Friday, July 11, 2008

An Open Letter to Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Dear Ben... no that's too obvious...

Yahtzee, you god-like excelsior,

As we near the one-year anniversary of you posting Zero Punctuation on both YouTube and The Escapist, I would just like to thank you for causing a mini-revolution in gaming criticism and entertaining the heck out of me and many others.

I'll admit it now, I'm not a regular gamer, (I'm mostly into music and film), nor do I actually have a system of my own (unless you consider PC a game system, which you do). My best friend, however, is a very ardent and passionate gamer and he introduced me to your videos through your "Grand Theft Auto IV" review which I watched on Memorial Day 2008. I've been a fan ever since, and I've even helped some of my family and friends to become fans of yours as well.

How did I become a fan if I'm not a true gamer? Well, let's figure it out. For starters, I love the visual style of your pieces. Your little avatar figures, including yourself (with your awesome, pimpin' hat) and your little cat-like imp creature run around the screen with inspired anarchy. They've flown helicopters, brandished chainsaws, gone to prison and blown up, just to name a few of their adventures. You use so much of your unadorned blue and yellow backgrounds with just simple graphics and text that it never becomes visual radio. There's always something going on and it comes so fast and furiously that you could watch it multiple times and still find something you never noticed the last time.

Besides the visuals, I love your voice, darn it! As an American, British voices are always really fascinating. Even words that I've heard my entire life are more lively when you say them, most notably "stupid." Also, considering that you talk really fast it gives me a more interesting challenge to memorize what you are saying. For you see, I love memorizing quotes and yours have been some of the most fun to memorize and speak. Both the visuals and your voice appeal to that eternal kid in me that will never die. Much like that kid part in you that still loves finding fun in video games.

Aside from the videos themselves, I really admire your style of criticism. You remind me of the late Pauline Kael, who was a respected film critic for many years. She was a tough cookie who was not easily impressed and was not afraid to call a film out to the mat. She was in a minority with her negativity towards such films as "West Side Story," the Holocaust-themed documentary "Shoah," and one of film's sacred cows, "It's a Wonderful Life." She also didn't lie down from a fight; she fought with other respected critics like Andrew Sarris and filmmaker/author Peter Bogdonovich. What distances me from her is that she's a bit too cruel and serious, even though I've read how she was a nice person in regular life. You on the other hand, even though you can be just as cruel, you have a sense of humor. Even when you're ragging on about "Halo," "Zelda" or gaming webcomics, people will still got a kick out of your methodology. In fact, every form of criticism needs people like you and Pauline Kael, because otherwise you have people blindly loving everything that's given to them (something I have been known to do). Someone has to be the voice of stubborn reason. Also, since you are a game designer as well as a critic, no one can call you out on never having actually created a game, so you aren't entitled to review them.

I really admire your belief that games can be an art form as well. I think any form of entertainment can become an art form if people truly believe it can be one. Unfortunately, there isn't that much academia on games unlike fellow modern entertainments like books, music, movies and TV. The problem may be that there are either people who mostly put out games for the lowest common amusement or you have people like Clive Barker, Richard Garriott or Hideo Kojima who do believe in the art form of gaming but don't know how to balance between true story intelligence and smart intuitive interactive gameplay. If we can do that, we can have more games like (as you state them) "Painkiller" and "Psychonauts."

When the time comes when you feel accomplished your mission don't be afraid to end like Bill Watterson did with "Calvin and Hobbes" and I will understand. Until that day comes, I'll always be a proud and loyal fan of yours and I hope you continue to enjoy what you do. I certainly enjoy it.

Recliner Man
"Arts Through the Autistic Mind"

P.S. In all honesty, is "Fantasy World Dizzy" the best game ever made? My own personal opinion is that the best game ever is "You Don't Know Jack," period!


The "Grand Theft Auto IV" review:

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