What The New York Times Got Wrong With Its List Of The Best Games Of 2015

The New York Times is a world leader in reporting serious, earth-shaking news. But what it arguably isn’t a world leader in is reporting about videogames. In particular I refer to its latest list, “The Best Videogames of 2015”.
I won’t bother to point out obvious absences in great detail – such as Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, Star Wars Battlefront and Uncharted 4 – but I will point out something else: that what the article feels like is a piece that is meant to be appreciated and read primarily by non-gamers.
As a journalist, I know that one has to make an article interesting or readable for a larger, non-core audience. And I know that critics are supposed to see things the average person doesn’t, recommend the things you’ve never heard of – so, naturally, there are bound to be a few wild cards in any “best-of” list. And, yes, lists can be pretty subjective. We all have different tastes.
Furthermore, writers look for colour, the interesting, the unusual, the new. All worthy ambitions.
Yet sadly, a game that is interesting to write about is not the same as a game that is interesting to play. Sure, you might want to read about some of these games because they sound fascinating. But to actually play them? Maybe not so much. (Of course, there are many games that fall between the Venn diagrams of “readability” and “playability”: Papers, Please is a fantastic indie game with a great backstory. And The Last Of Us has been widely praised by gamers and journalists alike for its plot, killer graphics and playability.)
It’s unfair just to single out The New York Times, though. I feel that so many “best-of” or “must-play” videogame lists in mainstream news organisations fail to hit the mark.
In fact, I see it everywhere. All around the world.
It is disappointing when we see so many other subjects in popular culture given the respect they deserve (is it because no one is going to win a Pulitzer writing about videogames?).
It would seem gaming has a problem with how it is perceived by the wider community: the gaming industry makes as much if not more than Hollywood, yet it is not given the same respect as movies. Gaming is regarded as the hobby of those who don’t have better things to do with their time: who are, in fact, “wasting their time”, rather than enjoying cultural artefacts that can be as stimulating and rewarding as the finest film, the finest book or the finest meal. Something children or teens do, despite the reported fact that the average age of gamers is about 35.
Some would say if you want truly seriously game reporting, you should go read the gaming mags. And I do.
I would just like to see that same expert analysis elsewhere as well.

My ebook thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.

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