1) What are the occupational hazards?
Lack of sleep and sore thumbs when trying to review a 25-hour videogame over one weekend.
Family life represents not an occupational hazard but a direct conflict. It’s seldom commented upon, but there’s a very good reason most film critics do not have children. Before I was married and had kids, I was at a screening or a show almost every night. Now, I choose my outings very judiciously and much prefer seeing films during the day.
2) How do you keep going when so much of what you see is mediocre?
The fun, ultimately, is in the writing — in trying to make the reviews interesting and maybe even entertaining for people who might never watch what you’re reviewing.
That vast gray area is the tough part. The reviews that flow fastest are the outright raves or pans, while weighing the good and bad can be laborious. Those are the ones that often make me resent the loss of that two hours more than the major stinkers.
3) Do you get self-important?
I’ve witnessed egomaniacal, tantrum-throwing, self-important critics in action over the years, and it’s not a pretty sight, although it can be funny. I’m not temperamentally inclined to behave that way, although I do appreciate simple professional courtesies, such as seats being held and so on. We’re there to do a job, and anything that makes it easier is good.
Compared to others, no.
I actually think it’s a good idea to be a little self-important, since I’m trying very hard to convince people that videogames are, in fact, important.
4) Do you ever fall asleep or walk out in the middle of a piece?
The lights are never dim enough to fall asleep in the theater, and lead N.Y. critics are too prominently positioned on a house-seat aisle to get away with it. But I covered film festivals for years, and anyone who says they didn’t sneak an occasional nap — voluntarily or not — during the 8:30 a.m. screenings at Cannes is a liar. I once sat across the aisle from a jury president who dozed soundly through 70% of the Palme d’Or winner.
It’s important not to be overly tired when you’re watching at home, because it’s very easy to fall asleep. This happened once during a Court TV movie, and I admitted as much in the review (though I did go back and watch the whole thing). Court’s then-CEO Henry Schlieff sent me two large bags of coffee grounds.
5) How do you combat your predispositions for (or against) particular artists?
That’s a real challenge. It extends to genres as well: After you’ve seen a dozen reality-competition shows, it’s hard to get particularly excited about the 13th. It’s best to try being fair, but also to acknowledge your biases when necessary and then place that particular project in context — to admit, say, that you’re not a fan of Adam Sandler’s oeuvre, but of his movies that you’ve seen, this is the fourth best.
It’s tough to combat my bias against games that I’m not good at. Sometimes it’s my own fault that I’m having a hard time with the game — not the developer’s.