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Now, now, don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe games ARE art, and nobody will ever convince me otherwise. Besides the fact that even technically games comprise different forms of art -- i.e. cinema/animation, music, literature, painting and so on -- I think their real artistic value comes with the feature unique to them. Yes, I’m speaking of interactivity. Quoting a good friend of mine, a painting can picture the life of an immigration inspector in a police state. A book or a movie can elaborate on it and show us how he fares. But only by playing Papers, Please can you be the aforementioned inspector and experience the decisions he has to make first-hand.
Nevertheless, despite being the greatest asset of videogames, interactivity (and what comes with it) also becomes the media’s ultimate hindrance on its way to the Big World of Art. Which means that no matter how many awesome, artistic and borderline revolutionary games are created, they will never receive the same treatment as movies and other accepted forms of art – well, at least not in the near future. The reasons? Oh, do I really have to name the reasons? Actually, yes I do – why would I write this blog otherwise? :)
Looks like someone's been busy...
Continuing the “games vs movies” comparison, how long is an average movie? Two hours? Yeah, I guess that’s about right these days – even though I remember the times when movies were much shorter (insert old_man_grumble.mp3). Three hours if it’s something epic or art house. Four if you’re fucking Peter Jackson. Anyway, it’s usually manageable to see it to the end in one sitting. Games on the other hand are usually significantly longer – a three-to-four hour game is generally considered criminally short. And a single massive-scale RPG can rival some of the longest-running TV series in history.
Now, imagine a professional movie critic, maybe even an Academy of Motion Picture Arts (notice the wording?) member. Complete with a two-piece suit, a mustache and a monocle for a +16 respectability boost. And now imagine them struggling through Skyrim with a controller in hand, for hours and hours and hours. Aside from that scene being comical in itself, even if we assume that they’ve agreed to try this weird little toy out as a potential art form, who in their right mind will put in 150+ hours into it just to pass judgment?! No sir, this endeavor would require a geek, and no one else. And – let’s be honest here – geeks aren’t exactly the very image of an art-bearer. :)
Another issue preventing videogames from becoming full-fledged, accessible-to-all Art is that they require at least minimum amount of skill to be played and enjoyed the way they were intended. Now, I won’t say other forms of art do not require any effort or preparation. It’s not all “sit back and enjoy the show”. You’ve got to be at the very least educated enough (a Charles Dickens book won’t likely have the same effect on you if you have never studied English history), experienced enough in that particular form of art (you would not be able to fully enjoy, say, Spaceballs if you haven’t seen Star Wars or at least a single space opera movie), and overall develop a taste in it to be able to discern something genuinely talented and innovative from works that are simply pretentious. This is particularly true for more difficult pieces (like Richard Wagner’s operas, James Joyce’s Ulysses or Andrei Tarkovsky’s films, to drop some names) that call for a thoroughly educated, immensely experienced and discerning recipient.
All of the above can be applied to quite a number of modern-day games as well – but there is also the requirement for gaming skills on top of that. To provide an example, let me tell you a story.
What? No, the story is not about MMO. Why are you even asking?
Those who have seen my Top 10 Games blog should already know that I consider Shadow of the Colossus one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) videogames in history. And as a true nerd (at least in terms The Badger fittingly described the lot), I am permanently trying to impose my nerdiness on others – and of course my loved ones are the first to suffer. :)
Once, after a prolonged discussion on the “are games Art” topic with my wife, I decided to introduce her to SotC as a means to prove my point. I gave her the controls and let her ride out to find the first Colossus. Now, my wife is no stranger to videogames, but she isn’t a regular player either; besides she’s used to mouse and keyboard – so obviously she was struggling to get a hang of the PS2 controller. She needed my help climbing the cliffs to even get to the stone giant, and when she finally did the wretched creature just kept stomping on her because she wasn’t fast enough. In the end, she gave up, so I took the controls and finished the battle myself. And while even watching someone play SotC can be immersive, it’s nowhere near the feeling you get when you experience the game first-hand.
So did I get my point across to my sweetheart in the end? Alas, I did not. While she was impressed by the world and the design of the Colossi, her ultimate opinion was “What good is an art form if it seems to ask too much of you just to be able to experience it?”
Different Playstyles, Different Experience
Even if you have passed the “entry point” and garnered enough skill to be able to play, there is still the disparity between “good players” and, well, not-so-good ones. So while a more skillful player might enjoy a difficult game and praise the challenge it creates, those who simply lack the necessary reflexes, experience or patience would dismiss the same game as “cheap” (unless it is cheap). Besides, some games do ask what might seem too much from a player – like putting in puzzles that require wild guesses instead of rational thinking. Or an RPG that becomes unplayable with the build you created – but of course you’ll only realize this after you’ve put a good ten hours into it… That could become frustrating and turn many people away from a game they would have otherwise enjoyed.
I’m sure everyone has heard the never-ending argument between fighting game players. While some may claim they “play for fun” and prefer more tactical approach to achieving victory, others spend months learning and mastering every possible combo, counting frames and whatnot. Still, both sides would say the same thing: “You are playing it wrong!” Yeah, okay, there’s a tricky matter of competitive gaming and e-sports here, but tell me, have you ever heard aspiring, say, pro soccer players say they despise those “noobs” who just want to play some street ball, and the street players refer to pros as “nerds who’ve trained themselves stupid”? :)
Okay, gaming skills aside, there’s also a matter of how you prefer to play your game. And in this particular case, non-linearity – the thing so often cherished by gamers as one of the medium's high points – becomes gaming’s worst enemy. If a videogame offers you a number of different ways it can be played, and you choose only one, can you really say you’ve had a complete experience? I’m not speaking of branching storylines -- as even the gameplay can differ greatly within a single title.
For one player, Deus Ex would appear a brilliantly planned stealth game, for another – a mediocre third-person shooter. One would say Grand Theft Auto games are a set of relatively boring missions, stitched together by a trope-heavy story about the criminal world, and spiced up a bit by social commentary. Another one disagrees and tells the tales of mayhem in the streets, prolonged car chases when they escaped capture by a hair, and side activities one could immerse themselves in for hours and hours. And guess what? Both would be right.
So how do we rate a game that presents multiple ways of playing? Do we take one of them as “primary” and focus on it? Or do we try to do a little bit of everything, potentially getting a shallow experience? Can we be even remotely objective? I don’t have an answer for this. Which brings us to the next point…
No Objective Means of Appraisal
Recently there’s been a surge in videogames appearing in a number of yearly awards – such as Writers Guild Awards – along with other, more widely accepted media. However, those nominations usually deal with the elements common to both games and other forms of art -- like screenplay, music or voice acting. While that is quite fine in itself, I think it entirely misses the point of gaming – for I strongly believe that the true essence of videogames lies in gameplay. I’ve said that once, and I would say it again: the game mechanics must compliment the story and other non-gameplay elements – and vice versa. Sorry David Cage, but neither technology, nor being cinematic, nor even the mythical “emotion” have anything to do with what games really are.
To me, THIS was one of the most emotional moments in gaming in the recent years
It is here that the catch becomes clear though: there are no widely acclaimed means of analyzing game mechanics. No theory books on game planning or combat. No experts, apart from those who either have been developing games for most part of their lives, or those who have played so much they now consider themselves such (and still both types are labeled as geeks by the general public). No classes that would teach why games should be made, instead of how. Not even a common terminology (and no, words like pwned or noob aren’t exactly terms, scientifically speaking :)). There are no equivalents to concerts, exhibitions or film festivals – and gaming conventions (from what I have heard about them) are nothing more than advertising and marketing events. It’s all sad, really – but even sadder is the fact that this situation isn’t likely to improve anytime soon.
As a result, we are facing a paradox: videogames, while clearly possessing all the inherent attributes of art, are hidden behind entry barriers and lack most of the external features that art is usually associated with and accompanied by. This, in turn, keeps people away and gives them the reason to say games are not art without even trying them out.
There are, of course, more aspects and fine points to this… but I guess that’s a topic to discuss some other time. Thanks for reading!
Hi everyone! It’s been quite a while since my last blog, so I thought I’d better write something before you guys forget who I am. :)
2014 was not an easy year, and a rather weird one for me as a gamer, but if I were to name it Year of Something, it might as well be the Year of Destructoid. Well, actually Destructoid and Steam – but as there’ll be a separate blog about Steam (I think), let us concentrate on the Dtoid part.
It’s always nice to become part of a community – at least while you’re accepted, – and believe me, I’ve had my fair share of acceptance problems in my life. That’s why I cherish the Dtoid community and the friendships I’ve made here so much. Seriously people, you’re awesome! Because of you, I’ve been able to overcome my multiplayer shyness, and I even met the first seconds of 2015 mounting my friends. On top of a goat. What else could a guy possibly wish for? :)
So here I’ve prepared a little musical gift for you all.
Now, let me introduce myself (again) to those who don’t yet know me from this perspective. Hi, I am Tonich, an aspiring composer and the guitarist/singer/principal songwriter of the Russian instrumental/art rock band The Heckfish. Pleased to meet you all (again)! :)
At first, I was reluctant to use Dtoid blogs for publishing my music, but some of my newly acquired friends (thanks guys!) convinced me that I should go Alphadeus (cheers dude! :)) and present it to you. Besides, LuckRequired has already used one of the tracks for his caption contest, so what the heck – gotta finish the job! :)
Above you can stream and freely download The Heckfish’s debut EP Immersion. No charge, no questions asked. :)
Funded and produced solely by the band members, the EP was recorded in 2011-2012 and self-released in 2013. Here’s the list of people who have put their efforts into creating the album:
Tonich – Guitars, vocals and keyboards
Anton Travin – Recorder
Anna Gogina – Keyboards
Pavel Ganichev – Bass guitar
Artyom Tretiakov – Drums
Sergei Sorokin – Sound engineering and mixing
Sergei Russkikh – Mastering
Anna Osipova – Cover art
I really hope you enjoy the music, my dear Dtoiders! Even if you don’t – I’m still thankful to you all. :)
Your Friendly Neighborhood Russian,
Hello, my friends and fellow Dtoiders! It's not often that I use the c-blogs for personal gain, but I've been planning on writing this for quite some time. Anyway, this won't take too long.
For those of you who are new to this blog, I'm Tonich, thirty, coming from the Land of Vodka, Bears and PC gaming. :) I've been playing videogames since the NES era (which started rather late here in Russia), but for the most time I've kept to single-player. Rased as an only child, I didn't have a regular partner to play with, and getting gaming parties with my friends was a rare occasion.
When I grew up and had a gaming PC and a couple of consoles with online capabilities, multiplaying was still out of the question. Partly due to my really poor internet connection at that time, partly because of the ever-prevailing piracy (which was the only way to keep playing without going broke), and partly because of my personality. You see, I'm really shy around new people, so whenever I try playing with complete strangers I get really tense, thus both bringing my gaming performance down and losing any enjoyment from playing.
But ever since I've joined this community and found out it's full of awesome people, I feel the growing desire to play with you guys - as some of you have already become friends to me, and hopefully there will be many more yet. I've already made my first steps by playing with Luck Required - thanks a lot, dude. you're awesome! - and I invite everyone and anyone who's interested in playing with me to add me on Steam.
My Steam username is Tonich, I'm the guy with a red panda on the userpic. My time zone is Moscow time (GMT+4, PDT+11, EDT+8), so it might be a bit tough getting together with those of you who live in the Americas - but we'll figure something out, right? :)
Now, a few words about the games I'd like to play with you.
First and foremost, Borderlands 2
I've completed the game twice (solo) and I'm still loving it - but I've always wanted to try out co-op and clear out those pesky raid bosses with a trusty partner or three. :) My snipy lvl53 Zer0 is always at your service.
Russian player, huh?
Let's see if he's any good.
I will be watching.
Sorry, that haiku was done on a whim. :)
Anyway, if you're new to the game I'll gladly start a new character and replay the campaign again with you!
I've got the GOTY Edition, plus the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade 2, but no Headhunter episodes yet.
I'm also a (rather casual) fighting game player, so I'm always ready for a bout in Mortal Kombat, Injustiice: Gods Among Us and Skullgirls (waaah, no online support for my favourite BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger!). Just don't expect much of a challenge from me if you're a seasoned fighter, okay?
Max Payne 3 and Quake Live are also among the games I'd like to see some friendly faces in. And just this weekend I grabbed Payday: The Heist but haven't tried it out yet, so if anyone still plays it (as far as I know quite a number of Dtoiders are into the 2nd game but I'm still on the fence about getting it), and you've got enough patience to play with a complete newbie, take this kid along for the heist, will you? :)
And of course I plan on expanding my library, so if you you've got suggestions on what we could play together, just say the word! :)
So, please add me - and either send me a Steam message or leave a comment in this blog, saying what you'd like to play.
Fangs for the Memories? Seriously? Ah, what am I saying – it’s Halloween, how can there be anything serious about it? :)
I love Halloween – I’ve loved it ever since I started listening to a certain German power metal band when I was fifteen. Even though in my homeland it’s deemed a strange and unworthy holiday and is officially banned from celebrating in Russian schools, I don’t mind embarrassing myself by dressing up and going outside looking like this.
This cute little witch is doing my bidding. So will YOU mortals!
And funny thing, just a couple days back I’ve been discussing the scariest moments in video games with a friend – so I won’t be going into this community assignment unprepared. :)
I’m a sucker for a good mystical/horror story, but it’s a rarity that I find a moment in a movie or a videogame that can really scare me. I think I could count all of the experiences like that using fingers on one hand. Well, okay, maybe I’ll throw in an extra thumb. But the moment that definitely took the cake, then smashed it in my face, was the “Room with a Mirror” moment in Silent Hill 3. It was the only time when I was so confused and scared that I ran out of the room (in-game, of course) and had to take quite some time trying to figure out what I had seen – before going back in there just to find… nothing at all. And just because it was a one-time experience for me, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for everyone else, so suck it. You’ll have to play the game yourself. And I’m going to talk about Fatal Frame III: The Tormented, known in Europe as Project Zero 3.
One of the key elements to scaring the player is surprise. That’s how all the jump-scares work: you’re walking down a dimly lit corridor, everything looks peaceful and the music is soothing – then suddenly you’re face to face with something unnatural or plain disfigured. All of this is usually accompanied by the sound of several violinists having a simultanious heart attack. However if you are aware of the monster and the time of its appearance it will hardly make you jump out of your seat. Same goes for making sudden scares happen too often. But can we make a frightening experience when the player is aware of the monster in the room? Fatal Frame is quite sure we can.
The Tormented, the third installment in the series puts us in the shoes of Rei Kurosawa – a freelance photographer who is experiencing nightly dreams of being lost in a haunted manor. There she finds a magical camera that can banish ghosts by photographing them. Sounds a bit stupid, doesn’t it? I, however, believe it is one of the most brilliant ideas found in a horror game. What would be your reaction if you were attacked by an angry wraith? I bet it would be turning around and running for your life – and I think no one would blame you. Video games gave us the chance to fight back – but doing so with conventional weapons (even if they are some state-of-the-art experimental gear, they usually still look like weapons) makes the ghost encounter lose its thrill very soon. But it’s a different feeling when you have to stare down the attacking ghost through the viewfinder, focus on it and then take a close-up shot. And here’s what you are going to look at.
Unfortunately, after a while the impression starts to wear out, and by the end game you'd be routinely snapping pic after pic, concerned more for having a better exp reward than anything. But the first few battles – that would be something else, you can take my word for it.
Another great thing about Fatal Frame III is how it utilizes controller vibration for building up the suspense. Instead of just rumbling violently – you know, the usual way – the gamepad would gently pulsate in your hands when ghosts are nearby, then give you a single powerful shake as they finally appear. This system is not unlike the famous radio static from the Silent Hill series; both games know just the way to make you feel uneasy without you instantly realizing the reason for it. And that, in my book, is the definition of a good scare.
Also, honorary mentions go to the following gaming moments:
- A statue coming to life and tearing apart its chest in Clive Barker's Unduying
- Encountering a Bloodsucker for the first time in S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
- The brief, yet poignant Year Walk for making me feel uneasy about staying in a silent and darkened apartment after I've finished the game.
Thanks for reading - and happy upcoming Halloween! :)
Lately, I’ve been noticing that quite a lot of stories in AAA blockbuster games of the past few years play out in almost exactly the same way. Sure, there’s no way of avoiding at least a couple of clichés in stories – and I’m sure as heck not saying it’s a bad thing. We need clichés, we love them (oh, you want to argue? Don’t lie to yourselves) – but in these cases it feels like there’s just a bunch of them being shuffled like a deck of cards, and nothing else.
So I turned on my inner vision and tried to peer into the distance of space and time – and here’s the transcript of a note I’ve found stapled to the wall of a certain undisclosed developer’s writers department (on a side note, my vision was rather blurry, probably because I’ve got myopic astigmia and I can’t wear glasses in my spirit form – so I might have missed or misread some points).
According to international surveys, focus tests and publisher commentary, your game script is going to suck if it does not have at least 80 per cent of the following points.
2. Plot Devices
3. While Collaborating with Game Planners
NOTE: ALL of the following points are mandatory, your game is not a game but an outdated piece of shit if it has not got them.
We also regret to inform you that due to our Writing Robot Development department needing additional funds, starting next month your salaries will be cut by fourty per cent. Please understand.