So in this video from LambHoot, he says this: “This isn’t just my opinion, this is actually fact.” This is him saying the quality of Five Nights at Freddies is poor. And then he qualifies his statement by saying the game has got a lot of attention for its lore and story, but “this has nothing to do with the actual gameplay.”
Not to pick on Mr. Hoot, he does do some other very intelligent things in his analysis. (I certainly approve of him making graphs to help analyze the game.) And the supremacy of “actual gameplay” over absolutely everything else can be a useful lens through which to analyze games. (Lenses being the subject of my previous post.)
But I think sometimes this is taken to justify dismissing other aspects of a game that should not be dismissed.
Another quote: “You should never buy a game (and also a game should never be made) because of a story. Novels and films cover stories!”
There’s an idea in soviet montage theory which argues that editing is the only element of film that is unique to film. If you want a story, you can read a novel. If you want to look at pictures, you can look at a painting or a photograph. If you want acting, you can watch a play. If you want choreographed movement, you can watch a ballet. And I would say this is a useful lens to consider film through, and soviet montage theory led to some very good artistic development. But if you used this to dismiss the value of story or acting in films I’d call that dogmatic.
Imagine if I were to say “Never buy a movie because of acting. Plays cover acting!” or “A movie shouldn’t be made because of a story. Novels cover stories!”
Just because an aspect of a game is something done well in other media doesn’t mean it has no value in games.
Emotionally, it’s tempting to feel like you have a superior appreciation of games that those other people who have let themselves be distracted by things like story or graphics. And there are people who are fixated on the idea of “objective” video game reviews, who will latch onto something like this if it aligns with their own priorities for what they value in games. (A major element of my game Gator’s Secrets is that what the Gator deems “objective” is really what aligns with the Gator’s priorities. The criteria he uses for defining True Games is random and arbitrary, but he insists everyone else follow the same criteria.) But if we want to consider games as art it’s very limiting to designate one lens as the only valid way to value games. Art will not be so easy to pin down.
Again going back to my previous post, Ian Bogost argued in favour of systems over characters in games, because systems are what games are uniquely good at. I won’t deny that. It’s just a mistake to think there’s no value in everything else.