Game People, a recently-expanded website, has been publishing niche game reviews for the past three years. Very niche. Among the site's reviewers are a 'tired' critic, a 'soulful' critic, a haiku-writing critic, a song-writing critic, and now Chris Jarvis, who reviews games with short stories.
"I write stories to say what I think about games, for me it's the best way to express my reaction. Do you ever have a response to something that's hard to put into words? For a long time stories have helped people to understand intangible ideas. I find that a piece of fiction can give an insight into a game that a regular review can't do in the same way," says Jarvis.
"Often when we criticise games, films or stories we focus on technical areas: control, visuals, atmosphere, pacing and characters. I find that my personal responses aren't always defined by the sum of a games parts and I don't believe yours are, either."
A few of Jarvis' recent "Videogame Review Novels," as the site calls them, include Pokemon Black/White, Epic Mickey, and Costume Quest. New short stories are published every Monday as both text and audio recordings.
"It was raining in the city. Raining hard, like the skies were trying to wash the memories from the buildings, the walls, the train yards and the sidewalks," begins Jarvis' Epic Mickey review. Unfortunately, the audio version isn't narrated by Max Payne.
Some of the site's columnists serve more practical niches - a mother, a teenager, a multiplayer fan, a sports fan - while others, like Jarvis, are focused on specific experiments with the form.
It's funny to me that game reviews, of all things, are so often the subjects of experimentation. From Yahtzee to Jarvis, reviewing games in any manner other than the established norm seems to be unusually popular. Maybe gamers are just extra-creative? Or maybe something about the medium - its uniqueness, perhaps - draws us to unconventional forms of expression?
What do you make of game reviews like Jarvis'? Do you find them valuable? Should I review Max Payne 3 from the perspective of Mickey Mouse? Please say yes.
Mar 7, 2011