I can understand why Simon Parkin, one of the rare videogame critics worth reading, seems to be feeling some anxiety about his job. A lot of people feel must feel that way, whether they’re plumbers, doctors, or social workers. But Parkin implies his anxiety is unique. So he’s written an article about writing articles about videogames:
But no matter how scintillating the text, when the real world starts to tremble, when fascism begins to rise, when the bombs start to fall, when real lives and real rights are imperilled, the job of writing about [videogames] is further undercut. Why waste our time focused on fictional quests when so much of the real world is in need of repair?
Now maybe I’ve missed it, but I don’t see anyone writing these articles about books, movies, or music.
So why does it have to be written about videogames? If you want to take videogames seriously, stop being ashamed of taking them seriously. Stop treating the discussion as a discussion about whether videogames are worth the discussion. Stop fussing about their relevance. You decided that the moment you opened a new document. And for Pete’s sake, stop asking whether they’re art, which is what you’re really asking. That question has been answered. The answer is “no one cares”.
Videogames are entertainment and entertainment is worth discussion and therefore criticism. If you’re too ashamed to write about the forces that shape culture, you’re not going to be left with much subject matter. You won’t be able to write about politics, history, religion, or actual art either. And while I agree that the current state of the world justifies a greater degree of introspection, it doesn’t call a critic’s job into question. If anything, it should give him new context.
Anyway, to be fair to Parkin, I support his conclusion wholeheartedly. I just don’t support his premise. And I also take issue with this bit:
The former Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker, who cut his teeth writing for a video game magazine, once wrote that saying you write about video games for a living is a bit like admitting you review Mr Men books professionally. It invites the bewildered follow-up: “So where did it all go wrong?”
I have a different bewildered follow-up: “What are Mr. Men books?”