Posts tagged games as art
Posts tagged games as art
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.
“Defender of the Future is an entirely new game universe with a story that has no ties to the original Mega Drive/Genesis titles, hence a reboot. Despite being developed by Appaloosa Interactive (the company formerly known as Novotrade International), the team working on Defender of the Future was not the same team that worked on the Ecco games.”
And quite frankly? This game was so far from the original concept story that it makes me sick to see fans who know nothing of the original 1992 and 1994 games. The original storyline with the Vortex, which revolved entirely around the intelligence of the ocean and its’ life forms and showed no sign of human involvement - other than the ruins of Atlantis - was essentially supposed to have left the Ecco series on a cliffhanger ending in Ecco: The Tides of Time; in which he disappears into the “tides of time” and basically enters a void where time and space are irrelevant.
So where the everlasting fuck did the need to drag humans into the game come from? And why did these new enemies have to get such a tacky name? How did we go from Vortex to Foe, and degrade from such complex story lines about time, space and multiverse into this garbage about mutated dolphins with spikes and clan ranks? Dolphin life depends on the great human master race now, does it? The Asterite and glyphs had to be replaced by a generic smashed crystal and a bunch of unnecessary side characters reminiscent of aquatic Sonic OCs - and for what reason? To write a fanfic about dolphins with useless tribal markings? Ships of your OC and the Clan General? What has this series come to?
I feel like today’s generation of Ecco fans are bastardising what these games once were - a complex and revolutionary look into the future of gaming and Science Fiction. But alas, we are but another collective of PS2-biased youth who fail to appreciate the time and effort that Ed Annunziata put into the original SEGA Megadrive games of the 90s. A fandom that has lowered its intelligence to that of sparkledogs, mary-sues and special snowflakes no better than twelve year olds with warrior cats on deviantART roleplaying groups.
The respect for Ecco is gone, and all we’re left with is these stupid overrated clan dolphins.
tl;dr Ecco: DotF is an overrated piece of trash
Basically, they got a dude who’d never heard of the Ecco series to write the story (David Brin, who did Uplift), so you can imagine how well that went. Brin also seems like a bit of an ass when it comes to the series. (When the Virtual Console releases of the original games came out, he was crowing on his blog about this awesome game he worked on coming out for VC. Uh-huh…)
That said, I don’t know. I’m a lot nicer to Defender than I used to be. It did make me sad that the one game I bought the Dreamcast for didn’t continue the mouth-watering cliffhanger that Tides left us with, but taken on its own merits, I think it’s a good game. Not sublime like the originals, but a good game: it’s a matter of taste but I do like the alternate reality dolphins’ character designs, the gameplay truly feels like Ecco 3D to me, and while the storyline is really stupid at times, I find it the enjoyable kind of stupid. At times, it’s even actually good. Those whales used for the hanging water generator… they still haunt my heart sometimes. Poor things. And Mutaclone is a really fascinating concept: the evil overlord is the evil overlord because he has the power of wisdom, and so can plan ahead better than his fellows and enemies. That’s just neat.
It’s a bit like my relationship with Zelda: Wind Waker - I don’t like it nearly as much as Ocarina, or Skyward Sword, or Twilight Princess, but it’s a decent enough romp.
It is pretty annoying when Defender fans haven’t even heard of the originals, but it was also annoying when Zelda fans introduced to the series in the ‘64 days called Majora’s Mask “Zelda II”. And I say that as someone whose first Zelda was Ocarina.
And, also, Metroid: Other M gave me a severe rejiggering of my benchmark for a soul-crushing sequel. Defender, at the least, still has the same basic Ecco themes: bottlenose dolphin fights aliens and time travels, with the backdrop of devilish difficulty and surreal vistas. Other M isn’t even a Metroidvania, and whoever the player character is, it isn’t Samus Aran.
I do really, really miss the Asterite and the Vortex and the Singers, though, and the fact that SEGA is just sitting on the rights and refuses to even let Ed have the license and fund everything himself is an infuriating example of why copyright laws are fucking broken.
see also: why it’s never just a book/tv show/movie
I happen to be fortunate. My team of writers on Dragon Age currently consists of nine people— most of which are female. It’s reached the point that, when we consider new hires and transfers, I tend to joke “ummm, we could use some more testosterone in here…” and give a big goofy grin. Mine is probably the only department that could get away with saying something like that.
And I’m not truly serious about it, anyhow. If having such a large number of women on my team has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t lump them into one category of preferences any more than you could the guys. Yes, there are those among my female writers who are more averse to combat and more attracted to the romance plots… but, you know what? That’s equally true for the male writers. Considering there are those among the women who would be seriously put out if a plot didn’t engage in some serious bloodletting, and who roll their eyes whenever the subject of gooey romance comes up, I think it’s pretty safe to say the stereotype of a “female gamer” doesn’t exist outside of the heads of men.
Which meant I was a little surprised when I learned something new the other day.
We were sitting down to peer review a plot— a peer review being the point where a plot has had its first writing pass completed, and whoever wrote it sits down with the other writers as well as representatives from cinematic design, editing, and level art to hear critique. We’ve all read it first, and written down our thoughts, and go around the table to relate any issues we encountered.
As it happened, most of the guys went first. Typical stuff— some stuff was good, some stuff needed work, etc. etc. Then one of the female writers went, and she brought up an issue. A big issue. It had to do with a sexual situation in the plot, which she explained could easily be interpreted as a form of rape.
It wasn’t intended that way. In fact, the writer of the plot was mortified. The intention was that it come across as creepy and subverting… but authorial intention is often irrelevant, and we must always consider how what we write will be interpreted. In this case, it was not a long trip for the person playing through the plot to see what was happening at a slightly different angle, and it was no longer good-creepy. It was bad-creepy. It was discomforting and not cool at all. And this female writer was not alone. All the other women at the table nodded their heads, and had noted the same thing in their critiques. So we discussed it, changes were made, and everything was better. Crisis averted.
All good, right? That’s what these reviews are for.
Here’s the thing: after the meeting was over, it struck me how sharply divided the reviewers were on gender lines. The guys involved, all reasonable and liberal-minded fellows I assure you (including me!) all automatically took the intended viewpoint of the author and didn’t see the issue. The girls had all taken the other side of the encounter, and saw it completely differently— all of them. As soon as it was pointed out, it was obvious… but why hadn’t we seen it?
And this thought occurred as well: if this had been a team with no female perspective present, it would have gone into the game that way. Had that female writer been the lone woman, would her view have been disregarded as an over-reaction? A lone outlier? How often does that happen on game development teams, ones made up of otherwise intelligent and liberal guys who are then shocked to find out that they inadvertently offended a group that is quickly approaching half of the gaming audience?
For the girls reading that, I imagine a bunch will roll their eyes and say “well, duh, pretty damn often.” But what about the guys? Will the idea make them uncomfortable? Will they come up with excuses, or go right to hostility? Guys, particularly in game development, are a pretty privileged bunch. That’s not meant as an insult; it’s just the way it is. The teams consist primarily of white guys and (shockingly) that’s who we assume our audience is— almost exclusively. But the gaming audience is changing, just as the nature of our games is changing, and perhaps there’s value in appreciating the fact that greater female representation in game development teams has a more practical benefit than equality for equality’s sake alone.