Monday, January 5, 2015


LUDOCENTRISM (n.): A style of videogame criticism that attributes far more import to interactions, systems, mechanics, and metrics then to qualities such as narrative, aesthetics, or more abstract qualities, without necessarily ignoring that these latter elements exist.

Ex.: "Legacy of Kain games have really good cutscenes and dialogue, but I can't call them good games considering their combat is so shallow."

(n.): A game development philosophy which privileges the importance of the game's interactions, systems, mechanics, and metrics over their fictional context, aesthetics, or more abstract qualities, without necessarily ignoring that these latter elements exist.

Ex.: "We wanted the game to be pleasing to look at and for the story to be exciting, but we mainly focused on having good gameplay, since that's what we find most important, and what we think our audience finds most important.


  1. I watched movie cuts of every Legacy of Kain game on Youtube. I feel no shame for this. I like playing them in the background and listening to the characters talk actually. Starcraft too, though I played that one.

    Question: Who exhibits this style of video game criticism? I have trouble finding others.

    1. Honestly, most game reviews have this. A game with GREAT systems but horrid scriptwriting is much more likely to get perfect or near-perfect marks from a site like Gamespot or IGN than a game with FLAWLESS writing but rough design. Compare review scores between games like Legacy of Kain: Defiance and Devil May Cry 3. Resident Evil 4 vs. Silent Hill 2.

    2. Then why did DmC: Devil May Cry get higher scores than the previous Devil May Cry games when its systems are markedly inferior? Why do games like Call of Duty, Bioshock Infinite, and so on get high scores repeatedly when they're honestly terrible first person shooters? Not to mention that The Last of Us got rave reviews when it has a heavy narrative focus.

      Not to mention that Silent Hill 2 is scored higher than Devil May Cry 4 and 3 and all of these games are sitting pretty comfortably on scores above 80, except Legacy of Kain Defiance. I don't think you can reasonably use silent hill 2 as an example here or point to a score bias against games with good writing but bad gameplay

      Not to mention that claiming there's a score bias is ignoring the content of the reviews, and every single review of the new call of duty game is describing the singleplayer campaign's story and how likeable it is. And they're honestly about as terrible at summing up the gameplay as every other element of the game, if not worse.

      Other people like zeboyd games have written articles that criticize the tendency of reviewers to fail to understand the gameplay of games that don't rely on their narrative structure to give substance to the experience.

      I can't find people who are supposedly ludo-centric in their video game critiques, not for a lack of trying. You telling me to go to the standard gaming press? That's laughable. They don't have the presence of mind to describe how a game works in nearly exacting enough terms to get across any notion of quality.

      Tell me, what review have you ever read on this earth that viewed the game purely in terms of its mechanics? What review have you ever read that is as agnostic to the visuals they might as well be looking at blank textures? So agnostic to the story that it's merely information telling you the next thing to do? What review praises something for being unrealistic in a nonsensical way directly contradicting immersion or suspension of disbelief, yet unmistakeably adds to the game? What review would be so agnostic as to praise a glitch? What review goes in depth about the functioning of each element to precisely describe and support it's conclusions? What reviewer even has an understanding like that?

      Most game reviews are FAR from the ludo-centrism you describe, and it's a damn shame they aren't moreso, because they're failing to do their job. You read a fighting game review about Guilty Gear Xrd, it's clearly containing very different content from what the fans of the game are saying about it. You get a shallow praise of its "technicality" a listing of the features, but nobody ever, ever describes what makes one fighting game different from another the way that someone with real experience in them would.
      Compare these two:
      To these:

      You perceive the world around you to be ludo-centric insofar as you don't know what actual ludocentrism looks like.

      Ludo-centrism would be recognizing that Gone Home is a game where you turn over cards to see what is on the other side, until you turn one over marked joker, then you repeat with a new deck. You're not going to find that in any review of Gone Home, but it's what every review of Gone Home should have said.

      If you can find reviews that are actually ludo-centrist, then link them, because I want them.

    3. And here's why ludocentrism is important, because game reviews and game critique are missing all sorts of huge important details about the games they review, and literally no one is doing it. There are tons of story-centric analyses of all sorts of games, like Metal Gear Solid 2 is a popular one. All sorts of RPGs get this treatment, Bioshock infinite was popular when it was released, but no one is analyzing the gameplay exclusively or with nearly the same level of focus or expertise.

      Meanwhile all the games critics in your sphere complain about ludocentrism when nobody is doing the thing they're supposedly against when a ton more people should be.