Jones - A Critique of Critiques.


What makes a product worthwhile? And how can you judge a product based on consumer feedback? notjones and I were discussing this and came to an impasse. We come to you, dear readers to settle this.

To set the scene:
notjones has been working on a puzzle game concept for the last few days, this lead him into researching more on game design and game developers, which eventually led to this conversation.
We start the conversation by looking at game designer and programmer Jonathan Blow and his popular puzzle game "The Witness". Blow defended his game from criticism by saying that the critics did not fully grasp the meaning behind his game and what it was trying to accomplish.

notjones puts forth the following:

If a game has to be "understood", if it has "meaning" - then it's inherently bad and worthless, that the best games are purely mechanical with no filler. If a game has narrative then it's bad.

He then brings up Dark Souls games as an example. The narrative of the games being purely filler, and that behind that it's an uninteresting game. He claims that games should be mechanically interesting and unique, claims that if Dark Souls games didn't have narrative/art, it would not be near as popular as a purely mechanical game like Tetris or Chess.

And then he finishes with this: If a game requires more than a few sentences to review, it's purely fluff and fake.
He compares game critiques to mathematical proofs, and how shorter proofs are regarded superior and so should shorter reviews. If people can make hour long videos to describe the game, then it's all filler and not worth the time.
In his perspective, you shouldn't try to make narrative or art in games because it has been, and I quote "solved 2000 years ago by the Bible" [sic.]

My response to him was as follows:

While I agree that narrative and "deeper meaning" is filler in the vast majority of games and is appealing to lower denominations, I had to point out that the vast majority of consumers do not actually value it over mechanics, and it does not affect the popularity or the appeal of these games as much as notjones purports. Dark souls games are popular because of their mechanical merit more than anything, it stands out. The cream rises to the top. He disagreed on this, I told him we actually actually agree on this point, but he said that he "agrees more".

One also cannot judge the quality of something based on how people are "reviewing" it - as you can't apply mathematical and scientific principles on all matters of life. People will make absurdly long reviews and critiques about anything that's new and has more substance than moving blocks and chess.

notjones claimed that a review is a description of the game, and that long reviews are long because of the games' filler content, but I countered that by telling him that a review is an evaluation of quality and comparison of a product compared to other products of the same type. He lashed out and thought that I didn't know the definition of the word. Unfortunately for him the word "review" is defined as follows:
A review is an evaluation of a publication, product, service, or company or a critical take on current affairs in literature, politics or culture. In addition to a critical evaluation, the review's author may assign the work a rating to indicate its relative merit.
After lashing out and calling me "an animal", he said that he was done with Teamspeak and disconnected.

What do YOU think? Who won the argument? Vote in the poll below.

  • notjones
  • Nmagane

0 voters

Thanks for reading, and we're looking forward to hearing your opinions.

1 Like

Voted jones


He seems to be more realistic than you

this was an argument? art, setting, aesthetic, sound design, voice acting, character development can all be crucial in making a game more appealing

I personally don't subscribe to his "Rick from Rick and Morty" school of thought. I think it has its time and place, but applying programming principles to everything is ironically more of a sign of Lower IQ than higher IQ.

1 Like

darkest dungeon wouldn't have been very successful if it was just different colored squares

Yes, he is claiming that there is no point trying to make video games artistic because there will always be better art.

not that bare bones game design is inherently bad

im guessing jones doesn't like to have any attachment or investment into the games he plays. disregarding the fact that all forms of art can make it easier for players to differentiate enemies, items, patterns, environments etc if you don't have any style your game is just numbers and will only attract a certain crowd

i mean are we just writing code here? are different shapes allowed? different colors?

im guessing this a "this is what i like and everyone who likes something else is dumb and not having fun the right way" type argument

It's funny you mention that because he has actually played games like Darkest Dungeon quite a lot.
Yeah, it is a "everyone who disagrees with me is stupid" argument, because it's how he views everything in life.
He consistently talks down on any interest or hobby other than Programming and Mathematics - he's just a walking parody at this point.
I just wanted to know what the audience thought hahaha.

It's a funny story I wanted to share, and I'm glad I got to write it out before it's been forgotten.


im not an artist but i've done level design and you work closely with artists on your assets to make sure you have the right ambience, contrast etc to achieve the environment you want to put the player in

His point is mostly regarding Narrative and Story in games. I'm sure that even Jones can't argue against visual art.

bruh even counterstrike maps have some narrative behind them. you're not planting the bomb in an open field to deny local fauna a watering hole. not that there's anything wrong with classic shooters like quake but modern gamers have come to expect a bit more grounded play

one of the big developments in old school d&d was evolving gygaxian style dungeon mapping to a more sensical approach. finding the balance between the old style of random nonsensical rooms and traps designed for the sole reason to confuse and possibly kill players to something someone would actually build for a reason. finding the balance of fantastical and sensible is the tough part


I'm such a fat nerd mario virgin that I will suspend disbelief to have a "discussion" (perform fellatio) with resident forum ■■■■■■ tranny about an alternate egypt-fake-reality with my thoughts and feelings on princess peach.