252: Better Than Film

Alice Bonasio

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Better Than Film

Film is often identified as the medium that videogames most wants to be like, in terms of cultural importance. Alice Bonasio argues that in order to shut up critics like Roger Ebert, the gaming industry needs to examine both its own history and that of its closest counterpart.

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Plinglebob

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While people related to the industry hope games will reach the success and reputation of movies, I doubt it. Computer games have become too firmly fixed in mind of the public as something to as a fun activity rather then as an artistic medium and while I'm pleased with Heay Rains success, the only thing it shows is that there are one million people who are willing to try something new. Sadly, this number is no-where near enough to encourage a large cultural shift.

I liked the comparison between between games and comics. I've always been a big fan of comics because they have everything you could want from an artistic medium. You have creators passionate about their work and the stories they create, you have a decent indie scene and you can switch between dark and serious to light and funny within the same series without it feeling out of place. I say let games copy the comic book industry if thats what it gives us.
 

Alice Bonasio

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While I don't think that gaming should follow film to the extent that it does, I don't think we need to leave behind childish things. Childish things are what makes gaming so much fun, and that's what we should stick with. Film itself is far from mature at times. Watch a Jason Statham film for that.

The thing that must be understood is that if we do leave the space marines and gratuitous gore behind, and make every game a pinnacle of storytelling like Heavy Rain, people like Roger Ebert still aren't going to consider it of artistic merit. They're biased. You can see it yourself in his article, he states that why should gamers want their hobby to be art? Surely, people like Michael Jordan don't care if their game is artistic?

This is indicative that he doesn't even consider gaming on the same spectrum as film. He considers it the same as a sport or a parlour game. I think he's wrong, but it's important to note that that is the mentality, and it's not going to change.

Basically, what I'm saying is, we shouldn't feel the need to leave behind anything just because they say so. Gaming is good as it is, and while there should most definitely be more Heavy Rain type games, there should also be just as many space marines and killing and all those fun things. Why change for our enemies? We don't need respect. We're having fun, who gives a fuck if anyone else thinks we're immature? Who says we need to please them?

I've played games that have made my cry, I've played games with great stories that have drawn me in, and I've played games that made my adrenaline pump and my pulse pound. These games all exist, right now. We're fine as we are.

I like the gaming as comics path myself.
 

ccesarano

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I really liked this article. It actually touched on a lot of ideas I wrote in a column on another site.

I don't think people realize the importance of story. Often enough I hear the mantra that gameplay comes first. However, I look at games like Brutal Legend, Chrono Trigger and EarthBound where the artistic story, narrative and other ideas fed the gameplay. They formed a symbiosis and worked together instead of one taking precedence over the other. I can only wonder why more games don't try for that since you'll inevitably think of more gameplay concepts than you would just saying "Ok, let's make a shooter in space...what features do we want?", which seems to be the average pattern.

I also feel the modern journalism industry is a complete cluster full of fanboys and people that are nothing more than marketers. Hopefully the editorial focus some publications like GamePro, Kill Screen Magazine and Escapist are trying to make will help appeal to the smarter and more mature audience.

In response to Plinglebob, I wouldn't be so sure about people's impressions being solidified. I've had friends from College watch me playing games going through the story and suddenly say "Wow, this is REALLY interesting!". In fact, the same has happened with my sister many times, particularly with Dead Space Extraction where she told me she wanted to see what happened next in the story. The reason people have the impression that they do is, well, what are on the commercials? I haven't seen a TV Spot for the new Splinter Cell mentioning anything about Sam Fisher's daughter, even though that is supposed to be central to the plot. The Bioshock commercials show nothing but violence.

If you want to catch people's interest they have to first know that there is meaning behind it. Iron Man wasn't such a successful movie because it had special effects or was based off a widely known comic (Iron Man is one of the lesser known Marvel properties in main stream media, or at least was). The story provided flawed characters that went through a development arc which resulted in a human interest. This is what games are lacking in comparison, or so it seems.

But really, when most people avoid magazines and websites focused on gaming, how are they going to find out there's more to it than lining up the crosshairs to someone's forehead? We need to tell them, and TV spots do a horrendous job of this.

Furburt said:
Basically, what I'm saying is, we shouldn't feel the need to leave behind anything just because they say so. Gaming is good as it is, and while there should most definitely be more Heavy Rain type games, there should also be just as many space marines and killing and all those fun things. Why change for our enemies? We don't need respect. We're having fun, who gives a fuck if anyone else thinks we're immature?
After checking your profile and seeing you're roughly 18, it explains why you would feel the way you do.

I used to love dumb entertainment just as much as I loved smart entertainment. The older I get the less I care about what used to impress me. As I read from intelligent writers in their 30's and 40's, they too start to have less taste for the shallow and flashy. It isn't just a matter of "impressing others", it is also a matter of providing something for ourselves. We are growing up, but the industry itself doesn't seem to comprehend that.

In this context, when people say "childish things" they mean the obsessions with "HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT HEAD SHOT?". Back to my Iron Man example, that has all the shallow stuff but they still managed to throw in deeper emotional material. That's why it's a huge mainstream success. You have humor, character development and bad ass action. It's not really that artistic or deep of a movie, but it's not shallow either.

Why can't we even have that, at least, be the more common attempt at making a game? It's not like we don't want space marines. We just want to have MORE than space marines because some of us are old enough to appreciate something more than "OORAH!" and charging into the maw of a monstrous centipede (my feelings go for hack and slash work as well. I can only give a ho hum when I see a 100foot tall monstrosity towering over me).
 

Jesus Phish

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In the same way I want both a movie that will pull me into it's world for the 2 hours or whatever it's on the screen, I also want the popcorn movie. That movie thats dumb but fun.

Making more games like Heavy Rain (and Alan Wake by the looks of it) will be good, but to suggest all games should leave their foundations and the "kids stuff" behind, I couldn't agree with. I would like to see more games that go the story route, but I also want to see my space marines blow stuff up from time to time for fun and relaxation.

I don't think story lines are particularly bad now days anyway. Dead Space, Heavy Rain, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Fallout. I even thought the MW2 story was good. It was ludacris, but I enjoyed it for what it was. I mean, it sure beats the story of a fat plumber who ends up in a magical realm trying to save a dumb princess.
 

bjj hero

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ccesarano said:
I haven't seen a TV Spot for the new Splinter Cell mentioning anything about Sam Fisher's daughter, even though that is supposed to be central to the plot. The Bioshock commercials show nothing but violence.
Reading this has really stuck with me. I know that story telling in videogames, even the celebrated ones, is mediocre at best. Even the best story driven games wouldn't compete with most films. Having said that all of the trailors for video games can be boiled down to "look at this, this kicks ass".

With the exception of a few film adverts, the hollywood special effects bonanza type, you get a taste for the plot, the feel, a look at the charecters in an Ad. I don't think I've seen this in a game trailer yet.

Example: Dragon Age: Origins. A heavily plot and dialogue driven game. You experience loss, betrayal, tragedy, sacrifice, love and friendship. The player make hard choices with far reaching effects. We got:


Marylin Manson, sex and gore...

Why are games not taken seriously again?
 

SamElliot'sMustache

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The obsession with making games like film is actually going to be more poisonous to the industry than most would think. For the last decade, the comics industry, for example, has tried to borrow heavily from film, and while that resulted in a select few series being good (DMZ and Ultimate Spider-Man, for example), most of what we got from that industry was long, drawn out, pretentious fluff, often consisting of one or two people talking for 22 pages, then a "To Be Continued" caption gets tacked on the end (for example, the entire body of work of Daniel Way...).

Likewise, "cinematic" gaming has only produced a handful of gems (with probably the best one being Metal Gear Solid, the first one, more than a decade ago! And Kojima took all the wrong lessons from his success in that game), and the rest being primarily mediocre imitations of film (the vastly-overrated Heavy Rain).

I'm not saying games shouldn't borrow ideas or techniques from other industries, what I'm saying is developers shouldn't be looking to copy wholesale in an effort to make their games 'Art' with a capital A, because that's not what artists do (that's the realm of hacks). Instead, developers, just like anyone in any creative field, should ask themselves "What lessons can we learn from other works, even in other fields?", "How can and can't we apply them here?" and, most importantly, "What can I add to the mix by making this?" If developers ask themselves those questions, and some already have, then the industry can and will "grow up," so to speak.
 

Tiut

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Heavy Rain IS a film, though. Why even give me the options if the story is just going to be so linear anyway?

Oh yeah, because QTE are really good for gameplay and emersion.

Also:
JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASON
 

Velvo

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You know what game I think bridged the gap between film and games? Grand Theft Auto IV. I felt connected to the characters in a way I'd never before experienced. When rescuing Niko's cousin from the Russian mob, I couldn't help but choke up every time Niko screamed in rage at his cousin's captors. I cried when Kate, Niko's only link to a sane and loving world, was gunned down in front of him by those whom I had chosen not to kill.

Certainly games will continue to be filled with those explosions that we enjoy so much. I mean, the technology is often the only thing that allows the story to be told at all (the massive open world in the upcoming Red Dead Redemption, for instance). The trick is, for the moment, to sneak in a decent narrative for those who are looking for it. I feel that game companies like Rockstar and Valve are the producers pushing forward the medium as an art form more than any other.
 

Casual Shinji

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Comparing Heavy Rain to Citizen Kane is really pushing it, I'm afraid. And saying that Heavy Rain was a milestone in gaming? Uh, no! Don't get me wrong, I liked the game, but there was as much wrong with it as there was right.

This might be beating a dead horse, but if you want innovation in games look at Shadow of The Colossus: Riding your horse actually felt like riding a horse instead of, say, driving a car as it does in other games with horse riding gameplay. Interacting with skyscraper-tall beings that were beautifully animated, but most of all, it told a story through gameplay instead of cutscenes. Sure, there were cutscenes, but only at the beginning and the end of the game and their only purpose was to set up the game and to conclude the game. The actual emotion of bonding with your horse and coming to the grim realization of your actions, was achieved through gameplay. And that is something I have yet to see in another game, except maybe Ico.

I really liked the big blockbuster games of the last few years like Gears of War 2, Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2, but they seem to feel more like movie experiences rather then videogames. In the end, I want the bulk of my games to feel like videogames and not like movies.
 

Velvo

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bjj hero said:
With the exception of a few film adverts, the hollywood special effects bonanza type, you get a taste for the plot, the feel, a look at the charecters in an Ad. I don't think I've seen this in a game trailer yet.
Yeah, I thought all the GTA IV trailers were quite cinematic, as are the trailers for the new Red Dead Redemption. The difference with game trailers is that they are effectively Hollywood special effects bonanza movies that are interactive. That's where games are, for the most part, because that's what suits fun gameplay. I mean, you can play the Sims with all its social drama and such if you REALLY want to.

Anyway, here's a Red Dead Redemption trailer, cause I'm so excited for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sU0PwzdMiY
 

craddoke

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Here's my thesis: Games will never advance beyond the pre-1930 "technological wonder" penny arcade without incredible leaps in artificial intelligence. Here's my argument: It's easy to program FPS A.I. - enemies run, shoot, and (sometimes) take cover. It's not even essential that they do these things well all the time unless they're a boss (who's actions can be scripted as necessary to avoid 'mistakes'). From the perspective of the gamer, FPS-type A.I. reacts dynamically to their choices (cover, chasing, shooting) and this creates the sense of interactivity and emergence that drives the gaming experience.

Now try to imagine a game in which the central mechanic is not combat and the A.I. must instead respond to social interaction in a way conducive to the gamer's sense of interactivity and emergence. Completely impossible with current technology - we can script a finite number of set responses to likely player actions, but that's not the same thing as dynamic response at all. Programmers don't script every shot, chase sequence, and shot-out with FPSs - they put in place some simple rules and let the interaction between those rules and the player's actions generate results. We can barely articulate the kinds of rules we would need to program "social" A.I. at this point in time.

Conclusion: I'm not holding my breath for the "Citizen Kane" of gaming to emerge, unless that means an FPS in which Charles Kane single-handedly starts AND FINISHES the Spanish American War through the liberal use of yellow journalism and head-shots (before you laugh, consider how unlikely Dante's Inferno sounded).
 

More Fun To Compute

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I wonder if Hecker has ever seriously considered the outlandish fourth possibility that games could be games as well as toys, comics (!) or movies.
 

PedroSteckecilo

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Leave behind exploding cars? LEAVE BEHIND EXPLODING CARS?!

I find the very idea that the game industry must leave behind action, adventure and excitement as forms of entertainment in order to move forward and grow up as an industry entirely preposterous. Especially given the fact that Steven Spielberg and Roger Ebert are referenced so prominently in this article and in the debate overall.

If you ask any film buff (Who enjoys Spielberg films, not all of them do) which of Spielberg's films they enjoy best, you'll probably end up with one of the following three films...
- Jaws
- Raiders of the Lost Arc
- Schindler's List

One of these is a drama, but two of them are balls to the wall, summer blockbuster, CAR EXPLODING entertainment. Look at Ebert's own review of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Four Stars, he calls it "An out-of-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures, and deposits you back in reality two hours later -- breathless, dizzy, wrung-out, and with a silly grin on your face." Essentially a GREAT action film. For goodness sakes, he discusses the artfulness of the great Truck Chase late in the film. He LOVES this movie, for it's action and imagination, not it's ability to make you cry. It DOES evoke emotion however, glee, joy, excitement, fear just not that wanky sadness that we MUST feel for a story to be legitimate apparently.

If these elements of "storytelling", action, excitement, glee and raw entertainment are good enough for one of gaming's greatest detractors and being brought to us by the man who said ,"a game needs to make someone cry," why aren't they good enough for gaming anymore?

Essentially... what the heck is wrong with exploding cars?
 

MissAshley

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"Short films of car crashes" was meant in the context of "spectacle for the sake of technological demonstration." No one's saying "abandon action," only "more context, please."

Continuing with that phrase, though: There will always be an audience which has yet to experience those crashes. And as the box office receipts and game sales show, an even larger audience wants to experience nothing more than those crashes over and over again.
 

Virtual_Dom

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While I do agree that video games can advance as an art form, that does not mean we should leave behind cinematic momoents and mindless fun. Those are the driving points of most great games today. We need to combine fun and engaging gameplay with an artisitic narrative. We got those with games like Prince of Persia, Bioshock and Halflife 2.
 

AngryFrenchCanadian

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For the same reasons explained in the article, that there is always a focus on the new, the upcoming games, I am very frustrated that Media Molecule announced a Little Big Planet 2.

For me, Little Big Planet was THE game that I was going to keep for a very long time, the game that would force me not to sell my PlayStation 3 because it was so special. The game I was going to show to my kids, saying "At the time, this was a pretty unique game!" and then I would show them the first level I've ever created. But, I wouldn't see the point in keeping it now, since they're making a sequel.

The special thing about LBP was the truly near-endless amount of content you could create. I was fine buying DLC to have more songs, more stickers etc. But what could they possibly have more in the sequel? You only need the first game, but there are less and less people online, and when the sequels comes out, the number is going to plummet as everyone is going to move to LBP2.
 

Arctic Fox

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I think that gaming has actually surpassed film in a couple of areas.

1. Aging - I remember watching many films on the big screen and thinking "this is awesome" only to come back to it a few years later and notice that it not as awesome as I remember it. Example: my favorite film Jurassic Park - Those dinosaurs looked so real when I was 10, but watching it on VHS several years later, they looked kinda fake. And yet Super Mario Bros. is still the same awesome experience it was when I was a kid. They can even resell the same game with huge praise from game critics by just updating the graphics. (New Super Mario Bros.)

2. Sequels - I can't say that all, or even most video game sequels are better that the originals, but I can count on one hand the number of film sequels that were better than the original. Gaming may be hinged on sequels and remakes now, but so is Hollywood. In my opinion, gaming does it better.

To wrap up, I would say that it is less about the storytelling with gaming, and more about the immersion. I would rather play a game that had no story but took me to a different world through game play, than a cinematic masterpiece.
 

ZippyDSMlee

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Film is trapped in cliches and redundancy galore...and sadly with gaming ignoring game mechanics to follow film...game is as if not worse due to crap game play..........
 

Alice Bonasio

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Games don't have to be Citizen Kane to be culturally relevant, and there's nothing wrong with FPSes just like there's nothing wrong with Shoot 'em ups--they're a great release from daily life or concerns. But I would say that most releases now are little more than mental masturbation: they offer a way to do something you enjoy repeatedly without any thought, and at some point you always achieve release. Aside from a small number that stand out because they ARE different than the vast majority, recent releases are cliched and formulaic; they put most or all of their effort in to visuals and sound effects, with stories and characters that are weak and two-dimensional. It's bang for the buck, and who cares what infantile crap is being sold as long as it's profitable.

An example: Mass Effect 2 is a shooter, less so an RPG; all well and good. My gripe is not that the ability to individualize one's character was removed from ME 1, it's that the makers treated their audience as juveniles in its portrayal of relationships as some sort of dating sim, and provided a linear storyline with zero suspense. This from the makers of Knights of the Old Republic? Dragon Age? How about something for the adults (i.e., meaning mature story and themes, not necessarily porn thankyouverymuch)

I'm glad there are still some developers who strive to create a product that makes people think, and perhaps even feel, even if they're not going to be at the top of the sales chart.
 

Lorennar

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One difficulty in celebrating the history and culture of videogames is the perpetual advancement of the technology used to present the games to us. Since the invention of the printing press not much has had to be done in order to allow classics to be visited and re-visited for decades and generations to come. Similarly with the advent of home entertainment systems it is possible to experience cinema over and over again for roughly a decade before the next advancement in viewing begins to take over. How many of us have bought a movie in VHS, DVD, and now debate purchasing it again in Blue Ray. Though with the beauty of backward compatibility and some useful media conversion tech. many have avoided this problem first by transferring their movies from VHS to DVD, and now watching their DVD's on Blue Ray players.

Here essentially is the problem. From the days of Atari, the NES, the Genesis, Dreamcast, X-Box, PS3, and the staggering technical generations and operating systems of the home computer we have dozens upon dozens of methods for enjoying games exclusive to a certain piece of hardware. Add in the arcade classics and handheld systems and the trouble only grows. Maintaining a shared culture and passing it to generations who missed a game when it was the new thing on the block requires a closet full of cartridges, discs, systems, and controllers and a personal connection between the keepers of this history and those who want to experience it. Try loading games like Deus Ex or the original Warcraft on a modern PC and watch as it bugs to unplayability if it will play at all.

Some games manage to pass over through such remakes, or re-releases, as can be found in the Wii store, GoG.com's catalog of old games updated to run on newer machines, or SquareEnix's progression through its games of old for new systems. But so many miss out on making the jump to a modern age. Well regarded titles longing to be experienced by new audiences such as Deus Ex and Final Fantasy VII (art or not they can at least be considered cultural landmarks) will either never see the light of day again or not for some time. And if the current trends continue all those titles made available on new technologies will again vanish when the next tech comes around.

Innovation in hardware has dominated the discourse about the future of gaming for a long time, and the discussion of meaningful content has recently grown stronger and stronger, but despite the efforts of a few to maintain our culture's history discussions of "the good old days" or "the games of our youth" can only be discussed amongst the generation that lived it or passed on as an oral tradition of anecdotes and pail descriptions.

Until we can experience the games of other decades and generations we will never be able to achieve the lasting art form we might wish to be. While Mozart and Pink Floyd, Starry Night and Ceci n'est pas une pipe, Dostoyevsky and J.R.R.Tolkien, Citizen Kane and Singing in the Rain, are able to influence and entertain generation after generation the death of Aeris is a scene loaded with the meaning only for those who happened to be able to experience it when it was being sold and the PlayStation or its successor would read it.

It is doubtful that either technology will peter out and gain some stability or that the console companies will set aside their quest for exclusive rights to titles and generational isolation any time soon. The DRM arms race makes the ease of up converting seen in the transition from VHS to DVD unlikely to occur between this and any other generation of games in the future. The massive budgets of money and time that go into making these games make a move toward accessible and affordable gaming for all on par with the status books or movies have now a dream. But perhaps one day we will find a solution that allows us to experience games made at different times, by different companies, and of different levels of quality as a community generations old.
 

Alice Bonasio

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Casual Shinji said:
This might be beating a dead horse, but if you want innovation in games look at Shadow of The Colossus: Riding your horse actually felt like riding a horse instead of, say, driving a car as it does in other games with horse riding gameplay. Interacting with skyscraper-tall beings that were beautifully animated, but most of all, it told a story through gameplay instead of cutscenes. Sure, there were cutscenes, but only at the beginning and the end of the game and their only purpose was to set up the game and to conclude the game. The actual emotion of bonding with your horse and coming to the grim realization of your actions, was achieved through gameplay. And that is something I have yet to see in another game, except maybe Ico.
Absolutely: in a well-crafted piece of entertainment, the audience lives/experiences the story. It isn't told or shown, it LIVES it. I think that videogames, because of their interactive nature, can accomplish this in a way that film and literature are not. I'm not saying one medium is superior to another, just that properly used, videogames can provide a memorable experience in a way that the other two cannot.
 

Space Jawa

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Here's the ironic thing, and something I'm surprised doesn't get brought up much in these kinds of arguments:

Steven Spielberg, one of the top guys in the film industry, decided to make a video game, and what does he come up with? Not a 'cinematic' game that pushes it towards being more comparable with film, but Boom Blox, which functions as a fun 'toy' game. And is it ever a fun game. Probably up there as one of the top 3rd party Wii titles, and something I'm sure I've enjoyed much more than if Spielberg had made a 'cinematic' title like you might expect with all the hype about 'games as film!' and such.

So when a guy from the film industry comes along and makes a game that doesn't do anything to bring the medium closer to film, you think it might provide some sort of a hint about where games should really be headed.

Games are for playing.
Movies for watching.

When you try to pull any one of the medium too far towards a different medium, you aren't doing it any favors in the long run.
 
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ccesarano said:
I really liked this article. It actually touched on a lot of ideas I wrote in a column on another site.

I don't think people realize the importance of story. Often enough I hear the mantra that gameplay comes first. However, I look at games like Brutal Legend, Chrono Trigger and EarthBound where the artistic story, narrative and other ideas fed the gameplay. They formed a symbiosis and worked together instead of one taking precedence over the other. I can only wonder why more games don't try for that since you'll inevitably think of more gameplay concepts than you would just saying "Ok, let's make a shooter in space...what features do we want?", which seems to be the average pattern.

I also feel the modern journalism industry is a complete cluster full of fanboys and people that are nothing more than marketers. Hopefully the editorial focus some publications like GamePro, Kill Screen Magazine and Escapist are trying to make will help appeal to the smarter and more mature audience.

In response to Plinglebob, I wouldn't be so sure about people's impressions being solidified. I've had friends from College watch me playing games going through the story and suddenly say "Wow, this is REALLY interesting!". In fact, the same has happened with my sister many times, particularly with Dead Space Extraction where she told me she wanted to see what happened next in the story. The reason people have the impression that they do is, well, what are on the commercials? I haven't seen a TV Spot for the new Splinter Cell mentioning anything about Sam Fisher's daughter, even though that is supposed to be central to the plot. The Bioshock commercials show nothing but violence.

If you want to catch people's interest they have to first know that there is meaning behind it. Iron Man wasn't such a successful movie because it had special effects or was based off a widely known comic (Iron Man is one of the lesser known Marvel properties in main stream media, or at least was). The story provided flawed characters that went through a development arc which resulted in a human interest. This is what games are lacking in comparison, or so it seems.

But really, when most people avoid magazines and websites focused on gaming, how are they going to find out there's more to it than lining up the crosshairs to someone's forehead? We need to tell them, and TV spots do a horrendous job of this.

Furburt said:
Basically, what I'm saying is, we shouldn't feel the need to leave behind anything just because they say so. Gaming is good as it is, and while there should most definitely be more Heavy Rain type games, there should also be just as many space marines and killing and all those fun things. Why change for our enemies? We don't need respect. We're having fun, who gives a fuck if anyone else thinks we're immature?
After checking your profile and seeing you're roughly 18, it explains why you would feel the way you do.

I used to love dumb entertainment just as much as I loved smart entertainment. The older I get the less I care about what used to impress me. As I read from intelligent writers in their 30's and 40's, they too start to have less taste for the shallow and flashy. It isn't just a matter of "impressing others", it is also a matter of providing something for ourselves. We are growing up, but the industry itself doesn't seem to comprehend that.

In this context, when people say "childish things" they mean the obsessions with "HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT HEAD SHOT?". Back to my Iron Man example, that has all the shallow stuff but they still managed to throw in deeper emotional material. That's why it's a huge mainstream success. You have humor, character development and bad ass action. It's not really that artistic or deep of a movie, but it's not shallow either.

Why can't we even have that, at least, be the more common attempt at making a game? It's not like we don't want space marines. We just want to have MORE than space marines because some of us are old enough to appreciate something more than "OORAH!" and charging into the maw of a monstrous centipede (my feelings go for hack and slash work as well. I can only give a ho hum when I see a 100foot tall monstrosity towering over me).
While you say that story is important with games, and that game play shouldn't necessarily come first, I think, personally that, that isn't the path the industry should take.

I think that games need to realize exactly what they are. They are games. And say what you want, but I don't personally think many people realize that.

In the end, we must first define what a game is, and then simplify games such that they contain only that. If you look at paintings, they started off with these big, bold, elegant things, and are now mostly just blocks of color. Why? Because that's what an image is. Shape and color. And most of the time it's beautiful. The Rothkos, the Mondrians, those artists, literally pushed the limits of what a painting could be by subtraction, rather then by addition. And that's the thing. It seems to me like people think that art is a masterly crafted story, when most of the the time, Art is far simpler.

I've said this before, and I will say it again, but videogames will follow the exact same path as all forms of art do. Traditional, Impressionist, Surrealist, Abstract, and Post-Modern. Here is a summary of what each will be.

Traditional: What we have now. Everything is dramatic, everythign is gut wrenching, pulse pounding, etc. Everything is glorified, and is about glorified people, like space marines and such.

Impressionist: Now we have games about smaller things, about regular people, or about regular things, and I think heavy rain is mostly this, if not completely this. It is games about non-glorified characters, and in some cases even unlikable characters, or regular characters, either swept up in unreal situations or perfectly normal situations (even better), where arguably the consequence of failure is nothing big, in terms of the ultimate fate of the world. If James Sunderland dies in silent hill 2, would anyone care? Nobody else in the game world would. That's the thing. The player's only motivation for keeping themselves alive is their own attachment to the main character. These are games about regular people, who no one really cares about, who aren't anything special.

Surrealist: Now we have reached games where the traditional laws of thought are being thrown away. It is perfectly normal for games to take place in odd places, places where things don't make sense. It is where games deliberately stop making sense, and in the end, make more sense then they would if they were literal. These are games, like the Messhof games, that rely on a sense of confusion and wonderment to bring across their points, rather then literal imagery.

Abstract: Now we have reach the point where games are nothing but games. They are simple in mechanic, simple in appearance, and everything else. They are drenched in symbolism, but not obvious, and not necessarily accessible. They are more ideas, rather then things. They are conceptual, rather then tangible, and in the end express far more emotion than anything else.

Post-Modern: Now we have hit the end. Before, games were still decipherable, they where still meaningful, they still had order. Now we take that, and we deconstruct it, we dissect it, and reconstruct in ways that are deliberately incorrect. We have games that are like catch-22, where the levels are out of order, we have games where the goal is to fail, we have games that are more or less a mock of the entire medium and a huge joke, rather then any functional things. Games have now lost their functionality, and are not trying to express anything more then their own existence. It is no longer about interpretation and symbolism but about pure anarchy, pure non-reason, for no reason. And, through some miracle (or maybe not), games that are designed to make no sense end up making more sense then anything else, the complete opposite of what they were supposed to do, giving the whole thing a complete sense of irony, and turning the whole medium into a practical joke, with an abrupt end.

And then there is noise art. At this point, games will just be buttons that don't do anything.

But that's all just my opinion.
 

Nesrie

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It's kind of hard to celebrate old games when the industry wants to lock players out of old games and push them into the new, aka DRM.
 

The Random One

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I have two things to say about this.

One, of course David Cage expected Heavy Rain to be gaming's Citizen Kane. He also expected that of Indigo Prophecy, which failed to make a dent in gaming history. If Heavy Rain failed as well, five years from now he'd be releasing Heatwave (guy just loves himself some meteorological metaphors) and hailing that as the Citizen Kane of gaming.

Two, sadly, in my opinion games are not in the 'shots of car crashes' period, analogue to the movie industry. They're in the exact same spot. They're both finding out that making a movie or game has become so expensive that you need a massive blockbuster to turn up a profit, so they've turned to recycling old ideas and new concepts as much as possible. I've thought about this and I believe gaming's history goes the same way as movies, only faster.

So we have:

The prototypical age, when technology is new and people are just trying to see what it can do. Movies have Train Leaving the Station and Trip to the Moon, games have blinking Atari games.

The early age, when technology is mostly figured out and people turn to 'but what can it do?'. Here we have the first movies with a story, circa Charlie Chaplin, and strange NES games that the Angry Video Game Nerd mocks, still obviously grappling with game design concepts.

The golden years, when the language of the medium is figured out and evolving into its own voice. That's the age of Hitchcock for movies and the age of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Zelda: Ocarina of time etc. for games.

The stagnation, when the drive for new ways to express the medium still exists, but for the layman is drowned by cheap imitations of the golden years' greatest successes. I have no examples for this because it's an era that's by definition unremarkable.

The downfall, when technical changes have driven up the cost and only massive blockbusters turn up a profit, so earnest attempts to revolutionize the medium are turned down by executives and end up confined to independent producers, while the most succesful items are those that appeal to the lowest denominator by copying the works that succeeded the most during stagnation; that is, they are copies of the copies of the golden years' success. Gaming has only begun this era, but movies have been there for quite some time. It's easily recognizeable because: serials that have been dead for a long time suddenly get a new installment to attempt to cash in nostalgia (Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Die Hard 4.0, Terminator: Salvation/Fallout 3, Bionic Commando, New Super Mario Bros.); series that have had continuous sequels lately have a reboot in an attempt to become relevant again (Nightmare on Elm Street, the upcoming Spiderman movie/Street Fighter IV); and remakes of classics get sequels of their own (The Nutty Professor 2, Ocean's Twelve... I think gaming isn't quite at that stage yet).

After the downfall, what comes is either irrelevance or rebirth. The cost of making the medium the old way isn't worth it for the execs, so the big industry falls apart. Then, either the medium is forgotten and replaced for the next big thing (irrelevance), or smaller producers survive the crisis and start pushing for a new way for the industry to work (rebirth, which leads to a new early age, repeating the cycle). For movies, I think they're settled for a rebirth; I don't think a media so ubiquitous as movies (when was the last time you've met someone who doesn't have a favourite film, let alone has never watched one?) will just roll over and die. For games... I'm hopeful, and think they're set for a rebirth as well, in the hands of indie and casual developers. Maybe this time we'll do it right.
 

bolastristes

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Apr 10, 2010
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...¨series that have had continuous sequels lately have a reboot in an attempt to become relevant again (Nightmare on Elm Street, the upcoming Spiderman movie/Street Fighter IV); and remakes of classics get sequels of their own (The Nutty Professor 2, Ocean's Twelve... I think gaming isn't quite at that stage yet)¨

no!?, are you kidding?, nowadays, video game industry is all about remakes, sequels and movie-animation based video games, good and original games are a rare treat nowadays...

And I don´t know why you trying to convince gamers that STORYTELLING is like the fu;´=`g lost ark, since when a game is considered art if it has great storytelling!?, storytelling is just an alternative, not a rule, I can name a thousand of examples!, mario, zelda, metroid, sonic, out of this world, mega man saga, street fighter saga, etc, etc... STOP COMPARING VIDEOGAMES WITH CINEMA... you are saying that videogames should LEARN from cinema or that they should IMITATE cinema to reach the art ¨TAG¨... !!!???

and HEAVY RAIN the CITIZEN KANE of video games!?, are you crazy?, the only gaming counterpart of citizen kane I can´t think of, is none other than SUPER MARIO BROS!
 

vortexgods

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Apr 24, 2008
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Ok, well, this is a tad silly. Let me take on some of the ideas in this story:

1. We don't have to defend games as art. Asteroids is art. Missile Command is art. Tempest is art. Pacman is art. Of course, none of that art is really narrative. What's the narrative in Tempest? Still I know it is art because I seriously jones for a Tempest machine to stick in the corner of my rumpus room, even if I only play it a few times a year. You can't get it with an emulator, you need a vector graphics monitor! God that's a beautiful machine!

2. The problem isn't that games don't cover multiple genres. Games do better than Silver Age comics in that regard. If you want a game about "the problems of modern life" they have them, things like The Sims or Barbie Horse Adventure (j/k).

3. Games are never going to do narrative as well as film. Narrative is not interactive. When Ebert decided to Troll gamers everwhere with his "games are not art and never will be" what he was actually saying is games don't do narrative as well as film. Well, yeah, they are games. Once you add interaction, you destroy narrative. It stops being a predictable story. That's why the best games have multiple endings. Who didn't like getting the "Menace to Society" ending in Enchanter, where your bungling makes things even worse than if you had never started your quest? If anything, I'm somewhat disappointed that most modern games have a limited number of endings. (On the other hand, who says games have to end?)

4. I often get disappointed with the way games are used as a medium. Here's an example. When I was much younger, I had the D. C. heroes pen and paper game, and later I got the Watchmen sourcebook. I dreamed for years of a Watchmen PC RPG. When the Watchmen movie came out, and we had our chance for a Watchmen game what did we get? A pretty generic sounding beat 'em up. Still, Arkham Asylum was a huge step forward. Why? It remembered something about games, they may be inferior with narrative, but they are good at evoking a coherent world.
 

DRTJR

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Aug 7, 2009
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While artistic games have been successful in the past (see Chrono trigger, Earthbound, FF7, ect.) they face similar threats to the Artiness as cinema and T.V. It rely expensive. Money is their chief concern so sequels present the greatest profit, though i see squeals being the greatest tool for artistic license as well. my example Nintendo. Look at Ocarina of Time, yoshi's island, Fire emblem 4, These games boldly went where no game dare go before and sold well. they not only used their respective series as platforms but soared into the stratosphere.
 

GL2814E

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Feb 16, 2010
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Jesus Phish said:
In the same way I want both a movie that will pull me into it's world for the 2 hours or whatever it's on the screen, I also want the popcorn movie. That movie thats dumb but fun.

Making more games like Heavy Rain (and Alan Wake by the looks of it) will be good, but to suggest all games should leave their foundations and the "kids stuff" behind, I couldn't agree with. I would like to see more games that go the story route, but I also want to see my space marines blow stuff up from time to time for fun and relaxation.

I don't think story lines are particularly bad now days anyway. Dead Space, Heavy Rain, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Fallout. I even thought the MW2 story was good. It was ludacris, but I enjoyed it for what it was. I mean, it sure beats the story of a fat plumber who ends up in a magical realm trying to save a dumb princess.
Hey! Didn't you watch There Will Be Brawl?!? I think that shows there is a ton of story potential for a fat plumber trying to save a princess. (Thought I'll admit the ending didn't work for me...)

And I agree with the list of story lines you posted except for Heavy Rain. I was not a fan at all.

But Dead Space, I am playing that right now and it scares the crap outta me...
 

rmx687

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Mar 3, 2009
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I believe it was Jim Sterling who said we should stop waiting on gaming's "Citizen Kane" and be more focused about when we'll see the next Ico.

I'm just really discouraged by Western developers, journalists, and advocates who all are hoping that gaming will evolve to the point where we can tell narratives instead of exploding cars, like one person in this article hoped. To people like me, we've already been there.

Final Fantasy, especially on the PSOne, had amazing production values and included various themes on life and society. With the predominance of Western games today, it's almost as if we've convinced ourselves that gaming began 4 years ago with the XBox 360.

Gaming's gone pretty far already. Our journalists curiously don't seem to get that.
 

Orbert

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Mar 19, 2010
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It's interesting that we're comparing game's narrative to film, because all narrative is essentially writing, i.e. some form of literature. All of today's film (unless you go really avant-garde) relies almost completely on language, most likely written in the form of a screen play, essentially making it written literature at its core (although it could be in oral form; I'm not sure if you can call it "literature" of it's only oral).

Without language, there could be no narrative or characters in the film because the film maker would not be able to communicate his vision to the audience. You can't have a modern film (again not avant-garde) without communicating something purposefully that can be expressed through language, whether it is blatantly written down somewhere or not.

The interesting thing is, games can express themselves completely without words. Simple arcade games like pong are not communicating anything to the player. Games would still exist even if you stripped away all the language from them. If Space Invaders did not have the premise of you being a ship destroying alien ships, it could still be a game consisting of a sprite making other sprites disappear via lines that emanate from it.

But are these mechanics themselves art? As I'm writing this, I think that what makes video games art (and I believe some of them are) is not the mechanics of the game at all. I don't think Pong is art. I believe that the ideas expressed through the literature portion of the games is art: the characters, the plot (however simple), the atmosphere, the environment. In the same way, it's not moving images that we find emotionally attractive and artistic about film, it's the message conveyed by the images that moves us. This message is at its core something linguistic. If the images did not have some sort of narrative or atmosphere then they would not be moving.

Even avant-garde art is steeped in meaning that could have instead been expressed linguistically.

So perhaps gaming in its current form and film are both art because they are so strongly connected with literature.

I tend to see literature and music as the pure arts. These two can be deeply emotional without being explained by a further art. You can be moved by words, or simply by sound. In modern film and games, the thing that moves you is the narrative. Although I guess you could be moved simply by abstract images that have no attached meaning, like a kaleidoscope. Interesting. Maybe some avant-garde type visual art has no linguistic meaning after all.
 

Vortigar

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bolastristes said:
the only gaming counterpart of citizen kane I can think of, is none other than SUPER MARIO BROS!
You were a bit shouty about it but I think there's a core of truth there. Only I will go one step further than you and simply say it. Super Mario Brothers is gaming's Citizen Kane.

Here was an industry that was cool but didn't know where to go, what to do. And along came an expression in that industry that showed what could still be done and revitalized the entire thing. Kane did it, Mario did it.

There's a massive difference in the development of various mediums and that has everything to do with the age in which the medium comes to rise. Movies came out of the twenties (or thereabouts), games are a product of the eighties. More importantly, with the rise of the internet the global consciousness and knowledge of consumers is expanded greatly. You need only take a cursory look at those lauded films of yore and you'll see loads of obvious, glaring flaws in the way a movie was scripted, shot, whatever, people back then didn't know better. Now, in the information age we do. (I watched Citizen Kane a couple of months back and you really have to read up on why this movie was so special at the time otherwise its just a very dated movie.)

We gamers know the ins and outs on how games are created, how gameplay elements function. Movies could get away with a lot of stuff because the audience didn't know better, these days they simply can't pull those tricks anymore. Games on the other hand were almost never able to pull those tricks. They had to mature way faster or be left in the dust.

Personally I feel the judgement has already been made. Games are a medium of the comic book variety. There's a load of flashy stuff that's utterly enjoyable but not really understood by a lot of people. And among that there's still a greatness that anyone can discover if only they would give it a chance.

This is not the final verdict however. Movies have been around for 80 years, comics for 60, games for a little over 30, who knows where it will be after it becomes as old as music, which is hitting its 2500th birthday or something this year. And speaking of that age-old one, what horrible noise is coming out of your radio today? Is that the sign of a mature medium?
 

Lord_Jaroh

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Apr 24, 2007
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To me the best video games that define the medium are those that can present us with a believable world in which we can immerse ourselves completely. These world-games would allow us to play within them however we want, within the set of "rules" that that game presents us. The more choice that we have within those rules, the better the game is for it. The more linear the game is, the less like a game it is and the more like a movie it seems.

Gaming is about choice and player interaction, and how the player's actions can change the game-world around them. This is why they should never be compared to a movie or a book, or try to be like either of them. Sure, they can include elements from those mediums but they shouldn't be only them.

I think the idea of MMO's is a good start, but we can see already that it is not there yet. You have a world, but it isn't influenced in a way that can be measured. It doesn't change beyond progressing to a different area. When MMOs become actual worlds that you can do anything in...then we'll have something. EVE is the closest to that that I've played, but even it has it's own problems. It will be interesting to see the growth of the medium into the future.

To me, we have yet to see our "Citizen Kane" of gaming. When we do it will be something else entirely, but the question is, will people recognize it as such when it arrives, or will we look back on it and realize it as such after the fact?
 

Tabascofish

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Jul 29, 2009
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I agree with many here who say that "Heavy Rain" is not gaming's equivalent to "Citizen Kane". My reasoning is that for a game to emulate the art of film successfully, which "Heavy Rain" was clearly trying to do, the game needs to be as well written and well "filmed" as the high quality art films that it is trying to emulate. "Heavy Rain" is neither of those things. We probably won't recognize gaming's "Citizen Kane" when it appears, but hindsight is 20-20.

Now, in my opinion, an industry can not find its own niche in the art world by emulating another industry. Films that are considered art are not emulating books, paintings, or even plays. They are usually taking the elements of the film medium and using them to their fullest potential. An art game will end up doing the same thing, whatever the fullest potential of the gaming medium happens to be.
 

bolastristes

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Apr 10, 2010
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AMEN TO THAT, great points you made there... I posted similar ideas on another website about this debate, at the end of the day, It all comes to these statements and questions...
It´s true that we gamers (age 25 and up) are possibly the only ones that know the in and outs on how video games are created, so gamers (and of course some game developers) are the only ones that can determine if video games are or aren´t art. What´s really disturbing (and your radio example fits perfectly) is that video games may never reach the ¨worldwide¨ art ¨tag¨ if bad games are the rule, I mean, It´s happening, even big japanese companies are giving away their franchises to less capable studios, why?, money, what else, on those early days of gaming, they were free creators, sales weren´t a BIG deal, of course that they cared, but It wasn´t the prime goal, they just made games, who cared about focus groups and shit, they just made (or at least tried to make) good games... what I´m trying to say is that nowadays, they all got greedy, if it don´t sell, It´s bad, nobody takes risks, of course there are some cases when these games are indeed good and they indeed sell well too, Bayonetta (maybe not, but...), Final fantasy 13, new super mario bros wii, dragon quest 09, MGS peace walker, Vanquished (possibly), Metroid other M (possibly), SSF4, Last guardian (possibly), etc...

back in the day, they got less resources, budgets were shorter and making games was harder... and they made great games!!!, nowadays, 3D is cheaper, easier and they have more money and more manpower... and 75 per cent of the games out there are trash!?, what´s happening here?... I don´t know, you said that videogames had to evolve, mature, but what exactly should be that grow?, It has to do with narrative?, plot?, mature themes?, sex themes?, philosophy?, psychology?...

anyway, I know what you are trying to say about cinema flaws back on those early days, but, citizen kane is still a masterpiece, plot, photography, direction, montage, etc, It´s perfect, is solid, is flawless... and hitchcock is still a god, kurosawa, leone, Eisenstein, Hugues, Ford, fellini, Buñuel, etc, their movies are still ¨flawless¨ , and nowadays, is hard to find directors that can top those true gods of film making!
 

bolastristes

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Apr 10, 2010
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Vortigar said:
bolastristes said:
the only gaming counterpart of citizen kane I can think of, is none other than SUPER MARIO BROS!
You were a bit shouty about it but I think there's a core of truth there. Only I will go one step further than you and simply say it. Super Mario Brothers is gaming's Citizen Kane.

Here was an industry that was cool but didn't know where to go, what to do. And along came an expression in that industry that showed what could still be done and revitalized the entire thing. Kane did it, Mario did it.

There's a massive difference in the development of various mediums and that has everything to do with the age in which the medium comes to rise. Movies came out of the twenties (or thereabouts), games are a product of the eighties. More importantly, with the rise of the internet the global consciousness and knowledge of consumers is expanded greatly. You need only take a cursory look at those lauded films of yore and you'll see loads of obvious, glaring flaws in the way a movie was scripted, shot, whatever, people back then didn't know better. Now, in the information age we do. (I watched Citizen Kane a couple of months back and you really have to read up on why this movie was so special at the time otherwise its just a very dated movie.)

We gamers know the ins and outs on how games are created, how gameplay elements function. Movies could get away with a lot of stuff because the audience didn't know better, these days they simply can't pull those tricks anymore. Games on the other hand were almost never able to pull those tricks. They had to mature way faster or be left in the dust.

Personally I feel the judgement has already been made. Games are a medium of the comic book variety. There's a load of flashy stuff that's utterly enjoyable but not really understood by a lot of people. And among that there's still a greatness that anyone can discover if only they would give it a chance.

This is not the final verdict however. Movies have been around for 80 years, comics for 60, games for a little over 30, who knows where it will be after it becomes as old as music, which is hitting its 2500th birthday or something this year. And speaking of that age-old one, what horrible noise is coming out of your radio today? Is that the sign of a mature medium?

AMEN TO THAT, great points you made there... I posted similar ideas on another website about this debate, at the end of the day, It all comes to these statements and questions...
It´s true that we gamers (age 25 and up) are possibly the only ones that know the in and outs on how video games are created, so gamers (and of course some game developers) are the only ones that can determine if video games are or aren´t art. What´s really disturbing (and your radio example fits perfectly) is that video games may never reach the ¨worldwide¨ art ¨tag¨ if bad games are the rule, I mean, It´s happening, even big japanese companies are giving away their franchises to less capable studios, why?, money, what else, on those early days of gaming, they were free creators, sales weren´t a BIG deal, of course that they cared, but It wasn´t the prime goal, they just made games, who cared about focus groups and shit, they just made (or at least tried to make) good games... what I´m trying to say is that nowadays, they all got greedy, if it don´t sell, It´s bad, nobody takes risks, of course there are some cases when these games are indeed good and they indeed sell well too, Bayonetta (maybe not, but...), Final fantasy 13, new super mario bros wii, dragon quest 09, MGS peace walker, Vanquished (possibly), Metroid other M (possibly), SSF4, Last guardian (possibly), etc...

back in the day, they got less resources, budgets were shorter and making games was harder... and they made great games!!!, nowadays, 3D is cheaper, easier and they have more money and more manpower... and 75 per cent of the games out there are trash!?, what´s happening here?... I don´t know, you said that videogames had to evolve, mature, but what exactly should be that grow?, It has to do with narrative?, plot?, mature themes?, sex themes?, philosophy?, psychology?...

anyway, I know what you are trying to say about cinema flaws back on those early days, but, citizen kane is still a masterpiece, plot, photography, direction, montage, etc, It´s perfect, is solid, is flawless... and hitchcock is still a god, kurosawa, leone, Eisenstein, Hugues, Ford, fellini, Buñuel, etc, their movies are still ¨flawless¨ , and nowadays, is hard to find directors that can top those true gods of film making!
 

Eyelicker

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Apr 8, 2010
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All artistic mediums will cater to the masses, and try to sell; books, film, games...everything. This dosen't set games aside, it just means that when something that takes risks comes out, it's be that much more special.

I already view games as art, and I wouldn't expect someone of Eberts generation to understand that, with his narrow opinions shaped on the past, typical of oldz. I'm also confident that in time, they will be accepted as such, as the eberts die out, and progressive generations accept them more and more.

Also, like films, there is a huge scope of products, from space marines to heavy rain, and while games shouldn't really be compared to films in an artistic sense, there's nothing wrong with innovations like Heavy Rain heading in a more cinematic direction. Popcorn action flicks and "Seven"(Marines and Heavy Rain), all have their place within the medium...

The future's bright!
 

ccesarano

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Oct 3, 2007
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mrpenguinismyhomeboy said:
I think that games need to realize exactly what they are. They are games. And say what you want, but I don't personally think many people realize that.
Sorry to not respond to your whole post. I like a lot of what you say, but I can't agree or disagree because of this point here.

This is as much a debate as "what is art?", which, to me, is a creation that generates an emotion (it's broad and it allows a LOT of things to be considered art, even though your pretentious Ivory Tower crap heads will want to disqualify a lot of what can fall under that general definition).

So, what is "a game"?

Well, to me, a game is interactive before it is even a game. As such, there are possibilities for an interactive narrative as well as, well, FarmVille, Boom Blox, etc.

Some people want games to be all about the gameplay since, well, that's what makes it a game. But that's only because the word "game" is used since there was nothing better to call it when it was created. I like PLAYING games, certainly. They are fun, and gameplay is definitely a part of that.

However, that aspect of the medium has reached an adulthood that is perfectly fine. We're good with that. Enough people play games as time wasters and minor bits of fun without requiring a higher brain function or investment, be it temporal, emotional or fiscal.

Yet by being interactive games have the capability of being so much more than "just a game". By merely playing the game you get an emotional investment, so at the moment Aeris dies or the nuke goes off and you're playing a character's final living moments, it is much more gut-wrenching than if it were on screen.

Being able to manipulate emotions like this can get people to really think. Film does this all the time. Only with games, their very interactive nature allows you to focus it in a different way. Films can SHOW you a story. Games can GIVE you an experience, even if that experience is your vision fading as you gaze upon a mushroom cloud in the distance.

So while I have no problem with iPhone games, Facebook Apps or gameplay being important, I feel that we are only going at half capacity without taking that interactivity and applying it to a narrative as well. Does that mean EVERY game should have a good story? God no. Why would I want Tetris to have a story? But if you are going to bother making a game with cut-scenes and/or dialog, well you could at least go to the trouble to make sure it's good. This is where I feel the games industry is at an awkward stage. While another piece in The Escapist this week bitched about it, I feel comfortable saying the games industry is an awkward adolescent. It WANTS to be an adult, but it keeps doing stupid shit that gets in its own way.
 

Necromancer1991

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Apr 9, 2010
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Look in my opinion comparing the gaming industry with the movie industry is like trying to compare a pizza with spaghetti, yeah they're both Italian but they are completely different forms of food! The closest thing to an interactive experience a movie has ever gotten was going 3D. People seem to disregard the fact that games are interactive and movies are not! Look the quality of a movie is based on the story, acting, and cinematography (that includes directing) come together to form a cohesive experience, whereas games are based on these while simultaneously suffering the "How's your interface?" critique. Yes sure games can act like movies all they want but they will always require some type of input to still be considered a game! I may also point out that movies NEVER underwent this much scrutiny when they first appeared on the scene.

Yes, you can say they follow the same story-telling routine movies do but that can be said of movies and books as well. In the future when gaming have superseded movies of the prime form of entertainment, a new form will suffer the same "But can it be as artistic as a videogame?" comparison.
 

Twilight_guy

Sight, Sound, and Mind
Nov 24, 2008
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Two issues, one the definition of "games" and two the role of "new" in games.

In addressing the issue of "new". It's true that media hypes what's new and interesting and tries to promote that it's the best. Media does this to sell us things. As everyone knows, just because the media represents something one way doesn't make it true. If you look at any community that centers around gamers you will instantly be able to recognize a fixation not on the new, but on the old. Nostalgia is a powerful force in games. It single handily sells retro-games. A celebration of the old is what makes the Virtual Console work. Gamers reference new games in memory a lot but they also all know a laundry list of classics. Media may focus on what new because its more interesting but many sites, like the Escapist, have articles about trends, ideas, and history as well. The umpteen million top 10 lists of games should indicate gamers own knowledge of their history. There may be a lack of unifying exploration and evolution of history, but its there. Maybe we need to utilize it more, I'll give the article that.

Secondly: Games are designed around a clear structure that usually involves a winner and a loser. Often times they are designed to be fun, but Game theory emphases the importance of only the "winner" and "loser" part and the strategy involved. Games as they stand today follow the model, but what is stated here sounds much more diverse then that and seem to branch out of simple games and into interactive media. There is a wealth of concepts that have not even been thought of yet that can make up interactive media, but they stand outside the limit of games, which are one type of interactive media. We need to branch out to these new frontiers but that involves a complete abandonment of games altogether, that involves thinking outside a simple model of strategy and winners to a media that has different goals altogether.
 

springheeljack

Red in Tooth and Claw
May 6, 2010
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I think video games should stop looking toward movies to emulate i think it would be better if they tried to focus on books. I think that would suit the structure well especially with the open world games there could be so much potential in adapting books into games. But so far i have not found anything like that.
 

Therumancer

Citation Needed
Nov 28, 2007
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Gaming is not going to come into it's own as art by simply being a poseur of other art forms that are accepted. It has to be something unto itself.

People talk about "Heavy Rain" like it's something special, but most of the people who talk about it are totally ignorant when it comes to the "interactive movie" genere. We've been here before, interactive movies were a big thing right when CD Roms were replacing the 3.5" floppy disk. What's more many of those movies were done by using real people on top of everything else.... they generally blew chips, which is why it died. Someone like Mr. Ebert is probably aware of this, more so than people who bring things like "Heavy Rain" out to try and make a point, since it's not like it's something new and innovative to champion gaming.

What's more, when you look at the diversity of books and movies you have to understand that there is a differance between time, price, and intent. I mean it's one thing to spend a couple of hours on a tearjerker about some pregnant single mother who comes to a bad end, spending maybe $10 tops. It's another to spend $60 for the same basic experience, and honestly in trying to convey that your losing out on what makes gaming great: interactivity and control. But then again when your selling "This really blows chips" as the appeal of the work, who the heck really wants to interact with something like that?

Oh, sure, there are plenty of things that can be done besides Space Marines... we're already seeing that. However outside of fantasy, science fiction, and horror I don't think gaming is really going to succeed. As a medium it can, and should, focus on what it's good at.

Truthfully though, even if you disagree with the above, I think the first step for gaming to go anywhere other than where it is now, is to get the same protections as other mediums. Right now gaming is held back by censorship, and companies that bow to pressure over them going too far. If you make a movie or book that has a tragic scene in which a pregnant woman is kicked in the stomach, killing the baby and then her, that's more or less fine in any context. Try and do that in a game and well... almost guaranteed it's going to be censored out of the game. I choose this example because there was a "Vault Boy" drawing omitted from one of the previous "Fallout" games that was about kicking pregnant women. It's a nasty thing, but the point is that gaming can't even consider going as far as books and movies if it doesn't even have that level of freedom.

Notice that a good number of the most long lasting movies that are viewed as having had an impact or being seen as art, are ones that pushed all kinds of envelopes and weathered attacks, perhaps even going through periods where they were banned outright. Gaming generally doesn't do that. Also consider that as guys like Quentin Torantino point out, a lot of times it's the excessive "schlock" movies that wind up having the most profound impact and step furthest outside of the box. Irregardless of what you think of him, he's very successful/famous, and not shy about his inspiration and pointing out (sometimes disturbingly) where the movies he lionizes truely stand compared to more conventional classics.

To put things into perspective, as many people have probably heard of "Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill!" (though think of it as obscure) as have heard of "Gone With The Wind", "Casablanca" or "Citizen Kane".
 

Alice Bonasio

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Sep 15, 2008
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... So the future of games is nothing but half-assed rehashing from the big "studios" while the independent works become so predictable and stagnate (as they really only have the big studios to compare themselves to) that "indie" becomes its own genre?

While games that are actually good go almost completely unnoticed because they aren't accessible enough for people who've come to view "accessibility" (does not mean what you think it means) as required? Which will cause the formation of a single massive awarding body designed to give notice to works that are truly great, but will come under fire from the average person, who views "shit fucking blows up" as superior to whatever wins "best game" that year?

Boy, I can't wait for EA's RomCom '21.

In order for gaming to be taken seriously as it's own format, or even an art form, it needs to stop licking the boot of hollywood and go back to blazing it's own path through history. It also needs to stop self-referencing for the sake of self-reference (braid) and attempt themes and concepts that haven't been tried before. But this can't happen for a few decades, as massive corporations currently have the entire industry by the neck, and view it as nothing but a method of turning 2 dollars into 3.
 

RowdyRodimus

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Apr 24, 2010
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Why do we feel the need to justify our chosen form of entertainment? More importantly, why do we feel like we should put film on a pedestal as the pinnacle of art and what we feel games need to be like in order to be legitimized?

I ask because, yes, Citizen Kane is a classic film but the same medium also gave us Divine eating real poodle feces and the Roger Ebert (since he is the one who started this whole mess) penned Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. For every culturally signifigant movie in history there are 1,000 movies that are embarrassing to even say you have heard of.

Sorry, but I just find it impossible to put film on a pedestal when their track record of worthwhile endeavors gets worse and worse everyday.
 

FloodOne

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Apr 29, 2009
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Casual Shinji said:
Comparing Heavy Rain to Citizen Kane is really pushing it, I'm afraid. And saying that Heavy Rain was a milestone in gaming? Uh, no! Don't get me wrong, I liked the game, but there was as much wrong with it as there was right.

This might be beating a dead horse, but if you want innovation in games look at Shadow of The Colossus: Riding your horse actually felt like riding a horse instead of, say, driving a car as it does in other games with horse riding gameplay. Interacting with skyscraper-tall beings that were beautifully animated, but most of all, it told a story through gameplay instead of cutscenes. Sure, there were cutscenes, but only at the beginning and the end of the game and their only purpose was to set up the game and to conclude the game. The actual emotion of bonding with your horse and coming to the grim realization of your actions, was achieved through gameplay. And that is something I have yet to see in another game, except maybe Ico.

I really liked the big blockbuster games of the last few years like Gears of War 2, Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2, but they seem to feel more like movie experiences rather then videogames. In the end, I want the bulk of my games to feel like videogames and not like movies.
That's your opinion and you're entitled to have it, but mine is that SotC was incredibly boring and dull.

As a father, the end of Heavy Rain had me choking up. I've never shed a tear before playing a videogame, and it rarely happens to me with movies, but being so connected to what was happening on screen slayed me. All I could think about was my daughter while I was trying to keep Shaun alive.
 

Halo Fanboy

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Nov 2, 2008
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I will play a game that involves being a pregnant mother when interesting mechanics for such a thing can be made interesting besides merely choices and quicktime events.

Until then I think I'll continue to play polished games in genres that already exist.
 
Mar 9, 2009
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ccesarano said:
mrpenguinismyhomeboy said:
I think that games need to realize exactly what they are. They are games. And say what you want, but I don't personally think many people realize that.
Sorry to not respond to your whole post. I like a lot of what you say, but I can't agree or disagree because of this point here.

This is as much a debate as "what is art?", which, to me, is a creation that generates an emotion (it's broad and it allows a LOT of things to be considered art, even though your pretentious Ivory Tower crap heads will want to disqualify a lot of what can fall under that general definition).

So, what is "a game"?

Well, to me, a game is interactive before it is even a game. As such, there are possibilities for an interactive narrative as well as, well, FarmVille, Boom Blox, etc.

Some people want games to be all about the gameplay since, well, that's what makes it a game. But that's only because the word "game" is used since there was nothing better to call it when it was created. I like PLAYING games, certainly. They are fun, and gameplay is definitely a part of that.

However, that aspect of the medium has reached an adulthood that is perfectly fine. We're good with that. Enough people play games as time wasters and minor bits of fun without requiring a higher brain function or investment, be it temporal, emotional or fiscal.

Yet by being interactive games have the capability of being so much more than "just a game". By merely playing the game you get an emotional investment, so at the moment Aeris dies or the nuke goes off and you're playing a character's final living moments, it is much more gut-wrenching than if it were on screen.

Being able to manipulate emotions like this can get people to really think. Film does this all the time. Only with games, their very interactive nature allows you to focus it in a different way. Films can SHOW you a story. Games can GIVE you an experience, even if that experience is your vision fading as you gaze upon a mushroom cloud in the distance.

So while I have no problem with iPhone games, Facebook Apps or gameplay being important, I feel that we are only going at half capacity without taking that interactivity and applying it to a narrative as well. Does that mean EVERY game should have a good story? God no. Why would I want Tetris to have a story? But if you are going to bother making a game with cut-scenes and/or dialog, well you could at least go to the trouble to make sure it's good. This is where I feel the games industry is at an awkward stage. While another piece in The Escapist this week bitched about it, I feel comfortable saying the games industry is an awkward adolescent. It WANTS to be an adult, but it keeps doing stupid shit that gets in its own way.
Well said. I really didn't define what a game was, because like you said, it is essentially a what is art debate. But I think your right. The one unique element in games is control, and really, the ability to influence the world. And like you say, realizing that ability is key to the development of game design philosophy.

A good game needs to make the player feel like they are a direct influence on the world around them. This can be done by actually allowing the player to manipulate the story (Mass effect and stuff) or through the illusion of open-ended-ness (Half life 2). I personally think that as games become more abstract, linear games will become less in number, and games like mass effect, or alternatively "god games" (a term I have decided to coin for games that give the player absolute control of the world, or near absolute) will become more popular. Right now, what we have are "playground games" (essentially sandbox games), which give the player an alive world to run around in. But eventually, I think games will allow the player to define the world for themselves, allowing for a unique and more personal experience.

But that is just what I think. I don't actually think I can predict where this industry will go, but I think I have some unique ideas on where it could go. After all the games industry is run by people, and people are very weird sometimes...
 

NewClassic_v1legacy

Bringer of Words
Jul 30, 2008
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Articles like this, and the theory behind them in general, are almost impossible to define or discuss. Everyone has a different opinion about what a Citizen Kane should be. Even pure lovechildren of the gaming industry like Heavy Rain, Fable, and Spore were all supposed to be the big next step in the gaming evolutionary cycle. The formermost was a good experience, the middle never quite caught up to the developer's ambition, and the lattermost had its heart in the right place but little else.

When people ask me for an artsy game, I immediate spew some stock answer like Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, or Flower. If I ever sat down and really thought about it, it'd be unfair to leave out so many games simply because they're kind of action-y. For every time I've argued the artistic merit of Braid, I feel I should have also mentioned Super Metroid. A game which has a whole three or so text boxes, but one whose story is still communicated without words. We grow to understand Ridley, Samus, Metroids, Mother Brain, the whole nine yards, all of this without text. It's a grand tale of aliens and science, just without the Final Fantasy dialogue chains attached. It's subtle, well-spoken (for how little it speaks), and a lot of fun despite that. It really is something so achieved at its medium that it doesn't need to make an overt effort to be amazing.

Instead of cowering in fear of the visceral nightmare beasts that games like Dead Space or Resident Evil provided me, I was more afraid for what Eternal Darkness was about to do to me. The sanity meter was the scariest monster I've ever encountered. It took normal game mechanics like saving and turned it into the most counter-productive process ever. I recoiled in horror more from a healing spell that detonated my character than anything the Nemesis could do to me in Resident Evil. I started second guessing whether or not to reload, for fear of blowing off my own arm than any fear of not having ammo for the little horrors that decided to visit in the flesh rather than in my mind. I was almost afraid to turn the console off at the end of the day, fearing that the game would keep going on the television, content to break my mind of any conventions of logic. I didn't fear what I knew would be around the corner, I was hellishly afraid of what wasn't. To this day, I'm still paranoid about doing anything on that game. I think what scares me most is how little the game had to try to do it. Even literary classics like Mary Shelly's Frankenstein can't quite scare me enough to not turn the page. Eternal Darkness did it reflexively, and almost laughed at my hesitation.

These games exist out there, all worth the comparisons of artistic integrity from one title to the next. Mechanics and narratives poised daintily on a tightrope, yet some games walk the line wonderfully without enough worth to it. Uncharted 2 is practically an airlifted unwritten script from Indiana Jones and the Jade Sphere, but it doesn't make it less of a game for the practice. No less than Plants Versus Zombies, which couldn't exist outside of a game. Yet both are worth some praise for their contribution to art. Maybe nothing so amazing as the Mona Lisa, or as mind bending as Escher, but still worth enough to comment. Even in the art world, games like Echochrome and distinct levels in Psychonauts fill the aesthetic niche that art-seekers so crave.

So maybe we don't yet have some deep, thought provoking, Citizen Kane-esque creature yet. Motion pictures were possible in the 1880's, and it took nearly 60 years to get to Citizen Kane's release in '41. To put that in perspective, Pong was released in '72. We have twenty more years before we can say that games took longer to achieve Kane than film. I imagine that's longer than the full life of some of the users reading this post. There's no point in rushing art, we've got time.

I don't think we should all rush off to make games something they aren't. Games that try to hard to be movies get common complaints of ceaseless cutscene, games that make no effort at all are called "casual" and get thrown out reflexively. People are being unfair because games aren't pleasing everyone, all the time. Personally, I'd sit down with a copy of Mass Effect before I'd sit down to watch Citizen Kane. Maybe it's less likely that Mass Effect will ever be hung up in a museum, displayed for all the art world to laud over, but that doesn't make Mass Effect any less an art at what it does.

Maybe we're all a little too hung-up on what art has to or should not be. Music can be art, films can be art, who's to say games haven't already gotten there, just that none of us noticed?
 

Bluemonkfish

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Apr 15, 2009
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As an interesting point there have been games (usually part of a long running series) that have attempted to allude to bring on a range of emotions. A good example would be (as abit of a shocker I know) Ace combat 5: Squadron leader/Unsung war depending on where in the world you are.

Let that sink in for a moment, an air combat game series where the back story is usually of someone effected by the actions of the protagonist (you, who is never officially named or seen in the games, just given a callsign) but in Ac5 the story is of the squadron you play as part of. This also leads to an interesting focus on your squads characters. As such you have 7 different people you fly with over the course of the game each character is laid out as a rounded person each with their own eccentricities and distinct mannerisms. From Nagasea(Edge, who's CG figure is taken from ridge race 5) is a quiet shy character on the ground but a fiercely loyal and impassioned flyer to Davenport (Chopper) Who is an avid collector of music records as well as something of a hot head but not the most capable flier.

This culminates into the death of chopper. In most games there would be someway to save that character but in Ac5 he is going to die. In the process of his planes deaththrows there's a calmness of the acceptance. There is no struggle to survive, just the knowledge that when a plane hits something it leaves a mark and as a final valient effort crashes where it'll the least harm. This in it's in unusual in the stillness of it, then of course your other 2 teammates do cry out when the impact is seen and fight twice as hard as before.
this is where things really pull at the heart strings, over the radio there is no clichéd vows of revenge. There is no uncontrolled sobbing rendering them useless there is however muted grunts through clenched teeth. You can almost hear the tears rolling down the cheeks of your team mates for the death of a good friend. they still have a job to do and do they must.

It's a wonderful part of the game and draws you into the story and for once it's not full of the usual heavy handed war is bad message behind alot of japanese games nor does it have the overblown lets blow shit up that seems all pervasive in alot of the big budget american games.

Then again there has been countless other games that crossed over into having the potential to be movies or even games that have become movies only to have the real depth of either missing.( Max pain the movie I'm looking at you) On that note Max pain 2 is pretty much pulp film noir all the way through (apart from the large body count) and the feeling of Max pain being such a lost character seeps into everything he does.

In truth, emotions in games are difficult things to get right. Everybody's different and different things effect different people in different ways. So long as such experiments in games are aloud to flourish and what works taken on board as well as to look at what didn't and why it didn't.


One thing that I would state though that helps alot to pull on the emotions is to allow the players protagonist (hell why not go for an antagonist once in a while in a game as well?) to be given a name but remain an empty shell to let the player inhabit, rather than having everything mapped out and the player simply expected to take the backstory onboard and behave like a character that they aren't to behave. Yes sometimes its necessary, but why not let the opening levels of the game forge the gamer into the character the developers want naturally rather than have it forced upon them?


Anyways rant over, transmission out
 

InvisibleMan

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Mar 26, 2009
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Casual Shinji said:
Comparing Heavy Rain to Citizen Kane is really pushing it, I'm afraid. And saying that Heavy Rain was a milestone in gaming? Uh, no! Don't get me wrong, I liked the game, but there was as much wrong with it as there was right.

This might be beating a dead horse, but if you want innovation in games look at Shadow of The Colossus: Riding your horse actually felt like riding a horse instead of, say, driving a car as it does in other games with horse riding gameplay. Interacting with skyscraper-tall beings that were beautifully animated, but most of all, it told a story through gameplay instead of cutscenes. Sure, there were cutscenes, but only at the beginning and the end of the game and their only purpose was to set up the game and to conclude the game. The actual emotion of bonding with your horse and coming to the grim realization of your actions, was achieved through gameplay. And that is something I have yet to see in another game, except maybe Ico.

I really liked the big blockbuster games of the last few years like Gears of War 2, Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2, but they seem to feel more like movie experiences rather then videogames. In the end, I want the bulk of my games to feel like videogames and not like movies.
I absolutely agree with Casual: I think most of the critics in favor or against games as art end up quoting games that look like film. All art genres stand on their own, you don't consider a film a work of art for the same reasons that you would consider a sculpture or a ballet piece a work of art.

You can definitely use Shadow of the Colossus as a starting point: Find out what made that game make people who played it feel the way they did, and you will find a measuring stick of what makes a video game a work of art!
 

Turtlehead

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Jun 13, 2010
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I reject the idea that film is closest to video games. It breaks down given even slight consideration. Games are far too diverse for that; the issue gets conflated with story telling. In that regard I'd lean toward novels, which have the length to be discursive, even meander.

The very question though begs many questions: what type of video games are we talking about? Flight sims? Rogue? Juggling stats in an RPG?

Ask someone who has scored both movies and games. The work is totally different.

Some games are trying to be interactive films. Heavy Rain is the modern exemplar; if that was the goal, as a movie it'd be B-quality at best. Hackneyed, derivative, darn full of itself. Games trying to BE movies have so far been awful-to-okay.

Better are games giving a GAME experience while also giving the feel of doing a movie. Call of Duty comes to mind, though even there it's copying. If I get told at another demo "this is filmic" or "like [insert x movie]" I'll punch a developer.

Games have their own pacing and controls. They're perfectly capable of telling stories--differently--and hopefully not retelling the stories of the movies their makers just saw or loved as kids, or what looked "cool" on film? How many times have you seen a game use the idiotic swinging camera of a Brian De Palma film just 'cause it COULD? A million times.

To switch things around: Alien was a great movie because its alien was new. Weird, scary, out of someone else's nightmare but just close enough to our own. The movie is a laugh now to kids because they've seen endless movies and games ripping off something so idiosyncratic. People complain about the space marines, but how odd is it to see that strangest of critter in decades direct to video movies and thousands of games? Yes, it was a scary-as-hell Freudian nightmare, but it's long been a copy & paste bad guy. Nazibuginfectinghomoscare, get out the shotguns boys, there's a lot of 'em coming your way!

Make a game with gameplay first. If you don't have a story to tell that isn't your frustrated unsold knockoff movie script, screw off. I deeply believe games can tell great stories but they rarely do them while trying to be movies and they never do them as tenth generation copies of nerd fan service cliches.

Sorry for the long rambling post; the movie closest to game bit gets my back up. Games can (and not all should be) tell great stories but they ain't movies. [glares at Final Fantasy 7]
 

Turtlehead

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Jun 13, 2010
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[edit]To Bola

While I agree about Super Mario being (arguably) game's Citizen, you're still falling into the fallacy of the "it was all good back when" (there's an ancient SF joke: the Golden Age of Science Fiction is thirteen) and also, Citizen--which is truly a great movie--was at the time and still considered so not only for story telling but because of its crazy "how the heck!" technical virtuosity. The tracking shot over the rooftops still amazes movie makers. Doing it sans CGI would be no small feat even with steadicams. It's comparable in that way to the newestsexiest graphics engine.

Rashomon (also gorgeously shot, technically) is where I'd go for game makers looking for film influence. Bit of a cliche, but its story telling make a lot more sense for games. I found the story of Fahrenheit second rate from the start and are-they-kidding? by the end, but those opening bits switching viewpoints were amazing. The control mechanics, not so much, but nothing's perfect.

I don't mean only Rashomon's viewpoint switching. It opens so many doors for video games: unreliable narrator without cutscenes (though that cutscene in SS2 I'll never, ever forget; when those walls shot up is the only time a game has scared [as opposed to startled] me) is only one. I found Shadow of the Colossus a bit of a snore but admired the heck out of it. Horse felt like a horse. Open world with no trash to level on. Bosses which at some point you say, okay, why exactly am I killing this thing minding its own business? A real ethical question done entirely by videogame mechanics. That's special. (I killed 'em all. But I paused a few times and thought about it before hitting their massive damage spots.)
 

Grayvern

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Mar 15, 2010
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I think ill first quote Jeff Gerstmann on this, Mass Effect 2 is the most important game of 2010 and its repercussions will be felt for a long time to come. Which clumsy dating parts aside is largely true.

But it's largely ignored because it's science fiction and some stilted dialogue. Buy Guess what China Mieville a fantasy luminary compared to Kafka is also one of the better current authors in a literary manner also. Philip K. Dick was also a Sci FI author but important for his ideas and critiques of his American Era. Finally Richard Morgan writes books with over the top sex and violence but also challenges the reader, In the Steel Remains his main hero is the super macho rich noble type who is also a dig at mainstream fantasy due to the fact he is gay.

I find the suggestion that a story with violence ,and Sci Fi tropes, in it cannot be relevant in a grown up medium to be more a damming indictment of blind humanisms affect on the media than anything else. Like armchair physicists who critique sociology and psychology as being soft sciences. Or indeed sociologists who ignore the potential of physical causes engendering some human behaviour. Violence extreme or mild, justified or unjustified, is as much a part of humanity as peace.

Also you cant ignore games like infamous and Red Dead Redemtion, both are better than film not because of story but of gameplay actually feeding into story rather than being sepearate from. The slow missions at the end of Red Dead before the Hammer fall. The reactivity of the world in which most fights can result in great human casualty or virtually none.

In closing it is foolish to discount videogames as similar to books, in that like books they can be incredibly niche, have wide mass appeal, be about anything, and tend to include the boring bits that films montage over. Games can be everything from sports to stories and we should embrace their all encompassing nature in moving forward.