Posts tagged games as art
Posts tagged games as art
People who love indie and experimental games have a habit of looking down on first-person shooters. I get where it comes from: when it seems like every game (even remakes of non-shooters) is a shooter, and when it seems like that’s the only thing anyone cares about, it can be frustrating to those of us who like a wide variety of gaming experiences. So I get it. But it often gets expressed as a kind of elitist, high-brow disdain for action and violence, and that’s when it becomes a problem for me.
So just in case it was ever a question, let me say this unequivocally: I LOVE first-person shooters. Some of my favorite games and favorite gaming experiences, both past and present, have been with FPSes. In fact (and I don’t think this is something I’ve explicitly mentioned before), I have an unofficial policy that says of the three or four games I play at a time, at least one always has to be an FPS (right now it’s Far Cry 2). That’s not something I do for any other type or category of game.
There’s just something about the FPS (the good ones, of course) that feels right. Whether it’s the immersion, the generally solid controls, or the visceral feel of the action, I don’t know; but I do know I don’t like to be away from them for very long.
I say this to share my love of the FPS form, but also to reiterate that every kind of game has value, there’s room for all of them, and we shouldn’t spend time or energy trying to police what other people enjoy. That goes for the occasionally snooty art game crowd who look down on dumb action games just as much as it does the gatekeeping hardcore crowd who look down on casual or indie games. The games you love aren’t better than others - they’re just better for you.
I do exactly this but with RPGs. It’s hard to just completely ignore a genre that you love, even for a little while.
sephorabrainvibes said: or at least not mixing social issues with gameplay stuff… If you are really gonna talk about it, keep it away of the “technical review” This are my two cents, you don’t have to accept them, but here they are
if video games are going to be viewed as art, and they ARE art, then you can’t pull this idiotic “keep social issues out of reviews” fuckshit, you can’t just go down a goddamn checklist in a review and go “yeah this game has a bunch of shaders, not too many bugs, the gameplay is kinda fun, 10/10.” that’s not how you critique art. you have to judge it as a whole work and that ABSOLUTELY has to include the social implications of the social messages a game conveys both intentionally and unintentionally
John Epler’s twitter, though.
people treating video games as a lesser storytelling medium
video game award show hosts treating video games as a lesser storytelling medium
Video games are not for storytelling.
I mean studies have shown that stories presenting in a video game type format are less memorable, let alone many people do not even finish games and see their story conclude, it isn’t surprising that some people think that the medium is inferior in telling stories than the book or movie. Then we add the fact that games are almost NEVER focused mainly on story but instead gameplay, then its almost unfair to think poorly about people who believe the statement that games are inferior in this way.
1.) Studies, eh? Which ones? What methods did they use to determine that? Has this result been repeated? How did they sample from the population? tl;dr citation needed
2.) Games are a unique medium in that respect (I mean it’s not like a book will cut off its ending if your reading level isn’t up to snuff etc.) which is why Let’s Plays, longplays, and things like Nintendo’s Super Guide are really rad, but that doesn’t really say anything about games as a storytelling medium per se. If someone turns a movie off before seeing the ending, is the movie failing to tell a story? (Answer: No, though maybe it wasn’t compelling enough for that individual to finish. The movie itself is still the same.)
3.) I’d sort of like to see some numbers on how many games focus on gameplay over story, but then again I think that is, in many cases, a false dichotomy.
Maybe we play different games, but to be quite honest I play games for story first and gameplay a close second. Even if it’s a really simple, silly story. The best thing is when gameplay and narrative work together and with harmony become more than the sum of their parts.
I can name a lot of games that have moved me to anger, to tears, to joy at their stories, games that I would not remember or care about if they didn’t have the power of their characters and narratives behind them. The list of games I can name that have had the same emotional impact on me by gameplay alone is much, much smaller. (In fact, I think I can really only say that about falling block puzzle games like Tetris or Dr. Mario.) Most of my favourite games exist in HARMONY between their stories and gameplay: that is, being fun to play AND having a compelling narrative. A few of them even have honestly kind of boring gameplay and sublime narratives!
Not all games are for telling stories, not all games that DO tell stories are any good at it, but to say that games ‘aren’t for storytelling’ is the height of ignorance about the medium.
The idea that Sonic will somehow benefit from a lack of story over a good story is ridiculous. So is the “gameplay is more important” argument.
Games are an experience. EVERYTHING is important. The games with the greatest stories are the ones that integrate them directly into the gameplay. You even get some that catch the player off guard by challenging what they take for granted. Sonic Colours (brilliantly) did this in how it handled the entire zone of Terminal Velocity, and I would love to see more of that.
All mediums are fantastic and have their own things that only they can do, but there are certain story experiences that can only be done to their full potential in a game, and people want those out of Sonic.
Mass Effect lead writer Mac Walters explained at a panel that the team did not anticipate the ending controversy because they believed each player would have been satisfied with their ending and not have looked for different ones.
During a Writers Guild of America panel discussing writing in video games, Walters addresses the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy and how the writing team ended up creating the red, blue, and green endings. “We felt our energy was better spent creating one good ending rather than trying to make three separate endings,” Walters begins, “Our thinking was that people would be so awed by how they thought their choices changed the ending that it didn’t matter if the other endings weren’t actually different because they would not bother looking for them.”
“We also expected that when people told each other about what ending they got, they would tell their own version of it and how their choices all the way from Mass Effect 1 changed their personal ending,” Walters explains, “We thought it was a very powerful message that there could be so many different takes on what was essentially the exact same thing. People would not have realized they all got the same ending if things had gone our way.”
When asked about how long they had been planning the ending, Walters replied, “We never thought about the ending until near the end of development on Mass Effect 3. I personally did not see it was such a big issue that we needed an ending that felt satisfying. The best endings are ones that make you question what the writer was thinking and why they believed it would be good. The greatest movies and books leave people with that exact same feeling. I think I ended up accomplishing what I had set out to do.”
Walters concluded his section of the panel talking about writing for Mass Effect 4 saying, “The only way we can be free as writers is if we limit the choices players can make during the game.”
So. I’ve never liked Walters. He always came across with a seriously arrogant and creepy male gaze going on to me, but seriously.
Why would a company that markets itself as one of the best at story-driven gaming hire someone who thinks endings don’t matter.
Who is too lazy to develop choices within the overall framework of his plot?
Who is too selfish to bother acknowledging that other people might have different points of view?
Who legitimately thinks people don’t interact with their media, and that it’s good to leave them confused?
The best endings are ones that make you question what the writer was thinking and why they believed it would be good.
Who the hell taught this man to write or even analyze writing? You should NEVER question what a writer was thinking at the end of a story. NEVER. It should never cross your MIND to wonder what the writer was thinking. Your goal as an entertainer should be to leave your audience basking in the afterglow, so to speak.
When you finish something, be it a movie, a book or a FUCKING VIDEO GAME, your goal should be one where the reader/watcher/player wants to hit rewind and relive the whole damned adventure ALL OVER AGAIN. The best way to do that is to make a product YOU love and keep wanting to revisit. Clearly this asshat never thought of that.
The greatest movies and books leave people with that exact same feeling.
Uh, no. We’ll take Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for an example. Never once have I questioned, nor had anyone I talked to questioned, what Tolkien was thinking at the ends of those stories. NEVER ONCE. We were all too busy going back to the beginning to reread the epic adventures of Bilbo, Frodo and company. And the movies didn’t change that. I’ve seen the trilogy almost as often as I’ve read the damned books. I’ve analyzed Tolkien’s worldbuilding, his characterization, even his dialogue. Never once did I wonder what he was thinking when I got to the end. Because he did his damned job and the ending grew organically out of the flesh of the story.
The Red/Blue/Green bullshit at the end of Mass Effect grew organically out of Walters’ ass, maybe, but not out of the narrative of the three games.
Worst writer in gaming. Hands down.
Holy shit… I just… holy shit.
speaking of which I don’t understand people who skip cutscenes in Zelda games or think the plot isn’t important like
without the plot and characters and their interactions Zelda games would consist of you going around various dungeons with no real purpose or sense of stake in the matter, and I know I’m not nearly as likely to play games that don’t have SOME form of story payoff (this is why I’m quick to quit games like Animal Crossing even though they can be quite fun; there’s no ending to strive for or a story to see through, so I usually drop such games after a few weeks or so.)
like if I wanted a game without a story to tell I’d play Tetris lmao
… so, uh … First, I want to preface this by saying that I understand the problem described in this article. Way too many video games do fuck up how the story is presented.
I think the article’s narrow focus is largely a reflection of the transitional state of the medium.
Back when film first came onto the scene, the near-universal consensus among media critics and commentators is that film, by definition, cannot be art. Certainly, a film’s set design can be art, and film’s costumes can be art, and a film actor’s performance can be art, and in this sense, film can document art, but it cannot be art.
Then that consensus started to shift. Film may be art, some daring critics would claim - but only within a particular set of parameters. Only if crafted and presented in a particular way. Only to the extent that it does not intrude upon those realms of expression that are “properly” the domain of traditional theatre. In short, only film is art only if it knows its place.
It took a long time for those strictures to fall away, and for film to become accepted as an art form in itself that need not subordinate itself to any other.
Fast-forward a hundred years, and we find the nascent medium of video games in much the same place. Indeed, the arguments that have been set forth to establish that video games cannot be art are almost wholly identical to the arguments arrayed against film a century before: the graphics and music and writing and other elements that comprise a video game may well be art, individually, but the video game itself is not art - it merely contains art.
And now, video games as a medium find themselves a very similar state of critical transition to the one that film underwent all those years ago. Video games may be art, but only as long as they remain in their proper place - only as long as do not attempt to usurp the prerogatives of film, literature, or other more established and respected media. So long as they tread carefully, remaining within the narrow boundaries that have been set for them, they can win some grudging critical acceptance; one step outside those lines, however, and they lose all legitimacy.
It’ll be interesting to see how this consensus evolves in the coming years.
Definitely a good point. I also posted the majority of my post there in the comments, and it seems I also misinterpreted some of their points there, too (i.e. they hadn’t mentioned voice acting at all, I was taking the Portal example as a whole, not just the bit they were talking about).
On a whim, I booted up a copy of Metroid Prime a few weekends ago. About an hour in, I came across a place called Ruined Fountain – and then, something surprising happened. I did a sort of double take, and genuinely laughed out loud. My ten-year-old memories of this game were that it was atmospheric (yes) and demanding (yes) – but I’d never appreciated that it was also wonderfully clever.
All too often in discussions I hear stuff like, “Games are art. These games prove it” and the games are this artsy sort of thing that is a rehash of what other people are doing (BS:I, TLoU, Spec Ops), or dull and without any interaction (Journey, Limbo, Passage, Heavy Rain).
It’s almost like nobody believes games themselves are art, just the things these particular games get wrapped up in, like fancy plots or “deep” meanings.
All games are art, and it’s their gameplay that is artistic, not the visuals, sound, or plot.
Couldn’t agree more.
I don’t think I like this respectgameplay blog very much, so far.
I mean, the owner has a good point, an excellent point, a point to shout from the mountaintops - gameplay is artistic - but they’re going about advocating it in exactly the wrong way by putting down games that don’t focus on gameplay as much as others. Gameplay, visuals, sound, and plot/narrative are all artistic. They come together to make the whole artwork that is a videogame. Some games have more of one aspect than another. That’s okay. Whether it’s a game that’s focused purely on the gameplay or one that’s more focused on the plot, they’re both games and they’re both art.
The reason games like Journey come up so often in this goofy debate is because arty games like it are good starting points for trying to explain to folks why the medium moves us so. Non-gamers tend to understand the beauty of narrative before they understand the beauty of gameplay.
Let’s celebrate the art in gameplay, but for goodness’ sake don’t do it by bashing other aspects of a game or games that focus on those other aspects.
(By the way, I’m not sure what the hell version of Journey OP played, but it is absolutely an interactive experience and uses that interactivity to tell its narrative in ways that would not be possible if it were a movie. Yeah, a lot of the narrative is cutscenes, but another huge chunk of it is the joy of movement and the terror of having that taken away from you at critical moments. The snowy mountain scene would not have near the impact if we weren’t playing it.)
A lot of people cite Journey like it “proves” that games are art, when it’s not much of a game itself. Starcraft isn’t my favorite game, but isn’t a game like that a much better expression of the art of games? A game that actually takes advantage of its medium to produce such a deep range of strategies and tactics?
I think people are missing the forest for the trees a bit. Gameplay itself is artistic, and we should respect it for that.
Journey is often an example of video games as art because it very much expresses the standard view of what art is from a perspective outside of the gaming community. There are many forms of art that are a part of video games: breathtaking visuals, immersive experiences, solid and well-thought out controls, software stability, compelling soundtracks (or even lack thereof), replayability, character synthesis… Each is an art form in its own right, which is precisely why video games are an ART. Every bit factors into the overall experience, all of which takes a lot of dedication, time, and resources to create and deserves respect as a whole.
Whoa now, OP
Gameplay is absolutely artistic - watch any skilled player doing a challenge run and marvel and tell me that ain’t something beautiful worthy of the name ‘art’ - but bashing on arty games that maybe have simpler gameplay than others leaves a bad taste in my mouth!
Impressionism and realism are both ways to paint. That doesn’t mean that impressionist works are better at being paintings because the style does things only paint can do.
This is a really powerful article by Rhea Monique, about her experience with the new Tomb Raider game. She talks about how she found the game traumatizing and triggering, yet in the end she doesn’t find it to be a bad thing.
Well worth the read.
If the new Tomb Raider indeed uses its darker themes for being powerful and not just for the sake of cheap drama or character assassination, maybe I’ll have a look at some point. In any case, I’m glad it helped the person who wrote the article.
I’ve come across this a lot too, haha! I think that to someone who doesn’t really get as into the games as others (like us) and mainly play for the GAME, then it would be pretty easy to mistake them as the same person, they all look kinda similar
you’re probably right; I probably don’t get it because I REFUSE to let myself miss important story details when I first play a game. LIKE I GET LEGITIMATELY UPSET WHEN PEOPLE SAY THEY SKIP THE CUTSCENES WHILE PLAYING SOMETHING FOR THE FIRST TIME I’M LIKE
WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT
DON’T YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON
DON’T YOU WANT TO KNOW THE STORY!?!?!??!
This confuses me, too.
I think it’s related to how I confuse people with my frothing arm-flailing about bad game stories. I can’t just play it, I have to know what’s going on, and if what’s going on is terribly written in the wrong kind of ways, I just can’t do it.
(Now if they’re terribly written in the right kind of ways, that’s a different matter entirely, of course)
I’m in a strange funk, and needed something to cheer me up. Sophie Houlden’s satirical masterpiece on the Art/Games debate is just what I needed.
The Musée de Louvre is a place in Paris. Every year over 8 million people visit the place, often to viewart. Now, that’s not as many people as are currently subscribing to World of Warcraft or anything, but it’s still a lot. And people are beginning to wonder if art is beginning to have a similar cultural importance that games enjoy.