Video Games versus film

IamLEAM1983

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Aug 22, 2011
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Mareon said:
If 1972's 'Pong' is to Video Games what 1898's 'Arrival of a Train' is to Movies then we should be doing Video Games 'Gone With the Wind', 'Citizen Kane' and 'Casablanca' by now. So where are they?
Why must something be or proceed like something else; especially when the two discussed subjects are fundamentally different in their approach of narrative delivery?

Video games don't need their "Citizen Kane" or even the tacit approval of classic movie critics. As much as it would flatter most gamers' egoes to see their preferred pastime vindicated on the cultural spectrum, the fact is there's no vindication that even needs to take place.

Even if I were to give credence to the idea that the "Great American Interactive Software" is right around the corner, you'd have to consider a few things:

1. visual art has developed over the course of human civilization as we know it - over hundreds of thousands of years.

2. the written word has been around for only two thousand or so years. We've had time enough to produce epics and sagas that are still reprinted to this day. Head to any bookstore and you can find an English-language version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, in the exact same state the Babylonians themselves structured their religious lives around.

3. movies have existed for just over a century. Compared to prose or paint, the medium isn't even out of its infancy - and that's even while considering how far we've come between Melies' "Journey to the Moon" and the latest Avengers blockbusters, on purely technical concerns. We can do things today Chaplin and Keaton could only dream of, but that pales in comparison to what prose can put together.

4. video games are anywhere between thirty to sixty years old at the most, depending on where you choose to start counting. Start with the post-crash climate that saw Atari sink and Nintendo rise or with "Tennis for Two" - in any case, you end up with the youngest of the mediums.

A lot of hopefuls call video games the "Eight Art" and call for classic epics to surface on consoles or gaming PCs, but that forgets the fact that we're barely starting to need to face the need for archival solutions, to find ways to preserve games that are incompatible with modern hardware. Chronologically, it means we haven't even solved the problem of transmitting our best works to future generations yet - and that's something all forms of art have to tackle.

We'll have our Citizen Kane, if that ever arises, on the day someone in the distant future rediscovers an old gaming system and any particularly worthy software - and only if that person manages to form something like a social commentary or a higher observation based on their gameplay. We do have games that tackle serious subjects, but we don't have the distance you'd expect, say, a literary researcher to have while digging through translated Greek theatre pieces. A game comes out that we're immediately trying to go Structuralist on its ass.

Look at Dark Souls III. It's barely come out that the YouTube lorekeepers are picking it apart. That's not a problem in and of itself - but you have to wonder how Dark Souls III will resonate with people some thirty, fifty or hundred years down the line.

Or, and this is more disheartening and I know it - will it even mean something to someone? It could be that we'll shift to something else as a mass-marketed form of entertainment after a few generations, something that'll make historians look at Hidetaka Miyazaki's discourse on the ruthlessness of life and the inevitability of death and just shrug it off.

"Eh, it's just one of those tepid 2016 Japanese art-house projects; it's barely worth a side-note in the history books."
 

sXeth

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Darth Rosenberg said:
I'm not even sure I understand the question/point. As others have mentioned; they're two mediums which do things very differently, for different reasons, at different times.

Games have never done 'a Seven Samurai' or 'a Blade Runner', nor have films or TV done a Half-Life 2 or a Dark Souls [1].
If we were to pursue the OP's idea. Blade Runner would actually be something to do it with. While kind of "eh" on its actual plot, Blade Runner did sort of dictate the whole style and idea of a dark disparate future earth "urban sci-fi" style. There's probably a comparison to be made to games that have generally dictated the course of their own genres. Morrowind would be what I'd go with offhand, as we've seen a flood of the "open-world action rpg" almost entirely take over the genre since then. Or the obvious effect and influence of Final Fantasy on the styles and themes used in JRPGs.
 

Owyn_Merrilin

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Fox12 said:
Citizen Kane is a masterpiece. It changed the way films are made on a technical level, but more importantly it holds up as an actual work of art. The story is not straightforward, often jumping back and forth in time, the narrator's aren't always reliable, and there's a great deal of visual symbolism. It actually requires something from the audiance, and presents itself as a puzzle. I would compare it to Watchmen in that sense.
I've always felt that the "Citizen Kane of videogames" would have to be something like Super Mario Bros., and this little bit of what you wrote is getting at why. The big thing Citizen Kane and Watchmen really have in common is the fact that both took full advantage of the possibilities offered by their medium to do something that hadn't been done before, couldn't be done in any other medium, and which today doesn't seem particularly remarkable because every movie/comic book after took what they did and ran with it. We have absolutely already had our Citizen Kane. Whether it's something like Mario, or whether Mario (or another game of its era) was the Birth of a Nation to, say, Half Life's Citizen Kane may be a question worth asking, but we've definitely already had our Citizen Kane. The problem is that people are framing the question as being about artistic recognition, when it's really about technical mastery of the possibilities offered by a new medium, or an old one taken seriously for the first time.
 

Darth Rosenberg

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Fox12 said:
I try to avoid value judgments, but if there is one thing that I personally consider important, it is complexity.
You didn't address whether you thought a Rothko painting, Journey, or SFIV were "complex" or not, and what this would then mean to your own perceptions of art.

Again, please don't take this as some kind of personal slight, but surely all you're really saying is that you like certain forms of art, which is akin to saying the art you deem the most artful is the art you like the most. Surely that's a veritable discussive cul de sac when talking about art, though?

You also seem to want qualifiers for what is and isn't art, and that could be a huge difference between you and I, as in:
But, when we're trying to discuss whether or not video games qualify as art, those are the kinds of things I look for.
That terminology always bugs me, regardless of the medium discussed.

Take a fire extinguisher. Mounted on the wall in a room with an exhibition, it's a fire extinguisher - an object defined by function and use. Pick it up and display it, does it become something else or does it remain the same? A bed in a bedroom being slept on is just a bed, but exhibit that very same object and what has or has not changed about it?

Logically to me, art need no qualifiers whatsoever. I'd almost argue that for people to seek to qualify it is to ironically miss the entire point and potentiality of art; it is everything, and it is nothing. Intent can distinguish it, but is never a requirement for its value - which is almost always relative and contextual. A director or a painter might have one intent and 'purpose' for their creation, but when loosed into the wild it becomes something else, because people may resonate with it in a way the creator never intended, hoped for, or foresaw.

Is the conscious intent of a creator more important, or is how it is perceived en masse what truly defines it cultural role and value?

So I continue to find the question 'are games art/can games be art' incredibly frustrating and unproductive. Often, the discussion is shaped by ignorance of what is unique to an interactive medium, and so people are framing the conversation relative to their own perceptions of other mediums.

I don't believe games need to be championed by specific examples which people subjectively see as 'examples of games as art'; the entire medium already is and always has been because it exists in a continuum of created-and-consumed culture. Generally, the people who mull over 'are games art' are the people who place arbitrary rules on what is and is not art, regardless of medium (hence I have to say I disagree with both Roger Ebert and Kelee Santiago [http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/video-games-can-never-be-art], who both seem hamstrung by relative mediums and justifying rules).

I also look for things that are unique to game design as a medium.
Which is a productive approach, and is surely the only objective one, just so long as people don't corrupt it into 'these games are the most game-iest of games, ergo the most valuable or artful'.

Journey or Dark Souls might channel the quintessence of experiential interactivity more than other games, but that should never mean other games need to be more like them by way of comparable design or intent (I'd say the only lesson those games have to teach is that every medium benefits from auteurs and distinct creations).

When someone touts out a list of classic films as an excuse to argue that films are more sophisticated then games, then pointing out complex games is a useful way to refute the argument. At the very least it gives us something to point to, first by examining what the two mediums have in common, and then what makes them different. That's all I was really trying to do.
Fair enough, though I disagree. Firstly, someone would need to define precisely what they mean by "sophisticated". Is a simple, abstract film sophisticated? Are there forms of sophistication? And so on.

Seth Carter said:
If we were to pursue the OP's idea.
That's a little problematic, given he or she did not really define the parameters of the comparison. It'd have been helpful had they clarified their angle.

Blade Runner would actually be something to do it with. While kind of "eh" on its actual plot...
Is a film's plot particularly important when discussing its merits, though?

...Blade Runner did sort of dictate the whole style and idea of a dark disparate future earth "urban sci-fi" style. There's probably a comparison to be made to games that have generally dictated the course of their own genres. Morrowind would be what I'd go with offhand, as we've seen a flood of the "open-world action rpg" almost entirely take over the genre since then. Or the obvious effect and influence of Final Fantasy on the styles and themes used in JRPGs.
Yeah, but is that a reply to the OP? I don't think so. Surely that does only thing; conclude that every medium has works which are influential. That question surely doesn't need a nanosecond's thought, given it goes without saying that every medium has works which influence.

When I said that games don't have a Blade Runner, I meant that the reasons and the ways that film works are not transferable to other mediums.

Re Morrowind: wouldn't GTA3 be more, or equally, as influential as far as the popularity of open-world design goes? It came out a year earlier, and - not that this is a barometer of influence - I'd guess it shifted far more units.
 

sXeth

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Darth Rosenberg said:
Re Morrowind: wouldn't GTA3 be more, or equally, as influential as far as the popularity of open-world design goes? It came out a year earlier, and - not that this is a barometer of influence - I'd guess it shifted far more units.
Driving games didn't really shift all out into open-world carjacking games. Nor did action games suddenly all take up driving and carjacking elemtns.

Post-Morrowind (not the sole influence therein, but probably a codifier), you're hard-pressed to find RPGs that aren't single character, action based, open world. Even Bioware jumped from a party-RPG style to single-character for a few games (Jade Empire, Neverwinter Nights 1), before starting to work their way back. The open-world was played with earlier, of course, and debatedly only surged forth as the technical limitations relaxed a bit, but the abrupt transfer to the single character (often a created avatar over a pre-written character) and action gameplay when the genre had largely been the domain of party-based semi-strategy gameplay was noticeable.
 

Darth Rosenberg

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Seth Carter said:
Driving games didn't really shift all out into open-world carjacking games. Nor did action games suddenly all take up driving and carjacking elemtns.

Post-Morrowind (not the sole influence therein, but probably a codifier), you're hard-pressed to find RPGs that aren't single character, action based, open world. Even Bioware jumped from a party-RPG style to single-character for a few games (Jade Empire, Neverwinter Nights 1), before starting to work their way back. The open-world was played with earlier, of course, and debatedly only surged forth as the technical limitations relaxed a bit, but the abrupt transfer to the single character (often a created avatar over a pre-written character) and action gameplay when the genre had largely been the domain of party-based semi-strategy gameplay was noticeable.
Eh, Morrowind's one of my all time faves so I'm not exactly biased against it, but I feel you're overstating its influence by a considerable margin. Various expressions of open-world designs reach back into the '80's, but no other single game surely left as much of a cultural footprint than GTA - it was the perfect game at the perfect time; I'm not sure I've ever used the term 'TES clone', but GTA clone practically became its own subgenre, and titles like Assassin's Creed and new IP's like Watch Dogs are still beholden to how it popularised various aspects of 3rdP exploration, combat, as well as proliferation of optional content around the map.

What aspects of Morrowind's design became hallmarks of 'TES clones'? What did it pioneer or popularise that's still around? I disagree any companies shift to single player focused narratives had much to do with Morrowind, as that was never really a notable element of its design. Its meticulously realised worldspace was, arguably, it's only calling card. Nothing about the core gameplay really caught on (I didn't have any issue with its combat, but it certainly had no legacy ergo it was a failure, historically), and its class and stat elements had been staples of RPG's for decades.

Barely any companies could render worlds as large and as detailed as Morrowind, and the market popularity of wholly voice acted games meant that companies trying to ape Bethesda's open-world scope had an even harder time of it, due to dev schedules and budget. Even now you'd be hard pressed to find many direct TES clones for just those reasons.

I think it'd be far easier to argue the filthy casual more accessible Oblivion had a greater influence, in terms of giving another major boost to fantasy IP's on two massively popular consoles (Morrowind never made it to a Sony platform).
 

gargantual

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Mareon said:
If 1972's 'Pong' is to Video Games what 1898's 'Arrival of a Train' is to Movies then we should be doing Video Games 'Gone With the Wind', 'Citizen Kane' and 'Casablanca' by now. So where are they?
Depends on what the dev's pursuit is. Even though you may not get the best immersive oscar-bait realization of a story out of a video game, its still important to prioritize, the structure of the gameplay, the level and how the character progresses first, and everything else is window dressing, because there are many ways to tell story, even through environmental cues with little to no acted dramatizations at all.

And for many people, that moment was Half-life 1 and Metal Gear Solid. Yeah the latter may have lots of cheese, and many other stealth games were far superior in their means of conducting stealth, and the former is a cinematized mask of old gameplay devices, but they were an milestones for games in storytelling, even for all the bad habits or misuse of their story devices and failed film directors that invaded video games well down the line.

And both get far more meta or evolved in terms of their subject matter. Nuclear proliferation, the solider as a disposable pawn, the human genome and self definition, containment or suppression of info, the concept of the 'free agent', moral ambiguity in conflict. These were all themes that were hard to articulate for some of us in our youth when first exposed to these titles, but they were certainly there.

The point is, the benchmark was supposed to be a video games benchmark. Not a hollywood benchmark. Film has its own problems, especially in America, where a lot of CGI and box office bloat has created films that try to cast too wide a net and try to be sophisticated and do everything. When your James Gunn's, Tim Millers, certain TV shows, and other foreign films (due to smaller budgets, and a lot of time fine tuning their concept) have more "Narrow Focus"

That is one thing I see constantly in well done media these days whether big or small. "Narrowed Focus." It can be simple entertainment and does its action very fast and effectively, or it can be big and meta, and a binge watch and handles character development and events logically. Narrow focus for games prioritizes the gameplay first. The story can still be okay and take a backseat.