From Part 4 of L. Rhodes’ series on the coming-of-age of games criticism:
The contrast between those two points is a polarity that opened up in the heart of game criticism when it moved beyond reviews that treated games primarily as consumer products. Think of them as the Orphean and Archimedean styles of criticism, respectively. Like Orpheus descending into the underworld in hopes of salvaging his departed wife’s shade, the sort of critical essay Frank writes deals primarily with the internal and personal—which is why it can be, at its best, both beautiful and harrowing. Archimedes was the third century inventor who declared that, given the right fulcrum and a lever long enough, he could move the world. When Alexander calls for maturity in “It’s Time Game Journalism Grew Up,” what she’s calling for is a lever long enough to move the world of gaming.
At the crux of Rhodes’ piece are these two types of games criticism: One in which writers are absorbed in their own experiences with games as they exist today, often with very little concern for what needs to change about the titles themselves or the industry that makes them; and the other that seems to exist solely to affect change in the industry.
To me it seems that the one feeds the other. Gaming experiences can be beautiful and unlike those in other media, but there are severe limitations in the way of narrative and content—violence and the objectification of women being just two of many.
If the “Archimedean” approach doesn’t push the boundaries by asking difficult questions of the industry, then the “Orphean” approach will have only space marines and impossibly proportioned women to populate the worlds from which they draw their often powerful commentaries.
Diversity in writing style, and eventually, mainstream industry content, can only improve each other.