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ART GAMES AND ER-PEE-GEES!: An Argument with Jonathan Holmes

I usually donít condone warnings before big blocks of text. They usually are half-hearted apologies for poor writing, rude disclaimers, or show a lack of commitment to an article. However, I feel itís my moral responsibility to inform all readers that the following is an editorial on:

I find Semantics to be one of the most pointless things to argue about. Because unless someone has a real tangible definition that can be extracted from Websterís, the end result is always: ďI think my point of view is correct, and youíre idiotic for thinking otherwise.Ē This rings true on the internet which would translate the previous statement to: ďur a faget.Ē If you do have to time to read this, humor my need to explain my point of view in a fruitless argument about:

So I will attempt to make this whole piece a lot more entertaining as many bloggers throughout the years have written walls of text on this subject that are not fun to read and would rival a Wikipedia entry on Animals with Degrees in length, but without the self-aware vitriol and absurdity. Let it be known that being a conversation about semantics, I believe this whole thing is kind of pointless, but I feel I do have a point that I mean to get across... because this is the internet. There will be plenty of silly graphics, insults about different subcultures, bad puns, and numerous, and I MEAN NUMEROUS ad hominem attacks at Jonathan Holmes in this piece, hopefully enough to make my opinionated arguments appear stronger because: ďLol, Iím creative.Ē So please enjoy.

ACT I: Holmes on the Range

Many victims (including myself) have been brought into a whirlwind discussion with Destructoid custodian, Jonathan Holmes about using words like ďArt GameĒ and ďRPGĒ. He dislikes terms like that with so much hatred, it can even engage the most stoic people who donít wish to discuss it. A long argument about the use of the word can be heard here with Holmes, Conrad Zimmerman, and eventually Jim Sterling all bickering. Itís 16 minutes long so grab yourself a caffeinated beverage and some pain medication. To very, very briefly surmise Holmesí creed (because I sure as hell canít summarize his Race), he believes in these three things:

Using words like ďArt GameĒ and ďRPGĒ to describe games is misleading because those words donít have fixed definitions and RPG has turned into a broad adjective.
Fair enough, and weíll address the lexicon later piece by piece.

He also states that people can be misled by use of the word. So if you were to use a single set of words to describe a game, it can deter parties that donít know much about the game away.
Thatís also a fair yet juvenile and simplistic view weíll kindly break down a little later.

Last, he thinks itís a big deal.
Spoilers: Itís not.

Oh Jonhead Holmes, you are quite the character.

Holmes talks about the use of these words all the time. Youíd think for someone who wants the terms to disappear, he shouldnít mention it every second, but hopefully we can put all of this to restÖ Until he brings it up again a month from now.

ACT II: Moronathan Holmes

So starting from the top, letís learn about words and their accepted definitions.
Some terms have no objective definition; welcome to reality my friend, where sometimes an assortment of letter can mean a variety of things. Yet, words can also be used to adequately describe something and fill the listenerís mind with more concrete footing without overburdening their mind. If I use the word RPG, you at least know stats are involved, and many games that you would consider RPGs are now swimming in your head, perhaps to the point where youíre drowning in them. But letís come up for air for a second and establish a few things. Yes, genres can carry different meanings to different individuals:
ē Some will not regard Mass Effect as an RPG
ē Some will not regard Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 as Survival Horror
ē Some will not regard The Walking Dead as a Point-and-Click Adventure game (and those people are idiots, but that tooÖ is subjective, idiots)

Footage of a typical internet discussion on what genre the Legend of Zelda is.

On the whole however, I use the word RPG, just as I could use the word Art Game, Puzzle Game, First Person Shooter, Dating Sim, Strategy Games, Jonathan Holmes Ga- Nintendo Game, Casual Game, Flash Game, etc. A few titles would come to mind for each of those.

So this is where I dive into the shark pit, when I told him: RPG is a harmless, convenient, and quick term to describe a game in a few letters, and if people are slightly piqued, they could learn more through an article or video. If I (ironically) had more characters to use in a tweet, I wouldíve made a comparison to a library. The genre of the game works like a section, and if Iím interested in the section, I start looking through all the different sub categories, or in this case, learn more about the game. The conversation would eventually turn into this:

But then thatís where itís up to the pitcher/marketer/ reviewer /gamer to appropriately and correctly describe the ďgenreĒ in a concise and alluring way. Calling Zelda 2 an Action RPG is not only accepted by most people, it wonít be detrimental unless the person generally dislikes Action RPGs, but weíll talk more about how it could be derogatory in depth during the next section. Describing a game with Casual is a great starting point to describe a Facebook game, thereís nothing wrong with using the word if I want to let someone over my shoulder know what Iím messing with quickly, and if they want to learn more about it, then I shall inform. I canít speak for everybody like Holmes can, but if thereís a game I donít know much about besides the fact that itís a shooterÖ Iíll look it up, regardless of name or genre. As will many other people, itís called research and itís even easier nowadays when you can bring up a game trailer on your smartphone or get information from a friend.

Holmes will also claim that words like RPGs canít single out games to a few choices because they come in some many varieties. Heíll say he could name 10 different Art Games, and theyíll all play different, thus those words are useless. That theory would be sound if it magically applied to only games that market themselves as RPGs, but unfortunately for him we live in a scientific world. When you perform an experiment and notice a wide range of results with your subject, you donít just accept blindly that its diversity is caused by its input; youíll have egg on your face if several other control groups end just as diverse. Where Iím going with that middle school-level metaphor is that many games in the same genre play differently. Portal as a puzzle game is very different from a Layton or Bejewelled. Timesplitters isnít the same as Halo or FarCry. It may be a little foggier as well when it comes to RPGs, but it isnít limited to RPGs. I can name ten games of just about any genre and get very different results, and genres blend all the time now. @der_Grobi pretty much summarizes it right here.

Around this point, Holmes will start stating that all games can be classified as RPGs or urgh Art Games. In the Podtoid segment linked, Holmes boldly states that Gears of Wars is more of an Art Game than Thomas Was Alone with his logic. On twitter, he does the same thing when confronted with RPGs by saying all games like Halo have role playing elements. Well hereís the special thing about words: They can change over time, or have different perceived meanings. Words can also help exclude things or be twisted and subverted to mean anything in general. The word fag has transformed at least twice throughout mankindís short history and so has the term RPG. Why'd I type fag and RPG in the same breath like that. Holmes is correct with the second sentence in this statement though:

RPGs arenít just games that use elements from Dungeons and Dragons anymore. Blame genre diversity (which Holmes has stolen a lot of for his Race) and the blending of genres in general, but people do come to expect several stereotypical things from RPGs: Stats, leveling up, item grinding perhaps, usually a longer playtime, exploiting boss weakness, etc. It just comes in more flavors and ways to make numbers pop off enemy heads. And although many other games have these features, the word RPG can certainly narrow the gap on games that predominantly have those features, or exclude those without an emphasis on them. The ďRole-PlayingĒ part of the term RPG has become a redundant appendix on the human body that is nerdom (as we all know that George Lucas is the Male Nipple). So maybe he's right. RPGs of ye Holmes days are no more, but modern games with intentionally retro styles like Breath of Death VII and Dragon Quest IX are still being made. So we just can't call them RPGs anymore? We also live in a digital age where the amount of content out there just gets larger and larger. Even though classification can cruely simplify something, it does allow for easier access by the by.

One can start arguing stories play a lot of role in modern (or at least Japanese) game design as well, but when we get to Holmesí rebuttal on the matter, we start learning a lot more about him:

Good thing youíre only speaking for yourselfÖ Because otherwise I would be screaming: ďAHHH! GET OUT OF MY MOUTH! MOM HELP, THEREíS A GROWN MAN HANGING OFF MY TONSILS AND HE SPEAKS OF SHIT!Ē

So itís all based on his perceived definition of the word completely disappearing, he isnít objectively right or wrong (or Truong because thatís what I am) on this facet. But as stated, one manís treasure is another manís butt. And in this case, it won't be liked by anyone but Sterling.

Illustration by BeatBeat

Getting back to the all generalizing games issue, ďHalo or Call of Duty are RPGs... yadda yaddaĒ; splitting hairs at this level would be pathetic if Holmes had any on his head left to split, but actually heís only proving my point. He had to come up with other games from other definied genres that no person would group with RPGs just to qualify them as Role Playing Games. He could tell the difference between them to use them as outrageous examples, and so can other people. We donít (normally) count the classic Mario games as RPGs, it doesnít speak RPG at us unless you start making statements akin to: ďDerr! Well, all movies are animation because they play out still images, just really fast.Ē You know those individuals who say thereís no originality in storytelling anymore because it can be broken down into the basic conflict plot archetypes? Thatís the same negative Sherlock shlock Holmes is spewing out his orifice.

Kawaii as fuck.

For further introspection on this part of the subject, Sterling has a great and eloquent video on Holmes subversive qualities here, far better than I just described it. And believe me, youíll hear the word subversive a lot, I highly recommend it.

Continuing on with another Holmes classic, we start breaking into a groundholmes day situation where we get strange false dichotomies and loaded questions thrown at us relentlessly:

Post Holmes ergo propter Holmes.

So the main issue here is someone who just keeps circling back to his personal definition as an example for his cause, and when evidence is presented that excludes his theory, he doubles back to the start again. Oh hey, I can think of another group of individuals that do the exact same thing:

Is there an equivalent for Godwinís Law in which an argument just turns into villainizing Holmes as a Creationist? Or just a term for making fun of Holmes in general?

ACT III: We are Jononymous, We are Legion

Holmes has made this statement on Podtoid:
ďArt Game computes to people often (thinking): Oh not fun.Ē

Yes, some people will simply be turned off by different genres, but this is bound to happen regardless of how the game is described. Some people just donít like certain genres, and even if you can succinctly describe Legend of Mana as an Action RPG let alone an RPG, some people still wonít like the gameplay.

A pessimist (Holmes) could look at it as Iím triaging away from potential players and Iím the Mitt Romney of video games for ignoring them. But in that same vein, I wouldnít want to force a game down someone's throat who doesn't want to play it in the first place. I could spend all day convincing a friend that Army of Two is actually good, but they can probably hate it more out of spite and annoyance. And people who only play casual games or the latest Madden arenít at fault and do not need to be to exposed to different franchises.

He eventually ended our ďdiscussionĒ with this statement:

Nice strawman, well two can play at that game. Here's Holmes as a strawman:

Iíll ignore the rude assertion that I donít care about people and think they are stupid, let alone the claim that I am lazy, (datte hontou wa Crazy). Iíll also ignore the fact that he took my modified quote from an Ice-T song as a serious statement. Iíll officially say here that I think most people on Destructoid (minus Stealth) are smart enough, and open enough, to trying new and different things. We all have own our initial biases and presumptions about games just off watching brief trailers and descriptions, but if thereís a title out there that looks enjoyable, weíre going to try it.

Iíll make an example, as well as a confession: I hate furries. Iím absolutely digusted by them. Thatís something Iíve been personally working on to become less hateful and insensitive about.
But Iím an open guy, I will try games like Solotarobo, Sine Mora, and Dust: An Elysian Tail, despite their antro-characters. Iím not one to instantly turn away from the games in revulsion. And I can assume plenty of gamers are the same way. Someone who may not like RPGs in general may have something click with something like Lost Odyssey, and if they like it, itís only proving the opposite. Itís not because the word RPG scared them off of the game, itís because of what the game contains that makes them enjoyed it and the word alone didnít scare them away like a FPS would to a wild Holmes.

When Holmes says people think Art Games is a derogatory term, what does that say about him? Is it really a word that he objectively thinks shouldnít be used because people will be turned off, or is it a word that he just doesnít like. Thereís going to be a vocal group of people out there who hate Art Games on the word alone, but they are the few close minded people out there. If a game doesnít appeal to me, itís going to be based on my interests and biases, not because itís called an art game. And Iíll argue that majority of people on Destructoid (minus Stealth), who are all smart and handsome, arenít going to instantly lose interest in a game based on their genre.

If individuals like Holmes are so scared by the damage the terms can cause, as if it was fucking Voldemort, then heís letting the ďhatersĒ win outÖ over a fucking word.

And if one is anal enough (hohoho) to look back into Holmesí statements far enough, there is quite a bit of hypocrisy to uncover. Holmes is subject to immediately being turned off by words like Strategy game or Bethesda just by hearing them. Iíve included the audio sample where as soon as he hears Dishonored is a Bethesda game, he becomes completely disinterested. As he stated on twitter:

Well fuck me over Jimís shoulder, itís too bad Holmes will miss out on good games like Skyrim and X-Com because the words pain his ass so much. Or is it because he just doesn't like the games and... it really has nothing to do with genres or companies? His complaints make so much sense to him because heís just as guilty of committing them himself. He also mentions in the audio clip that he wonít pretend to like games he doesnít want to play, which is an admirable thing by itself. However, by that logic, you shouldnít force people out of their game comfort zone to play things that donít interest them either. This egocentric mindset for thinking everyone is instantly repulsed by single-word descriptors, while true for him, doesnít apply to everyone in the world. Itís like he never heard ye olde saying: ďPeople in glass Holmes shouldnít throw stones.Ē

Hereís another similar example of Holmesocritical doublespeak from the hippo himself, Jonathan has simplified different types of apples to just two colors in the past. In this audio clip, you can hear how depressing he gets around 2:20. What would be quite a silly discussion allows us to dig deeper into his faulty reasoning as he calls people who identify different apple cultivars ďElitistĒ. He also backpeddles into saying animals Ďcouldí be simplified to be just ďdogs or catsĒ. So defining video games into simple terms is evil and bad journalism, but making sure you make a pie with a Golden Delicious over a Red Delicious is too snobby? Well sign me up for MENSA, because I can taste the difference between a Fuji and a Braeburn. Now Iím just waiting for the excuse heíll make up when he declares: ďThis was my plan the whole time to make simplifying jargon look bad.Ē But the chances of that much foresight in Holmesí reasoning is minimal at best because he didnít put too many stat points into PerceptionÖ which is a thing you would do in an RPG. Itís a good thing Podtoid is the be-all, end-all of video game discussion otherwise Iíd just be quoting contradictions people would generally make on a daily basis.

Holmesocrits are a species of Hippos and if you declare that it looks like a hippo with a photoshopped face, then you are a racist.

So yes, while some people will be repulsed by or misappropriate the term Art Game, Casual, Hardcore, or RPG, thatís going to be on them that they are missing out, not the word.

ACT IV: Stockholmes Syndrome

Holmes has written several hundred 140 character statements on twitter, heís written a short dialogue opener on Destructoid, heís voiced his opinion several times on Podtoid, and heís bitter about it in general discussion. He talks about this ďissueĒ as if itís going to be what causes the end of the world in 2012. This is rubbish, and not just because we all already know Gangnam Style is actually a satanic dance ritual and will cause our eternal doom when it opens the four gates of Rílyeh, but becauseÖ itís really not a big deal.

You know what Iím saying? Oppai chtenffagl vulgtm!

Art Games as a word has been successfully employed over the last decade and as stated earlier: When you use the word, people usually understand that the game in question may be unconventional or usually has some ulterior intent/message by the gameís creator, many of which even called their own products art games. Are we to disagree with developers on what they believe their own creations are? And donít even get me started on the developers out there who donít even think games are really art. The word RPG already makes several titles pop in my head: Phantasy Star, Earthbound, Final Fantasy VII to name a few; While these games have very different settings and themes, they are going to be RPGs to most people. And if you wanted to recommend a ďtraditionalĒ RPG to somebody, then these games fit that moniker. And if games evolve and genres meld over time as they have, the lexicon changes as well. Castlevania games are now split into two main subgenres: Classic Castlevania and Metroidvania, and some people prefer one style over the other. If I had to recommend a game from that series, I would kindly state which of those two its closer to for clarification. And most people will know what I mean or will inquire more. Words like Rougelike arise from trend-setting games and evolve far past the original meaning of the word. And even then, unless itís an age-old and widely accepted term by ďgamersĒ, itís not going to fly in the business world.


The reason why ĎRougelikeí as a term starts to work, is because most people are going to have a good idea of what it means by this this point and itís generally accepted by gamers as a whole. Sure, thereís going to be people with unintentionally skewed definitions of the word, and some with intentionally skewed definitions (Holmes), but on the whole, you come asking what On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness is, and Iím going to tell you itís an RPG, and most others in this situation would do the same. It is even advantageous from Holmesí theory that people are biased against words. Someone on a review team who has the free time and patience for a long RPG will know what they are getting into when a RPG game needs coverage; Just as much as Samit Sarkar will know heís going to be expecting when he needs to review a Sports game. For an Art Game, youíre going to get a more invested opinion from someone who is fond of those types of game rather than someone who finds them boring.


And hereís my olive branch to Holmes, if Art Game and RPG are poison then whatís the antidote, what words do you want to invent to memetically spread across gaming culture to work? What simple terms and easily conveyable terms would you replace RPG or Art Game with? In a perfect world, we can use words like Flim Flam and Gooblenerk to tell Bastion and Dear Esther apart. But most people would agree Action RPG and waste of money Art Game would be (some of a few) fine examples for those two to moniker. In that perfect world where all genres are easily distinguishable, I would be a magical girl fighting evil by moonlight and you would be pooping a magical Jim Sterling out your butt once a week too, but we can't ALL have everything we want.

FINAL ACT: Diablo was a Chick this time

Letís start bringing this all to a close with a real life example:
I used to be a parcel for a supermarket, working for minimum wage and pushing carts around all day. Because of my station, I was paranoid that people thought I was stupid or even mentally handicapped. Iím sure some probably had that presumption that I could be ďtouched in the headĒ, but in reality, itís a fucking grocery store. No one will remember me in five minutes and they could care less about anything other than getting their shopping list home in one piece. But I would stress out about it way too much. I would talk in a professional voice all the time, watch my clumsiness, and smile (in a non-creepy way) at every customer. I would overconcern myself about something that really didnít matter in the bigger picture.

And thatís where Holmes is now: In this egocentric bubble, being concerned about a problem that matters to no one else but himself. I donít want to even regard it as a problem or a ďnecessary evilĒ because itís just a word. And words can evolve, disappear, or be reinvented without some intentional driving force.

He can and should feel free to be dreading words that most anyone else in the games world uses and understands fine, but you know what?
It is going fill up our twitter feedsÖ
And it is going to make us be a little more annoyed with him than normalÖ
And heís going keep wondering why so many people argue with him on it...
And heís going to continue thinking itís a big deal as the rest of the world sallies on regardless...

The ouroboros in this situation is one of his own creation. And when brings the fight to everyone else, trying to find the source. Heíll be too blind to find out that Holmes is where the heart is.

If you made it here, youíve made it to the end, congrats.

Some may have come out out this with nothing but a few chuckles at some funny pictures.
Some of you may change your opinion to either agree on the livelihood of the term RPG or even now disagree with me and want to abort this overgrown pair of words.
Some may find something thought provoking in this or be even more confused by the small ways I crack at my own credibility.
Some may want their achievement points for surviving the most long and pointless blog about Holmes ever.

Jokes on you, itís an achievement that doesnít end in a 0 or 5.

But for the smart people out thereÖ thatís right: you. You guessed it. This whole article was not to convince you that RPG and Art Game are valid jargon, nor a demonstration on how arguing about semantics is bullshit, nor was it because Holmes said some rude stuff about me on the internet and I was butthurt (no seriously, fuck you Holmes you space bitch). This smear campaign was so well hidden, the lesser man would think I actually care about what words mean to people other than me.

Yes, this was all indeed a ploy to get you to not vote for Holmes / Creationism in this yearís Election I mean look at his campaign poster:

Disgusting. Is that, apple-racist-Skyrim-hating-multi-colored-poop-man-who-is-definently-a-pedophile-and-kills-dogs-for-fun, the guy you want running this country? I didnít think so. So if youíre one of the 80% of America that hasnít voted yetÖ donít vote Holmes, itís going to be a painful four years.

And as a parting gift, hereís an abridged version of this article that couldíve saved you 40 minutes of reading by a wise sage:

Seriously, go fucking vote if you haven't already.
Login to vote this up!


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About Cutie Honeyone of us since 1:35 AM on 09.16.2007

Freelance magical girl and drug trafficker:

Check my blog out at "truongasm.com!"
Check my portfolio out at "thomastruong.com!"

I'm easily the most popular Vietnamese guy out there. I'm not? Name another Vietnamese person... Ho Chi Minh? He's dead... and a city.

Nine Favorite Game(s) of all time:
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2
Phantasy Star Online: Episode 1 & 2
Pokemon Soul Silver
Super Mario World
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Super Robot Wars Z
Team Fortress 2
ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman
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