Monday, May 17, 2010

It's True, Seth Schiesel Has Never Before Called A Video Game A "Tour De Force." He Prefers "Wondrous." Or Maybe "Spectacular."

At the end of Seth Schiesel's over-the-top rave this morning for "Red Dawn Dead Redemption," the NYT's video game critic offers this declaration of his rapture:

"In more than 1,100 articles I have written for this paper since 1996," he concludes, "I have never before called anything a tour de force. Yet there is no more succinct or appropriate way to describe Red Dead Redemption."

And he's right! Okay, it's hard to imagine how he might have squeezed "tour de force" into his November 4, 1996 news story on fiber optic cable demand, but whatever.

It does seem that Schiesel is prone to a bit of hyperbole when it comes to video games he likes. Here's a few examples from the last couple of years:

Warhammer is the best new massively multiplayer game since World of Warcraft, which was released in 2004. Warhammer provides a more engaging and diverse experience than either Lord of the Rings Online (unless you’re a serious Tolkien fan) or Age of Conan (unless you really need topless barbarians in your life), the other major online fantasy releases in recent years....For a lot of online gamers, Warhammer is providing the most significant competition for their leisure hours in many years. It’s about time.

--Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning," reviewed on October 11, 2008

Only one year later came this:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, developed by Naughty Dog and published recently by Sony for its PlayStation 3 console, is a major step forward for gaming. Uncharted 2 is perhaps the best-looking game on any system, and no game yet has provided a more genuinely cinematic entertainment experience.....The designers at Naughty Dog have absorbed the vernacular of film and then built upon it productively, not slavishly, to create something wondrous. I only wonder when I will next see an action-adventure movie as compelling as Uncharted 2. It may be a long time.

--"Uncharted 2: Among Thieves," reviewed on November 7, 2009

Usually, Schiesel just sticks with mixed bag of superlatives to make his point.

Whatever the Italian tourism board is paying Ubisoft for making the spectacular new game Assassin’s Creed II, it isn't enough. O.K., that’s a joke. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that any secret payments are flowing from Rome to Ubisoft’s headquarters in a Paris suburb. But perhaps there should be. That’s because Assassin’s Creed II may interest more young men around the world in visiting Italy than any advertising campaign or entertainment sensation since Sophia Loren.

--"Assassin's Creed II," reviewed on December 8, 2009

Tiger Woods Online is a fabulous game. Millions and millions of hours of work will be lost forever because of it, which is the highest praise a game of this sort can earn.

--"Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online," reviewed on April 6, 2010

We usually like the way Schiesel writes. He's funny and he's a great, classic nerd. But what's up with all the superlatives? That's incredibly dangerous, wildly compelling, and like nothing we've ever seen before.


Anonymous said...

The title of the game is actually "Red Dead Redemption."

Anonymous said...

Bearing in mind the proverbial "make thy foot rare in the house of thy friend," overzealous enthusiasts of techno-hermeneutics aiming to alter the angular poignancy of their umbrageous stem, should thoroughly randomize such metonymic cognates as needed to perjure their point. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I got suckered by his Arkham Asylum review in which he invoked a passage from Walker Percy in which he felt "an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good. I shall resist the temptation to say what first made me gape, grin, laugh out loud, shake my head in wonderment."

Dude needs to CALM DOWN.

Anonymous said...

so he uses superlatives when praising video games but how about when he's critical of them?

doesn't he know using so many superlatives undermines future ones?

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of video game nerds have that quality where they see particular video games as the "best ever" far too often. They share this with sports fans in a way.

Anonymous said...

Arousal as standard novelty response (Turn on), dude gets zapped with a new rad game (Tune in), masters it and then zombilulls (Drop out) on time for the next wickedest hit, just varied enough to avoid longterm habituation and user quitting.

And of course then there's nostalgia for window/starter digs, like gamewatch, remember that badboy with the gorilla munching, and atari with the corporate maze/elevator bondian gig, and not to forget pacman, airhockey, funnn times.

Alex said...

@11:12 that's funny, because I remember reading that same hyperbolic review of Arkham Asylum and coming close to buying it. I didn't end up plunking down the cash, but I did Google the game and read a lot about it because the review seemed so distinctly positive.

Anonymous said...

Quick, nytpicker, check his stock portfolio to see if he has any conflict of interest.

D_O said...

It's worth considering that a large part of his job is to convince the NY Time's general audience, who I imagine are largely non-gamers, that video games deserve reviews and printed space. To a gamer, Red Dead Redemption might be a nice twist on the GTA formula, but the general Time's readership probably needs someone to say "There is a virtual wild west someone made out there!" He also probably has to do that while constantly defending the kind of experiences video games have to offer.