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Veteran Member - Level 11
Today, I read something that really disturbed me. It wasn't anything that should be genuinely disturbing, but it really stuck with me as a game critic. It was Pete Wells' review of a new restaurant owned by the Food Network's Guy Fieri. Why did this affect me so much? I'm not a huge fan of Guy's recipes, and though I watched him come to stardom on the Food Network's Next Star back in the day, I never really felt much kinship with the man. Sure, I enjoy watching his "stuff your face with food that's terrible for you" show, but that's just because I love to stuff my face with food that's terrible for me. But when Wells took him to task over the poor quality of the dining experience at Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, I couldn't help but feel bad for both of them.
I feel bad for Guy because here's a man who clearly has a passion for food. He clearly wants to make food that the average American can love. I don't believe he makes food for people like Pete Wells. Then again, I'm not certain he touched any of the dishes served to Wells or his party that night. Guy is also a man whose time is likely more preoccupied with marketing deals, managing and recording several TV programs and touring the country for various other reasons than it is with actually cooking. Lord knows what his personal life looks like at this point. He's someone who has lost touch with the reason he got into the business in the first place: creativity and a love of the culinary arts. He's also likely trying to come up with some back up plans in case his shows and books stop bringing home the smoked, cured maple bacon like they used to. Or he could just be very greedy. I don't know him personally.
Then suddenly, this writer from the New York Times who lists no culinary jobs on his Linkedin Profile, decides to review Guy's new dining digs. Calling it a "review" would be a stretch actually. What Wells did was berate Guy Fieri like someone who had been personally hurt by the man - like someone who had a personal vendetta against him. That's not a review. This is someone who has chosen to live his life critiquing the hard work of other individuals with more success than himself. He is a sad, pathetic, bitter man who was likely picked on in school, but uses his stature as a top food critic to take his jealousy and insecurities out on other people. I feel bad for him because he will never be happy with himself. If he loves food so much, he should be cooking it, not berating someone else who was brave enough to take the step he never had the chocolate covered salty balls to take.
Sure, Dan Ryckert's review of Black Ops: Declassified was scathing, but it wasn't a personal attack on developer Nihilistic.
I am a video game critic. Though I may currently be amateur (though I'm making progress on that front and will hopefully have news about that within the next few weeks), I am still someone who purports to know enough about the art of making video games that I'm comfortable critiquing someone else's hard work for the entire world to read. However, I don't consider myself to be anything like Wells. I have a respect for the hard work and passion of the creators I critique that Wells didn't display in his rant against Guy Fieri. I don't believe there exist many games reviewers who operate in the same manner as Wells did in this review. There's a difference between personal attacks and giving constructive feedback. Even Jim Sterling knows that, which is why I don't mind his opinions.
I can identify with Wells though. I've always wrestled with the fact that I don't know how to code, I'm not artistic, and I have absolutely no qualifications for game design, but yet I still feel that I'm qualified to critique them professionally. Would I love to have the skills to make video games for a living? To be the one who creates the things that give people countless hours of entertainment? Of course I would. But that's the wrong attitude to have when you're in the position of a critic. Some people try to leverage their career writing about games into a career making games, but if that's what you want to do, then you should go to school, learn how to make games and start making them. If you want to be a critic or a journalist, then do that and focus on that alone. Wells comes across as a man jealous of the success Guy Fieri has achieved in the American food industry, rather than a man whose sole purpose is to critique Guy's work. He comes across as someone who would rather turn back the clocks and take a left in life where he actually took a right.
I don't ever want to sound like him. My career goal is to be a leading creative voice in the video game industry through journalism and game reviews. That's not disingenuous in the least. That's really all I aspire to. Nothing more, nothing different. The most important thing to remember as game writers is that we aren't the stars of the show. The video games and the people who make the video games are the stars of the show.
The minute we as critics begin to see or present ourselves in a different light is the minute we should hang it up and start teaching at a community college or something. Luckily, we have the luxury of the internet to keep us honest, so that if we ever write something ridiculously unprofessional and disrespectful like Pete Wells published yesterday, at least the commenters will be first in line to put us back in our place. So for that, I'm thankful to the internet and the game industry's rabid fanbase for its honesty and passion. They piss me off sometimes, but that's alright. It's worth it.
Stay classy Game Informer.