Why Totalbiscuit’s Video on Specific Definitions is Both Harmful and Frightening

Justin Keever | Sep 25, 2014

Last Sunday, I was relieved to see that someone had responded to John “TotalBiscuit” Bain’s video on the importance of specifically defining what a videogame is. I rather enjoyed Joe Parlock’s article: it was well-mannered and effectively provided a brief counterargument to Bain’s video, saying that Bain’s definitions were rather arbitrary, and that “traditional” games and supposed notgames are really only differentiated by small changes in mechanics. And yet I felt that Parlock’s response was a little inadequate, in that it failed to both capture how utterly weak and ill-conceived Bain’s argument really was, and how this particular video was merely a small addition to the problematic work that Totalbiscuit makes a living on. Totalbiscuit has been a blight on the discussion surrounding games for years: he subsists on the cult of personality surrounding him, his regressive, reductive views on games, and his self-described cynicism (placing him within the popular “angry gamer” archetype, an infuriating genre of “criticism” that deserves its own article). His video on definitions isn’t a single flub form an otherwise innocuous commentator: we’re dealing with the kind of person who has (quite recently) leveraged his own white male privilege to sell himself as a voice of reason while still managing to subjugate and insult the woman (and really women in general) he’s ostensibly trying to not comment on. We’re dealing with someone who has publicly expressed his distaste for art and believes that despite that, he can safely call himself a critic of the videogame medium. Zoya, while talking about TB’s treatment of women (in the previously linked article), makes a salient point about Bain in general: he doesn’t know what criticism is. He has no critical lens by which to judge games, his interests lie in “value for money”. This is a problem that has been epitomized in Totalbiscuit’s video on “specific definitions,” that I think is worth observing closely: it isn’t just his argument that’s damaging, it’s his entire perspective on videogames.

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