As a rule, I don’t think reviewers, critics, and the various other strains of videogamus journalistus have to be particularly good at the games they play. Gaming is unique in that it’s the only artistic medium where actual mechanical skill is vital to higher-level understanding of the work (inb4 metal fans claiming you’ll never TRULY GRASP the genius of Meshuggah without a doctorate in eight -string-theory chugganomics) but people forget that most games journalism is aimed directly at the broader, some might even say casual, audience. The kind of people who play games on normal, don’t use an Arcade stick in fighting games, prefer League over Dota 2, etc.
I generally try to read as much games criticism I can, mostly because I enjoy reading it, and I’ve come across insightful commentary from people I know are far worse than me at games and absolute nonsense from people I know are far better. How many YouTube critics do you follow that are genuinely, no-holds-barred, capital G “Good” at games? And how many of those are actually good critics? I’ve watched Jim’s videos. I’ve seen him “play videogames.” It’s like watching a man with dicks for hands try to juggle. Skill is great, but it’s not insight. Games are multi-faceted. Even sites like Polgyon which have a reputation for pieces that focus on narrative and aesthetics in a social context rather than raw gameplay have their place. It’s not for everyone, but I’m content to let them do them.
THAT BEING SAID, there’s a level of incompetence at which the content you’re putting out becomes worthless for anything but comedy. Polygon’s now infamous Doom first look is beyond useless. It looks like the kind of footage you’d see playing in black and white over sad violin music before a toll-free number asks you to donate and help save a lifetoday. It’s not like Doom 2016 Premiership Edition is a mechanically demanding or particularly deep game (it’s actually quite shallow when compared to the original) but I’d argue having the presence of mind to both shoot and move at the same time is somewhat vital to the experience.