Oh, Anthony. Your Rev Rant series is often such a great way to invoke thoughtful, meaningful discourse on a good topic. That said, you can imagine my shock to see this: Games as Art.
Seriously, folks. Hasn't this topic been discussed to death, given a Phoenix Down, and then pummeled to death once more? I stayed out of this discussion since that day long ago when Kotaku posted the article on Ebert denouncing the medium, and haven't said word one on it since. I felt that the answer was too obvious to be commented on and that, quite frankly, the topic was pointless.
Not the first time I've been wrong.
IV, not VI... Stupid roman numerals...
Now listen up, kiddos, because this is going to be the first and hopefully the last time I discuss this idiotic debate. Let's start with the term "Art". Webster's defines art as "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced". Wikipedia states that "Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music and literature". So to recap, art is by definition a work that is deliberately made to evoke either a sensual or emotional response. Are there video games made to have a sensual or emotional effect? Yes, obviously. Have people had emotional responses evoked when playing video games? Yuh-huh. Was this done through purposeful creative and imaginative skill? Yep.
Now, Anthony talks about video games as a medium, and its intrinsic artistic value compared to other well documented and universally accepted mediums. I, of course, refer to literature, motion pictures, music, sculpture, and so forth.
Oh yeah. Way more emotionally stimulating than any o' them newfangled vidya games.
Part of his argument is that other mediums have a bedrock of artistic work to prove itself. While this is true, video games do have a bedrock. Things such as Flower, Indigo Prophecy, Little Big Planet, and so many more have proven the artistic value of the medium many times over. Also, one has to look at the fact that other mediums have had a great head start on video games, both in time and in development. Considering that some of the other accepted mediums have had hundreds if not thousands of years to develop and to build this so called bedrock, I feel safe saying that video games are coming along better than one might expect.
See? Art is so easy, even a caveman can do it.
I believe that the larger concern for Anthony is the amount of games that are released that he considers base and not of artistic consequence. Specifically, he batters violent and actiony games for being superficial. There are multiple problems with this. Of course, we can begin with the fact that just because something is gory and violent doesn't mean that it doesn't have intrinsic artistic value. Art is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. Also, superficial is not always a bad thing. Passage was a five minute game played in it's entirety by walking to the right. How much more superficial can you get?
Anthony points out that in a year you will get a good handful of artistic games and a boatload of crappy "fun" games that are superficial. I would point out that for every thought provoking artistic movie released, there's fifty horribly ill conceived slasher flicks.
Just don't call it "High Art". We all know what Jason does to potheads.
Now, Anthony places blame on developer laziness. He points out that developers have no interest in trying to further the medium when guts, gore, and violence is all that is needed to sell a game to the general public and earn boatloads of cash. I'd say that this is at least partially true. Like the Motion Picture Industry, video games are a business. But it isn't the developers that are entirely to blame. As with any other business, if there is demand for something, someone will make it. Art games, however, have a tendency to garner unimpressive sales to say the least.
Hey look! A fire sale! See? See? It's funny!
Jaffe counters that while a great many developers would like nothing more than to make a Citizen Cain sidescroller or a Casablanca MMORPG, the issue is how to make it fun. A game simply doesn't sell if it isn't fun to play. I agree, but only to a point. Saying that artistic games just can't be made fun is a cop out. Okami was plenty fun. So were other "artsy" games like Patapon and Indigo Prophecy. Sometimes you have to take a risk, though. That's how all advancements are made, by banking on a risk and trying something new. Besides which, Casablanca? A love story about betrayal, deception and doublecrosses. About intrigue and sacrifice. Hmmm....
Yeah, this game so totally blows. More dialogue than a JRPG!
So in closing, what have we learned today?
We've learned that video games are indeed a viable and in fact already legitimized medium for art, regardless of what blustery overpaid movie critic elitists may have said some odd time ago. We've learned that consumers set a market, not developers, and thus share the blame for.. whatever Anthony wants to place blame for in the next Rev Rant. We've learned that developers like ideas of great artistic endeavor, but apparently have attention spans too short to bother with implementation. We've learned that I like using visual aids often, even though I have a great deal of trouble getting them to format properly.
Most importantly, though, I think we've learned that this topic should be buried deep within the bowels of the earth where it will never be seen or heard from again, because wasting time debating things as subjective as whether or not something qualifies as art is as meaningless as discussing whether or not reality is real.
I leave you with this promise and a final thought. While I will, as always, respond to any comments and criticisms anyone may have to what I've written, I will never initiate any serious discussion on this topic. Ever. Only in response to others and only in extreme cases. Because here is my final thought to you.
In the amount of time it took to read this article, whether you agree with my points or not, you could have been playing video games. Or looking up porn. Or doing something that was actually entertaining. All that wasted time, in the name of debate about something so silly.
Really? Couldn't think of anything better to do with your time. Not a single thing.
Goodnight, folks. read