I started Deus Ex Kinema as an outlet for my film criticism and my theories about film and filmmaking in general. I decided to make a conscious decision to break down each film into several scores instead of one overall number. In addition, while I have an overall score for each film, there are two other important scores. I’m speaking of the “film as art” rating and the “film as entertainment” rating. I decided this because I realized that each and every film can be talked about as a mixture of art and entertainment, but never one or the other. Because I feel as though these two ratings are the most important, I will no longer give an overall score. The previous “overall” will now be split between the art and entertainment ratings. I plan on these two scores being the only numbered scores that I give. Instead, my breakdown will consist of key words and phrases. To give an example, under the new system, Captain Phillips would have a breakdown that would look like this (instead of a bunch of numbers):
Direction: Focused, driven, mature.
Acting: Well realized, complicated characters by both well known actors and non-actors.
Cinematography: Grainy, gritty, documentarian, genuine and grounded.
Story: Perfectly paced, intense, critical, an interesting take on modern tragedy.
Dialogue: Natural and occasionally improvised.
Editing: Fast at times, but perfectly content with letting certain moments breath.
Art Direction: Stark contrasts mirror thematic elements, from grimy and rusty to polished and clean.
“Film as Entertainment” Rating: 9/10
“Film as Art” Rating: 8/10
Secondly, I want to forge into new and exciting territory in addition to what I’ve been doing already… Gaming is an immensely fascinating mode of expression to me. It is hailed by some, and absolutely panned by others. The debate of violence in video games rolls on, each side bringing more studies and arguments to the table every day. Game criticism is similarly convoluted, with people occasionally sending death threats, responses to thoughtful reviews that are contrary to their own opinions. I’ve heard many video game journalists speak about this phenomena, and I thought I’d throw in my own opinion on the matter. I believe this is an artifact of the fact that gaming is an incredibly personal experience. Yes, there are multiplayer games in which people interact with others within the game, but the fact that video games are rarely experienced in a true, social setting, is very important. Games really have no public venue, but instead exist solely in one’s home, and are often played alone. This ends up making it a very personal interaction between the individual and the game. As such, any negative criticism of a game that is beloved by an individual is perceived as an attack on them.
With the rise of independently released video games coupled with the rise of computing power, the industry is actually beginning to see the dawn of a new era. We see developers creating games that are both intellectually and aesthetically very challenging. We see games becoming a more personal expression of ideas. We see them becoming a medium in which we can have truly thoughtful, philosophical discussions about. Because of this, I am very excited to say that I will be publishing reviews on new games in addition to film reviews. But, like I noted above, games are very personal to the gamer. With this in mind, my reviews will focus on the subjectivity of gaming. I will write each review with this core principle: a game review is not about deconstructing or criticizing the game for what it can or should be, but rather giving the reader information that will help them realize if they will like the game or not. This is a bit contrary to my film criticism, but it’s because I believe both mediums should be talked about in different ways. While film can be broken down structurally, there are plenty of video games that cannot be defined under a single structure. This is because many games have choice. Entire franchises, such as The Elder Scrolls, are based on the idea of creating your own story or forging your own path, while others, such as Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead are based on player choice and branching paths. Both of these examples demonstrate that the experience that one has while playing differs fundamentally from other players’. Narrative structure in gaming relies on what the player chooses, and therefor cannot be criticized via normal methods.
With my game reviews, I will attempt to celebrate the good aspects of each game while identifying and discussing the themes and/or commentary and how the game expresses these ideas. Instead of a scoring system, I will have a breakdown section that identifies “What’s fun” and “What’s interesting” in an effort to help readers identify games that they’d like to experience.
And finally, I will be posting weekly updates, collections of thoughts on what I’m watching, what I’m experiencing, what I’m playing, and what I’m thinking about in all forms of art.
I hope to bring more regular, better structured, and better thought out writings to Deus Ex Kinema, and I hope to continue to tap into the intellectual in all of us.