My Video Game Review of Grammar
I’ve talked about Joseph Anderson before and if you ever want to talk about game design at all I think it would be a disservice to not look at his work. He is someone who cares about video games on every level and gives each game he reviews the same intensity, appreciation, and dedication of the best movie or book reviewers. Even if it’s the Google browser game
He often asks not just what a game is or how it works, but ways it could be improved. He very intentionally tries to not take a shit on the medium or the flaws a game may have, but fairly and unabashedly reviews it with a strong critical eye. Or he’s being goofy and I really appreciate that. I’m a bit of a goof myself.
I’m talking about Joseph Anderson, because of all of the game reviewers I have seen, nobody has had the absolute brass to publish a four fucking hour Witcher essay. And as someone who critiques games, sometimes with things that will take 45 minutes or longer to read, I respect this. I really don’t think anyone dives as deep or has as much insight into what he reviews as he does.
And while I’ve appreciated a number of game reviewers or essayist over the years, with a lot of great content and insight, most of their catalogs would fit within that entire Witcher beast, kind of like doing a continent comparison thing, where all would dwarfed in comparison by that man’s content.
I don’t think anything illustrates this more than his video on Cuphead and No Man’s Sky respectively. The first is him taking an absolute dunk on a journalist attempting a video game review and the second is him getting dumped on by an unfinished grinding disaster. I can’t imagine how terrible it was to finish No Man’s Sky and keep in mind, I’m saying this as someone who spent 4500 hours playing Hero Clicker.
The main point, however or the through-line of these videos is an argument that you need to be good enough to complete everything a game has and to complete the game to provide fair critique or analysis to it. Keep in mind, I’m not saying he necessarily holds people to that standard or all analysis — but we should consider these things when we look at who is talking about a game.
I think this goes against the pulp of video game reviews we currently see, broadly because of fomo captilism. I don’t think anything highlights this as well as Dunkey’s critique of game critics.
Watching that video makes you really feel like a game critic. You can actually feel like you ARE a game critic. It PLAYS just like a game critic. Anyways, what I’m going to say is that I think this is fair, but I don’t think it tells a complete picture. I don’t think it’s important that you see every thing of a game, I don’t think it’s important that you can entirely complete a game, much like Dunkey describes it’s important how you related to and understand the critic.
And now I can tie this into grammar!
I think it’s pretty obvious to most folks that you don’t need to 100% complete a game to say something valid about it, but if you want a comprehensive review such that Anderson offers, then maybe that’s required. And I want you think about this entire situation and now compare this to grammar.
And what I want to say about grammar is that we don’t need to 100% it to enjoy something out of it written language. My works and articles are layered with mistakes as I throw words into what I think are neat sounding sentences. I’m going to have a typo here and there, my commas are basically rng, and I’ll use the wrong word. I’ll do it, it’s probably already happened. If you’re me and only me, you get to experience it HAPPENING. Like right now. Not just that, I probably have sentence structure that is less than ideal. I probably have sentences or paragraphs that may take a second to understand or may trip you up. You may even fall down.
However, I think you’d be hard pressed to find something that I’ve said is incomprehensible because of my grammar. I believe that vast majority of the points I make are accessible and honestly probably fairly easy to read for most folks. And as I type things out to what feels like the void, I wonder how much extra work I should put in to make something I write perfect by a grammar standard? Who do I lose because of those commas? Where don’t I get to go because I’m not perfect? What parts of my message or content or meaning are lost because of it?
And let me get to my real point here and that’s a video game analysis of Rogue Legacy 2.
Rogue Legacy 2 is a Rogue-like game where you’re platforming and clearing out bosses. Each run you ideally get more gold, get further, and use that gold to get stronger. Your avatar strength is practically unlimited, so much of this game is playing as well as you can in hopes of completing everything it has faster. Basically a Hero-Clicker game with some additional features. You can actually click on heroes in this game, so that accusation, while wrong — is not baseless.
The biggest problem this game has for me personally is that I played too much of Rogue Legacy 1. I played the original for a good hundred hours probably, trying to beat the game from new save in as few guys as possible (I think 4 was my best run). Rogue Legacy 2 is in every way an improvement — but it’s also in every way the same game. And it feels really unfair to say bad things about this game because of my own bias here. I feel like if you didn’t play the original and started with this game, it could be an incredible experience. Rogue Legacy, the original, is one of the tightest games I played and is one of the best iterations of the genre. I can’t logically say that, then say Rogue Legacy 2 is better in every way, then say I’m not impressed with the second game.
The biggest legitimate complaint I do have of Rogue Legacy 2 is how much the grind is more intentionally built into it. You don’t beat the game just once if you want the true ending. You must beat it eight times, with each run becoming marginally more difficult, but really you are just making the numbers bigger.
It wasn’t a bad experience entirely, I think the added challenges and bosses were enough to keep me going, but eventually I got to the end. I had completed every challenge, gotten gold on every scar, and had effectively 100% the game. Except. Except! I had to befriend everything. Which I hate. I spent what felt like hours having to keep on resetting my game to talk to the NPCs. You would only be able to advance the dialogue once per iteration of your guy and it you would have to do this dozens and dozens of times.
And while if I knew this was a requirement and knew I should talk to them if they have messages above their head throughout the playthrough, it maybe would have happened more naturally. But what happened within the context of the story is I would live a 30 year fucking life, training to be the best chef in the world, I would go talk to a training dummy, get on a boat, retire, and 30 years later my kid would do the same thing and this happened for 2000 fucking years. It was made even more comical with the dialogue just sometimes being like ‘having a good day?’ Yeah sure buddy, my kid will talk to you in 30 years, have a good one.
When I was ten I was watching some show where they talked about a dog flying by a giant pearl every 2000 years and wagging it’s tail over it and described an eon as how long it takes for that pearl to turn to dust AND ACTUALLY IT’S MORE ACCURATE TO DESCRIBE IT LIKE 100% ROGUE LEGACY 2 AMIRIGHT?
And that last blip of Rogue Legacy 2, feels to me, like the requirements we put on being perfect with grammar. I think for grammar we need people like Joseph Anderson, sometimes. When we are writing a contract, then fuck yeah, get Mr. Gramderson (nailed it) on the phone cause shit needs to be tight. If we’re messaging someone on the Facebook? Maybe IGN could handle it. If we’re writing an essay or a book, maybe just competence is enough? Maybe you just gotta beat the game once and you might have something of value to add?
Personally, I have an audio processing disorder. I’m not great at hearing sounds, I’m terrible are repeating them, and often words to me are just the symbols of letters they are and not abstractions of sound. I often can’t meaningfully sound them out or self correct beyond my knowing what they look like. I don’t read names really and personally never need grammar to structure how I can understand sentences or meaning. I can do it, but very poorly and it doesn’t come natural to me at all.
I read comments online all of the time. Some of them are 200 long blocks of words with no paragraph break or punctuation and I get through them. It’s very rare that I can’t understand the intent or message of the random tweet or social media manifesto. A high level of adherence to grammar is just really not needed for us to understand each other. You don’t need to know how many eons it takes to befriend the folks in Rogue Legacy 2 to get a feel for what kind of platforming game it is.
I’ve always liked writing and when I ever did share my writing to other people, they would just tell me my grammar was bad. End of story. Not my content, story, or characterization. Not that the misuse of grammar impacted any of that, but simply that I had made mistakes. And it always felt very discouraging, that a sterile perfection was more important or at least served to gatekept creativity. That we would discredit and discourage any discourse from a game, unless we had 100% it. See, I keep on nominally tying it back to video games. Come on Boo, just trust me!
So, if you’re choosing to 100% grammar, that’s totally cool. Mad respect. I’m also not saying don’t intentionally just break grammar for lols, unless you want to do that. What I’m really advocating is just for folks to speak how they do. However that may be, with whatever access or tools they have to structure and organize the language they are using. It really doesn’t matter if people aren’t perfect here. And still improve, absolutely. Be intentional on how you communicate and present yourself. Proof read yourself to make sure you’re coming off like you want to. I’m not saying give up on communicating well or throwing the bucket in as some kind of grammar abolitionist, absolutely not — that’s just swinging the pendulum in opposite, extreme direction. You do NEED to play rogue legacy a bit to get it after all.
Realistically though, it is something that is professionally expected. But often companies or writers have editors for this entire purpose that the regular person doesn’t have access to. For my essays on Terry Prachett, I’m working with a copy-editor because I really want to do my best by the pieces. He doesn’t just destroy the hundred grammar mistakes I make, he also challenges me on my ideas and how they’re explored and presented. I put extra effort in to those pieces, because they’re incredibly meaningful to me and after I’m finished I want something that I can really be proud of. There are works that I turn to people who are very good at the mechanisms of grammar, because I’m not. I’m good at communicating and educating, but I’m not great at grammar.
I put some part of myself into everything I write, but my essay on Hero Clickers or asking people how good they need to be a video game to deserve love — maybe don’t need that high level of attention? I don’t need to polish it with a dogs tail over 2000 years. I do have more important essays on human rights topics that I also aren’t as polished, because I don’t think some rando Medium’s essay is going to be what’s making waves and will somehow only make those waves if it’s absolutely 100 percent perfectly typed out. My essays are often presented educationally on topics I know a great deal about and I know they aren’t going to be made dramatically more impactful, without dramatically more time and effort — and unless folks start caring a whole lot more, that really doesn’t matter?
So, what am I doing here? Am I reviewing Rogue Legacy 2? Am I talking about game critics or 100%ing games? Am I talking about Grammar or that Christian sitcom with the eon dog analogy? Yes.