Before you write off the rest of this post, let me just state that I do in fact believe that games are a valid form of art, and that sometimes the medium's merits are sold short. With that said, hopefully you've lowered your pitchfork down long enough to hear me out. I'd like to break this up into two parts, so let's get right into this:
Games for the Sake of Art
My problem with games trying to be art is that by trying to be art, they tend to lose perspective. To put it another way; a painter doesn't sit down and say "I'm going to make ART!" He says "I'm going to make a painting" or "I'm going to make a color study of this still life" or "I'm going to capture the figure of this model in front of me". In that respect, games should really be developed the same way, and not "I'm going to make a game now, EXCEPT ART!!!!" I feel like a lot of art games suffer from this. A lot of them, quite frankly, aren't very fun. And in trying to become "THE DEEPEST VIDEO GAME EVER ACTUALLY", they forget to make the game enjoyable.
In my personal opinion (and really, that's all this blog post is anyways), enjoyment is a necessary ingredient to a gaming experience. I remember a Rev Rant awhile back where Anthony was upset because he wanted games to be more than "fun", and while I agree to some extent, I think a good game should be inherently enjoyable. I shouldn't have to endure something (like a bad engine or awful pacing) to enjoy it. I mean, the word "game" is right there.
I also don't think it's impossible for a game to be fun yet still have some deeper element to it; that is to say, I think "entertainment" can still posses strong merit as "Art". Shadow of the Colossus was an exhilarating game, and I loved it. I remember just enjoying going around the landscape, and being in awe at each boss, wondering how I could possibly take it down. I also remember being really angry at the ending, which wasn't as happy as I thought, and it got me thinking back to the game's opening segment, to the different scenes sprinkled between fights, and even thinking about what kind of backstory these characters might have, or what kind of people they might be. That game had a pretty big impact on me, more so than any "Art Game", yet it was still very fun in its own right.
I don't think games should be prevented from telling stories or sharing experiences that run deeper than pure entertainment, either. Hell, I encourage it. But there's a way to share these stories and experiences and ideas in an accessible way. For some reason, the movie Pleasantville comes to mind; it's a pretty fun movie, but there's a message behind it, and the way it pulls you in feels very natural; what starts as "oh these kids are going around this Leave it to Beaver Town telling people about sex and stuff and making everything colored" slowly gains more meaning, and I think it's really hard for almost anyone to not get invested in those characters by the end.
Alternatively, I'm not really a fan of gamers trying to label games as art, because then you start delving into this dimension of circlejerking that isn't all too flattering. Metroid Prime is a great game, but it's not The Citzen Kane of Games, and if it were, it's not at all for the reasons that goon from IGN listed. Then you have people who like to look at games and over-analyze them. I respect the Dtoid staff and their efforts to find further enjoyment from the narrative in No More Heroes 2, but the analysis articles felt like I was watching a friend try to find Jesus in a piece of toast. I think a lot of people feel that, for something to be "Art", it has to be "deep", but that's not really the case. I think NMH2 has artistic merit, and it doesn't need an overdrawn analysis of a little girl in a bathing suit wielding giant mech fists to possess those merits. If you do want to explore the deeper meaning behind the godawful overworld of NMH1, that's entirely up to you, but if the game's "art", it's not art because you think it was an intentional jab at open world games. Don't feel like you need to prove it's merits; that's the developer's job.
The Art and Game Communities Mix Like Oil and Water
Being an art student was fun. I got to wake up late, make cool pictures, and tell girls I'm an artist, which totally gets you laid. (Well, no. Not really.) It was also very frustrating, because the art community kinda...sucks. Some days, I thought "hey, the art world isn't as snobby as most people say!" Other days, I felt like it was worse. A lot of times, this was dependent on the professor(s) I was talking to, but other times even my peers would astound me. And the while I just said that the art community "sucks", it's not a 100% awful, snobbish mess. Maybe 50%. All I know is that Milo built a fucking wall on Work of Art last week, and the judges thought it was just brilliant. Personally speaking, I don't want THEM anywhere near video games.
(FUCK THIS GUY)
Of course, the gaming community is pretty awful itself. Sites like Destructoid and events like PAX are always reminders of the good of our community, though even DToid has its occasional share of comments that aren't exactly examples of our best and brightest. I remember when GameTrailers gave Kirby's Epic Yarn the best graphics award at this year's E3, and boy, people were not very happy about that. (Which is a shame, because GT made a pretty good case for it.)
I'd like to think that the best of both communities could come together and genuinely enjoy talking to one another, but for every civil conversation between both groups, you're going to have people like Roger Ebert telling gamers to fuck off, and gamers telling Ebert to chug a dick.
I'm not trying to say games shouldn't be art, or that games will never be accepted as art, or discourage people, because games ARE art, and have artistic values, even if a large portion of the population have written it off. But I think that trying to force games and game culture into one direction or another just for mainstream acceptance might not be the best solution to "legitimizing" video games as a medium. It's my belief that, eventually, gaming will grow steadily with our culture as the years go on, and find a place for themselves as a "serious" medium in society. One game isn't going to change everyone's minds overnight, and we're not going to wake up one morning, pick up the paper, and read "EXTRA EXTRA GAMES ARE ART NOW ACTUALLY!!!" It's going to happen slowly, naturally, and all we can do is try to push the medium to be great by its own merits, to explore different ideas, and to encourage developers to keep making the best games that they can, and maybe not worry so much about being the next Citizen Kane.
Well, that was longer than I expected. I think I'll STFUAJPG.
I've found myself with some free time before my last semester of college, and I'm looking to start a series of illustrations (which may or may not lead to my final, senior project).
The idea came from a mix of Half Minute Hero and an interview someone did with the designer of "The Mighty Jill Off" some time ago.
One of the cool things I liked about Half Minute Hero was the gallery, which shows the "official art" for every character next to their 8-bit counterpart. Which is usually pretty funny, since a lot of characters look really different that you might expect (most girls tend to lean towards loli, some of the monsters look really abstract as sprites).
One of the things that makes sprite-based games so appealing, and why they get so much nostalgia, is because we have to use our own imagination to bring those things to life. In 3D, everything is already there, and a lot of times, they appear lifeless or creepy. But with sprites, we can make the images stronger in our minds. It's like how people read books and imagine people, places, and scenes differently from other readers.
I'd like to do a brief series of illustrations based on sprites. Any system, any game, any genre. I've played a lot, but I haven't played every 8/16 bit game. So I'm looking for ideas. Just throw anything out there. Maybe it's a sprite of a character you loved, or a level you thought was really cool. Maybe you played A Link to the Past, opened the Nintendo Strategy Guide, and saw all the weird drawings of places and monsters you've already constructed differently in your mind. Bonus points if you can direct me to an image or youtube video.
I'm a guy who likes his music within arm's reach. My friends make fun of me because I constantly have headphones around my neck. I swear, I have a headphone fetish or something. But awhile ago, my MP3 player died, so I resorted to using my PSP (of all things) as a replacement. But when Christmas rolled around, I knew I'd have to get a dedicated music device, and my "too cool for school" mentality drove me away from the hipster Apple garbage and towards the Zune.
I'm not sure why I changed my mind and doubled back toward the iPod Touch, though. Probably curiosity; anyone who watches Co-Op knows they've been talking about iPhone apps pretty regularly, and with more and more sites saying the iPhone/Pod Touch has become a legitimate game platform, I decided to dive right into the world of Peggle and Bejeweled.
What I got was, actually quite nice. There's a lot of demos for games, as well as free games (of varying quality), but the process of pressing a button and paying for a game is even crazier than going nuts during a sale on Steam. The charges add up.
Canabalt was a no brainer. I loved the flash game, and having it on the go is perfect for a short game on the bus or extended play at in a waiting room.
We Love Katamari caught me by surprise, if only because I didn't even know it was on their store in the first place. The tilt controls are a little weird, which can either make the game really fun or really frustrating. Still a cool game to show off.
Glyder 2 nails the tilt controls perfectly, though, with one-touch calibration at any time, and big maps to fly around in and explore. It's like the flying in Wii Sports Resort, only with more shit to find.
Jet Car...something or other is a Trackmania clone mixed with the funky Mirror's Edge DLC levels. Tilt controls are solid, though the levels are pretty frustrating. I like the online features it has, though I don't know anyone else who plays it.
Space Invaders: Infinity Gene actually got updated today, and I was really excited. The controls are a tad annoying when your finger obstructs your view or slides off the screen, but the rest of it is so perfect that I really don't care. It's constantly throwing new abilities and weapons to unlock.
Spider is a pretty cool platformer where you make webs to eat bugs. You do so in an abandoned mansion, which tells a story as you progress. You know, artsy, indie game stuff. Controls are simple and fun to play with.
Rolando 2 is basically Loco Roco with less charm. And I wasn't big on that game to begin with. Still, I like how the game throws out new ideas to mess with, like rotating the whole device, or moving platforms with your finger.
What I also learned: hardcore games shoehorned on with touch screen control pads are a bad idea. Really bad. There's so many games that say "well, we want to make a DS/PSP game, but don't have the D-Pad. Here's a make-believe one!" and end up being frustrating as hell. Zenonia kicked the frustration up a notch by forcing me to navigate stat, item, equip, and quest menus with said d-pad instead of just letting me touch the menu options like God intended.
But overall, I'd say my experience with the App Store's offerings has been pretty positive if the game is designed around the tech properly. It's kind of like most flash games; there's lots of crap for your little sister, but if you look hard enough, there's plenty of stuff worth playing.
Also, Space Invaders' Music Mode + Mega Man music = Awesome.
I'm not sure how this happened. Sales of Sin and Punishment on Virtual Console were so good that Treasure actually translated the menus and brought it over to western countries, and the sales of that were so good that Treasure decided to make a sequel. There's enough of a freaking install base.
There's no announced date for America or Europe yet, so lord knows if we ever WILL see a sequel, but at the off chance that the videogame god smile upon us, then I humbly request of my Wii-owning comrades to actually buy this game. Sure, piracy on the Wii is too easy, but if any game deserves your money, its this one.
The game is way better than S&P1 One of the reasons that Sin and Punishment is so hard to play on the Wii is because of the wonky N64 controls. You have a few options, but it quickly feels like you're rubbing your belly and patting your head. On the Wii, the controls are perfect. Aiming and moving isn't a problem, and with your new jetpack, movement isn't as restricted.
In fact, even though the game is a lot harder, the controls offer a lot more options. You can lock on with the tap of the A button and shift your focus to dodging enemy fire or reflecting attacks with your sword. Racking up combos and multipliers is very easy, and the charge explosion attack can get you out of sticky situations. Combine the same crazy bosses and a two player option, and you're in for a great time.
Treasure almost never makes sequels Treasure makes a lot of great games, but if there's one thing Treasure doesn't like to dabble in, it's sequels. A GBA Gunstar Heroes here, Bangai-O on the DS there, but those games tend to fly under the radar. I eventually reached a point where I accepted that a noteworthy sequel would never happen. Seeing them take a chance on S&P2, on the Wii of all consoles, is encouraging. Which leads me to the next point.
You're not using your Wii for anything else anyways. Besides Mario. Oh, yea right. Like any of you run home waiting to boot up the Wii and play Imagine Babyz. This isn't a mediocre game with "H4RDC0R3!!!!!" smeared all over the box (NMH, Madworld. Yea, I said it.) It's the kind of game you and I and everyone who reads these kinds of videogame blogs wants to see. No shallow pandering to nostalgic fanboys or moms. It's a game for us, crafted with love.
And that's why I'm blogging this. Because Sin and Punishment on Virtual Console showed that you really can vote with your dollar. And I'm sure there's enough of people waiting for strong third party support on the Wii. So for the sake of Treasure, and that white thing in your living room that isn't a 360, please buy this game.
I had this sketched in my notebook for a few months, so I decided to ink and color it this afternoon. Most of my childhood was spent with my fingers wrapped around an SNES pad, and I was feeling particularly nostalgic when I first sketched this.
I'd like to come back to it another time and add more to it, but for now, I kinda like it. Hope you like it too.
I'm a little too lazy this evening to think of a proper introduction to my argument, so I'll cut right to the chase: video games have to be fun.
I'm not saying games can't ever be more than fun, or that they shouldn't be fun. I love something that really makes me think. Something that really leaves a lasting impression beyond "man, I just totally stabbed that guy's face 30 times" or whatever. I'm totally down for games using all kinds of artistic expression. I love that shit.
But the thing that separates video games from, say, movies is that second word; game, and that's where things become a real pain in the ass. Games are intended to be fun. That's the whole point. That's why we invented baseball and battleship and poker.
So there's a problem: how can you design a game that's supposed to be "more than fun" or instill it with some kind of meaning while still entertaining the player? You don't read any newspaper articles about a whole new Othello game designed to change your perspective on the universe because people don't play Othello to get anything out of it besides an hour or two of fun.
But video games are unique because, at some point, everyone started looking at other mediums (mostly movies) and tried pulling ideas and techniques from those mediums and exploring different ideas. It's really impressive, and it's something I'm proud to have witnessed as someone who's absolutely smitten by the medium. But if you're designing something that isn't fun first and "deep" (or whatever you're going for) second, you neuter the experience. Which is more enjoyable: reading chunks of text in books, or the last level in Braid? Personally, I think the chunks of text are a huge waste of potential, while the last level was something really clever and blended interactivity and storytelling quite well.
I realize, however, that people find all kinds of fun in all kinds of ways, while I'm not disagreeing with Anthony and agree that games should try to be more than what they are right now, I think that "fun" should still be the main ingredient of a game. You don't make a cake out of nothing but frosting (or beef, or anything that isn't actual cake), but you can put other stuff in, on, or around the cake...or something.
My point is that if a game isn't supposed to be fun, if enjoyment isn't the primary goal, then it's might as well not be a game at all. There are all sorts of interactive art forms that aren't games at all. But Joe the Gamer didn't buy a video game console so he could play things that aren't video games. I'm not denying games of their right to explore, artistically or intellectually, and I'd love if we could avoid a fate similar to comic books, but sometimes I feel like a developer gets so wrapped up in their vision that they forget all about the game part of the fricken' video game.