It's Okay To Be Dumb

Woodsey

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"Ken Levine didn't set out to make a game about Randian Objectivism that would become another Exhibit A in the games as art debate. He wanted to make a kick-ass shooter. The game's thematic content flowed from the design process, and we got BioShock."

I'm pretty sure the correct assertion is that he wanted to make a good shooter about Randian Objectivism. It's what the entire game is built around; that doesn't just slip out of the design process naturally. (And if you mean something else then by all means correct me, but otherwise that statement just seems quite poorly thought out.)

And there's very little point in extending this argument to multi-player games. Whilst a very large portion of single-player games lend themselves to being compared with films and literature, the very vast majority of multi-player games bear closer resemblance to paintball.

The problem with 'dumb' games is that most of them are atrociously designed. Thor is not a film that's going to challenge any particularly intellectual ideas, but it's well acted, directed, and written, and it looks good. It has production values - care has been taken over it. Uncharted 2 is probably a good game comparison, actually. The problem with something like Call of Duty as a 'dumb' game is that it's fairly shoddily designed - it doesn't do scripting well (and yet does an awful fucking lot of it), my arse hole is prettier, and it's writing is incoherent.

Likewise, a lot of games make a fairly insultingly-small use of the medium's inherent strengths, because their project leads are wannabe film-makers who didn't make the cut; that's certainly a portion of what people are talking about when they're derisive towards 'dumb' games (I think Blow said as much in that interview, too). *Rambles on about the death of Immersive Sims until his eyes explode*
 

mfeff

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Scow2 said:
Actually... the medium hasn't changed much at all. Nor is CoD "not as heavy on the simulator/technical fidelity-as model as games once were" - There have always been and always will be simulator/technical fidelity games, and there have also always been less simulationist-like games.
It's funny you bring this up. Recently entered into framing a debate as to how the "medium" is not "young" as some internet folk have alluded (extra credits, campster, to name two).

To qualify what I said, or add a little clarity... looking at the Rainbow Six series, it is apparent that the mechanics of the game shifted dramatically from it's early PC iterations to the console versions. Don't confuse what I am saying as being "a death of the tactical game", such as a recent video from this guy would pronounce.


There is still the offerings of Bohemia interactive, and certainly Crytek support military grade simulations today. What I mean to say is that as a general public offering that the medium HAS shifted from the "technical fidelity or simulator aspects" as a marketing avenue to that of the spectacle.

Further I would note that the advertising campaigns for Black Ops, and similar I.P. do insist on the tactical or stealth natures of the content, which nothing could be further from the truth. Not good or bad, but debate-ably unrepresentative of what is in the box.

That as audience, it is pretty clear as to what is attractive and what is perhaps not so attractive to make as an offering in retail. No doubt about it, it looks great, so does Battlefield 3. However, they are not simulations in the technical sense. Nor by definition qualifiers such as:

"Key issues in simulation include acquisition of valid source information about the relevant selection of key characteristics and behaviours, the use of simplifying approximations and assumptions within the simulation, and fidelity and validity of the simulation outcomes."

The above is generally not a first priority concern in current development that I have experienced with retail products.

It's not good, it's not bad, but it is "different". If you feel differently then lets discuss it.

"Actually" by itself is not much of an argument. Unless you have somewhere to take the conversation, or some point that I may not of considered. "Nor is CoD such and thus", explain how I am wrong, explain how it models combat either with your own personal experience or foiled with military simulations as a benchmark. I claim that it cannot be termed as a simulation of any particular fidelity as it has little to none of the values typically associated with simulations of high fidelity.

Anecdotal as a licensed flight instructor I am able to use a "game" such as IL-2 and teach some aspects of flight, such as pattern work, instrumentation, procedure. This is not possible in Battlefield 3, not even close. It would be irresponsible on my part to even make that claim.

To bring it back on track it is to say that there is a decided reduction in tangential information that one may acquire playing games today as opposed to offerings some years back. As you said, it "is" available, but it is not nearly as common. Difference. Further that one has fun playing thus and such, is not something that is debatable, that one has learned anything that translates from the game experience to the real world is quite testable. Let's put it to the test.

The argument for me, is a marked reduction of information one may reflect on after the experience, a quantifiable new perspective. Modern games are often times, an experience, that lacks a perspective. It's cotton candy. Tasty but hollow. One doesn't learn anything much outside of the game itself.

As an example:



Falcon 3.0 Manual - One cannot be successful at this title, without having of learned something about aviation, operational envelopes, instrumentation... ahh the list goes on and on. It's impossible to say otherwise.

Yes, it is an unfair comparison, but NOT if it's advertising or fan base wishes to lay claim otherwise. Claims requires evidence.
 

weirdee

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you reminded me of that one guy who managed to emergency land a plane based on what he knew from microsoft flight simulator

but still, just play what you want, i'll be disgusted by facebook cow clickers designed solely for money and attention but i can't stop you from playing them
 

mfeff

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weirdguy said:
you reminded me of that one guy who managed to emergency land a plane based on what he knew from microsoft flight simulator

but still, just play what you want, i'll be disgusted by facebook cow clickers designed solely for money and attention but i can't stop you from playing them
Well, as I mentioned, I am licensed by the Federal government to train individuals to emergency land aircraft. However, when I was much younger I was certainly influenced to pursue this aspect of life by the availability of quality simulators. Well before I sought after flight instruction I had logged hundreds of hours on various simulators. The instruction then could be applied in the game to reinforce the lessons and build real world skills. They are compatible, they are not equivalent.

As far as cow clicker, it's an interesting study in psychology especially how it relates to self masturbatory patterns. I would not play them (outside of testing), certainly I would design them or build them into other designs and products to drive repetitive human action.

That said, we are clearly able to see this design apparent in achievements, various counters, and other meaningless metrics and stat counting devices. This website utilizes the device. Cow clicker simply illustrates the obviousness of the design and the lack of a need to hide what it is. It's a sad commentary on the human condition if one lets it bother them.

I deeply question it's utility to drive human interaction in any meaningful way. It tends to encourage a sort of grind which results in a plateau learning or degraded human performance. It's great for fleecing people though. Oldest grift in the newest way I suppose, like the vast majority of the shit being discussed.
 

Arakasi

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I'd rather be smart and miserable than dumb and content.

Mostly because I already am that way.
 

Something Amyss

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In a world where the intellectual is vilified, this seems like it doesn't need to be said.

Dastardly said:
I see it with musicians, since that's my field. Plenty of performers love to let people talk about "talent" and being "gifted," because it lends this air of inaccessible mystery to what they do. You'll hear very few talk about how they got good by putting in hours and hours of hard work specifically targeted at getting better at it from a very early age. And you'll rarely ever hear one mention the dreaded "luck."
On a similar note, it's really annoying that people put stock in me for years of music theory and comp classes over the years I spent practicing, performing and interpreting music. The former's all well and good, but the latter really should give me more validity.

Also, based on the quote you replied to:

I am capable of breaking down complex thought into fairly simple ideas. The problems being both that you shouldn't always have to and some thoughts simply aren't simple in the first place.

I did say "always," just for the record. I have no problem doing it most of the time, but....
 

Dastardly

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Zachary Amaranth said:
In a world where the intellectual is vilified, this seems like it doesn't need to be said.
In many cases, though, people aren't vilifying intellectualism. A lot of times, they're just vilifying those who are deliberately confusing or obtuse, for the express purpose of seeming intellectual. If I'm talking to someone about theoretical physics, and I'm using a lot of terminology with no explanation, I'm not being helpful.

If I then use his lack of "understanding" to scoff at how dumb he is, I'm just a dick. It's entirely possible he could understand what I'm saying. He just doesn't have the background knowledge that I'm using in my explanation. You would be right to vilify me in that case.

(And there are, admittedly, people who don't see the value in many intellectual pursuits because they are quite near-sighted. And yes, they lash out at intellectuals in the same way someone who can't dance would call dancing 'stupid and gay' to make themselves feel better about not being able to do it)

On a similar note, it's really annoying that people put stock in me for years of music theory and comp classes over the years I spent practicing, performing and interpreting music. The former's all well and good, but the latter really should give me more validity.
Depends on the context. If someone is looking to assess you, they're going to tend to go by your credentials and documented training. They're looking for independent verification that you know what you're talking about. If someone is judging a particular work, it's right for them to judge the work on its own merit -- this is a place where I very much agree that people go nuts.

If I draw a stick figure with my feet, no one is going to pay $10,000 for it. But if some famous artist were to do so, even if it looked identical, someone somewhere would herald it as the most stirring image they've ever seen. They're judging the art based on how they feel about the artist. This is a problem, and it runs in reverse as well.

People should not judge the quality of a particular work on how well-trained you are. But if you're looking for, say, a job teaching others, I think it's acceptable to look at your documentation.

I am capable of breaking down complex thought into fairly simple ideas. The problems being both that you shouldn't always have to and some thoughts simply aren't simple in the first place.

I did say "always," just for the record. I have no problem doing it most of the time, but....
You should always consider your audience. If you're talking to people that don't have the background that you do, it's your job to make it clear. It's not their job to spontaneously generate knowledge that you're assuming they have, and they shouldn't have to go home and do homework in the middle of your explanation.
 

Something Amyss

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mfeff said:
That was a really interesting video (Not saying I agree; you made a solid argument against the death of the tactical shooter).

Hopefully, you don't feel I'm missing the larger point here, but I just wanted to comment.
 

Twinmill5000

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Because smart means you can't play smart in a simple mouthbreather game like BF3.

Really? Fucking really?

Listen. The fact that you derive enjoyment out of Limbo over... anything, doesn't speak anything of your intelligence. It's an artistic game. So? Are you really, at that point as a gamer where you need to play games to show off your sophisticated tastes? Or are you so detached from what thinking actually is, and can you not make the simple connection that the word smart -as in a person's general intellect- is, well fuck, a wide word, and cannot be constrained to any particular subject in particular? Do you really not get the fact most 'CoD Retards' actually see? The fact that gaming isn't the only, nor is it a major indicator of how smart someone is. Then I feel sorry for you, because you're like that guitarist who just discovered sweeping, has no comprehension of music theory, how to set up a guitar, how to produce music, or obviously, how to write music, and only listens to music with sweet solos dude, only sweeps, and only shows off his tremendous skill (which he learned in about 30 combined hours) to the world and omg he's so smart!
 

mfeff

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Dastardly said:
Zachary Amaranth said:
In a world where the intellectual is vilified, this seems like it doesn't need to be said.
In many cases, though, people aren't vilifying intellectualism. A lot of times, they're just vilifying those who are deliberately confusing or obtuse, for the express purpose of seeming intellectual. If I'm talking to someone about theoretical physics, and I'm using a lot of terminology with no explanation, I'm not being helpful.
The difficulty with this statement is that a discussion upon theoretical physics outside of a science curriculum or industrial setting begs a certain credulity in and of itself. Peer to peer it is nothing more than a discussion over tea and cake. Having a discussion that is vertical in it's relationship between the speaker and the audience, is an education, and one may say, "what is one's credentials to discuss thus and such".

Having no credentials then is approximate to speculation, speculation without knowledge and experience is either speaking to beliefs or parroting a current loose approximate or informal proof, but cannot be considered knowledge. Speaking to a thing in this manner as if it were a theory is by definition, pretentious.

Not that you do this, but we all abuse logic and reason in our day to day activities, many times without even knowing it... perhaps it's enculturated?

The art comment is interesting and one I hear a lot in commercial art circles. Sometimes referred to as the "blue square". That is to say that it became apparent to dealers that offering statements about a product (the blue square) one could engender a certain (shrug) false belief as to the products perceived value. (Encouraged speculation).

By doing this the dealer is able to much more quickly generate product to turn and burn for however long it last. A mild form of social engineering. Ultimately to escape this post modern relativism, a reboot of personal interpretation and value systems is required. Maybe it is this very process that is being described as the intellectual elitism?

I think of it as this...


Most people are quick to point out the things that most preoccupy themselves. The entitled call others entitled, the pretentious call others pretentious. A guilt by association.

People are simple, their ideas even more so. Complexity is simply the simple repeated many times over. If it becomes obtuse, likely it is a misappropriated association with either the speaker or the audience. A false belief, a poorly recalled experience, a strong emotion; over-riding reason.

Coming back to this article, there appears to be quite a bit of work for both Mr. Scimeca to detail (this wont be happening - it's an opinion, not a debate), or Taylor Clark to expound upon specific details as to what is actually "dumb" in the hobby that was not dumb at some previous time frame.

Considering this, and that little to no knowledge is gained one way or the other, it's not philosophic, or educational... just entertainment... leisure... dumb.

If any critic wants to make a medium better their first job is to educate and inspire discussion. Otherwise it's all just self-aggrandizement and mental masturbation. - The damn article
As we have just discussed, educating to an audience begs credulity as to the qualifications of that person whom would be conducting the lecture. Ergo, it is all just self-aggrandizement and mental masturbation... by the gods what a word smith.
 

Bealzibob

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Scow2 said:
Bealzibob said:
But to get more to the point there is a terrible problem with being dumb but it's dumb in design not in concept. The DOA game's tit physics for example is a fucking travesty but fighting games themselves and even sexualised characters are not wrong in any way.
How is gratuitous animation in a gratuitous fighting game a travesty? It's not like you don't know what you're getting into when you buy it. Unless there's an actual problem in the tit-physics.
The problem with retardedly overdesigned tit physics is that it brings no worth what so ever to the game because the sexualisation isn't part of the game and your characters arn't particularly better for it, it brings no improvment to the gameplay unless they make a character who fights entirely by whipping her tits back and forth. All the remains is an actually dumb design decision that wastes players time, designers time and the industries time for no betterment for anyone. It's the difference in a sense between Mad World and Gears of War (though GoW still fails a little from this problem).
 

mfeff

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Zachary Amaranth said:
mfeff said:
That was a really interesting video (Not saying I agree; you made a solid argument against the death of the tactical shooter).

Hopefully, you don't feel I'm missing the larger point here, but I just wanted to comment.
Not my video, I just provided it to illustrate a point; one I felt is critical to design perspective and initiatives.

As I mentioned Arma is an excellent take on the subject and one I highly recommend. I propose that sometimes a "lack" of immediacy as it relates to the combat environment is just as important as having combat back-to-back-to-back. It makes combat a punctuation mark, rather than the script. Nothing more nothing less. Play them both, play all of them.

I have a particular fondness for very early alpha and beta planetside. It was great in it's day, in spite of it's progression design.

Twinmill5000 said:
Because smart means you can't play smart in a simple mouthbreather game like BF3.

Really? Fucking really?

-snip
Really brief critique, it's hard to know which way or at whom this statement was headed... quotes help. I have played BF3 both casually and with a fairly serious clan in matches.

That said, my own personal issues with BF3 are as follows:

Overly simplified map designs, the maps are focused on forcing players into poorly defense-able areas, this is clearly to force players to engage repeatedly and quickly. Death and respawn being the focus here. Mortars and rockets... weee fun.

They are also very small. Again, this is to force a sort of zerg point capture mentality and is a focus shift from BF2 and 1942.

The recent expansion again focuses on close quarters combat, which is just a reinforcement of the same old thing. Several maps destroy any sense of "skill" or "immediacy" that the series was known for. A step back, or sideways... you make the call.

Exploitable kits and progression, this focuses on repeat play and grinding out kits, the kits themselves, especially vehicle perks lock out and muddle a "good player", from a player with a high kit access. Large machine gun support kits with 1x night vision scopes are simply garbage.

Its always been true of the series, but it is pronounced in BF3.

Marginal aircraft controls. Self explanatory. The aircraft in general have a very sloppy feel which is fine, but it is clear it is for the console.

On the plus side... it looks great. But I said that... several times. It's immersive as hell. Great, said that to. One's choice in ones entertainment de'jure is no qualitative metric for assessing someones intelligence or education level. FFS I alpha tested it all the way to release, and own two copies... I also hold 3 college degrees and several government licenses including security clearances.

It's still a casual friendly game, designed specifically, not round a bout' ly, not unintentionally, but SPECIFICALLY, EXPLICITLY to compete in the CoD marketplace... look at the box FFS, "Beyond the Call"... that didn't get on there by mistake.

By all accounts, the franchise was dumbed down for this very purpose. Battlefield in general is more entertainment than it is a serious title with something meaningful to say or teach. I like it on it's terms.

Lets not ponce around about it. This shit ain't art. It's entertaining sure. But it's dumb, so is limbo. These are games, toys, entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.

As far as music goes, I play the piano, write music, and am versed in music, both mathematical theory and the physics of instrumentation. So what. That said, I am no artist in the practice of play, pretty mediocre... come to think about it. But I don't claim anything other than what I can prove.

It's greatest critique in my opinion is that there is little to nothing in the way of anything useful one gains from the experience of playing Battlefield 3. Nor does anything that one brings from the outside in change or improve the experience much. It's a locked experience. It's cotton candy. Tasty, but empty. Like porn. Like a lot of things.

Play them all, become a porn connoisseur. Experience them all, make a quantitative distinction. That is what a hobby is all about.

Looking at this article a second time...

Who wants to divorce themselves from their passion for videogames?
What does this mean?

If that's what an erudite assessment of the intellectual potential of the videogame medium necessitates, I fail to see why the pursuit is held up as a virtue.
It's virtue is in establishing an empirical approach to the subject. It's an investigation, not an appeal to emotion, or one's unjustified bias.

It allows one to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, not apples "Black Ops Stealth" sold as stealth on the box, to oranges "Thief II", a stealth game.

And isn't objective assessment of art generally accepted as an impossibility by thoughtful critics of any creative medium?
Only if one allows the idea that it "IS" art to be introduced to the dialog. These are commercial products that utilize industrial design techniques for the purpose of profit in a retail market. They are not created as meaningful expressions, they are not "let's make some art today".

EA are not purveyors of fine art. Nor is the audience.

If these things are art at all, it's an emergent quality, implicit not necessarily sufficient to make the claim as being sufficient to "being art".

an end all around us in 5.1 digital sound and shells are exploding into the ground
Audio engineering is exceptional. These things are done on computers. That a computer game has them... is well... it's a computer. It is very high on immersion. So is porno.

In the best of cases, artists create what they want because they want to, or because those are the ideas that develop organically.
That's nice, but commercial videos games are not developed this way. This further illustrates the slippery slope diatribe as "video games as art".

The game's thematic content flowed from the design process, and we got BioShock
Cool story bro.

The concept artist for Bioshock, a Mr. Feng Zhu, has discussed the developmental process of this and games in general in this video.


This is not a pretentious or off base video, it is the guy who drew all the shit in the game, speaking... enjoy.

An indictment of the dumb also feels like an indictment of what it is to be human.
Sure why not, humans are evolved animals... nothing special.

The best course of action is to continue throwing a spotlight on the game developers and their games that fit whatever criteria for smart is being described, and to throw that spotlight sans the mud-slinging toward everyone else.
Nice point. How about a discussion on how games are developed? Let's research it.

Ahh well enough fun for one night.
 

Vivi22

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tautologico said:
Dastardly said:
Unfortunately not. That's their second job. Their first job is to ensure they still have the second job. You don't do that by de-mystifying your profession. The same thing is true of developers, writers, athletes, artists...
This may be true with some people, but it's just dumb.

In the musician's case, even if he/she did tell how they got good, few people would actually be willing to invest that many hours into getting good at something.

As someone who does research and teaching on highly technical fields involving mathematics and other stuff, I truly believe almost anyone can learn advanced mathematics, but very few actually want to learn it, unfortunately. I also don't think that explaining how to do it ("well, you just study it") reduced the mystique surrounding people who are extremely good at what they do, so you can explain it all you want.
Can't agree more. De-mystifying something you excel at for others does not suddenly mean that anyone can or will do it. I could be taught as much about computer programming as John Carmack and put in as much time doing it has he's done in his like, but it doesn't mean I'll do it as well as him. More importantly, how many people will do that? De-mystifying your profession may help a relative handful more people who wouldn't have excelled in it suddenly better and more successful at it, but that's about it. Everyone who wants to go down that road will get better which isn't really a bad thing, but those that do want to go down that road will not necessarily be many just because the topic and path to success is better understood.

Ugh, I feel like I didn't explain that well at all. It's probably time for bed.
 

mfeff

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Vivi22 said:
tautologico said:
Dastardly said:
Unfortunately not. That's their second job. Their first job is to ensure they still have the second job. You don't do that by de-mystifying your profession. The same thing is true of developers, writers, athletes, artists...
snip
snip

Ugh, I feel like I didn't explain that well at all. It's probably time for bed.
Ars longa, vita brevis

Hippocrates "the art is long"

Medicine is of all the Arts the most noble; but, owing to the ignorance of those who practice it, and of those who, inconsiderately, form a judgment of them, it is at present far behind all the other arts.

Nice post guy.
 

Krantos

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Here's Forbes Take on the matter: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2012/05/01/if-you-think-most-games-are-dumb-youre-playing-them-wrong/

Honestly, I agree with both articles (It's OK to be Dumb, and the Forbes one)

From "It's OK": I feel that a lot of the Games are Art crowd forget that the medium is also entertainment. Sure games like Skyrim and Total War don't have the artistic value of things like Journey, but they don't have to (and are you really going to call Total War dumb?). There are countless activities that lack cerebral engagement. That doesn't devalue them, it just means they have different functions. Dismissing these games because they go for a different sort of engagement is asinine.

From Forbes: Couldn't really agree more with this one. The biggest problem I have with a lot of the Games are Art crowd is they want games to adhere to the same rules as other mediums. This is completely forgetting that the other mediums are completely different from each other.

You don't judge a book on the same grounds you judge a sculpture. You don't judge a picture the same way you do a movie. So why would you judge a game on the same grounds you do the rest.

I mean, really, is the Mona fucking Lisa devalued because it has no coherent narrative?
 

Scow2

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Bealzibob said:
Scow2 said:
Bealzibob said:
But to get more to the point there is a terrible problem with being dumb but it's dumb in design not in concept. The DOA game's tit physics for example is a fucking travesty but fighting games themselves and even sexualised characters are not wrong in any way.
How is gratuitous animation in a gratuitous fighting game a travesty? It's not like you don't know what you're getting into when you buy it. Unless there's an actual problem in the tit-physics.
The problem with retardedly overdesigned tit physics is that it brings no worth what so ever to the game because the sexualisation isn't part of the game and your characters arn't particularly better for it, it brings no improvment to the gameplay unless they make a character who fights entirely by whipping her tits back and forth. All the remains is an actually dumb design decision that wastes players time, designers time and the industries time for no betterment for anyone. It's the difference in a sense between Mad World and Gears of War (though GoW still fails a little from this problem).
You say the sexualization isn't part of the game, yet the marketing and graphics say otherwise. And your analogy also blows up in your face: The core experience of Mad World is the gratuitously over-the-top brutality and violence. Gears of War is similar, but not quite. Decreasing the gore and visceral animation of either game would greatly hinder the experience.

Furthermore: watching tits bounce is fun. All games, even (and ESPECIALLY) those rated "M", are for play, as the article mentioned. If you don't want to engage in silly, immature fun, you don't have to. But please sit on your stick far, far away from those who do, out of earshot of your "STOP HAVING FUN, GUYS!" ranting.

Captcha: see-saw
Captcha because it screwed up: tesla coil
 

mfeff

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Krantos said:
Here's Forbes Take on the matter: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2012/05/01/if-you-think-most-games-are-dumb-youre-playing-them-wrong/

Honestly, I agree with both articles (It's OK to be Dumb, and the Forbes one)

From "It's OK": I feel that a lot of the Games are Art crowd forget that the medium is also entertainment. Sure games like Skyrim and Total War don't have the artistic value of things like Journey, but they don't have to (and are you really going to call Total War dumb?).
Considering I turned not less than 1 commercial artist and 2 art students on-to Shogun:Total War... with the echo's of "This game is amazing... the art values are astounding... the attention to detail shows class...", I would have to disagree if even based on experience.

That said, Shogun:Total War is an incredible achievement in design, aesthetic choices, gameplay... all on the same mechanic that the franchise has used for many years. It captures the role of a struggling Daimyo vying for control of the Shogunate in ways that other games fall over themselves trying to convince you of... and it does it effortlessly. (Which means they bust there asses for years, then took a shower, put on a suit, bowing, handed you the game box, and said "with our compliments") it's fucking class. Which is precisely why it continues to sell and receive high marks all around. So popular in fact that in the following sales events the previous games sold many times over again.

Word of mouth continued to sell S:TW and they enjoyed sales success weeks and months after the release.

It's emblematic of a title were every member of the team was in on the discussions throughout the course of development. All the TW games do this to some extent though. It's writing off games like this that cripple the medium, for whatever reason, it has to "look artsie" to be "art" is fucking weak.

Mind you, it's not art... but it's close. From what you said it "lacks artistic value... of thus and such..." I need you to explain to me, why? Specifically why... not just a statement of fact based on no evidence, but why.

I need to have it explained to me why a game that employed 2 Ph. D. Japanese history and language professors (and published authors), that visited the battle grounds and modeled the scenario modes to the known historical events and troop compositions, that took wood block carving and built them into their interface, that has voice acting that supports the action on the screen, that all these things, when combined are not art? SHAMEFURRRL DISPRAYYY!!

The burden of proof is on you.

There are countless activities that lack cerebral engagement. That doesn't devalue them, it just means they have different functions. Dismissing these games because they go for a different sort of engagement is asinine.

From Forbes: Couldn't really agree more with this one. The biggest problem I have with a lot of the Games are Art crowd is they want games to adhere to the same rules as other mediums. This is completely forgetting that the other mediums are completely different from each other.

You don't judge a book on the same grounds you judge a sculpture. You don't judge a picture the same way you do a movie. So why would you judge a game on the same grounds you do the rest.

I mean, really, is the Mona fucking Lisa devalued because it has no coherent narrative?
On the other hand, I like the rest of this post and agree, although during this thread I mentioned it at least twice that an empirical investigation, that good metrics should be used to judge on thing on its merits in the context of what it is (trying to be), to what it is.

I guess your talking about journey when you mention asinine things, or meaningless stuff that your doing... I would posit that if one does things that are meaningless to the context of the thing on the screen, the "engagement" faculty of what is plausible the thing that can make games High Art, is broken, by the ART GAMES design. Cause, that sounds like a shit design.

Now I haven't played Journey, but it looks pretentious as hell. I should probably play it if I plan to argue it... but I don't bring it up... so there we go. There is other less obscure shit that better make the case, and are profitable.

The Mona Lisa implies quite a lot in a study of it. It's a commoner, in the context of the day most high art paintings were commissioned by the wealthy, this imparts contrast and conflict. She has a smirk, as if she know's something we don't. It is also plausible that it is Leonardo Di Vinci painting himself in drag. Considering strong evidence to support the claim he was a homosexual or bisexual, this is astounding in the context of the day in which he painted this. Very Avant-garde.

That is a narrative. The work is important. It tells us something about the man, the idea (focus, the time, the place, and the conditions under which it was crafted. Who, What, When, Where, Why. It's not the hero's journey, but it is a statement. A statement is made of logical associations, these associations are a form, form is a formula, formula is approximating truth, truth is beautiful as it leads us out of opinion and subjectivity... it's god damn Socratic dialog on canvas. Basic phil. 101.

Not even going to go into his paints (that he made), the canvass, the sketch technique, the brush technique... or the countless other nuances of the mans style and grace.

The sheer time investment the man had to make (it took a lifetime to get to where he could create this), the effort upon effort upon effort, to get to such a skill to paint this one frame, to say this "thing". Only a master can tease so much from the brush, a master musician teases a note in impossible ways, the master film maker uses tension and design, the same way, the master of game engineering DOES THE SAME THING.

That's art.

Narrative is self explanatory.

Movies are like narrative, but leaves less to the imagination, now one must "show".

Games are like movies, but leaves less to the imagination, now one must "do".

If we do not "do" in a game, it is a movie, if it does not "show", then it is a book, if it does not complete a sentence, then it is nonsense.

Lack of coherence is nonsense.

It leaves us in the shadow of opinion and subjectivity, this is contrary to basic philosophical dialog. If the audience cannot engage the material, and go up the ladder from the pit of bullshit to the light of enlightenment (on some level) it "ain't art". It ain't shit. It's cotton candy. Entertainment.

Maybe our children's children will ponder and analyse it and elevate or debase it as art or nonsense, but today, now, that's the road, the road called "who, what, when where, why"; ultimately what does it do?
 

Dennis Scimeca

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I remember a few years ago when the Escapist used to have numerous well-written articles and opinion pieces that intelligently explored the idea of gaming as an artistic medium. Nowadays, the number of opinion pieces has been slashed to make room for more videos, and the one article on the front page is celebrating a form of anti-intellectualism.

There are numerous problems I have with this article and its implications, but I'll try and address the most glaring points:

It is a fetish I don't understand. Being incessantly smart is lonely and isolating. It makes one difficult to relate to. It almost always leads to some kind of existential angst, all of which seems born out by Clark's assessment of Braid developer Jonathan Blow. And the unavoidably arrogant implication of fetishising the smart is that if you aren't enamored with or seeking it and enjoy the dumb, there's something wrong with you.
The only reason why being incessantly smart is seen as lonely and isolating is because of the number of people who don't just enjoy being dumb and ignorant, they actively refuse to try and better their intellects in any meaningful way. With this very article, you are encouraging people to avoid the brainier offerings that the VG industry has to offer, and to stick with their latest iteration of Battlefield and Call Of Duty. I wouldn't presume to call myself an intellectual, but I do think of myself as being a well-read, knowledgeable, relatively clever individual. And I can understand why perhaps intellectuals in the gaming world are lonely and isolated. If there were more of us smart people kicking around in the industry, then we'd have more people to relate to, to share ideas with, to debate with. And that would probably make everyone feel a bit less lonely.

I mean, for God's sakes, the Escapist Forums themselves were set up as a place where gamers could come and have intelligent debates with each other on various topics. The site advertised itself as a place for intelligent gamers to form a community. While the standard of content has perhaps slipped, I do think that the community is one of the smartest videogame communities on the internet. And that makes me smile, because it lets me hope that perhaps one day, the trend will continue to the point that intelligence in gaming isn't just a rare occurrence, but the average and the norm. The only reason intellect is seen as so isolated in gaming is because of the reluctance of the pro-Dumb crowd to actually step up and make the effort to join the community themselves.

In case you can't tell: I am very much anti-Dumb. That doesn't mean I've never said dumb things myself, but on the whole, I cannot understand why being dumb is seen as a good thing. Why would you possible make a virtue out of the fact that you know less than your peers? Because that's all it really is. Celebrating stupidity. Stupidity is not something to aim for, it is the bottom-line of intelligence which is supposed to be moved away from through learning and education.

It's telling that when Clark pleads with the gaming audience to just admit videogames are dumb, he states we have to look at videogames "objectively" to grasp what he's clutching at, and that his point of view depends on a dispassionate viewing of our games. Who wants to divorce themselves from their passion for videogames? If that's what an erudite assessment of the intellectual potential of the videogame medium necessitates, I fail to see why the pursuit is held up as a virtue.
Again, this stands in complete contrast to the actual message and idea of what the Escapist stands for.

A medium that can only be enjoyed through mindless interaction is not a medium worth celebrating. There is nothing wrong with a game simply being 'fun'. But if the medium cannot offer anything more, if there is nothing to analyse, to dissect, to critique, to discuss, to interpret, then it is a fundamentally shallow medium with nothing for players to take away from after they've turned their consoles off. By divorcing ourselves of the 'passion' of playing a game, and instead trying to focus more objectively on understanding a game's ideas, we can find ideas, subtext and themes that would not have been obvious to us in the heat of gameplay.

Would anyone have noticed Final Fantasy 7's references to Norse mythology, environmental themes and references to psychology if they simply focused on Omnislashing their way through the game? Would anyone have commented Xenogears' references to Jungian theory and Gnosticism if gamers simply poured all their attention on the Mecha combat? Would anyone still be talking about the Max Payne series' use of noir techniques and mythological references to create a truly unique atmosphere if all anyone ever focused on was the Bullet Time?

I will readily grant by Clark's definition and argument that most videogames probably are dumb. So what? Why should we value the intellectual and the contemplative over the moments in Battlefield 3 when your squad crests a hill and someone shouts, "Holy shit there's a tank coming kill it kill it!"
Because the latter is simply a basic instinctual reaction to an immediate threat, with no long term meaning beyond a rush of adrenaline, whereas the former can present gamers with ideas, thoughts and experiences that they may mull in their minds for years.

It also assumes that intelligent games are unable to offer instant gratification, offering only cold, dispassionate food for thought, when anyone who's played Mass Effect, Max Payne, New Vegas, Half-Life or one of any number of other mainstream smart games can tell you this is patently not true.

Braid is supposed to be a brilliant game. No one, in all the analyses and criticism and essays I've read about the game, has ever adequately explained to me why Braid is brilliant.
Because it is a deconstruction of 2D platformers, the same way Watchmen was a deconstruction of superhero comics. It initially presents an experience similar to what we've already seen, then proceeds to subvert pretty much every expectation we've come to have of the genre, creating a unique experience for the player. It also provides enough ambiguous plot threads that players are able to interpret their own idea of just what the game means and signifies, rather than having it loudly proclaimed to them by the game itself.

See, that wasn't so hard.

An indictment of the dumb also feels like an indictment of what it is to be human. The joy of enjoying dumb games is the joy of play. Sometimes it's okay to be dumb, because sometimes that's what we need, and it's no surprise that our entertainment waxes towards the simple and the silly and the absurd. Calling this "juvenile" is to suggest adults have less of a need for these escapes than children do. I might argue precisely the opposite.
"An indictment of the dumb also feels like an indictment of what it is to be human."

No. Just no. Humanity is defined by its intellect, not by its lack of intellect. The very thing that separates us from the animal kingdom is our ability to look around us, to contemplate our own origins, to generate abstract new ideas, to project thought and feelings, and most importantly to learn more about the world we see around us. To define humanity by its moments of and enjoyment of stupidity is to wilfully ignore the thousands of years of intellectual growth and expansion, the constant process of learning and education that has brought us to where we are today.

Being dumb is juvenile. Sorry, but it is. Children are defined by their lack of knowledge of the world and how it works. That is why we have an education system in the first place. Whereas adults have been through education, have lived in the real world, and therefore are expected to have greater knowledge of it. Therefore, if a piece of entertainment doesn't have anything to say or comment about the world we live in, then it is by definition a juvenile piece of work, not an adult one.

The fact that our entertainment tends towards the simple and the stupid is an indictment of how cautious and averse to risk-taking major entertainment companies are, not how stupid or dumb we are as a species, or how we crave simple entertainment. Look at some of the most successful films in recent years: The Lord Of The Rings, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Matrix (first one only), District 9... these are all films that were hugely successful (in LOTR and TDK's case, up there with the most succesful movies of all time). And they are all intelligent, idea-fuelled movies that managed to be entertaining without being patronising or insulting to the intellect.

The hilarious irony of complaining about videogames being dumb is that if the goal of the critic or journalist making the statement is sincerely to try and make things better, their statement is dumb in and of itself by Clark's definition. That's not a very intelligent way to go about addressing the issue, especially if it's a journalist or critic who can command page space in widely-read outlets. The best course of action is to continue throwing a spotlight on the game developers and their games that fit whatever criteria for smart is being described, and to throw that spotlight sans the mud-slinging toward everyone else.
Nope. While critics and journalists should certainly celebrate and endorse intelligent gaming where they find it, and ensure that it is exposed to as wide an audience as possible, it is also the requirement of literate, intelligent gamers to point out the bad and to decry the stupid where we see it. Only when we criticise stupid games can we point out why they are stupid, and offer points and ideas on how future games can avoid being so stupid.

When I criticise the film Transformers 2, I'm not doing it because I'm a bitter cynic who wants to piss on everyone's party. I criticise it because it's a badly written, poorly directed piece of racist rubbish, full of offensive and downright disturbing implications about the people who made it. Those flaws are there and need to be addressed, and so it is with gaming. If a game portrays another nation in a stupid, offensive manner, then I'm going to criticise the developers for it, not harp on about how great the art direction in Okami is.

Seriously, I fundamentally disagree with just about every point in this article, and find it strange that it is posted on the Escapist of all places.

If there were a serious abundance of intelligent games, then I could perhaps understand the author bemoaning the issue. But as it stands, intelligent games are outnumbered by badly written, socially ignorant, derivative, ignorant, dumb games by a factor of about 9 out of 10. When intelligent games are as few and far between as they are, I feel that perhaps the writers of the Escapist should perhaps go back to trying to promote more intelligence in gaming, not posting articles which criticise it as a fundamental concept.
 

Dennis Scimeca

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@Woodsey:

I would have to go through transcripts to pull a quote, but I've interviewed Ken Levine a few times and I believe he's told me, point blank, that he didn't intend to make a game about Objectivism when he made Bioshock. I believe that conversation went something like he needed the right kind of environment for the game, which led to the idea of an underwater city, and then when he needed an explanation for how such a city came to be, *that* is when the idea of Rapture and the philosophical underpinnings behind the society came up for the first time.
 

Dennis Scimeca

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j-e-f-f-e-r-s said:
With this very article, you are encouraging people to avoid the brainier offerings that the VG industry has to offer, and to stick with their latest iteration of Battlefield and Call Of Duty.
I disagree entirely. Nowhere did I suggest people should not seek out "smart" games, however one defines that term, if they are interested in doing so. In fact, I make it clear that if someone wants more intellectual experiences in their video games, they can find them. Read Michael Abbott's post on the subject over at Brainy Gamer.

If I am suggesting anything it's that no one should feel shame for enjoying video games which might be "dumb" by a liberal measure, or for having no interest in seeking out "smart" games.

If there were more of us smart people kicking around in the industry, then we'd have more people to relate to, to share ideas with, to debate with.
I'm not sure where you get the idea there -aren't- a ton of really smart people in the video game industry. I can't say I've ever spoken with a game developer who didn't seem like a smart person to me...

That doesn't mean I've never said dumb things myself, but on the whole, I cannot understand why being dumb is seen as a good thing. Why would you possible make a virtue out of the fact that you know less than your peers? Because that's all it really is. Celebrating stupidity. Stupidity is not something to aim for, it is the bottom-line of intelligence which is supposed to be moved away from through learning and education.
I think you've mixed up "ignorance" and "stupidity" throughout your response here.

By divorcing ourselves of the 'passion' of playing a game, and instead trying to focus more objectively on understanding a game's ideas...
Objective analysis of art or the ideas within is a myth. There is no such thing. The exercise is entirely subjective. Even when an artist does disclose their intent, there are always critics who will argue that said intention is irrelevant, and there are other meanings to be read into a work.

Would anyone have noticed Final Fantasy 7's references to Norse mythology, environmental themes and references to psychology if they simply focused on Omnislashing their way through the game? Would anyone have commented Xenogears' references to Jungian theory and Gnosticism if gamers simply poured all their attention on the Mecha combat? Would anyone still be talking about the Max Payne series' use of noir techniques and mythological references to create a truly unique atmosphere if all anyone ever focused on was the Bullet Time?
Those things may be interesting to you. They may not be interesting to someone else. I do not place more or less value on either you or the other person based on how they relate to Final Fantasy 7 or Xenogears or Max Payne.

Stating that it's okay not to notice those things, or to not even care about those things, is not equivalent to endorsing any of the negative ideas you've raised. It's seeking to establish respect for someone whether or not they enjoy discussion of the intellectual for its own sake. It is a statement in response to the arrogance of placing the intellectual as a person of higher value compared to someone who is not an intellectual.

Because it is a deconstruction of 2D platformers, the same way Watchmen was a deconstruction of superhero comics. It initially presents an experience similar to what we've already seen, then proceeds to subvert pretty much every expectation we've come to have of the genre, creating a unique experience for the player. It also provides enough ambiguous plot threads that players are able to interpret their own idea of just what the game means and signifies, rather than having it loudly proclaimed to them by the game itself.
None of that makes the game "smart" by default, IMHO. It may make the game interesting to someone who is invested in the exploration of those sorts of ideas, and/or to someone who enjoys ambiguity of ideas and the sort of discussion which follows, but what about the person who could care less about 2D platformers, and who prefers more direct propositions to be debated and discussed?

By proclaiming a thing "smart" we privilege it, and that's precisely what I neither understand nor approve of. It's actually not very smart to take an idea whose appeal is purely subjective and proclaim it as having absolute value.