prove something. We’re looking for titles that prove to the naysayers that indeed, video games are about more than bullets and blood. They’re about more than death and rapid-fire, visceral imagery. In fact, they can be anything developers want them to be, and immensely creative developers can produce truly innovative, even revolutionary, experiences.

Many of the games listed here scored extremely well with critics; they even outscored some of the biggest AAA productions of that year. Now, we’re not saying this is wrong. Many of us voted for Journey for GotY 2012. What we’re saying is that when a new, obviously artistically-inspired game comes out, it tends to be looked upon with favor by most industry professionals. You’ll notice that many really liked the indie, “artsy-fartsy” games shown off during E3, even more so than the heavy hitting blockbuster IPs.

Do some critics have a bone to pick with the world? Are they more likely to be lenient with games that aren’t violent? Simply to prove that we’re not an industry that thrives on violence?


7 thoughts on “Debate: Are Critics Too Infatuated with “Arty” Games?”

Not at all. I think such games bring freshness to the industry, and that’s what critics are (correctly) rewarding. So what if they’re not breaking technical boundaries? They’re breaking artistic boundaries, which is far more important right now.

Yes, but isn’t that still a bias? I mean, even if it’s the right approach to take, that still means you’re giving preference to one type of game over another.

I wouldn’t complain because I agree that such games are very important right now, but it still qualifies as “bias,” does it not? 😉

I wouldn’t call it a bias, per se. They’re just emphasizing a trait that gaming really needs right now. I guess you could call that “biased” but in a good way. 😉

These games are a major driving force of innovation in the industry. It would be a shame if they got less attention than they do, in fact often times they don’t get enough attention.

Yes and no.

I mean, yes because critics do seem to be giving a lot of these games the benefit of the doubt in reviews, and no, because we NEED games like this right now. Badly.

I just think critics like the fact that things are changing for the better in this industry. What’s wrong with rewarding that change?

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