This month, Objective Game Reviews launches a new feature, Subjective Reviewer of the Month. Each month we will interview someone who writes subjective reviews for other review outlets. We will also invite them to write an objective review so that they can give their opinions some time to rest, if they would like. Our very first Subjective Reviewer of the Month is Carolyn Petit.
What are some of your favorite video games, and why?
I really think that I love all sorts of games for all sorts of reasons. I love Metroid for the feeling of loneliness it fosters and for the excitement of being an intrepid adventurer in a hostile world. I love the classic arcade game Outrun for the ways in which its art and music conjure up an idealized vision of California. I love games like Myst and Gone Home for making me focus on the little details, for giving me worlds that tell stories of their own. I love Resogun for looking the way I used to only dream a video game could look and for constantly pushing me to outdo myself.
Why do you write video game reviews? What do you see as the purpose of your reviews?
I think that different reviews can and should serve different purposes, and I’m glad that we’re at a point in time where more writers are approaching game criticism not as a matter of product evaluation but a matter of cultural discourse. As an enthusiastic reader of film criticism, I’ve always enjoyed going to different critics for different perspectives, and I don’t think that readers of game criticism should expect any one review to be the one true review, covering a game from every valid angle. I write reviews at least in part in the hopes of making the sociopolitical meanings of games a larger part of the ongoing cultural discussion about games. I think my approach may be a result of all the Roger Ebert I used to read, how it seemed to me that he tried to review films by asking how well they accomplished what they set out to do, though if he felt like a film’s aims were morally reprehensible, he said as much.
What sorts of things do you try to include in your reviews?
In my reviews, I try to mesh elements of product evaluation and elements of cultural discourse, and I try to let the game I’m reviewing dictate my approach to some extent. Some games (like, say, Pac-Man CE DX) are purely about mechanics and aesthetics, but most games, whether they intend to or not, make some sort of larger meanings.
What do you enjoy or find interesting about writing video game reviews?
Some are more enjoyable to write than others. Sometimes writing a review is an excruciating process and at other times, I feel like I’m practically bursting with things to say. It’s always easier to write a review when a game engages my emotions, whether I love it or hate it. The hardest reviews to write for me are those for games that strike me as soulless but adequate products that I neither adore nor despise.
What I enjoy about writing video game reviews is the same thing I enjoy about any kind of writing: the pleasure of articulating a thought or feeling in a way that is effective or clever or beautiful. What interests me about it is the opportunity to say something that matters about something that matters. I feel like it’s a privilege and a responsibility. Games matter and the discussion around games matters.
How do you think your personality influences the reviews you write?
It’s hard for me to say, because I can’t divorce myself from my own personality. People sometimes accuse me of having an agenda, but I don’t think that I have any more or less of an agenda than anyone else. It’s just that the experiences that inform my perspective are somewhat different from the experiences that inform the perspectives of many of my readers. I’m always floored when someone complains that I’m bringing politics into games when I praise them or criticize them for portraying women in a certain way, as if games aren’t inherently political, as if Call of Duty doesn’t support and reinforce certain dominant ideologies. The politics of most games are invisible to many players because the worldviews they endorse mesh with the worldviews of those players. It’s often only when a game says something (or a critic writing about a game says something) that challenges a person’s perspective that he becomes aware at all that games and critics have political perspectives.
What are some reviews you’ve written that you’re proud of? Why are you proud of each of them?
I’m proud of my Grand Theft Auto V review because I think I managed to effectively communicate all the things I enjoy and admire so much about that game and all the things I find deeply problematic about it, which was a tricky balance to find. I’m proud of the writing in my Gone Home review; that was a deeply personal game for me and I think my writing evokes the depth of my feeling for it. And I really like my review for Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, a game that I think is special in ways that I enjoyed finding the words to articulate.
Carolyn graciously agreed to write an objective review for Objective Game Reviews. Read her objective review of Resogun here.
We thank Carolyn for agreeing to be interviewed. If you would like to see a reviewer featured as a subjective reviewer of the month, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or see our contact page.