There’s a young man living in Brisbane who wears a sweet hat, talks really fast and with his weekly videos critiquing and criticising videogames draws multiple millions of views from around the world. His name is Yahtzee, he’s a British-born Australian, and he’s the king of videogame critics.
My thesis is about online videogame critics like Yahtzee and the communities that have grown up around them over the past number of years. Videogame criticism is still a pretty new deal – as recently as 2006 Chuck Klosterman noted in Esquire magazine that “There is no Lester Bangs of videogames”. Bangs being a bit of a rock star music critic of the 60’s and 70’s. Today there are literally hundreds of amateur and semi-professional videogame critics writing for hundreds of blogs and websites, and since 2007 when I first included myself in their number, I have seen the community explode with activity. My research will look into the particular community I’ve been involved with, document its emergence and characteristics, and use it as the focal point to examine three broad themes.
The first is inspired by an increasing wealth of literature that spells out the co-dependent relationship the human mind has with technology. It is becoming evident that far from simply shaping technology as in the great enlightenment narrative, rather human cognition is to an equal or greater extent shaped by the technology it engages with. How we evaluate the beneficial, detrimental, or ambivalent nature of those changes is an area still in development.
The technology central to my research, and the second broad area of investigation, is the internet. The globalised space of the internet would at first seem to repel or diminish expressions of nationality, but mounting evidence and my own observations suggests that the actuality runs counter to this. For a nation of a mere 20 million, there certainly seem to be a heck of a lot of Australian videogame critics operating on the internet – and Yahtzee, who I mentioned earlier, is just one of them. Why and to what extent the online community of critics attracts or encourages expressions of nationality will be investigated.
Thirdly and finally, I will attempt a reading of the critical videogame community on the internet as a place of resistance to neoliberal principles of capital. I will attempt to argue that internet communities, and the critical videogame community in particular, presents itself as an expression of disillusionment with and resistance to, “the right of capital to exercise its sovereign power wherever and over whomever it chooses” to quote Terry Eagleton. Nine times out of ten these critics do their work and give it away for free, and I think that’s significant.
In conclusion, the arrival of these communities of like-minded authors and critics, working together to develop ideas and expand a field of criticism, expressing cultures and identities that are both global and locally based, has been enabled by one of the most revolutionary technologies of the past hundred years. The Internet and the videogame critic, that’s the subject of my research.