OK, I'm here to make shit real.
Firstly, when you refer to N'Gai talking about games, you're talking about some variation of a professional or workplace environment. Whether its reading his articles or reviews, or hearing him on a podcast, you're hearing him either doing his job or now doing his past job.
With that cleared up, N'Gai is clearly a very intelligent person. He's well-read and well-schooled, and naturally he would want to "raise the bar" in gaming conversation, go to speak. Shawn Elliott is the same way but often goes low-brow or makes these jokes. N'Gai is very serious a majority of the time and as a result he wants to make academic conversation that people will enjoy. You download a 70 megabyte podcast to here four dudes say "it was fun" "it was cool" "cool graphics" "i hate it". That's just not interesting, and N'Gai realizes this and brings something relatively new to the table.
Obviously he has fun with games, perhaps less in the traditional sense as he's a self-declared noob at most multiplayer games and seemingly he doesn't fall in love with MMOs or any game that you could log hundreds of hours in.
He just doesn't want to stand on a soapbox and say "yeah it was fun".
As far as it being annoying, yeah sometimes when you want to hear how a game is he gets caught up in what makes an interesting feature article but not what makes good analysis of the game. I think that's where I prefer some of Shawn's GFW Radio monologues. For example, when he talked about Stalker, I had to wait months to get it (I had a crappy PC), but when I did I totally understood incredibly what he was talking about, the game's foreign feel and how intriguing it was that the game has an extremely limited amount of handholding which sounds terrible but in execution is strangely cool. Uniquely cool. And fun. I enjoyed it, not as much as a Half Life or something but it was a very good game.
Sorry about some rambling or whatnot, I think you should be able to grasp my point fairly quickly (message-board post-read speed at least).
Reply to SunKing:
At the same time, maintaining a checkbox and an analytical point of view is far from a good way to review or critique something. Firstly, games are extremely different and often different things make them better. For example, you might want a game to be at least 10 hours. But Portal was 3, and much better for it. Likewise, Fallout 3 can't be 5 hours. You want a game to be possible, but for Braid some of the puzzles are extremely difficult, and that is whats awesome about the game. I spent forever trying to get through using a ridiculous amount of willpower not to find guides on Youtube and I managed to get through, in much longer than it probably should've taken anyone.
Any checklist is misinformed, likewise, being too critical is something you don't want to do when you're supposed to be informing the fans. Be interesting, engage conversation, but don't say that the second chapter's jeep didn't have the necessary replay value or the sand on level 7 was poorly textured. Ultimately, that's very interesting, and very unnecessary. Talking about how Half Life's pacing is and how other games should borrow from it is interesting, and it does greatly affect how good a game is. Half Life 2 would be a MUCH lesser game without its physics puzzles and pacing slow-downs/speed-ups.
If Transformers 2 proved anything, its that marketing destroys anything any critic has to say, so the critic may as well speak to their audience, as opposed to trying to be some final word on something.