Gamasutra has published an opinion piece by a Christian pop culture critic that is perceptive and cogent. In it, Richard Clark argues that games that place storytelling in a privileged position in the game design need to be judged by the same sort of critical and moral standards as we judge storytelling in any other medium.
I agree, of course as those who have read the book and blog know; that said, Clark seems to give a pass to games whose experience is more centered on mechanics:
Not all games call for these kinds of questions. Games like Tetris, Peggle, Torchlight, and Doodle Jump make a deliberate attempt to place gameplay first. The story and characters truly are intended to be containers for game play elements.
I think there are implicit lessons to be derived from mechanics too. So I am not inclined to give any games a pass on serious critical thought, regardless of whether they are heavy on story or not!
Is Loved less to be analyzed because it lacks cutscenes or detailed characters? Check out the comments on the review over at Casual Gameplay and see what you think (and if you haven’t played the game — be sure to play it with the sound on). Note how the game mechanics and content alter as you play based on mechanical choices. And notice how the fundamental questions the games raises are based on a mechanic: the choice to obey or not.
Times have definitely changed though — the comment thread on the Gamasutra piece is running heavily in favor of the article, which I don’t think would have been the case five years ago. Hopefully, we see the sophistication level of game critiques — and game content! — continue to increase as we think more about what we do.