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2013 Stuff Read, #1

1. Jam, by Yahtzee CroshawJam

I'll admit it, there was one overriding reason why I chose to read this book: I love Croshaw's weekly video game reviews for The Escapist. They are so good that I read them even though I very rarely actually play any of the games he reviews. In fact, I have never even played the game for what I consider the greatest video game review ever written. To be fair, that has a lot to do with the fact that Croshaw panned the game in question. However, if it had been a laudatory review, I may very well have purchased it based on his review alone.

Given the amount of joy I've gotten from his reviews, it felt like I absolutely, positively read one of his novels. Sadly, I didn't enjoy his second novel as much as I enjoyed his non-fiction writing. To be fair, that was an awfully high bar to clear. In the end, I liked Jam well enough -- a pleasantly diverting, apocalyptic near-future story about a handful of Australians attempting to survive when a strawberry-scented, amoebic lifeform devours all carbon-based life and objects in Brisbane. Croshaw's brand of humor was evident throughout and the characters were certainly amusing. However, the book as a whole was about as filling as, well, a strawberry sandwich on Wonder bread. Reader reviews on Amazon suggest that I should've started off with his first novel, Mogworld. However, while I enjoy the occasional run-in with comic fantasy (a genre Jam more closely aligns with than apocalyptic fiction), it may be a while before I seek out that first novel. Nothing against Croshaw, it's just that there's a lot of comic fantasy out there, and I may want to see if another author makes a better go of it.



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Feb. 7th, 2013 03:33 am (UTC)
I followed the links to Croshaw's review of MOH Airborne. Writing as someone who also hasn't played the game (so that makes me unbiased, right?) I found his review superficially amusing but ultimately clueless.

I heard three points in his review:

1. This game depicts the fun, cartoon-like aspects of war, not the un-fun stuff like the grueling physical conditions of living in foxholes for weeks on end or the moral ambiguity of killing people who might just be common schlubs from the wrong country.

2. Waah, we Brits are minor characters.

3. America, fuck yeah!

Especially with regard to point #1, he seems clueless about the purpose of an FPS game. I'm no fan of FPS myself but at least I understand it. It's a game, it's supposed to be fun escapist action. I listened carefully to hear if his ignorance is feigned and thus ironic; but, no, he really does seem to be missing the point entirely. Might as well ask an environmentalist to write a car review in an eco-mag about the new Corvette.
Feb. 7th, 2013 04:22 am (UTC)
Admittedly, I hadn't watched the review in some time, so I took another look. I agree that as a video game review, it actually isn't a well-written one. However, I see what I liked about it: the snarky social commentary, and the takedown of some of the standard tropes in first FPS games. I get the general idea of them (they're not for me either), but that doesn't mean that some of the aspects of that style of game shouldn't be pilloried.

I recall that he has given some FPS good reviews, and he has talked about enjoying them -- I don't think he's clueless at all about them (my apologies for not tracking down one of those reviews). Rather, he has very little tolerance for what he views as laziness in game design, and that was what I took away as his disdain for MOH Airborne.
Feb. 7th, 2013 05:23 am (UTC)
I agree the game sounded like it was a weak effort. The MOH series has had a good long run and it seems like the company was trying to milk the franchise for some cheap profits without investing adequately to keep it fresh.

I also understand that many people do not like FPS games as a matter of philosophy. It might surprise you to know that even the game designers recognize this. I had a conversation over dinner one night years ago with the lead gameplay designer of a few of the MOH titles and he lamented, "The toughest thing about an FPS is that your only way of interacting with the world is with a gun."

Either of these would be sound points to make. Croshaw had a shot at making them but he ruined it (for me) by going back to bleating about Historical Inaaaacuracyyyy!! too often. It's a shooter game, not a documentary. Move on.
Feb. 8th, 2013 03:50 pm (UTC)
Is it possible -- I could be misremembering entirely here -- that part of the reason he went off on historical accuracy is that the series started off (or at some point) starting laying claim to that particular mantle? If you don't recall either, there's no point in looking it up -- it really isn't *that* important. However, it might explain why it seemed to really drive him bonkers.
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