This paper explores the relation between criticism and establishment of narrative forms and genres, focusing on the cultural situation of video games. Comparing the context of early film criticism and contemporary video game criticism, I argue that the public negotiation of meaning and value codifies a new medium as it emerges. In the case of digital games in particular, contemporary critics approach the question of “what is a game” rhetorically, rarely addressing it outright but allowing metatextual considerations to influence their readings. I trace the sites of criticism, moving from newspapers and weekly periodicals in the case of film, to blogs and web publications in the case of digital games, and explore how the shifting reception of each form took hold in the different media available. I focus especially on the state of public video game criticism today, locating the persuasive strengths in the ability for quick communication between writers, as well as the easy dissemination of digital games. I ground my analysis in the game criticism produced in response to Dear Esther (2011) and League of Legends (2009) that visibly struggled with ideas of narrative, game, and interactivity.
Game Worlds: A Study of Video Game Criticism