In Defense of a Christ-Centered Review of Portal 2

Note from Kotaku: We recently republished an article by video game journalist and critic Tom Chick, who complained that an article about the game Portal 2 on a site called Christ-Centered Gamer lacked a "shred of insight, much less Christian insight."

Shortly after publishing that story, which originally ran at QuarterToThree.com, we heard from one of the staffers from Christ-Centered Gamer who asked to write a rebuttal. Here it is:

I should probably begin this by saying that I had no hand in the editing or writing of the Portal 2 review from Christ Centered Gamer (CCG). My last piece of delivered, published content was the review of Alan Wake, a game I am inordinately fond of, and a review with which I have never been particularly proud. It should be said, then, that I have no personal investment in defending this review, though I do believe it to have accomplished the goals of the site, as stated.

I am the managing editor for CCG. One of my goals for the site has been to consistently evolve and improve the writing, as well as the expected level of writing. Sometimes we're way off target when it comes to all of that; sometimes, things gel perfectly, and excellent content is put out.

Having been on a bit of a hiatus since that last review, the response to the Portal 2 review frankly didn't surprise me. CCG has always been at its best when the writing is methodical and paced, when there isn't a rush to churn out content. The site has been in a constant state of flux for a lengthy period, and the writers and editors have been working and brainstorming to refine the editing process and the review template (not to mention the scoring system). That said, the criticisms leveled at the review itself did surprise me, and not for the reasons that might be expected.

As a writer, an editor, I tend to focus more on flow and composition than the particular message a review gives. Other editors on CCG tend to naturally focus on other areas. Though we absolutely miss things and absolutely have put out content that shouldn't have been published in such an embryonic state, there are other moments where I believe CCG shines and publishes content that is equal to many of the bigger review sites around. Our reviews of Street Fighter IV, Fallout 3 and Heavy Rain are absolutely indicative of this, as are the reviews of Borderlands and Call of Duty: Black Ops.

The writing, though, is not what this is about.

Tom Chick's article regarding CCG's review of Portal 2 simply missed the point of the site.

CCG isn't a place that deals in Christian analysis of games. There's a place for that and an audience for that. The multitude of sites that deal with that subject are far better equipped to cover that theocentric topic than CCG is. Instead, CCG focuses on issues of content that might be more relevant to a Christian gamer than a site such as What They Play or an organization such as the ESRB [game ratings group] might provide.

Some Christians are more sensitive to iconography and issues dealing with the occult than others; others might have more issues with language and sexuality than the rest of us. That's fine, and the information that CCG attempts to provide addresses that need.

What Mr. Chick thought he would find—a place where a meaningful dialog about games existed (but from a Christian perspective!)—doesn't exist at CCG. Not yet, at least. Belief is such a personal thing, and so indefinable, intangible, that any such discussion might be rendered moot, at worst, and the equivalent to apologetics, at best. That isn't necessarily the best way to approach writing for a site where the desire is to review games, as opposed to analyzing their oftentimes pseudo-spiritual or humanistic elements.

There's an absolutely valid discussion to be found within that topic. The same could be said, however, about a deconstructive literary analysis of the work that Hideo Kojima puts out, or an in-depth search for meaning within The Legend of Zelda series, and how Link is the embodiment of the inner-child within us all. Those discussions are valid and fascinating. Yet when attempting to critique a title, is finding meaning in the work more important than viewing the work as a subjective whole?

Some of the criticisms of CCG that Mr. Chick puts forth are valid. I'd submit that he visited the site with preconceived notions of what the site was, without having seen for himself what the content was. The review does not fail because it didn't meet Mr. Chick's notion of an analytical look at the game-– something that was never promised, and never delivered upon-–but it might fall short because of quality.

I'd be misleading everyone if I said that CCG has reached the extent of what it can do, and what it will do. CCG, like many sites, is iterative in execution and function; its form and purpose continue to grow and evolve. In that, someday, there might be content much like what Mr. Chick was looking for when he ventured to CCG.

However, that time is not now. We at CCG appreciate constructive criticism and the exchange of ideas, but we will always remain true to our primary purpose.

Drew Regensburger is the managing editor for Christ Centered Gamer. He occasionally posts a blog called Absolution in Suspension, where he writes about games, and can usually be found finding as many reasons not to update it as possible.