The 1UP Show

Clockwise from top left: Leone, Nguyen, Frechette, and O'Donnell.

The 1UP Show does the best “traditional” digital games journalism around. Their latest episode has a review of Dead Space at around 26:13 that’s a perfect example of why this is.

Several folks who know their way around games sit and actually discuss the game. There’s no mention of a review score, but this is definitely a review, as it’s focused on the questions “how good is this game?” and “should people buy it?” The advantages over print media are obvious: you can see video of the game to illustrate their points, and you can see the reviewers as they say things, so that you can get a feeling for their attitudes and motivations. I had fun figuring out how the different people were approaching the game. This is all speculation, of course, but here are my thoughts. It was a little microcosm of all of digital games fandom.

Matt Leone was playing the determined naysayer, the guy who snidely lobs criticisms at what he perceives as sacred cows. Thierry Nguyen serves as the disdainful critic, clearly from the hardcore games-as-entertainment camp; he’s that guy who when you mention a favorite movie, always starts the next sentence with “Yeah, but….” Ryan O’Donnell is the informed fan; he clearly enjoyed the game a lot, and focuses on all the good things that make the criticisms of the game less important in his eyes. Jay Frechette serves as the developer’s advocate. He talks about how challenging the game design must have been, and tosses in some games-as-art speech with his mentions of the cohesiveness of the game.

There are clearly two camps here. Leone and Nguyen seem to have enjoyed the game some, but felt that it was nothing special and a bit derivative. O’Donnell and Frechette really liked the game, and saw all the similarities to classic movies and games as homages. The pattern of the discussion is something like this: Leone lobs a cutting, unequivocal criticism. Nguyen reinforces it with an in-the-trenches anecdote. Frechette argues around Leone’s critique, explaining why that particular comment is either invalid or mitigated by other good stuff. Finally, O’Donnell mentions something cool that’s a counterexample to Leone’s claim.

I’m not sure how much this point/counterpoint is intentional, but it’s incredibly effective as a way for the viewer to evaluate the game for herself. There’s no direct, overriding voice who decides any of these arguments. The viewer is free to decide which speaker was more convincing. Additionally, there are a few compliments or criticisms that each reviewer agrees with, regardless of which camp he’s in.

I especially love the discussion at 30:15 of why the player character is the only one with a helmet. Leone and Nguyen poke fun at how the engineer main character has a full helmeted suit, while the marines don’t. Frechette and O’Donnell offer the Half-Life defense: the engineer wears a helmet because he’s going into environments and areas that are hazardous by their very nature, while the soldiers aren’t really expecting combat.

1UP.com has something special with The 1UP Show, and right now it and Rock, Paper, Shotgun are the only traditional games journalism I’m subscribed to. I’d love to see more voices in the vein of The 1UP Show and RPS, where there’s actual discussion of digital games aimed at discerning viewers and readers.

4 thoughts on “The 1UP Show

  1. “Iā€™d love to see more voices in the vein of The 1UP Show and RPS”…

    You know what I’m going to say.

    1-2-3-go.

  2. Hey, I’ve got my hands full. Besides, while I appreciate games journalism like that, I’m more interested in the kind of stuff I do on Ludus Novus.

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