On Videogame Criticism

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On Videogame Criticism

[Editor's Note: I'm very pleased to share the following letter series, and I thought I'd give a brief preface to the conversation you're about to read. The past few years have seen the rise of some creative and intelligent new voices in games criticism, and Tom Bissell and Simon Ferrari stand out among the very best of them. Tom is an award-winning author whose new book Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter is one of the most purely enjoyable collections of videogame writing I've had the pleasure of reading. Simon is a doctoral student at Georgia Tech's well-regarded Digital Media program, where he recently co-authored the book Newsgames: Journalism at Play. He has a very cool way of analyzing design, and he seems to have a special knack for dissecting unpopular game mechanics and regarding them in a different light.


I've counted myself fortunate to get to know both gentlemen over the past year or so, and have personally found a huge amount of value in both of their (very different) approaches to videogame criticism. I was aware that they disagreed on a fair number of things, and that Simon was particularly and publicly critical of Tom's work. A little while back Tom casually asked me about this Simon Ferrari fellow, and why did he take such vehement umbrage with Extra Lives and the rest of Tom's work? So I told him who Simon was and pointed him to a few of my favorite of Simon's pieces online. I also mentioned that I would love to see the two of them talk and attempt to hash out their differences, in large part because the conversation had the potential to be so very interesting. One thing led to another, and they both agreed to write the letters that you are about to read.

I hope you enjoy this exchange as much as I did, and that you'll weigh in on the discussion in our comments section, on twitter, or on your own blogs or websites. Simon and Tom, I thank you both and hope the three of us have the opportunity to shoot some digital zombies together soon. - Kirk]