Before anyone cries dead horse please let me get some details out of the way. This post isn't to state my stance on whether I think games are or are not art, I just want to speak about my first experience with a game that really stopped me dead in my tracks and made me realize that games were for more than just about getting a high score or wasting time.
I own a Gamecube. One of my most treasured games on that system is Beyond Good and Evil. I must have spent hours and hours just reading and re-reading the manual. Yep, even the manual engrossed me. I loved the way that it described the health pick-ups as food which made sense because Jade, (the main character) is concerned about providing for the orphans who are under her care. Anyway, onto the moment that changed the way I look at games. I'm not really all that great at writing descriptively but I'll do my best to put what I felt in that moment into words.
The game opens with a reporter giving us an update on the planet of Hillys. This guy oozes Fox news. His shades suggest the hiding of truth, and the way he chooses to word the situation of the planet Hillys makes it obvious that he only wants to tell the news from one angle. He tells me that the planet is under attack by the DomZ but, fear not, the Alpha Sections are hear to save the day. His words sicken me. It's like he is scaring a child and then quickly reassuring it simply because he can.
We see the planet Hilly's. It is a blue orb the shade of a clear blue sky. Seems peaceful enough. DomZ pods speed past the screen, en route to mar the surface of the blue orb. This next part is the most significant for me.
The camera shifts to the tops of a huge, green leafed tree. The sky is clear and vibrant and you can hear the hushing of the tree's leaves mix and swirl with the sound of gushing ocean waves. I breathed deeply when I saw the tree and heard the leaves and ocean. This action surprised me but I've come to realize that this scene was so powerful that it transported my mind into the game world and made me react as if I was really at that tree, listening to the waves. Next, I hear the soft plucking of a string instrument and the sighing melody of a flute. These two instruments play perfectly with each other, with the strings providing rhythm while the flute provides a slow, peaceful, melody.
The camera shifts down, letting me see more of the tree. Below it sits a woman whose jade-green clothing makes her seem like part of the landscape for a split second. Beside her sits a small child, he seems to be part goat. They are both meditating, sitting in lotus positions and raising their arms toward the sky and letting them fall, one arm at a time. I found that the rhythm of the arms seemed to match with the melodic accents of the flute.
This is the moment that stopped me. There I was sitting on my couch but I was also beside the ocean, under a tree, basking in the sun, meditating with these two people, sharing the beauty of our surroundings with each other. The culmination of the calm and serene visuals with the calming music put me in a state of utter ease, the same state I imagine those two people were in. That was when I realized that games could be art. For me, art is something that moves me. Like a deep feeling, something that comes from memories and the subconscious. Preferably, something that makes me feel good. Beyond Good and Evil did just that and what amazed me was that the characters on screen were also feeling what I was feeling. It made me feel like I was completely a part of the game world and changed the way I saw games.
So that's my first experience with a game that changed my perception of this thing we love. Many more examples would follow such as my experiences with the Prince of Persia series and the ever perfect Valkyria Chronicles. Beyond Good and Evil, however, holds a special place in my heart for being my first experience with a game that moved me. It brought me to a fantasy world where everything is so much better than in real life and I don't think I've ever quite returned.
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