The myth of the jaded critic

Since reading my first video game reviews in what was then our weekly TV guide, young me wanted to become a video game reviewer. I grew up idolizing professional game critics; admiring their vast knowledge of games and gaming history, as well as their ability to analyze games on a deeper level. As much as I wanted to be like them, I was frequently confronted with a warning: “if you become a critic, you’ll never enjoy your hobby again.”

Yuri is caught crawling through a window by a knife-wielding robot

After all, if you make it your work to talk about games, or anime, or any other kind of medium, it seems only logical that engaging with them as a hobby ceases to be an option. Everything you do with it is now work; every anime you watch obligates you to write about it, every game you touch requires further analysis. Even if you try to do it “for fun”, in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking about how to turn it into content. Fun doesn’t pay the bills…

I became a “””games journalist””” back in 2011, during which I steadily developed into the publication’s resident expert on indie and anime-themed games. I left in 2016 under friendly conditions, after which I started Reasons to Anime in 2017. I hadn’t even considered that last year was my 10th anniversary of being a snobby, elitist critic!

So has the warning held true? Quite the opposite really.

Rushuna leaps over a giant bullet

While there is certainly a pressure to write about as much as possible, that’s kind of why I came here. I started writing about games and anime because I love them. I wanted to express that love and become better at understanding why I felt about media the way I do. Maybe it’s a different story if you rely on criticism to pay your bills, but even then I can’t imagine all journalists being as passionless as they are made out to be.

Contrary to the warning, I have actually found that my enjoyment of anime and games has increased on average. Not only do I get the added fun of writing about anime that I enjoyed, I also get to turn those I didn’t like into valuable experiences. Rather than being bored or annoyed with a “bad” anime, I get to analyze what I didn’t like and why some would feel different about it. For example, I did not like Aim for the Ace! but I enjoyed watching it. Analyzing such a historical anime and criticizing it felt like a privilege, in a weird way. I walked away from it feeling enriched.

Sure, you don’t have to write about anime to begrudgingly appreciate the historic value of a bad series. It’s just a lot more bearable if you get to talk shit about it to your audience afterwards.

3 thoughts on “The myth of the jaded critic

  1. I totally agree! Years ago I had tons of anime magazine subscriptions, and I always thought writing about anime would be so much fun. But every interview article I read about the reviewers, it was always about how they had grown to hate anime and they just couldn’t stomach watching it any more. I was worried a little that if I started writing about the anime that I loved so much, that I would also start hating it. Yet I’ve actually found the exact opposite. I think I some how love anime even more! Now I’m even more baffled at how all those reviewer could grow to dislike anime.

    1. I am glad to hear that I am not the only Aniblogger who had this experience. I didn’t get a dedicated manga/anime magazine until I was well into adulthood, but I heard a lot of similar complaints from game journos that I used to admire.

      After posting this, I began to wonder if this was maybe a consequence of the early pop culture criticism scene. We got our own spaces here where we talk about anime in whatever format we like; it’s creatively fulfilling and personal. While I don’t think that reviewing games was exactly akin to torture, I can imagine having to churn out 12 reviews a month that all have to fit someone else’s criteria. Especially in the magazines that were less about media criticism and more about drumming up hype for products that were, coincidently, also advertising in your publication.

  2. I agree that it’s something that seems trotted out more often than it actually happens. I think what occurs is that they engage with it differently. You kind of elude to this, but I think it goes beyond that. A reviewer looking at a mediocre game or series still needs to review it. Where a fan can just not.