Two articles (linked to below) touch on the subject of experience behind a game critic. The most recent example is MTV's Stephen Totilo not being adept at basic moves for Street Fighter II, a heralded and historically important game series.
As video games mature, so does its criticism. Totilo and N'Gai Croal (also linked below) bring a certain air of legitimacy in the mainstream media that many other writers in the industry lack.
However to maintain a level of balance and fairness, a critic needs to be very well rounded.
Doing a hurricane kick in Street Fighter is as basic for a gamer as what a film lover would do in citing a movie like Annie Hall or Citizen Kane.
Sure a gamer need not necessarily need to grow up in that era, or be heavily involved in the culture.
But imagine if a movie critic knew nothing of Annie Hall? Or Raging Bull? Imagine a videogame critic not even knowing how to do the most basic move in fighting games?
As long as the critic is forthcoming about it, I don't think any credibility would be lost.
However, and more importantly, I would know who to trust less.
GameCritics.com writer David Stone brought up the issue of video games requiring active participation, and cited Roger Ebert's limited filmmaking skills, or the lack of pro player experience from most sports broadcasters.
The examples he cites are true, but most critics or commentators are required to have a certain requisite amount of knowledge in their field. A young woman was just hired to be the weather anchor for a major TV news outlet in Hawaii. I don't know her well enough yet, but I don't believe she has a deep background in meteorology.
However I'm sure she'll be undergoing a crash course if she hasn't already. She'll have to learn the difference between a flash flood watch and a flash flood warning.
This brings me to another question: What exactly is the "requisite" experience for a game critic? How steeped in knowledge should he/she be?
For game criticism to break through the mainstream while maintaining credibility with its core audience, a critic or columnist must be well versed in all genres. Specifically for something like fighting games, Street Fighter II would be a must.
And why not try out some of the more rudimentary moves for that game? Is there no desire to learn? Where is the sense of discovery in mining a hobby's past? Are archaic graphics and gameplay systems that much of a barrier in a critic's responsibility to experience and taste all there could be? A music critic would never bookend his experience with his first album to his last. A proper critic would reach into decades of rich history, to obtain a larger understanding of the industry as well as context.
Sure games are a far greater timesink than an LP or Blu-Ray disc. But the games industry is working hard for mainstream legitimacy. Game critics, in turn, should work that much harder.