]It’s official: Steven Totilo, high-profile game journalist for MTV, sucks at Street Fighter II:
About this skills gap, Edge Magazine’s Kris Graft writes:
I’ll be honest here: I just assume that anyone who grew up playing games at least since the 1990s knows how to do a Shoryuken, Hadouken and Hurricane Kick. So reading that Totilo, one of the more visible journos in games, doesn’t know how to perform the fundamental moves of SF—moves that really haven’t changed much in 20 years—is kind of surprising. But that’s just me being close-minded and a bit fanboyish—not everyone played SF growing up. What a shocking realization for me; today the world came crashing down.
My GameCritics.com colleague Gene Park makes this comparison:
But imagine if a movie critic knew nothing of Annie Hall? Or Raging Bull? Imagine a videogame critic not even knowing how to do the most basic move in fighting games? As long as the critic is forthcoming about it, I don’t think any credibility would be lost.
However, and more importantly, I would know who to trust less.
It always surprises me when someone learns that I review video games (or even just that I play them) and they think I must be good at them. Certainly, I love video games and have since childhood. With lots of time and practice, I’ve completed lots of them. With even more time and practice, I can get gold medal rankings (in Shadow of Rome, for instance). However, I’m not good at them. At all.
Enthusiasm and perseverance serve me better in some game genres than in others, especially games that are slower-paced and full of text. That doesn’t mean I don’t like, play, and complete fast-paced action games, or other kinds of games in general–just that a turn-based RPG fits very well with the set of skills I have.
For some reason, fighting games and first-person shooters fit that skillset especially poorly. So, like Totilo, I can’t do a hurricane kick on purpose. Getting “better” at fighting games for me usually means doing good things without meaning to, but more and more often–in Street Fighter II, I’ve gotten pretty good at accidentally throwing people. In Mortal Kombat, which I have more experience with, I keep getting better at accidentally throwing projectiles. I’ve made the mistake of reviewing a couple of fighting games (one after the other), and won’t make it again any time soon.
That said, I do believe that anyone who writes about games should always be learning about them, whether that’s by playing games outside your comfort zone, educating yourself about something you don’t know much about, etc.
So, I don’t mind if a film critic hasn’t seen Annie Hall or Raging Bull or (in keeping with the kinds of movies I used to review) Halloween. But if they feel like they don’t even have to see those movies (i.e. have no drive to improve their knowledge whatsoever), then I’d have a serious problem.