My Issues with Matthew Matosis

I honestly feel more than a bit of hesitation criticizing Matthew Matosis. He’s a rather popular guy. He puts in the work. He’s extremely thorough He’s not a shameful embarrassment like the Game Theorists, Extra Credits, Campster, or any number of other writers who make fools of themselves trying to critique games, but when I hear him get held up like he’s revolutionary or his reviews are brilliant I start to get irritated. His work isn’t any more exemplary than the traditional game reviews of the past few decades, it’s just more thorough in making kind of vague dry observations about the more obvious parts of games, and it accords with the opinions of many “core” gamers, taking up a lot of more traditionally held values for games and picking the right side on most issues rather than picking the wrong side occasionally, but doing an actually good job arguing his case.

Okay. Lets put it like this. Matthew Matosis is not a game reviewer or critic. He’s more of an experience reviewer.

He’s not reviewing from the perspective that the thing he’s reviewing is a game. This is why his videos are exclusively focused on single player games (‘cept for DotA 2). He reviews them like they’re the new media equivalent of films/books/etc. Thankfully he’s not as dumb as Errant Signal and others like him and doesn’t review them literally like they’re literature or film.

The topic of focus in all his reviews is centered on what the developer is trying to express and whether this comes across in the experience delivered to the player. He cares about the emotional overtones of the game, the belief in the game world through immersion, obvious user experience issues (like whether some part of the controls or camera work weirdly), places where the developer put in effort (whether it’s to success or failure), things that express the design mentality of the director, and an endless stream of little details.

To that end, I’d characterize Matthew Matosis’s critique as Superficial or Bland. He’s endlessly thorough about commenting on every element that exists in a work, but he glosses over every detail he covers. He’s popular because everyone else glosses over details too, but they’re less thorough, get the details wrong, or end up with the wrong opinion. He’s better than most simply because he’s less worse than most and puts in more effort, but in the process he’s produced a better bland review rather than one that actually captures the spirit of the game.

So how are his reviews bland exactly? Lets go with his Mario 64 review, one of his most popular. In his analysis of Bob-omb battlefield, he mentions that there are no bottomless pits, and that’s about as far as his commentary on the first level goes. He makes almost no mention of the orientation of the different elements composing the level, the trip up to the boss for the first star, or the choice or design of the enemies present in the first level. At most he mentions that it’s weird to include the chain chomp, because it’s punishing, for dealing 3 units of damage, and that the boss cannot deal damage to Mario directly. This ignores the way those elements work or the way the player interacts with them, or how, as parts of the first level, they teach the player something about how to play the game that they need to know for later. It ignores how the first level creates multiple possibilities and challenges for the player that push the player to understand and improve at the game, or replay it in different ways.

His remark that the star doors, “blow the door wide open on player progression,” doesn’t mean anything. There’s no description of how this system is beneficial to the game or interesting in its own right. He cares that the unlock system, “never feels too restrictive”. He doesn’t mention any details of how the castle is even connected or what areas and where get unlocked by getting more stars, and the relationship between the number of stars available in the currently open courses to the stars required to progress. By failing to do this, he only has an ungrounded conclusion that he can just say because he can say it. It doesn’t feel like he’s getting into the meat of the game, it feels like he’s just saying random observations that don’t seem to coalesce into any conception of how this game is successful or how to modify or replicate it. Rather than praise the level design of the castle itself, he cares more that the castle acts as a hub between levels because having a level that a character moves around in is less . He cares that the feature is there more than any particular aspect of it, which is why he says that the castle is worthy of praise, but fails to mention any aspect of the castle. He has a very results oriented focus rather than a process oriented focus in his reviews. I don’t think this is a good way to review media products, especially games. To really evaluate whether the product is good, I believe you need to analyze the composition of each element of the product, not merely the superficial presence or arrangement of the elements. He later goes on to mention some ways that the hub allows levels to be manipulated, more content that there are these elements or that they seem particularly clever than what they offer the game.

After this he goes on to discuss some of the mechanics, first stating that they form a sort of “language” with which the player “communicates” with the game. Matosis loves statements like this that have only a vague sort of meaning and don’t communicate any type of useful information. He remarks that the most thoughtfully crafted mechanics are those used for movement, but he barely puts any thought into his analysis of those mechanics.

Next he goes over the way each of the courses has 7 stars that need to be gathered separately. Rather than discuss the impacts this had on the design of each of the stages, what with extraneous elements in courses that don’t fit the current star you’re after or allow you to go down the wrong path, he discusses the reasons the developers might have done this. He has a tendency to do this in many of his videos, attempting to guess at technical or developmental reasons that developers might have chosen a specific approach, instead of simply reviewing the game as it is. He guesses that limited cartridge space meant that reusing assets meant more bang for buck. He guesses that the tools level designers had back then to model 3d objects were more constrained, so it must have been harder to develop 3d levels. He’s an amateur on these topics and frankly doesn’t know the actual limitations or developmental constraints in question. We don’t know how many or how detailed levels could be fit on an N64 cartridge (Mario 64 was 8MB, Star Fox 64 was 12MB, Zelda OoT and MM were 32MB). It’s theoretically possible they could have given every star its own level or had as many individual levels as say mario 3 or super mario world. The BSP editing tools of the time for editing 3d levels weren’t actually bad. They made Quake and Half Life after all. There’s an argument to be made that the BSP editing tools of times past allowed editors to do a better job of designing 3d levels than modern tools which have deprecated or limited many of their BSP editing functions in favor of static meshes, which is why modern level design looks really pretty but has become less engaging, because it’s tougher to quickly and accurately lay out the shapes that form the architecture of the level, allowing for faster prototyping and iteration, which helps designers build levels that play in interesting ways.

Matthew Matosis’s regular habit of attempting to guess at the developmental process (something he’s regularly shown he’s not extremely knowledgeable about) does the games he reviews a disservice. By commenting on the way the game might have been developed rather than the things the game consists of, he’s giving the game an excuse for being worse than it could have been or should have been. He’s brushing over the detail of whether the levels in question are actually good or not by merely remarking on whether they’re “good for the time”, because the constraints of the time shouldn’t be factored into whether they made a good game in the end. Good games were made before Mario 64 and good games were made after it. It should only really matter whether Mario 64 is good, but commenting on development methods, saying that the developers “put thought into things”, are ways of complimenting the developers more than the game, as if trying hard counts for more than genuine success.

His focus on the superficial is why he cares so much about “nice touches” like the decoy penguin near the penguin mother, the execution of wet dry world (purely because it’s unique in concept, he admitted he disliked the execution), the linearity of bowser’s levels versus others, that all the songs are new instead of repeated, the use of sprites instead of 3d models for some objects, that some levels are made with coins inside enemies presumably to get around the sprite drawing limitations, the entire discussion on the snow effect in the snow levels (which is probably wrong from a technical perspective, given the sprites render on top of enemies. It would be harder to make them actual objects in the world and then incorrectly assign z-depth to them. It’s really easy to make snowflakes on a 2d plane with projected depth through simple parallax math so that it matches the rotation speed of the camera, appearing to have a place in the environment, but not actually having one, requiring you to draw it on top. The idea that they’d generate and keep track of tons of particles in 3d space, then deliberately strip them of their z-depth is absurd. This whole section feels like him trying to impress us with technical knowledge, he does this frequently and is usually wrong. EDIT: Seems truth is stranger than my guess or MM’s, the particles are actually generated in 3d space in a limited area very close to the camera, explaining why they always overlap objects. This is why I usually don’t guess at technical implementation), the story of miyamoto originally making the game about chasing a rabbit until the controls felt good enough to build a larger game on (completely skipping a discussion of the actual feeling of mario’s movements), the development of the sideflip and backflip.

Even after acknowledging the huge role the movement mechanics play in the game his dissection of them is disappointing. He says the walljump “feels fantastic” making mario “look like an acrobatic master”, which skips over the details of how it actually achieves that, like the windows on when you can walljump, under what circumstances and how it affect’s mario’s momentum differently than standard jumps or other options. He continues to fail to offer such analysis for his other moves, and fails to analyze the relationships and tradeoffs between all the moves, despite himself saying they were so important to the game. Again he makes a guess into the development process of the game with the sideflip and backflip, though admittedly prefacing it with a functional purpose to the division of these moves. The sideflip very well could have been developed first for all Matosis knows, with the backflip added as an afterthought, but as critics and analysts we don’t know that, and in the end it doesn’t matter, only the product as it sits in front of us does.

His entire commentary on “inertial frames of reference” is flat-out wrong on a technical level. Unlike reality, in a computer game, there is no such thing as an inertial frame of reference. In reality there are no absolute positions, and no absolute frame of reference for inertia, in a game there is an absolute reference point for positions, and absolute velocity relative to the absolute system of coordinates. Elevators and moving platforms in the real world work by forces of friction and repulsion. Masses push on each other. The same in video games work (usually) by literally gluing the character’s feet to the floor for as long as they’re touching that surface, moving the character in lock-step with the movement of the platform each frame. Games that allow you to jump on a platform and retain momentum don’t do so by having you be joined with that platform’s internal inertial system, they do so by having you inherit the momentum of the platform as a velocity impulse applied to the character’s total X, Y, and Z velocities at the point where you cease to make contact with the platform. You can see this in games like Unreal Tournament, where you can jump off elevators to keep momentum from them, but if you don’t jump then you won’t be launched when the elevator finishes moving. This type of inertia inheriting from moving platforms wasn’t present in earlier iterations of the series despite his claim otherwise. The bigger issue is that he innately assumes that it’s a bad thing that Mario 64 lacks this, rather than evaluating the challenges in the levels for whether they’re better or worse off for lacking it. A simple point to make is that many of the cases where bars block a moving platform’s path would be simplified or trivialized if you could simply jump when it approaches you with no input on the analog stick, where lacking the inertia inheritance makes it so you need to not only jump correctly past it, but also plan your jump to land on the platform at the end too. A case where a lack such inertial inheritance is more clearly a flaw would be Crysis Warhead, in the train level, where it’s much more difficult to jump forwards up the train in the direction it’s moving than back, made especially irritating when you want to get on top of the front cabin. Realism (or the fictional equivalent, consistency/coherency) is prized by Matthew Matosis because he does not prioritize good gameplay interactions and this is a very clear case of that.

I predict that his reviewing methods would not hold up if he attempted to review a multiplayer competitive game, such as a fighting game, competitive shooter, or RTS. Reviewing competitive multiplayer interactions requires actually talking about the way the mechanics function and how they interact with each other to create a wide range of viable strategies, and can be precisely manipulated to produce different outcomes, something he’s been particularly weak at doing in his videos. That and it seems unlikely he’d be able to make fine criticisms of the small details that shape entire games, like how crouch techs, slow walking speed, 1 frame links, focus attacks, and invincible backdashes shaped the way SF4 played, changes in the pathfinding engine changed the nature of StarCraft 2 from Brood War, or the massive number of changes between Melee and the later Smash games that completely changed the way they play (changes that casual players typically gloss over). He hasn’t paid this much attention to detail to mechanics in his prior videos and it seems unlikely that he’d be able to describe it, much less model how it shapes the entire structure and strategies people play with in a multiplayer competitive game. For that matter, given his bias towards developer intent, he might even label something like later Smash Bros games, or Gunz 2 as being the correct move by the developer, since they more clearly accomplished the vision of the first games, despite being overall worse as games. He simply doesn’t have the correct perspective or methods to review games as games, and I imagine this would shine most true in his hypothetical reviews of competitive multiplayer games. He cares more about things like immersion than fun gameplay, which is regrettable, because it leaves gameplay up as something ineffable, something assumed to be good because all the accompanying elements are good, rather than evaluating the goodness of the gameplay in of itself.

Listen to how many times he mentions immersion in the Shadow of the Colossus review. Look at how often he talks about what he thinks the development team was thinking about Shadow of the Colossus. In most of his videos whenever he mentions the player, he talks about how the experiences are structured to make the player feel a specific thing or structured to avoid making the player feel frustrated. It’s very rarely about the decisionmaking process of the player or how that makes completion difficult or opens up a large possibility space for possible meaningfully different interactions that can occur. In his SotC video, he never once goes over the primary game dynamic: the battle between the player to keep a grip and the colossus to shake them off, the way that the player needs to let go, to risk being thrown off, in order to restore their meter to hang on. He never goes over how the colossi are structured between sections of fur, skin, and rock to make hanging on tricky and require you to pass at certain times. He mentions the grip meter in passing and has a ton of complaints about there literally being a HUD at all, like having a HUD is a bad thing. Why does he care so much about the HUD? Listen to how many times he prattles about how such and such an element is immersive. He’s done a disservice to a frankly brilliant game, and most people are fine with it because he had the right opinion that the brilliant game is good because all these clearly more visible factors are good, even if he didn’t get at the heart and soul of the game.

And he seems to take a weirdly congratulatory stance on tons of things that don’t really matter, where he congratulates the developer for doing things one way when it doesn’t honestly matter how they did it, but seems to congratulate them less for making the right decision and more for having a thing in their game that is noticeable and affects the player. He cares a lot about superficial details that are plainly visible and show thought of some kind, more than say game mechanics or whether the details in question actually uphold the central design. Through this he seems to paint a picture that making a good game isn’t about fun interactions, but rather an endless assortment of tiny details that give character to the world and experience, even if they’re completely pointless, or if the alternatives were just as valid.

He’s not a *game* critic. He’s about the “experience.” You’re not going to leave his videos with a better understanding of what makes a game good or bad or why that particular game was good or bad. You’re going to leave it feeling self-justified and happy about whatever game it is, because hey, it has so many places where the designer “clearly put thought into it” that it MUST be good, because tiny details are what makes a game good rather than whether it sets up a challenging experience that through its challenges force you to come to understand a system of possibilities across which you can exercise many different choices between solutions to problems, playstyles, and selections of content. He’s not a game critic, and when he tries to critique, like with Dark Souls 2, he falls flat because he gets details horribly horribly wrong. Because trying to say what went wrong with something and how to fix it demands a level of accuracy and awareness of how the parts in the system fit together that he does not normally deliver.

I think his Dust Force review is a good example of his failures to  because he described that game as being “built for speedrunning” when I’ve always seen it as built to discourage speedrunning, to be one of the least interesting speedgames out there. Half Life is built for speedrunning. Super Metroid is built for speedrunning. Dark Souls is built for speedrunning. Of course none of these games were literally intended to be speedrun, they just happen to have a structure that is naturally good for it, because they were built to be good games. Dustforce is built to follow the path as optimally as possible, not to find or create it. And Mirror’s Edge’s was intended to be built in the same linear and limited sort of fashion, yet outside of its intention it’s a great game for speedrunning because of all these unintended factors that rip apart the developer constraints and create freedom and challenge for the players, but he can never acknowledge a game like that because he exclusively reviews within the author’s intention. Speedrunning isn’t something explicitly designed for, it’s a function of the game that is good or bad based on a higher principle outside developer intention. Of course he’d pick a game that was deliberately built for speedrunning with a lame speedrun. It fits his modus operandi perfectly. He doesn’t care about gameplay, he only cares about developer intent and vision for the player’s experience, and this should make it clear.

He has a video that spends 10 minutes telling you, “did you know Pac man has scores? Did you know that there’s an end to the game and therefore a maximum high score? Did you know that the ghosts follow the same pattern every single level so if you move the same way, they will too?”

He never once talks about the scoring system of pac-man in that entire video. He doesn’t mention how high scores grants extra lives, he doesn’t mention how fruit appears, or the bonuses for eating multiple ghosts in a row. He doesn’t talk about eating the pellets granting score either. He’s not talking about how these elements cohesively create a challenge of conflicting motivations, making score optimization difficult, because gaining in one area means sacrificing in another. He’s clearly never watched an actual pac-man high score run, since he claims that because the ghosts are deterministic that players repeat the same thing every level, which they clearly don’t and he’d know that with even cursory research.

It’s a long rambly rant on the fact that maximum scores for games literally exist at all and the realization that competing over time supplants score when reaching the maximum score is attainable/common.

It’s not a catch 22 situation between randomness and determinism, there are perfectly deterministic score based games that people still have not reached the maximum possible score in, even after a factor of decades, because people are inconsistent. We’ve known how to get the optimal time in Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong for years and years thanks to TASers, but no human player can get anywhere close to TAS times in most games because they’re too inconsistent.

Maybe I think too next level, but a lot of these remarks on scoring are really obvious, basic conclusions that are kind of ignorant of how people play games. A lot of people go for scores in games where they could never possibly reach the top score, because it’s fun to get a good score. Games ending isn’t necessarily a problem because perfectly optimizing for score in them is impossible because it requires too finnicky movements. Imagine a maximum score run in Touhou, a game where you get scored for brushing up against as many bullets as possible, hitting the enemy with your shots, especially out of focus fire mode, and also collecting item drops, you can collect all the items on the screen by going above a certain point on the screen, but that puts you further away from the majority of bullets and also puts you closer to the source of the bullets, which is dangerous.

That and he doesn’t address how a challenge may have randomized elements but still be fair because it’s within reactionary boundaries, like tetris, or like common reflex tests, or like practicing Fox up throw chaingrabs, or tech chasing in the 20XX hackpack.

That and some games may be so difficult that even if they’re deterministic, most people don’t last too long in endless. Especially true for real time games with a decay factor of some kind that will destroy you without sustained input (see flappy bird, even though flappy bird was somewhat random) or ones that scale up in difficulty over time.

Most of his whole rant isn’t applicable to most of all score based games, it’s really only worrying about upper boundary concerns that aren’t even relevant for the vast majority of games that have scoreboards at all, because most people have never and will never reach the maximum score. It has bloody nothing to do with scoring systems, how they’re designed to be fun, or even how pac man’s scoring system is fun. There’s almost nothing that can be learned from that video, it’s practically masturbatory thought for the sake of thought on something incredibly obscure and irrelevant.

That and he didn’t mention space invaders, where the high score was achieved over a course of days continuously playing the machine, and they took rest periods by leaving the machine on and letting all the extra lives they had racked up tank for them so they could eventually come back and keep going.

He doesn’t get into the types of details like the Super Bunnyhop Guy got in his MGS3 video (I’m not saying the super bunnyhop guy is better, he got one alright detail of a review correct) Critical Close-up: Metal Gear Solid 3 He captures the way the game works better than Matthew does, explaining how the game’s various options create a wide set of possibilities that in turn put pressure on the player both to find solutions and to successfully execute them because of their inherent difficulty. This isn’t a thing I think Matthew Matosis has captured in any of his reviews, they’re scattered, occasionally insightful, observations on the game, but not something that really says, “here’s why this is a fun game”.

Overall his reviews still aren’t what I want to see out of game reviewers. http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/429573-broodwar-and-starcraft-2-pathing like here’s a random and far-too-long example of the sort of things I’d expect to see condensed into a game review, the ability to look at how the various factors that make up the gameplay are put together and how they would influence the means by which the players play, then to attempt to quantify why this is good or bad.

Another one I’d cite is the Game Design Companion on Warioland 4 by Daniel Johnson, which unfortunately is not a game review, not judgmental in any way, and is also too long. I expect that type of information to be embedded in game reviews in a more condensed format and used to assess games more frequently, and that’s a very different information type than I see in his reviews or any existing review. Articles like these are rare as all hell, and they’re obviously not game reviews, but they’re the direction game reviews should be moving in to more appropriately assess games from a systems perspective. That and you use weasel words like “they must have put a lot of thought into this” or “This feels like the right balance between whatever and whatever” which are filler statements that don’t really explain anything or explained how they arrived at these conclusions, or by what criteria.

A more recent example would be Joseph Anderson, who even when I disagree with him, clearly describes the gameplay and level design elements of games, using evidence from the games to back up his conclusions about games instead of mere assertions.

Matthew’s not thinking about games on a technical level, on a level of how the game accomplishes the goal of being a game, a system that you try to overcome and how you fail sometimes, but you get better so you can ultimately move forward or do better, that produces a variety of different possibilities from player decisions and uses difficulty to encourage balance between all these possibilities, so the player has to think and execute using a variety of skills. He’s not thinking about the process by which players overcome satisfying challenges, he’s thinking more about how the game is constructed to make the player feel like they’ve gone on an adventure in line with the developer’s vision for the player experience. This is why I’d like to see him comment on a multiplayer game or attempt more critique of games, establishing what went right/wrong and how to replicate/fix it, because in that context he’d have to try harder to do a better job.

But hey, lets look on the positive side: Matthew Matosis is less bad than the common game reviewer. He’s not doing anything outright offensive, like giving the wrong opinions of the wrong games like common game outlets are typically indicted for. He’s certainly thorough if nothing else. However his approach puts gameplay at a lower priority than superficial bland commentary on assorted details, and I worry that it perpetuates and inspires a new generation of critics who repeat his mistake.

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46 thoughts on “My Issues with Matthew Matosis

  1. Luis October 9, 2015 / 4:21 pm

    You mention that “smash 4 fixed most of the issues with it(it being Brawl) even though it didn’t”, but what exactly do you mean by that? I know you’re just throwing punches in the dark about what Mathew Matosis might say, which is a little hypocritical since you mention Mathew saying shit like “blows the door wide open on player progression”. To Mathew’s defense I’m pretty sure he’s not just saying random shit, but truth be told I do agree that he should back up his statements to some extent.

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    • Chris Wagar October 9, 2015 / 4:26 pm

      You’re totally right. A friend pointed out that a lot of this is punches in the dark at things he might say. I should rewrite this with more specific criticisms of his videos.

      Smash 4 didn’t fix a lot of the issues with Brawl, they play extremely similarly, but a lot of people claim that Smash 4 fixed everything brawl got wrong, so it’s actually good. Hell, ignore that whole section, I’m going to tear it down anyway.

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      • Luis March 5, 2016 / 6:42 am

        Cool. I read some of your other stuff and I really like it. Keep it up. I see you’re a big fan of Melee and PM, same here. I’ve been getting into Smash4 recently though since it isn’t so terribly balanced anymore and now a bit more fun after learning to using foxtrots, extended dash dances and perfect pivots. I’d like to see your thoughts on it.

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        • Chris Wagar March 5, 2016 / 9:44 pm

          The short is that I’m not a fan, as you might surmise from a lot of my ask.fm answers (which most of the blogposts here are, but not everything is reposted). The fox trot and perfect pivot options exist in melee and PM, but there are a lot more movement options in those games that fill out the space between those two, allowing you to weave through attacks a lot more fluidly.

          Smash 4 is much slower and less technical, lacks a lot of the dynamics that melee has in favor of all neutral game all the time.

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    • Chris Wagar October 9, 2015 / 4:33 pm

      I’ve crossed out the sections that shouldn’t be included now, and updated the Mario 64 section a little to have more clear language.

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  2. mrmonday99 November 21, 2015 / 6:59 am

    Excellent analysis Chris! While Matthew’s statements and comments about certain areas of a game may seem vague, he must take the standpoint that his audience have played through them all. It’s up to the audience whether they think it’s fun or or not. The enjoyment is subjective and personal, the story, immersion and overall experience of the game is open too interpretation but can be critiqued. Same could be said for the gameplay and mechanics, but it’s up to the player on what they take out of it.

    As for a review on mp games such as the one’s you’ve listed are completely different. With video games as an immerging media and dare I say art form, it’s hard to distiguish between those two types of catagories. Take this for example: a domestic, stainless steel knife, and a stainless steel knife in an art gallery. They’re both in the same thing but when one spends the time alone to observe one and reflect on it their attitudes between the two are completely different. In the domecile they’re regarded as tools and means to create but when oberved and reflected on, thoughts of danger, fear and pain emerge as this is what knives are associated with outside of the household. And while yes, Matthew’s reviews wouldn’t be as effective if he reviewed them from his immersion and designer’s intention standpoint his quality wpuld falter but I speculate (much like you have during your analysis) that Matthew would be able to critique a game’s mechanics just as well as he does from his main standpoint.

    All nitpicks aside, you’ve opened my eyes on the fact that he is not the holy grail to game reviewers, but is pretty damn close in a room full of grimy dusty goblets.

    Cheers, Joseph

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  3. bom December 20, 2015 / 10:42 pm

    I’ve always felt that the reason he doesn’t mention parts of the game like fruit affecting score and the places they appear in pacman to create a certain strategy is because he thinks they aren’t worthwhile to point out since they might be either fairly obvious, a little unrelated to his thread of thought, or just not interesting enough acknowledge.

    Some other reviews sound like a fact sheet listing the date, genre, and in game opportunities the game gives the player more than intelligent thoughts about the game. I appreciate his reviews because he bypasses those banalities when they don’t serve a more sophisticated purpose.

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    • Chris Wagar December 25, 2015 / 9:47 am

      The problem is, his commentary on pacman has absolutely nothing to do with the scoring system of pacman. He’s not remarking on whether it’s a good or bad scoring system, he’s not addressing any part of the actual scoring system of pacman. Look, I know that it’s fairly obvious that you get points when you eat fruits in pacman. I know it’s obvious how many points you get for eating ghosts, it’s written on the arcade cabinet, but these are things that affect how the scoring system actually works, what behaviors it elicits from players. Even if something is obvious, the way it affects the game might not be. He didn’t do even the minimum level of work necessary to address pac-man’s scoring system, mostly because the video wasn’t actually about pacman’s scoring system, despite being titled as such, it was really about how having a maximum score limit is kind of alright. It’s not a topic that’s of use to anyone trying to make a fun scoring system, or learn from pacman’s scoring system, it’s about extreme edge cases. That and he didn’t even do enough research to learn about the early Space Invader high scores, where they earned so many lives, they literally took breaks to eat and sleep while their extra lives tanked for them.

      I’m not asking him to do fact sheet reviews. I’m asking for him to actually assess the ways in which the scoring system of pac-man creates strategy for the player, accomplishes a design goal of some sort, any sort. A lot of the information he spent so long rambling about could be summed up in significantly less time, leaving him time to cover actually interesting topics.

      He doesn’t bypass any sort of banality, his reviews are filled with banality. See his recent 6 hour dark souls video, which is possibly the most banal thing I’ve ever heard on the game. Compare that to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2RckfYLVXI It’s significantly shorter and conveys FAR more useful information about the actual game design of dark souls. He wastes so much time on things that aren’t useful to anyone, and don’t have anything to do with the quality of the game he’s reviewing. That’s the definition of banal.

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  4. W March 13, 2016 / 8:32 am

    Good gosh how delusional are you? This is probably the biggest strawman argument I have ever seen online.

    You literally. LITERALLY. Put words in Matthewmatosis’s mouth!
    “If he reviewed Smash he would say Blah blah blah”
    Except he DIDNT review Smash and he DIDNT say any of those things! You did!! YOU made the argument! You’ve just randomly attatched it to Matthewmatosis.

    Bloody hell, thats like saying “That baker is right but HMPH hes only sub-par because he hasnt fried anything before! Oh, and I bet if he did he would do it like this and now I’ll tell you why thats wrong even though its ME doing it not him”

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    • Chris Wagar March 13, 2016 / 7:10 pm

      You’re right that it’s not fair to critique him on stuff he never said. However I’m making a criticism of his method. The thing I’m trying to prove is that his method is bunk, not just his existing body of writing. The thing I wanted to make a case for is that he would produce more bad writing in the future. It’s easy to look back on things in hindsight and say, “it was all so simple and obvious, how did you screw this up?” This is why people attempting to explain/understand things make testable predictions. I wanted to point out something he hadn’t done and try to explain how his methodology would fail more obviously in that context where it’s weaker so that it would be more obvious where it fails in contexts where it’s stronger.

      The baker’s bread looks fresh on the outside, but is sour on the inside (and not even delicious sourdough). If he baked a bread without crust, it would be obvious to see what a poor baker he is.

      Not to mention I made a number of specific criticisms of MM in addition to my prediction. That is not the bulk of my argument. The way he reviews games right now is not fine.

      Like

  5. Mulgar H July 13, 2016 / 1:27 pm

    I like the new section you edited in, but I wonder if you should have made this a new revised post about MatthewMatosis instead of editing the old one. The criticisms in the comments section here mostly apply to that old post.

    I actually met John Romero in person (it was awesome) and when I asked him about Quake mapping he mentioned that the tools they used to make Q1 maps weren’t that much different from Doom.
    He said that they could only view the editor from a top-down 2D slice of the map and that you had to move up and down layer by layer. Pretty impressive then to be able to make maps that spiral around and intersect like they did.

    Like

    • Chris Wagar July 13, 2016 / 2:00 pm

      I updated this one because it’s one of the articles on here that gets the most traffic. Posting a new one would lead to less people seeing it. It does have that unfortunate side effect that the criticisms no longer line up with the post as it is currently, but people can probably see this comment and understand why I did it.

      Also that’s crazy. I didn’t know they were that limited in making Quake. The Doom tools were perfect for that game and enabled multiple generations of modders, but using those on a 3d environment seems crazy. Again, it kind of goes to show that the tools aren’t really an excuse for bad design, since you can do crazy things on a shoestring.

      Like

  6. Goose August 15, 2016 / 6:14 am

    I like your point about how he shouldn’t speculate about the development process if he wasn’t there while it was happening, because a truly great game is timeless and shouldn’t need excuses to be made for it. As for him not describing or articulating his descriptions of gameplay aspects, that can be explained by the fact that he assumes the viewer has already played the game. He doesn’t need to describe exactly what the game does because you’ve already seen it yourself; his saying it again would be redundant and add runtime to his already incredibly long videos. He describes the things that were especially relevant to him as he played, and his specific reactions to them, in order to encourage that same thought process in his audience.

    Like

    • Chris Wagar August 15, 2016 / 12:50 pm

      Just because you played the game does not mean you can necessarily accurately describe how a mechanic works. Here’s a review done in the matthew matosis style by another dude that I critiqued.

      http://pastebin.com/AqaZzkJK
      Check line 51 onwards. Even if you played the game, you can’t necessarily give words to this stuff unless you know what you’re looking for.

      The thing is, even if you’ve seen a mechanic for yourself, rarely do you actually understand it. MM mentions a lot of mechanics, but fails to truly describe them, instead using vague mushy words about how they feel, without an explanation of why they feel that way. He’s presenting conclusions without evidence. The game can’t be taken as self-evident here, because the factors that go into how a motion feels are not clearly evident to everyone. This type of analysis wouldn’t pass among say animators. Try reading The Animator’s Survival Kit, which has a number of clear examples of animators correcting one another’s work down to the frame level and giving very precise explanations of the exact reasons for doing so in clear understandable language.

      Like

      • Goose August 15, 2016 / 9:38 pm

        I’d say that someone who’s invested enough in a game to watch an hour long review of it done in this style probably knows the game well enough that they could articulate its mechanics to some degree, but I see your point XD
        Again, your point about him trying to see from the perspective of a developer (especially because he’s usually wrong) is a very apt one. He should focus on more narrative-focused games in the future, because his vague, experienced-focused style of writing suits explaining narrative elements or how gameplay informs a narrative rather than simply the mechanics themselves. His Zelda reviews are much better than his Mario ones because Zelda games don’t live and die on mechanics like Mario games do, and his best review, Bioshock Infinite, is for a game that relies very heavily on story.

        Like

        • Chris Wagar August 15, 2016 / 10:30 pm

          I think Zelda games do live or die on mechanics personally. I think every 3d zelda game has died on mechanics and people stopped thinking they were about mechanics because of the repeated failure of mechanics, and now nobody knows what’s wrong with zelda because nobody is willing to consider that maybe it’s the mechanics.

          No, most of the people dedicated enough can’t articulate the mechanics, and neither can matthew matosis. There’s a greater level of detail and specificity he could be calling on that he is not. There are more deep observations about how the game is made that he could be making. Instead he says mario’s walljumps make him feel like an acrobat instead of remarking on their trajectory, the window of opportunity for them, the amount of air control you have during them and influence on the initial trajectory. Can you right now picture all of those things in your head? I can’t. I’d need to replay the game. To record what I did about Crash Bandicoot I needed the game right in front of me, allowing me to input and test things. It’s not something obvious from video, it’s not something easily logged into memory unless you play and replay a game many times.

          If his style is more suited for narrative-focused games, then his style is not good for reviewing games.

          We need reviewers who are better at describing the mechanical aspect.

          Like

      • Goose August 15, 2016 / 9:41 pm

        Also, Jesus, that Crash Bandicoot guy needs some 5 hour energy or something. Matthew’s monotone, but that guy takes it to a whole new level.

        Like

  7. choinheap September 23, 2016 / 2:55 am

    I think Matt actually touches a lot on what the actual output of the game means to him a lot of the time. When I say output I just mean the game as a whole. The reason why Mario’s jumping makes him feel like an acrobat is because that’s what it ended up feeling for him. Pointing out how the programming of the jump worked or how good the animations look is kind of besides the point. Sure it sounds pure and unfiltered but I think a lot of people play games for escapism. There are programming/design/art tools to get to that point, but they’re just a means to fully realize whatever the gamedev wants to convey.

    As someone who designs and develops games all the time: I really don’t get my inspiration from potential game physics algorithms for some character’s jump movement. Maybe there are people out there that do but I think taking from real life experiences and wanting to supercharge them a bit is what makes games interesting to me.

    There are a lot of “well designed” games that do something with the mechanics of whatever established genre. They typically impress me as a designer and make me go “why didn’t I think of that” etc. But when there’s no sense of wonderment or charm to the game it kind of makes the game feel very artificial. I kept remarking at how Echochrome was really inventive and amazing but then realized I never bothered to play through it all or actually enjoy it. There was no hook or involvement really, just felt purely academic. Probably because the game was extremely neutral, and white and was devoid of any real human ideas.

    In hindsight a lot of my favorite games just… aren’t that well designed. There are flaws in every one of them and most character movement/feel in general is seems pretty damn incidental. The dirty word “experience” comes in when you realize you’re exploring a space with some well made excuses to do things in. It’s just too hard for me to separate the visuals and the story of a game when they can be really tangible. At times I find it hard to distinguish if that was a well done design or just a well done scenario where all the elements fit together.

    I’m just not all that willing to make the next “Chess”. I think the overfocus on game mechanics can be a path to get lost in for anyone into analyzing or developing games. Because I just don’t see video games as just “board-games but not having to be turn based.” They’re a little more than that.

    Like

    • RDI September 23, 2016 / 3:30 am

      https://critpoints.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/immersion-is-fake-and-a-menace/

      Wonderment and charm seem to mean little to Chris. I believe gameplay to be the most important aspect of a video game, but I never thought that there would be such an extreme extrapolation of my mentality.

      Each human experiences a game differently. There is no avoiding subjective taste and experience, regardless of the mechanics. I know that “subjective” is a bit of a swear word here in this regard, but Chris’ overfocus on the mechanics ironically cause him to come off as somewhat mechanical himself.

      Like

    • treeghettox September 23, 2016 / 4:11 am

      Of course games need personality. Here’s the thing, though: there is little to know value evaluating subjective aspects of games such as music or graphics or “immersion.” As your rambling, vague writing above demonstrates, no matter how intelligent you try to make your argument seem, it almost always boils down to “I like this style. I think it’s cool. It makes me feel good inside.” You’re never going to convince people that hate something that’s subjective is good or vice-versa; discussion in this realm is always fruitless. At best, it results in an “agree to disagree” situation.

      However, discussing games logically and objectively (i.e. focusing entirely on empirical facts and the technical aspects of games) is valuable. It yields intelligent discourse that has the potential to drive the medium forwards. It’s exactly like the difference between science and art. Scientific discussions yield real-world breakthroughs consistently that advance our species. Artistic discussions (including bullshit like philosophy and religion) just run around in circles and nobody changes their opinion unless they’re weak-willed to begin with.

      I feel ya. I love the artistic aspects of games, and I gotta say, I despise soulless games like Echochrome from the very bottom of my heart. I could talk for days about my passion towards video game music and art. However, this will never yield anything useful other than me expressing my opinion. On the other hand, most conversations I have about pure gameplay are resolved by either me or the other person changing our minds and thinking about games in a new way. Before talking to Chris, I thought DMC was lame bullshit that was universally inferior to Ninja Gaiden. Now I realize that the series contains a certain type of depth that Ninja Gaiden lacks. By the same token, Chris had several misconceptions about NG that I was able to reconcile through facts. However, if we were to discuss things like music or graphics or story, again, it would result in “agree to disagree.” Do you see how that’s useless in comparison?

      Like

      • RDI September 23, 2016 / 3:19 pm

        …Is the sole purpose of a discussion to change one’s mind? Even a discussion that resolves in agreeing to disagree can yield mind opening insights on behalf of all parties involved in the process.

        Like

    • Chris Wagar September 23, 2016 / 6:29 am

      I recognize that Matt comments on what the game means to him as a whole. I attempted to address that. I think that pointing out the programming of the jump or how good the animations looked is an important part of establishing why it made him feel like an acrobat, because if they were programmed or animated differently, then it wouldn’t make him feel like an acrobat. Saying just the acrobat part is presenting a conclusion. The programming and animations are supporting evidence for a conclusion.

      The fact is, there are very real, measurable, things that go into generating that feeling. If we understand those things on a broader level, then we can recreate or augment those feelings. If we consign them to just the conclusions, then we lose that tool. We willfully discard it.

      If you think Echochrome is really inventive, but don’t enjoy it, then it’s probably not actually really well designed. Good design makes games fun. People tend to have weird ideas and dichotomies between what makes good design and what makes a game fun. I think you’re presenting one of these with echochrome. Further, I don’t like this dichotomy that good design is somehow not a “human idea.” It was invented by humans, to fit the tastes of humans, is talked about by humans, and practiced by humans. It’s very lively, it’s very creative, with a lot of room for personal expression and interpretation.

      If you want to continue to view games the way you do, I don’t care to stop you. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about using “dirty words” with me. We can have a frank and honest discussion. I realize my perspective is in the minority. I know I cannot replace or remove this conventional view. However I still hope to give you a lens with which to see games that makes them understandable on a more raw fun level. Many people accuse a technical approach to art as removing the humanity from artwork, but by definition, everything we do is human. A more methodological approach is another way of expressing humanity.

      This applies to regular art too. There is a technical side to nearly every art form. Be it painting, animation, scriptwriting, directing, regular writing, sculpture. By learning the methods with which things are built, we can more consistently produce more nuanced products. If we throw away that tool, then we are limiting ourselves to a much smaller group of possible products, arguably lower quality ones. You need to develop skills in order to produce certain types of products, this is non-negotiable, even if you ignore that products have better or worse qualities.

      Video games are not just board games but not turn based, they’re like sports, they’re like swimming, they’re like driving, they’re like walking a tightrope (literally instead of figuratively). They’re this raw realtime challenging interaction that is frequently outside the scope of board games. You might not like viewing them this way, but if you can’t, then you are limiting yourself and your ability to create.

      I am not asking you to cease to enjoy what you do, I’d like to ask you to look more closely at the interactive challenging aspects of it so you can better understand and recreate them on that level, because this perspective is really really important, and it gets completely lost or not represented.

      Like

      • RDI September 23, 2016 / 3:15 pm

        I never intended to insinuate that good design is not a human idea, but that humans will interpret good design differently. Not just the typical “what’s good to me may be bad to you”, but an often overlooked factor; HOW good or bad something is to someone. It’s not a binary. What may be a minor concern to someone may represent a major flaw to someone else.

        I’m sorry, I was weary of you, I have seen you go ham on people with differing views before. I understand the viewpoint that you”re tying to hawk. You enjoy things that take advantage of the unique properties of games as a medium. I consider that a very respectable, progressive lens. I will, by contrast, continue to enjoy games like Batman: Arkham Asylum to explore and collect, fulfill power fantasies, and “be a part of the Batman world”, yes, completely unironically, I know how much you hate that. Yet, I will also play Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!! and experience immense satisfaction by overcoming obstacles. I beat Mike Tyson yesterday. I had to learn about proper punches, and about how Mike’s pattern is dependent on the round time. Paltry compared to high level Melee play, I know, but I think I understand enjoying games at a mechanical level. Speaking of Smash, I enjoy Smash 4 casually for the novelty of playing some of my favorite characters, and having lots of fun playing with friends. There’s a phenomenon that Matthewmatosis ironically told me about. It dictates that people may be biased to justify their own actions or purchases. I think that you’re aware of this as well. I don’t like to think that’s why I enjoy the games I do, but if it is, then so be it. I’m always about trying to get as much fun out of something as I can.

        As for Matthew, I have always considered his insight valuable. I think that Skyward Sword is a great game (did I lose you? 3D Zelda game), and yet, when he expressed distaste for certain aspects of the gameplay, story, and game structure, he proceeded to justify those distastes in a way that wasn’t offensive or biased. You could argue that he needs to look more at the mechanics, but anybody could. You could. What’s too much to some is not enough to others. He has successfully convinced me to experience several titles and has given me great insights on others. His bread is quite delicious to me.

        At this point, if you think my taste in games are shit or plebian, I don’t care. I consider your insight highly valuable, yes, but also Matthew’s. Both of you have problems, of course, but you’re not incompatible.

        Like

        • Chris Wagar September 23, 2016 / 10:33 pm

          You still seem wary of me, saying things like, “did I lose you? 3D Zelda game,” “At this point, if you think my taste in games are shit or plebian, I don’t care,” and generally mentioning games you think I’ll dislike.

          People differ, it happens, but all these individual preferences come from something reflected in the work. We can discuss these differences and arrive at commonalities.

          What point are you actually trying to get across to me? That I’m wrong because I like games for how fun they are through their gameplay instead of all the other elements that compose them? That I’m wrong to claim Matt’s analysis is rather bland because it’s more or less summing up popular opinion, with vague conclusions and little insight or learning? That I’m wrong to ask for better analysis of gameplay?

          I know about the self consistency phenomenon, but you’re seemingly getting mad at me for wanting people to dig deeper, and trying to justify a lack of introspection, both on your own part, and Matt’s part.

          “You could argue that he needs to look more at the mechanics, but anybody could. You could.”
          I argue everyone should, and I do. Are you trying to be rude to me by ignoring the entire rest of this blog? Do you think this one page here is the only page I’ve written? Do you think that I am purely accusing Matt here? I chose Matt because he’s viewed as best in class by many, and I find him fundamentally lacking. If you want to present a case for how he isn’t, you’re welcome to.

          Lets ignore my mechanical bias for half a second, I don’t think Matthew Matosis’s reviews are good analyses of the game on a visual or story level either. I’ve seen competent criticism of a lot of visual art, and of writing, and Matthew’s reviews don’t share the same methodology, they don’t get into why the thing is good or bad nearly as much. They have few ideas for how to improve the work, and skip over so many details that all you’re left with is a vague summary that he thinks it’s good or bad with a few adjectives attached, and maybe an analogy.

          Here’s the critique center on conceptart.org:
          http://www.conceptart.org/forums/forumdisplay.php/59-ART-CRITIQUE-CENTER
          http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php/324668-How-can-I-make-this-more-dynamic
          http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php/324723-long-library-crit
          And I chose two random critiques from some of the current threads that looked interesting. See how the visual elements are able to be pared down like this? I want to do the equivalent of this for gameplay, and nobody is doing it. A lot of people complain at me that it’s already being done (not aware of how poorly), a lot of people tell me I’m getting too caught up in details that are beside the point and a reviewer doesn’t need to be an expert to review. I get all these excuses about why gameplay shouldn’t be a topic of focus. All this pushback to the simple idea that something taken as a token standard, “gameplay is the most important thing,” should be practiced rather than preached.

          I’ll be honest here, you’re being really wishy-washy in your point here. You don’t seem to have any specific objection to my method, you don’t seem to have any specific objection to my critique of Matt, you don’t seem to have any specific objection to my view that games are this very specific interactive challenging entity. It seems more like you just got linked here, don’t really like that I’m being harsh on a reviewer that you like, don’t like that a person with such an extreme viewpoint that seems so hostile towards people having harmless enjoyment exists, and you want to badger me into admitting that some things are just subjective, everyone’s viewpoints are different, nobody did anything wrong, this is just a difference of opinion, priority, perspectives. Do you understand how that is aimed to devalue my viewpoint? (and ipso facto, everyone else’s) If you think that everything is just opinion and there is no certainty or truth, no good except good for our individual selves, then I don’t think we can have a discussion.

          I’m not mad at you. Contrary to what you believe, I am not the type of person who is intolerant of anyone. I’m not going to throw you out. I’m not going to dismiss everything you say because I think your taste is shit or plebian. I don’t care about any of that. I just want an honest discussion. Anyone can speak truth if they try. If you have a real objection to me, my blog, my views on subjectivity, or this particular post, I’d like you to get specific about it and present a stronger argument instead of dancing around the issue talking about all the games you like that you think I disapprove of (Protip: Punchout is not a game I disapprove of). Speak to me, and try to change my mind, and in turn please agree to allow your own mind to be changed as I will listen to you, and I hope you listen to me.

          Like

          • RDI September 23, 2016 / 11:56 pm

            Because I am still wary of you. I appreciate you trying to encourage me not to be, but it’s not something that I can help.

            I’m well aware of that.

            You’re not wrong for what method you like a game. I don’t think anybody is. I disagree with your opinion on Matt. What do you mean by popular opinion? Each game tends to have multiple popular opinions surrounding its quality. Is there anything fundamentally wrong with arriving at any of those? You’re not wrong to ask for better gameplay analysis, but you’re being vague. From who? Everybody?

            I’m not mad at you about anything. I’m wary of you, but not mad. As I said, I enjoy your articles and analysis. I just also enjoy Matt’s. Can you elaborate on lack of introspection? Into a game? I’m not seeing that on Matt’s part.

            I’m not trying to be rude to you, and I have read this blog. In fact, I’ve read several articles from this place, and have seen some of your ask. You’re a good read. I know you accuse many reviewers, but isn’t every popular reviewer viewed as the best in their class by their fanbases? I can see why you think he’s fundamentally lacking, he doesn’t talk about the mechanics as much as you’d like, but to me, this simply isn’t an issue, especially considering that his reviews are played almost purely over accommodating gameplay footage, something I wish I see more often.

            Hmmm. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you’re correct, because I simply do not see what you mean by this point. When I watched his Zelda series, He made his opinions clear on what visual styles worked and what didn’t and was able to back it up with reasoning that seemed solid to me, even when I disagreed with him, as I found Wind Waker HD’s artstyle to be superior to the original’s. Didn’t find any problems with his story analysis either, because he always made his opinions on the story clear and backed them up.

            I appreciate your focus on gameplay, but you’re not going to convince me that your method’s are correct and NOBODY ELSE’S is. I don’t think that everybody’s methodology should be like your own, that would be boring. If you’re not satisfied with how deeply everybody else is covering gameplay, then I’m sorry.

            You’re correct about me being wishy-washy, and I’m sorry. I don’t object to your method, I object to you apparently flaunting it as superior to everybody else’s. While I enjoy Matthew’s video’s, I looked on my comments and I never did attack this blog directly. It was more of me defending Matthew and attacking your methods of measuring everybody to your lofty standards. I’ve actually been a reader of your content for a couple of weeks. I suppose we can’t have a discussion, because I do believe in subjectivity and relativity, but I also enjoy analysis, which I believe that you and Matt do very well.

            I never assumed that you disapproved of Punch Out!!!, I used that as an example of my awareness of mechanics, which I believe is nigh essential to defeat Mike Tyson in that game. I enjoy “going through the motion” games as well as mechanical ones. I never cared about changing your mind, I was justifying why I liked Matthew Matosis as I express distaste your overfocus on intrinsic mechanics, which I don’t think is so bad if it didn’t cause you to trash every reviewer who doesn’t seem to analyze the games in the method you do.

            I appreciate your academic approach, but I’m sorry. It will be difficult to cause me to change my mind about Matthew Matosis even after reading your articles about him. Your issues with him are minor concerns to me. Perhaps I’m a neophyte to the industry, despite gaming for over fifteen years, but I get interesting viewpoints into a game whenever I look at Matthew’s videos. The same goes for your articles. I enjoy you both. It’s difficult for me to change my opinion on anything, as I think that enjoyment is more of a “feel” thing than a “think” one, and, conversely, I try my best to let others have their opinions too. My initial post was criticizing your method of analysis, but it wasn’t out of any problem I had with it, it was because you seemed to expect everybody else to do the same, though you still come off as mechanical to me.

            Heh, I’m really wishy washy, aren’t I? I may as well concede right now. I enjoy your work, but I doubt anything will come of this discussion, and I’m sorry. Feel free to continue if you wish.

            Like

            • treeghettox September 24, 2016 / 3:57 am

              So, long story short, you’re butthurt that somebody criticized your daddy. By the way, you’re demonstrating precisely the useless discourse I was talking about.

              Maybe we should focus on talking about games instead of our feelings.

              Like

              • RDI September 24, 2016 / 2:25 pm

                …Huh? I’m actually having some fun. The discussion turned out better than I thought it would.

                Butthurt? I suppose. Someone I like is trashing someone else I like. So, by your logic, it’s my mommy criticising my daddy.

                Like

            • Chris Wagar September 24, 2016 / 5:37 am

              Cool, glad you enjoy my writing.

              I don’t disapprove of absolutely everything everyone else has ever written but me. I maintain a playlist on youtube of analysis videos I like, and a list of good articles I like on pastebin. I’m not the only guy to have ever written something insightful on how games work. My standards aren’t so incredibly high that I’m the only one meeting them. I don’t find fault in everyone but myself.
              http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpxGjTl2g7jNIa9ecmyOFYcYQaWe_5iZL
              http://pastebin.com/NbFYW9B4
              http://pastebin.com/zreCKWcL (uncurated version, much longer, less description, no formatting)

              What I meant by lack of introspection was, you feel a lot, but don’t really examine how you came to those feelings, and are content with just feeling rather than self-examination. At least that is the sense I get from a lot of the game examples you brought up.

              I feel like I am not learning anything from Matt’s videos, like I have learned from so many other articles I’ve read about games. I feel like I’m not really having my tastes examined or justified as is the case with some other video essayists I follow. Matt has never brought up a case convincing enough to change my opinion, or even strongly reaffirm an opinion I’ve had on a game. Super Bunnyhop made me do that about MGS3, where Matt didn’t really.

              If you want to drop the conversation here, that’s fine with me.

              Like

              • RDI September 24, 2016 / 2:57 pm

                Damn it, I can’t find it. I could have swore in one of your articles that you explicitly said that you aimed to convince people that your methodology is correct and nobody else’s. I can’t find it, though, so I suppose that can’t be used as a point. Your description of Matthew Matosis being the best because he’s the least worse also gave me that impression. So, is it that no reviewer strikes your fancy but certain individual reviews do?

                Your mostly correct here. I do find reasons for liking what I do, but I feel as though that it’s an effort to get as close to x=1 as possible. Even if someone destroyed my reasoning, it wouldn’t magically change my enjoyment of something. As a result, it makes it very difficult for anybody’s review to change my opinion about something, so I watch them for how they arrive at their conclusions, something I think Matt does well. It’s not even a matter of “it’s okay to like it, just acknowledge that it’s an objectively bad game” (especially now that “objective” has become an internet code word for “my opinion is better than yours”).

                As I’ve said, I don’t go to see my tastes justified. I enjoy the process. If they agree with me, that’s fine, if they don’t, that’s fine also. I’ve seen some of Super BunnyHop. He’s pretty good. I haven’t seen his MGS3 video yet, so I think I’ll check it out.

                Like

                • Chris Wagar September 25, 2016 / 10:22 pm

                  Sorry for the delay in replying.

                  Yeah, a lot of individual reviewers, or articles, do strike my fancy, but there’s few people I’d say I approve of overall, especially for general video game reviews. Sirlin, I totally approve of nearly every article he writes on game design with the caveat that I wholeheartedly reject his point of view that every form of execution should be removed from a multiplayer competitive game.

                  I’ve had people destroy my reasoning before on games, and I was like, “eh, maybe this game’s not so good after all.” And I replay and find I agree. Prime example being Zelda. I know it’s very difficult to change people’s opinions because when our opinions are challenged, we tend to look for reasons to support our initial belief rather than simply overturning it, which strengthens the belief rather than changing it.

                  I think Matt doesn’t demonstrate how he arrives at his conclusions enough. That’s pretty much the crux of this article. I liked Joseph Anderson’s initial series on dark souls, because I completely disagreed with a lot of it, but he showed a lot of his work.

                  I think that part of seeing criticism is enjoying seeing another way that we can enjoy the work. I like seeing that from various critics and video essayists. I also like having my beliefs challenged. I just like seeing the way things are built being explored and explained.

                  I don’t think my methodology is the only one that is correct, I do watch Mr B Tongue videos after all, because even though they’re about story, which I think has no place in a game review, they’re still generally interesting commentaries on game stories in ways that I think make sense and are very down to earth and realistic. I don’t think they’re relevant to improving games, and so I’d never include one on the lists I linked in my last post, but they’re interesting in their own way.

                  Not to mention of course that I’m obviously not the be-all end-all of analysis. There’s a lot of areas like Level Design that I’m weak in, and other critics do better.

                  I went with MM as best because he’s held up in a way that I don’t see for a lot of other youtube critics in the places I travel. If you don’t see that as much, I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me.

                  Like

                  • RDI September 25, 2016 / 11:50 pm

                    The comments are getting incredibly narrow, heh. Have you had a lengthier discussion on this site?

                    Alright, fair enough.

                    Homogenizing people is a risky undertaking. I see where you’re coming from, but that’s not how I am. If someone destroys my reasoning for liking something, I generally enjoy it anyway. For better or for worse, I don’t require a reason, me finding the words in which to accurately express how I enjoy something is a bonus. If you want a materialistic and rather personal reason as to why I think this way, well, my brain operates in a relatively unconventional manner. Saying this probably destroys any argumentative merit to the discussion I may have, but at least I’m being honest.

                    Alright, fair enough. I’ll concede.

                    Actually, this section in particular made me think of something. The way I see it, Matthew Matosis touches on most or all aspects of a game. Gameplay, graphics, story, music, what have you. The reviews you do, as well as some of the ones you linked to me and are talking about are rather specialized in one aspect, but they generally tend to go deeper than Matthew does. I wonder if this is an accurate analogy; I’m an omnivore, and Matthew serves me an attractive looking platter plate containing all food groups. I walk away satisfied. You are a vegan, and, therefore, not only would you represent a generally more efficient human being, you’d see meat and dairy products as redundant and unhealthy. Take away all of that and you’re left with too few samples of vegetables, fruits, and grains to satisfy you. In that sense (obviously coupled with your blog, though I think this discussion yielded far more results), I THINK I see what you mean about Matthew, and I’d concede that you have your good reasons. Or maybe I’m subconsciously falling victim to your people’s reasoning argument.

                    You’ve proven you’re point here.

                    The problem here is that any reviewer with a sufficiently large fanbase will have groups of people elevating them to be the best. I think what Matthew has is a relative lack of vocal haters (besides “autistic potato nigger” chanting people on 4chan and other like sites).

                    Like

                    • Chris Wagar September 26, 2016 / 12:00 am

                      I have actually had a longer discussion here. The rows ended up one word wide, like this will be. Thankfully the reply button makes the comment wider again.

                      I think your analogy is perfectly appropriate. It’s funny to be called a vegan, but you’re on point there. I used to review graphical style and some elements of story, but I feel like that type of review is off-point. I did it back when I was with GYP because I felt obligated. I think the standard review model of Gameplay/Story/Graphics/Sound/Overall that we’ve had for ages doesn’t do games right. I would not harsh on someone for reviewing all these elements as long as I found their description of the gameplay sufficient. I don’t find it sufficient in MM’s case, and I think SBH is a bit spotty, but he frequently manages to get aspects of the gameplay right, and do a good commentary on story at the same time. His review of MGS3 is again a great example of this.

                      I think MM is liked a lot on 4chan even (having less of the “autistic potato nigger” chanting people than say SBH does), which is why I feel he deserves some criticism. Of course I’ve also criticized SBH, Jim Sterling, and Mark Brown for their relative faults and merits.

                      Like

                    • RDI September 26, 2016 / 12:34 am

                      I’ve no idea how this will work, as the comments have evidently hit their limit and I can’t reply to your most recent one the way I do to others. That’s okay, because I think the discussion has been resolved. It was an excellent, eye-opening one in my opinion, and I thank you.

                      Like

                    • Chris Wagar September 26, 2016 / 12:46 am

                      Huh, that’s funny. I get comment notifications for everything posted to my blog regardless of you replying correctly or not. Still, good chat, glad you had fun.

                      Would also like to mention my MGR story analysis. youtube.com/watch?v=8o6t9NQmSuA I have actually reviewed a story once here, but in the process I felt I’d do the game a disservice if I did not talk about its gameplay a little bit, which I did in the latter half of the video.

                      Like

      • choinheap September 24, 2016 / 3:26 pm

        I agree mostly that yeah, there’s definitely an objective way to analyse gameplay in such a way that we can explain what certain games got “right” regardless of intention or effort. I acknowledge the existence of it and have been in a phase where I was only thinking about game design in this way. But if you were to ask me why I make games or where my ideas come from, it would come a human experience that’s definitely interactive but also in the “tone” aspect of it. It’s akin to how the weather or time of day would affect your memory of biking down a road.

        I guess the echrochrome example is hard because maybe the game wasn’t well designed enough that it wasn’t fun to keep my attention. But at the same time the questions comes up is what is a well designed game that doesn’t have any distracting aesthetics? Tetris?

        To better explain, let’s say I’m an artist. I learn how to draw in perspective, learn how lighting and shadows work, understanding of proportion and shapes etc. Those are pretty objective toolsets but if you ask me why I went through to learn that? It’d be because I like to draw cityscapes. In order to do that well I have to probably portray them in a 3D space and stuff for people to understand. There are some artists out there that just want to be good at art regardless of subject matter. But I guess I’m not one of them, art would just be a tool for me.

        I guess I’m not really defending Matt’s reviews other than just, he’s good at reviewing games like Journey or Zelda because they rely a little more on choice aesthetics qualities. His Downwell review just recently for example did have me wonder why he didn’t talk about the jump/shoot thing being one button and how that affects the play of the game, he simply just talked about the screen orientation and then to the combo system. That’s kind of where he fails in a game that doesn’t rely on aesthetics or story much. He realllllllly likes talking about macro design rather than the micro it seems. And that’s a failing point if you’re looking for a game to be reviewed from the ground up.

        I’m pretty much agreeing but at the same time I’m basically in the dark side of “subjective aesthetic qualities” being a fun part of games for me while I acknowledge the light side of “good design trumps all” I can’t quite stay there all the time.

        Like

        • Chris Wagar September 26, 2016 / 1:12 am

          Sorry for the late reply.

          I’ve gotten that sort of “tone” objection to my style of analysis a lot, especially on one more immersion focused forum I used to frequent. I am not ignorant to all of that, I can appreciate it quite a bit actually. However I think those things are not the primary determiner of game quality. If your game ideas, if what you want to express doesn’t come from pure mechanics, then that’s fine. I don’t want to drive the things you make games about, I just want whatever results to be fun. I hope that my blog and all I write can help serve you as a guide to finding elements that are fun, regardless of the subject matter.

          If you simply want to realize a certain artistic vision through a game, then a good understanding of gameplay is your tools to do part of that. I can appreciate the rest, but I personally won’t judge by the rest. And I used to be a pixel artist. I have a degree in animation. I have a massive massive inspirational art folder. I have a lot of the same tastes as you, judging by your twitter.

          I think Zelda is actually kind of a failure for relying so much on aesthetic qualities honestly. I think the Zelda games kind of fell flat for a lot of that, and I was disappointed when Matt said he didn’t agree with the lock-and-key analogy of zelda in one of his first reviews on it; I believe it was the wind waker video. I’d say similar for journey. That and if you want to go into how aesthetic qualities can be beautiful in tandem with input, there is a lot further you could go in the same amount of time. I think there’s perhaps a lot to be said about the strength of OoT’s mythic arc, which is why it captured so many people’s imaginations in a way Wind Waker or Skyward Sword didn’t. I still don’t think OoT is a good game, but I can appreciate that aspect of it.

          I just enjoy the aesthetic elements of games and their gameplay on separate wavelengths. I appreciate them independently as two separate things. I have folders for games I hate in my inspirational art folder. Games like Skyrim, EVE, chrono trigger, Okami, Earthbound, No More Heroes, Legacy of Kain, Zelda. I took hundreds of screenshots of Remember Me, which was not a good game, and Assassin’s Creed, which I despised.

          When you send me a game, I’ll appreciate all that stuff, but I’m not gonna judge the game based on it. I don’t think it’s fair to judge games that way.

          Like

        • RDI February 19, 2017 / 12:57 am

          Funny you mention that, the developer for Downwell was praising Matthew’s review and conceding to his criticisms. He also confesses to being a fan of his work. I suppose in that instance his review was ludologically successful. Not sure if it could have been done better, but it accomplished something.

          Like

          • Chris Wagar February 19, 2017 / 1:03 am

            I stopped reviewing his videos. Did not watch his downwell video. If it did better than his previous videos, then cool, whatever.

            Like

            • RDI February 19, 2017 / 1:47 am

              I was talking to Choinheap, sorry.

              Like

              • Chris Wagar February 19, 2017 / 1:55 am

                My bad. Should have traced the pattern of indentation.

                Like

                • RDI February 19, 2017 / 2:15 pm

                  Yeah, it can get a little confusing sometimes.

                  Like

  8. Gilgamesh January 31, 2017 / 3:41 pm

    Why do you hate Chrono Trigger?

    Like

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