Game Journalists Kick Puppies

Nov 22, 2005 five past four pm


The Game Designer behind God of War (haven't played it yet), David Jaffe, wrote a scathing editorial proclaiming that people who write about games are not true Journalists, not in the Game Industry, and that (according to stuff I made up) hate their mothers and kick puppy dogs.

Now, Game Journalist and Puppy Dog Kicker, Bob Colayco of GameSpot lets fly a rebuttal that claims, among other things, that he doesn't care what Game Designers have to say and it's all about the game.

So why am I weighing in on this debate?  Mainly to get that stupid Paris Hilton post from being my lead story, because, quite frankly I'm embarrassed to have posted it.  A couple of game news sites have picked it up and I can tell that Grand Jury Subpoenas are not far behind and I'm not one of those reporter that stands up for his rights and the so-called "First Amendment".  Me, I'm rolling over like a Labrador Retriever looking for some Beggin' Strips(tm).

But, the debate does bring up some issues that are all tangled up in the "Are Games Art" argument (an argument that drives me crazy because once that argument starts, some moron brings up the "Art" in the game, completely missing the point that "Art" has nothing to do with "Art").

But back to kicking Paris Hilton off the main page:  If you read the major gaming sites, they are mostly filled with reviews that give scores for "Graphics" and "Sound" and (let's be honest) come across like they are written by fanboys.  They make what we do sound more like Toys than a rich emerging Art Form.

But maybe that blame lays more in our laps than the game reviewer's, after all, what are we giving them to review?   Are we just mad because they don't see Shakespeare in our Transformers.

I just finished Call of Duty 2.  Damn fine game.  But when I was done, I was done.  I didn't think about what war means, who I was or my lost friendship with any of my countless spawning squad members.  I didn't wonder about the ravages of war.  The Call of Duty 2 world is empty except for my squad and the clone army of Germans.  What if it was filled with civilians caught in the fight, dying from my haplessly tossed grenade or Rambo charges into a house.  What if the designers were trying to tell me something.  Anything.  War is fun.  I don't care.  But something that made wonder and feel.

Compare that to the first time I saw Saving Private Ryan.  I really spent some time thinking about that film, especially the opening scene.  That was the first time I saw a movie showing WWII like that and it made me think.  Movies are good at doing that.  Platoon or The Deer Hunter are other examples that questioned your assumptions about war.

I watched David Lynch's Mulholland Drive again last night and I am still thinking about that movie.  It's complex and there are a lot of layers to mull over.  It's twisted and days after you see it you find yourself saying "Oh, that's what that means".

Do games do that?  Not to me.  True Art is something that makes you think (and not in the puzzle-solving way) long after you're done with it.  It's something that changes a little bit of who you are.

If we expect Game Journalists to be better, maybe we need to give them something better to be better at being better with.

Other people's comments:

Posted by Whup on Nov 22, 2005 twenty five to five pm

Of course games are art!  Those textures don't draw themselves, you know...

Posted by sloppy joe on Nov 27, 2005 twenty five past two pm

Looks alone doesn't count, it takes more to be "Art" for a game

If looks were everything you could simply wander around at The MET or Louvre or Tate (Modern) or any art gallery/museum and you'd be using your time a lot better. Games are a synthesis of visual impressions, sound, movement, story etc., first when all these elements start to talk with each other in order to reach a given goal you can start to talk about "Art".

If we were to call Games art because of the visuals, we might as well can "Mona Lisa" art because she has hair or that the's there at all or even the fact that she's sitting

Posted by Scuba on Jan 11, 2006 ten to two pm

i agree.. video games are art, there one of the most complex art forms out there. sure theres no deep inner thought or no realization of self actualization, but compare some of the artwork u find in the final fantasy series or even the whole Oddworld series to something Pablo Picasso drew, ud see pablo as a 5 year old scribble artist.

Posted by Scuba on Jan 11, 2006 five to two pm

i forgot.. MGS 1,2,3 and 4 are all forms of artwork, incredible fuckin stories, a sense of loss, its like watching a fuckin movie, u really get into and that game makes u think, sure the story line is fictional but all the facts of nuclear warheads and kids fighting and off the wall shyt like that is true... it really makes u think.

Posted by iain on Nov 22, 2005 quarter to five pm

Games aren't Art.

Art is something produced, and set down on page, on canvas, on the big screen &c.

Games are interactive. The only Art is in the play that comes from the Game.

This isn't very well-put: I will try to explain my thoughts on this better later.

Posted by Whup on Nov 22, 2005 five past five pm

It shouldn't matter whether it is interactive or not.  A book is obviously a form of artwork; is a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book suddenly not art because you have choices of which page to read next?

Posted by nowak on Nov 22, 2005 ten to nine pm

So I assume you're not a fan of installation art and digital art, since, by your strict little definition, it's not art -- just a bunch of things doing stuff for no reason.

Posted by Sven on Nov 23, 2005 five past eight am

Is 'Where is Waldo' art? It challenges you to think about the whereabouts of a certain Waldo.

Posted by Someone on Nov 27, 2005 half past two pm

I can agree to the fact that games aren't art - yet.

But considering the rest of your logic here you rule out post-modernism all together (which might be a good thing), as art might very well be interactive and art today is not limited to a medium, but can just as easily incorporate several or none

Posted by carl@hi-res.net on Nov 22, 2005 ten to five pm

Games are most defiantly Art. Obviously there is a main corporate agenda for these games being made but non the less what about the background ARTISTS, the ILLUSTRATORS the DESIGNERS. It doesn't matter what format the work is if it tries to get across a message or to provoke an emotion.
Well whatever, what do I know anyway!

Posted by Scott on Nov 22, 2005 ten past five pm

I think you are on to something here.  Consider, for example, Shadow of the Colossus.  There were reviews on that game (Play Magazine as an example) that actually discussed how the game can change the way you think about life.  So, evidently, when given a game that actually gives you something to think about, gamers are willing to think about those things (how novel!)

This isn't to say every game 'journalist' would suddenly start writing really insightful thought provoking reviews if they were given the right games, but at least we would be able to weed out the fanboys from the real journalists.

Posted by TJ on Nov 22, 2005 ten past five pm

Have you looked at Brothers In Arms? I only played the demo, but the general comments I overheard were that it tried to imbue a sense of companionship and loss into the aspects of war.

In the demo, at least, I could see where they were going with it and, imperfect as it was, it seemed aimed toward what you describe was missing in Call of Duty 2.

Just a thought.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Nov 22, 2005 twenty five past five pm

I almost picked that up this weekend.  I was a little WWII'd out after CoD2, but maybe I'll grab it since I couldn't find anything else that looks interesting.

Posted by Chrisf on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five past five am

God of War is fun. Like prince of persia SOT without wallrunning and with excellent fights.

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 23, 2005 half past five am

I wouldn't If i were you. I would pick up american mcgee's Alice. Makes you think alot more than Brothers in Arms

Posted by Alan Dennis on Nov 28, 2005 twenty past ten am

I think the Brother's in Arms tries to do that, but it falls just short of actually succeeding. After they die, your fallen comrades somehow come back. Also, you never really interact with them in a meaningful way, especially WHILE the actual game is actually taking place.

I think for this game to have actually had a successful level of companionship, it would have needed gameplay sequences that didn't involve combat. That's what creates companionship in war movies, novels, etc, a lot of the time. Problem is, how do you actually pull that off? It's a lot easier to make the player run around shouting orders and shooting Germans than it is to let them have fun exchanging stories about their wives and children back home over a couple cigarettes and MRE's. But, if we could make that happen, we might actually get to know that nameless dude with the glasses, put a name on him, maybe Frank, and then have a couple reasons or more to try to keep him alive.

Then, of course, as soon as you load your save game to get dead Frank back up and walking, that 4th wall is obliterated along with any illusion of Frank's humanity.

Posted by Alan Dennis on Nov 28, 2005 twenty five past ten am

PS: However, starting the game off with forced failure was one of the riskiest and best moves they could have possibly made. They get serious kudos for that one. I never played to the end, but I hope it wasn't a happy end. Happy endings are a curse in Holywood and a curse in the game industry. Life isn't happy and warm fuzzies are fleeting... yet that's what we get in the end of almost every game. If an ending is supposed to stick, give a bittersweet ending, like Saving Private Ryan, not a ridiculous happy ending like War of the Worlds, or the movie also known as "My Summer Vacation to Boston and the Slight Inconvenience of the Worlds."

Uh oh... I think I'm starting to rant.

Posted by you're using art in a distinct sense on Nov 22, 2005 quarter past five pm

You're using art as a  value judgment. You're ssaying that games aren't 'art' because you don't like or appreciate them as artworks. It's hard to determine something that isn't art because most artifacts tinge some aesthetic sense (and I'm not arguing that artifacts, objects created by a sentient being with a purpose, are the only objects that can be classified as art. Video games are certainly members of the class of objects called art; they just have too many features in common to be denied this classification. You're assertion is flawed if it's supposed to be anything more than a value judgment in which you have considered games to be low quality or inferior art.

Posted by Sean on Nov 22, 2005 quarter past five pm

Computer games are a medium, like novels, film, canvass, paint, bronze, mud, cardboard and crayons.

The most interesting Games As Art are coming from independent Mod communities.  These put the player into the shoes of a protagonist and explore issues (political or otherwise) and emotions.

As controversial examples, have a look at:

Escape from Woomera ? play an illegal immigrant in a detention camp in Australia as they attempt to break out.

9/11 Survivor ? play a person trapped in the World Trade Centre in New York as you try to escape before it collapses.

JFK Reloaded ? play an assassin in the Book Depository as you try to assassinate US President John F Kennedy.

The last two are no longer available.

SME

Posted by tom|rebell.at on Nov 23, 2005 five past five am

these are games that  handle provocative content, they don't really make you think. you say "it's ok" or you say "that's beyond good taste".

to make this things art you would need to start asking yourself while playing, why anyone would become a killer, why is anybody trying to escape from wtc (yeah, there might be something more behind this, than just "he doesn't want to die" - a possible question would be "why are we afraid of death?") and why anone would like to live in australia. you get my point? the game needs to demand answers (and i don't think of answers in a multiple-choice dialogue of course ;)). a game that is somehow close to art would be black & white, because it is refering to your conscience - but I think it doesn't go deep enough - there are too little consequences to your actions in my opinion.

art has got something to do with being provocative, but i think if it is nothing more than provocative, then it is not art. postal 2 is also provocative, but would you consider it to be art?

Posted by Karmillo on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five past seven pm

Yes

Posted by Sean on Nov 25, 2005 five to eleven pm

I've got to disagree with you  tom|rebell.at.

These games may be (on the surface) prevocative,  but they sure hell make you think!

For instance, 9/11 Survivor was motivated not to shock the audience but to get players truly thinking about the footage they see on CNN by putting themselves in the shoes of people who had no choice but to hurl themselves out of the WTC windows.  

Also, the point of Escape from Woomera is not the goal of escaping and living in Australia, but to live for a few hours in the shoes of someone inside a detention centre in Australia.  It's not a happy game; to achieve the goal is really, really hard, and you find yourself getting increasingly disparing at your predicament (and hence develop empathy for the actual people who are in the real-life predicament.)

This isn't to do with shock, not initially designed to be provocative, but instead intended to put the player into the situations they may not ever find themselves to start asking serious questions.

Sean out.

Posted by Brummbar on Nov 22, 2005 five past seven pm

Star Control 2 was "art," to me, because once you found out what was really behind your enemy (the Ur-Quan) you saw them in a whole new light.

Most games journalism/criticism is shit because most games are. It's simply impossible to write "up" to an audience that wants to see things blow up real good!

There is an entire genre of gaming - FPSes, of course - which exists to do nothing but provide lavish visuals to players navigating through a 3D environment engine. What other "meaning" is a reviewer going to uncover from, say, Doom 3? The spectacle is the story.

I do agree with Bob Colayco, though, that it IS all about the games. I don't give a tin shit what Shigeru Miyamoto thinks about the Nanking Massacre. If the man has interesting and insightful observations on history or politics, then fine - but that has very little to do with his being a game designer.

Posted by space ace on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to one pm

star control 2! if that isn't the greatest game, i don't know what is...

Posted by Anthony on Nov 22, 2005 quarter past seven pm

I have to say that I quite agree with the comment. As far as I can tell, video game journalists simply work for the games industry, and are not part of it. That is to say, they build the hype, sell the games, and reaffirm the opinions of fan boys. They rate the simple aesthetics of a game because there are plenty of people in the world who will purchase something based on simple aesthetic value. Who hasn't wanted to buy a game because it looked good?

Video game journalists will continue to work for the industry, instead of being part of it, as long as they keep their hands in advertisers pockets (not that a single journalist would admit to that). Sadly, people still buy in to the hype, and will continue to do so. This hype is part of what I believe will prevent video games from ever reaching the level of being considered "art."

A previous commenter mentioned "Shadow of Colossus." The 'hardcore' gamers have been drooling all over this game for months. It was hyped up the wazoo (though in a different way than, say, Halo 2 was hyped). Because of the development team, gamers knew what to expect: an aesthetically beautiful game with deep emotional value. I can see this game being labeled as "art" by the fan boys for years to come.

It is entirely possible, even likely, that the developer was attempting some higher form of art with the game. It is unfortunate that the publisher took advantage of the developer's good intentions in order to sell more copies. People eat that kind of stuff up, especially the current generation of youngsters looking for any excuse to claim they've "opened their minds." I don't think there is any attitude more closed minded.

Video game developers want to create art. Interactive media is open to possibilities that most people haven't yet considered. At the current growth of non-interactive elements within popular games (see: cut scenes), it is no wonder video games (where interactivity is key) have yet to reach true artistic level.

I have yet to "reflect" on any idea about life presented in a video game. The only people who do reflect on such things are those who have yet to discover the value of other artistic mediums, or those who have yet to discover that they are fully capable of reflection on their own. Perhaps with this in mind, video games do not need to be art. Perhaps with this in mind, developers can focus on exploring the possibilities of the medium, rather than their own personal philosophical agenda.

Maybe when journalists actually critically consider what video games are, they, too, can be part of the industry. Rather than part of the problem.

Posted by Vincent Hamm on Nov 22, 2005 twenty to midnight

Just, bouncing off the Shadow of the Colossus thing.

Quite frankly, the game is nicely done, have greate aesthetics, but in the end, it's mostly a game-play gizmo.
The game got me thinking, sure, but mostly on the mechanics or on the technical aspects of things. Even on a methaphoric way of looking at it, I'm not sure to see how that could change my life. There is just not enough backstory to bare any real consequence for me.

With a more subtle story line, maybe I would have called it 'art', but not this time around...

Posted by Leo Santos on Nov 25, 2005 quarter to two am

I have to disagree with you on that! If you slap the backstory on the viewer's (in this case, the player) face, it kinda stops being art and starts to become....Hollywood!

I loved the subtle way they handled story in both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, leaving it up to the player to fill the blanks, and there's a lot of blanks. You can tell how he knew the "priest" character in the end just by the way he reacts when he sees the warrior, for instance. No explanatory dialog needed. But that, of course, requires some imagination from the viewer, which in my opinion makes the whole thing even more interactive.

As far as gameplay, it's subjective to a certain point. I enjoyed the simplified and focused gameplay on Colossus, to the point of really wanting to resume playing it the next day. I didn't get the same kind of "kick" from San Andreas, for example, although it was still fun to play.

Posted by Vincent Hamm on Nov 25, 2005 half past noon

My point wasn't that the story is too subtle or not. Sure, the story is nicely put on screen, but what I wanted to say is that there is so little of it, that it's difficult (at last for me) to resonate to it.
Spoilers asside, I was kinda waiting for more regarding the nature and purpose of the colossus, the story fall a little flat on that.

In fact, the game story sometime gave me the impression of just beeing an excuse to the gameplay. Like they found out that great gameplay, and tried to find a minimalist story to have that guy in front of colossus... But maybe that's just me.

Still I loved the game, no problem with that, but for me it remains a gameplay thingy.

Posted by Ed Orman on Nov 27, 2005 twenty five to two pm

Here's what Shadow of the Colossus is making me feel: "regret".

I just whacked the tenth colossi, and I'm starting to actually empathise with the poor bastards (truth be told, I felt a little bad after the first one). And the more I take on, the more I'm starting to question my motivations (not the game avatars). But I can't stop doing it.

Now that's all separate to the fact that I'm thinking about the mechanics and how to defeat each monster, I just wanted to point out that there is an emotional reaction to the game, just like I had with ICO (in which I felt "responsbile").

Posted by Queequeg on Nov 26, 2005 ten past midnight

How did you feel, the first time you shot a cop in "Grand Theft Auto"?  I remember feeling horrible at first and then became somewhat desensitized to it.  Pretty soon I was picking off hookers with a sniper rifle from the elevated train tracks and still felt like I shouldn't be doing it.  I guess, the end result is that I can't reconcile my personal moral values with what I do in-game.  Sure, I know its just a game, but its one of the few that made me feel dirty while playing it.  Just an example of a game that forced me to truly examine my position in the proverbial moral spectrum.

Posted by Leo Santos on Nov 26, 2005 half past two am

No Kidding, every time i hit a pedestrian with my car I would say  "Sorry!"!... Heh heh... but even tough the game is able to pull that kind of emotional reaction, its story/gameplay didn't suck me in.

I'm playing X-men 2 now, and the same thing is happening. It's not bad, but I'd rather watch someone play than play it myself. It's interesting how these games fell less "well directed" than games I truly like, and it's also interesting we don't use the term "Game Director".

Posted by Gavan Woolery on Nov 22, 2005 ten past eight pm

Games are a very complicated medium, I would have to argue that they are THE most complicated medium -- among all the current entertainment mediums at least.  Before we decide to throw all games into one category and determine whether or not games in general are ?art,? I think it is wiser to recognize that games fall into multiple forms, or combinations of forms.  An article on Gamasutra (http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20050426/hejdenberg_pfv.htm) points out the following four:

1. Competition
Activities where players use their skill to overcome the challenge that their opponents offer. The pleasure lies in developing your skills to outmaneuver the opposition. Football and chess are examples of such activities.
2. Chance
Activities where elements of chance can have an impact on the outcome of the game. The pleasure lies in finding ways to minimize the impact of the element of chance, and the excitement of trying to guess the outcome. Games that are based on chance can also give players the illusion of being able to control or foresee the future. Slot machines and lotteries are examples of such activities.
3. Vertigo
Activities that alters the state of mind by disrupting the normal perception of the world, resulting in a pleasurable state of dizziness. Roller coaster rides and skydiving are examples of such activities.
4. Make-Believe
Activities where we create alternate realities in which we are not bound by the constraints of the real world. The pleasure lies in assuming various characteristics and abilities that we do not possess in our normal life. In this state of make-believe we can feel as if we actually possessed the powers of what we have chosen to assimilate. Role-playing, theatre and reading books are examples of such activities.

Additionally, as Raph Koster (now famously) pointed out, fun from games comes primarily from pattern learning (which involve much of the former types 1 and 2).

I think a game like Pac Man is a very different experience from, say, the aforementioned Star Control 2.  Both are works of art, but in very different respects.  Pac Man is a ?work of art? because of its simple, yet incredibly addictive and entertaining properties (I still pump quarters into the arcade machine when I can find them).  Star Control 2 is a work of art because (many gamers would agree), it is able to draw a wide variety of emotions from its audience?the game successfully allows players to suspend their belief (to some degree) that they are ?just playing a game,? and causes them to believe that they are a starship captain engaging in conversations with alien races that will determine the fate of the universe.  I think that games are one of the least understood mediums, and we have yet to unlock their true potential as an art form.  Some people argue that this is not the case?games have been around for over 30 years now and they have not changed much in concept since their inception.  I think that this is not because they don?t have room to change, but that because we have come to accept certain genres and tend to only develop within those genres.  I think one important factor that we tend to overlook in unlocking this potential is the development of more sophisticated programming languages and more sophisticated development tools.  I think this is far more important than the development of faster hardware?in fact, I think faster hardware is doing little more than raising the costs and times of development, because of the greater potential it allows.  I think that these factors make game development one of the most exciting mediums of artwork, because there is so much left to explore and invent.

Posted by Noexes on Nov 22, 2005 twenty five to nine pm

Yes, you're right Ron. Now get on that.

Posted by psu on Nov 22, 2005 ten to nine pm

my thoughts on this, or something close to it

http://www.tgr.com/weblog/archives/000497.html

Posted by thedigitalmonkey on Nov 22, 2005 five to nine pm

First I just want to throw out there the one game I played that fit into an aforementioned definition of "art"- that left me caring about the characters and thinking about the nature of human beings after I played it.  Oddworld Stranger's Odyssey.

  Games are art, but they are commercial art.  Like an ingeniously designed print ad for a VW Bug, or a commercial film like the Incredibles.  (Perhaps commercial films to a lesser extent.)  These things may or may not play on your emotions or get you thinking, (more likely not) and they may or not rely on strong creative forces creating aesthetically pleasing elements (more likely so) but even if artistic expression is a driving force behind them, it is not the only one.  Entertainment products, commercial art, have the key different of being at least partially motivated by commercial success/financial gains.

  And the line blurs further than that.  For the most part, more "traditional" artists (fine artists, painters let's say) are in no way driven by commercial forces, and are not expecting to make money from their art.  And if they don't make any, they will continue to make art any way.  Art is a selfish thing, in a way, artists are creative people motivated by an internal need to externalize their feelings and express their creativity.  If they share these creations with others, they then become open to many interpretations, perhaps striking strong but very different emotional chords with some, and have no effect on others.  We need to also consider that some of the great masters of the past that fine artists look up to were indeed financially motivated, making their living solely by their art, doing things on a comissioned basis...is Great Expectations less valuable as literature because it's length is a result of the author being paid by the page?  I'm not sure.

  Interactivity doesn't classify something as art or not.  There are a new breed of "fine" artists who are using technology in their expressions, to the level of computer driven interactive installations.  (Visit the Bitforms gallery in New York City.)  Personally I view most of these "digital fine artists" as very lacking and question their artistic merit, but art critics don't feel that way.

  I could keep ranting but I'll stop there.  Curious about reactions though.

Posted by Giacomo on Nov 23, 2005 quarter past two am

Sir, you are making no sense at all :)

Posted by peterb on Nov 22, 2005 twenty past nine pm

Do I get to observe that game programmers aren't real software engineers?

Anyway, because I can't  resist whoring my own stuff, it is true that most game reviews suck.  

But not mine or psu's.  And if he's whoring his link on the subject, I'll whore mine:

http://www.tgr.com/weblog/archives/000496.html

Posted by The_Raven on Nov 22, 2005 twenty five past nine pm

Sadly, I don't have much to add to this subject passed what has already been said but I'll take a stab anyway.

As others have said. I find that games have to potential to be art but most of the games (from my understanding) are a product of corporations (publishers) trying to squeeze every dime out of a game in hopes that it will be a success to fuel their next inevitable failures. Then you have developers who would like to build something interesting but are under constant economic pressure to deliver something their publisher will approve. Making most games to be the movie equivalent of summer popcorn flicks. This accompanied by the fact that tools need to be written/rewritten or licenced for each generation, some of which will not fit the job properly, that you may be able to use them once or twice before the hardware companies push out their latest tech that your encouraged to adopt so you don't look "bad" in terms of the competition and miss out on the people who will buy a game based on looks alone :( Let's face it the tools of film making (camera, editing, etc..) haven't really changed that much over the years, it's just the tricks you can do with it.

Outside of this you have a people trying to push the bar forward instead of just prettier but in the end you are still working with a medium that's in its infancy and that's completely different from other mediums (its interactive). So when you try to use the standard literary rules you end up with stuff like the overabundance of cutscenes or games we're you are quite literaly pulled forward from the end of a rope.

In all the mediums there will be mostly fluff but there will be some gems that stand out from the crowd. It just might take a while until those gems can be made. Now computer games are usually compared to comic books and I think this situation still holds true. I'm unaware how long it took comic books to come out with "art" but I wouldn't be surprised if it took a while.

Well I guess I just bumped around alot in the dark but I hope added something to the discusion.

Posted by Mike on Nov 22, 2005 half past nine pm

As an art student I agree that art doesn't mean what's necessarily the visual art in the game, also there are art objects that are interactive in that there's actually a whole school in Italy devoted to making pieces based entirely on interaction: http://www.interaction-ivrea.it/en/about/theinstitute/index.asp

As far as games are concerned there have been plenty of games that lingered around. So far they almost all have been pc games. I think one of the things that people forget is the huge difference between console and computer games. To me that difference is a physical one in that when you're playing a computer game you're usually isolated and more immersed physically from where you're sitting in relation to what you're doing. It's easier to lose yourself in something you're two feet awa from rather than something you're sitting seven feet away from. There seems to be a lot less chances of distraction when playing a game alone.

The earliest instance of a game sticking with me that I can remember was Monkey Island 1 or 2 and all it was the sound of the water hiting the docks. To this day a small part of me wishes I really could be there. This sort of experience I'd liken to a really good book where you forget who you are and all your troubles. The escapist fantasy I suppose.

The other instance I remember at the moment came after playing Deus Ex and it relates to how the game kept me guessing and manipulated me in the decisions I made. It wasn't so much what the game was literally about but moreso that a game could make me doubt my decisions. I sort of feel the designers give a little too much irrelevant detail and plot twists that do all the thinking for the gamer. Maybe a little more ambiguity is needed for us to fill in the blanks. Sorry that this is a bit disjointed I really should leave work and go home to sleep.

Posted by Pixelante De La Mancha on Nov 22, 2005 twenty to ten pm

You really need to play God of War, grumpy.  It has that Saving Private Ryan moment for you. No really.

Posted by Chrisf on Nov 23, 2005 five to six am

I presume you're talking about the boobies bit(s)?

Posted by Mel. on Nov 22, 2005 twenty five to eleven pm

A lot of good points being put out there, but none of them really seem to intersect Jaffe's original beef with the gaming media: namely, that they're a bunch of frat-geek assholes who are under constant pressure to maintain close mafia ties with publishers. Not ALL of them. But a good-sized majority of those with the power of the press in the gaming medium are nothing more than glorified fanboys on the cram, stuffing their faces and opinions down the throat of the public. They spend MONTHS hyping a game (I'm looking at you, IGN) only to turn around and string up a crummy review for the title when it drops, often slagging the same junk they were so keen on mere weeks before.

It's also political. These guys shit on a poorly-made title, it feasibly strains the relationship with the maker, and they loose footing in the rat race for exclusives, interviews, so on and so forth. THQ, the second-largest third party publisher in the console scene, has become NOTORIOUS for pulling this bullshit on their media constituency, specifically with the internet arm. Since ads move print on the 'web and on shop shelves, losing out on this stuff presents a conflict of interest; so the raw hype has to continue. It's a modern payola paradigm, and has cheapened an already novel 'journalism' area into further obscurity.

Just go to e3 and work a few junkets. For every earnest guy trying to tell a story, there's at least three or four jackholes with rockstar delusions behaving as though they're doing YOU a favor. It's absurd. Especially for anyone who's seen the same garbage in any 'legitimate' media.

As for Jaffe himself, whatever. The guy's become the "It" boy for one brilliantly-made game after a fairly mediocre career, and has parlayed it into being a sounding board for all kinds of inane shit. The rant he went on before this one was some hackneyed argument about how Best Buy's sale of previously-owned games was somehow going to "fucking kill the industry", and was soundly drubbed by his blog supporter corps. He's been handed a little leverage, and is hell-bent on getting every last drop of gas that he can out of it. Cazart. It's just the geeks with guns syndrome.

Until Ron returns to the scene like Aragorn, we'll be saddled with bastard pretenders getting handjobbed by the media. Everyone loves a clown, and moreso with an asshole who will provide soundbites and rambling game award acceptance speeches.

Posted by David Jaffe on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five past ten am

Mel, I thought we were buds to some extent. Seems not.

Also, do you know what the word 'hackneyed' means? From my understanding it means overused and cliched. If my argument against used games is- as you describe it- 'hackneyed' it may very well indicate that I am not the only one to embrace this view.

As for being hell bent on getting every last drop of gas out of some leverage...I was blogging and posting to boards long before GOD OF WAR came out. I'm not calling up G4 and IGN and asking them to cover my shit. That is something they do on thier own. I am sorry if the games you make (what are they again?) and the ideas you have (sorry you can't figure out how to make a FPS with some emotional kick) are not worthy of any readers or coverage. Maybe you should just try harder. Or stick to wraslin' ?

But in all honesty, I do apologize for having an opinion different from yours. And I'm sorry you didn't like my acceptance speech. Maybe if you ever are allowed to give one (i.e. you know, do some work someone gives a shit about) you can show me how it's done?

Thanks.

David

Posted by Mel. on Nov 23, 2005 quarter to eleven am

LMAO. At least you managed to get it out there without sinking into the usual gangsta chatter, man. Much appreciated. :D

As for the wrasslin', I'll definitely stick with it. After trying to learn something about what it takes to make great games at the knee of the current gaming design gurus such as yourself, I've come to the solid conclusion that I'd rather spend a lifetime languishing in indie-studio obscurity than become the alternative.

So, thanks.

And really, I bought your fucking game. That entitles me to say whatever the hell I want to about it, you, Kratos, the industry at large, and whatever other involved parties happen to cross my mind. We're constituents, mijo. Not friends. Not nearly. And while I'm flattered that you read my blog, freedom of speech isn't somehow outsourced to those giving handjobs to Sony and bragging on about their starfucking run-ins with local celebrities in Los Angeles.

Live it, learn it, carry on.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Nov 23, 2005 ten to eleven am

Everyone be nice, or I'm going to whip out the SQL cheat-sheet and start deleting posts.

Heated constructive criticism (even some shouting) is OK, but no personal attacks.

Posted by David Jaffe on Nov 23, 2005 ten to eleven am

I never said you were not entitled to your opinion, Mel. I was just a bit bummed that you seem to think I am not entitled to mine.

But you may be right. Maybe in order to be allowed to speak your mind you need to have purchased the game of the person you are insulting. And with those rules in place, maybe I should shut the hell up as I can promise you I have NEVER purchased a game you have worked on.

But stupid insults aside, I really did think we had some common ground. I really do try to be a nice guy who just happens to have strong opinions. I am sorry that doesn't work for you as I do think you have some pretty good ideas and thoughts from time to time. Ah well, I can admire your skillz from afar.

David

ps. as for the star dropping issue, dude, sorry you are too cool to get phased when Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are hanging out right next to you. But I happen to think it's pretty cool. I don't run in thier circles and never said I did. I just bumped into them...sheesh!

Posted by Mel. on Nov 23, 2005 five past eleven am

Oh. And this.

hackneyed

adj : repeated too often; overfamiliar through overuse; "bromidic sermons"; "his remarks were trite and commonplace"; "hackneyed phrases"; "a stock answer"; "repeating threadbare jokes"; "parroting some timeworn axiom"; "the trite metaphor `hard as nails'" [syn: banal, commonplace, old-hat, shopworn, stock(a), threadbare, timeworn, tired, trite, well-worn]

The usage was obscure, and I apologize for the confusion. My point was really the whole open-pulpit "OH WOE IS ME POOR JOHNNY MILLION-SELLING GAME MIGHT LOSE PROFITS TO SOME OUTSIDE MOTION" approach that came off as banal.

It is an utterly unique viewpoint-I gotta give you that-but it doesn't stop the dull old cliche of the guy on top sounding off in defense of his wallet, when only the gaming public (As you referred to them, the "fucking people whining about games being fifteen hours long", or something similar) stands to lose or gain substantially by the proposed change in Best Buy's business plan.

We see this with Valente, we see it with the music industry, we see it with actors, we see it again and again and again and while it's nice to finally have a representative in our own industry, it doesn't stop it from being a load of pretentious horse shit. Someone already bought the game, selling it back so it can be RESOLD AGAIN doesn't exactly constitute the doomsday howl of an industry in decline. This isn't the MPAA ranting on piracy as a legitimate loss of revenue, it's you inexplicably RAVING your ass off about something that's been featured at the EB Games and eBays of the world for more than a DECADE now.

Seriously. What in the fuck was the point, man?

Hope that clears it up. You're very, very welcome. :)

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Nov 23, 2005 quarter past eleven am

Not to throw fuel on this fire, but the issue with used games is how much places like EB are charging for them.  This is a gold-mine for these stores and all the money is going to them, not back to the Publishers and/or Developers so they can make more games.  If Best Buy and EB were selling these things cheaply, I would not have a problem, but I do have a problem when someone else is make money over and over again on my game and I can't afford to fund the next one.  

It's not about being greedy, it's about staying in business.

Posted by Mel. on Nov 23, 2005 twenty to noon

Then I postulate the question, Ron: what are plausible alternatives for the gaming public?

We invest fifty dollars in a title that's seldom worth it, and barring a compelling replay hook or multiplayer/online facet, the game is through. It's exactly the syndrome that you're touching on with your reflections on Call of Duty 2; once it's done, it's done. Even a magnificent piece of work like God of War (And let's not mince around or get the wrong idea, I'll gladly bloody anybody's face who wants to argue otherwise) will eventually become emotionally obsolete, something to clutter up the shelves alongside old cassette tapes and VHS videos.

So, as a gamer, the only option to recoup something on that investment is to sell the sucker back. The industry itself makes no provisions for this; they just oversaturate the market with copycat software, and then expect some strong and nebulous kind of emotional attachment to the games that will keep them in player's hands?

This intersects all kinds of typical complaints-indeed, games as high art, the duty of the game-buying public as consumers, the industry's responsibility to come through with solid apps-but I can't get behind the idea that Best Buy is some Nazi entity for picking up on a practice that's been LONG employed by other outlets, as was a major assertion of the original post in question. Likewise, I can't hold the public responsible for taking advantage of the only option being laid out for them: hang onto an old game with zero replay value until it's worthless, or sell while they can parlay some of the proceeds back into a new title?

I sincerely appreciate the sentiments at hand, but villifying anyone in the gamer community or Best Buy isn't providing alternatives. Not like I've got any, but there you have it.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Nov 23, 2005 five to noon

I think games should cost $14.95, like a DVD does.  I walk into peoples houses and they have rows and rows of DVD's that they bought, watched a couple of times for a grand total of 4 hours of entertainment and they are happy with their purchase.

$50 for a game is stupid.  I believe that if all games cost sub-$19, the industry would make more money.  People would buy more games on impulse and they might be more willing to take a chance on something different as well.

Problem is, consumers still equate price with quality, so you don't want to be the first to lower your price or you'll be seen as sub-standard.

VHS tapes used to cost $80 each, but the price slowly came down over the last 20 years.

Posted by space ace on Nov 23, 2005 twenty to one pm

well, in the past few years, games did become shorter! it's true

Posted by Ike on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to eight pm

That would be absolutely brilliant.  I hope someone uncovers a business model that would allow for this (and not a Steam-like or micro-payments system, you don't even really own the game under that model -- it's going to be hard to go back and enjoy those games once they are past their prime).

It pays to be a year behind the trend though.  I get all my GC games new for $20 if I wait until everyone is sick of them:

Eternal Darkness, Viewtiful Joe, Metroid Prime [2], etc, had to get Zelda right when it came out and I dunno how much longer I can wait for RE4 though (it's down to $40)

Though this only really works for the casual gamer.

Posted by Paul Herzberg on Nov 24, 2005 twenty five past four am

One of the other things with DVDs, or at least it seems to me, is a DVD takes up a third of the shelf space of a video cassette. This means that a store can hold up to three times as many titles in the same space, which seems to have made for more choice in HMV, or where ever.

And it seems to have gone that way. To the point where, because there's more choice people are buying more and more of the store is given over to stocking a wider and wider range of DVDs.

I was a little shocked to see how many TV programs are anthologised on DVD now. It used to be Buffy and Star Trek, now you can get programmes you've never heard of or stuff you have heard of but can't see why they'd bother, soaps and such.

The there's something, to get back to Ron's point here, called the Fifty Quid Bloke. On a friday after work he'll pop to the shops and pick up a DVD and a CD or two, maybe a book, and then spend the journey home figuring out how to explain to his girlfriend, or whatever, why he just spent Fifty Quid on a bunch of random stuff. If you could bring games down to the point where they're an impulse purchase like this, then chances are you will sell much more.

Posted by Edmundo on Nov 25, 2005 quarter past midnight

New DVD's are costing more than ever by the way, they're at $22 at the store, though in Amazon they're still $18. CD's are now $13 at least, and I reember when a lot of them were $11. Why are old technologies costing more?

They're doing that Razor and Baldes business model with games, and it's complete bullshit like those damn print cartridges. I have a multifunction printer and it's cheaper for me to buy a new multifunction than to buy both the color and black cartridges for that piece of junk.

Posted by Jeff Houser on Nov 28, 2005 twenty to seven pm

CDs used to be $17.99 or $18.99.  A while back most of them dropped to $12.99 to help combat on-line piracy (Although they were a quite a bit late on that).

It doesn't surprise me that the price went up again w/ the recent flux in gasoline prices (and as such, shipping)

Posted by ro on Nov 25, 2005 quarter to two am

Ron, very good point about the $15 per game. Sometimes I browse the shelves at EB Games, Best Buy and Co., thinking: wow, if this game was only $20, I'd buy it and give it a shot. Also, $20 is what most of the games I buy via eBay cost ... that way I manage my disappointment about a game better ... and don't have any problems at all should they be a bit shorter.

Posted by Paalikles on Nov 25, 2005 ten to one pm

Very interesting line of thoughts there.

Economic theory says that it may be right - but you would have to be fairly certain about price elasticity of demand to pull off that (in theory).

Unfortunately, theoretical calculation is not easily transformed into practice.


Which is scary for an economics student - too much theory and too little action.

Hold me.

It is probably likely however, that risk aversion among publishers is key here. It is better to demand a fairly high price (after market examination), in case demand suddenly is reduced. So even though/if lower prices tend to increase demand, that is more of a gamble from the supply side.


I find it somewhat odd though, that price still equals quality in a consumer's eyes. Increased access to information (internet...) for consumers should enable for more close "analysis" of whether a price "fits" a product's quality. Well, you have already talked about it in the main post - that gaming journalists are fanboys - so not much help there.

Posted by on Dec 29, 2005 twenty five past nine am

I'm all for cheaper games naturally, but for PC gamers the pricetag on the game is only part of the cost. The constant improvements in graphics and realism adds to constantly rising demands on the hardware which need to be  continually upgraded the cost of which easily outdoes the prices of the games themselves. With DVD's and DVD players there's no such problem.

Posted by Jeff Houser on Nov 28, 2005 twenty to seven pm

The music industry went through this same thing when some places started carrying used CDs.  

I have mixed feelings about it all the way around.

Posted by David Jaffe on Nov 23, 2005 half past eleven am

The used games issue is a very serious issue facing the games biz and it is unfortunate that I don't have the writing skills to properly explain the significance of it. Maybe Ron could chime in on his thoughts ?

But from my viewpoint, it has nothing to do with: oh woe is me, I won't be able to buy my 5th beach house in Malibu (not that I could afford a single beach house in Malibu to begin with). But instead, it has to do with the fact that the game industry is not protecting itself and putting policy in place that protects us from a way of buying games (i.e used) that is- understandably- so appealing to consumers that they are choosing the used route (of which we see no cash) over the new game route more and more...eventually this practice will hurt the business overall and force companies out of business and key games to not be made at all.  This is my concern. And I'm sorry: I don't think 15 hours for 50 bucks is a bad deal...but lots of gamers who are demanding 40 hours for 50 bucks seem to think it is....but this is only because some games DO provide 40 hours for 50 bucks (a little over a dollar/hour of entertainment) and it puts the games that do not in a bad light...but certain games can not and should not be that long....imagine a 40 hour Monkey Island game! It would take 5 years to make something like that!

So anyway, while I appreciate the drama of you painting the issue in the light of 'greedy developer vs. poor old consumer' this is not the case and not my viewpoint. I grew up with no cash and I know how 50 bucks is ALOT of money and how special it can be to buy a game. So I think games should be cheaper and better and people should be able to always play a level or so before they buy....I want to make the consumer happy. I am a consumer myself, you know.

But wanting to make the consumer happy is different from wanting to allow the consumer to rape me and put me out of business. Most other healthy businesses have practices in place that are there to support the business/money making end of the process (this is why you can't rent MS WORD from Blockbuster or why movie studios put a film out on DVD after it has completed its run in the theater)....why should games not take on a similar practice/stance?

End of the day, the issue is moot as digital distribution IS coming and will put the game retailer out of business eventually. So maybe they are just getting thiers while they can?

David

Posted by Mel. on Nov 23, 2005 twenty to two pm

Alright, now that the charred flesh is starting to cool a bit, let me clarify a few things: first off, I may have misinterpreted the sentiment of the original post in question. As I read it, I saw an attack on the gaming public and marketing apparatus by a MAJOR figure in the gaming industry without anything resembling a potential solution for the issue; I'm not going to recast myself as the misunderstood asshole, but I couldn't sit well with that.

But let's get the nines straight. Regardless of my personal opinions regarding David Jaffe, Celebrity Designer (Not YOUR words Jaf, clearly, but the bastard media gaming's construct of you), I don't bear animosity in ANY form towards David Jaffe, the shitaround guy. I agree with the majority of the points you make. I STRONGLY respect your work. I get a kick out of the breezy flavor of your blog.

However, unfortunately, when it comes to major topics like this, it's not a matter of reading as such: "Oh, there's David. He's got an opinion." Your voice has a massive echo, Jaf, and it's hard as hell to be objective about what appears to be a slap in the face of fans who don't feel that fifteen hours of gameplay is worth fifty bucks when the guy speaking on it is Designer of the Year with a million-selling game under his belt. I don't cast you in the role of moustache-twirling corporate supervillian intentionally-and I do apologize if it seemed thusly-but there is that stigma of success surrounding everything you do and put out there. It's a sticky knife that cuts both ways; the media criticism (Which, I might point out, I couldn't agree with more) gets major notice and discussion, but the thornier subjects such as the general sickness of the industry take on a weird shape.

Whether you asked for it or not, you ARE the relevent game designer out there right now. Outspoken pricks like me must kowtow to that when forming their opinions, regardless of the guy behind the image being projected over our heads. What may be an honestly angry bitchfest (God knows I'm not going to criticise a man's right to rave) to you comes off as gospel to 'us'. It isn't fair and I wouldn't wish it upon myself for all the chips in Jersey, but it is the dynamic of success.

So if you feel as though I shit on your opinions out of spite for you as a person, I really do apologize. That was never my intention. I just wanted to wave the banner of contrary rage, and probably misconstrued what lay behind all the smoke and mirrors in the process. Those with opinions need someone to opine off of, and it's usually the biggest boar in the woods at any given moment. Journalism instincts die hard.

As for the digital distribution theory, I don't think you could be more right. The fact that Greg Costikyan seems to actually be making headway in his crazy-ass mission to make a respectable, unified online storefront for the PC market (With clear console conotations, given the increasingly computeresque nature of the next-gen systems) has to be causing a few publishers in the know to be crapping themselves. They'd have to be drunk at the stern to not see just how sick the industry's become, and I'm sure there's a sense of desperation to push things to the snapping point before the whole mess (righteously) collapses.

Which does tie nicely into Ron's sentiments. Namely, that once the layers and layers of fat and gristle that have accumulated on the carcass of the marketing machine are stripped away by online distribution, prices will HAVE to drop as the playing field is levelled. Peanuts studios like mine will have a legitimate chance to pipe out software alongside the THQs of the world, and those with unique ideas and design acumen will have a chance to get their stuff out there without selling their souls to a publisher.

Or not. In any case, something WILL give. Hopefully, the fallout will present some sustainable solutions for these issues.

Posted by David Jaffe on Nov 23, 2005 ten to four pm

Mel,

I appreciate your words and yes, you are right, I need to learn that maybe some see my thoughts in a different light than I do. For me, I'm just ranting and sharing thoughts and ideas on the net, along with the rest of ya'll. I don't think my ideas are any more important than anyone else's....and alot of that may come from the fact that I feel I've just been lucky and anyday folks are gonna realize that very fact.

But I really do just feel like a guy who posts on the net just like everyone else....maybe I should rethink that position when posting something with the potential to piss folks off...either way, thanks for the heads up and I'm glad we reached some sort of center point where we don't have to hate each other. I really do dig your thoughts and posts and think we need more of that kind of stuff out there when it comes to games.

Gotta run get ready for the holidays. Not sure if you are in America or not, but if you are, have a great holiday.

See ya!

David

Posted by Mel. on Nov 23, 2005 twenty past five pm

I am, and I shall, and you be sure and do the same. Peace.

Oh. And Ron, if you haven't returned to the padded cell under the house, have a great holiday yourself. :)

Posted by Karmillo on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to eight pm

I love happy endings

Posted by Brummbar on Nov 25, 2005 half past two pm

Mel,

As regards games journalism in general, I think you're spot on.


From where I sit, the gaming press is overrun with fanboys who are not journalists or critics; they're cheerleaders. Like carnival barkers - Step Right Up, Little Lady! - their job is to hype the coolness of the Gamer Thing at the expense of, and often the total exclusion of, any kind of skepticism, taste or discernment.

The popular music press went through a similar thing with "payola" and disc jockeys, but this is even worse because nobody NEEDS to sell out - they just go along willingly as the self-appointed print auxiliary of the gaming industry.

Posted by Mel. on Nov 25, 2005 twenty five past six pm

Brumm,

Dead-on. I've often fallen back on the issue of payola as a fixing point during my sloppy ramblefests over the issue of so-called "gaming journalism", particularly due to the historical importance of the federal crackdown on it. The government's spanking of those indulging in under-the-table incentives forced accountability on both the marketeers and those who were bribing them, and changed the landscape of what had become a pretty rotten and sorry medium.

However, the unfortunate rub for the gaming industry is that-despite clearing something like 14 billion dollars in annual sales-it's still considered a kiddy-pool market run by, catered to, and kept afloat by young idiots. The only time it crosses over into some kind of adult regard by the "serious" media (See: those who earned their spots on the bench through experience, industry skullduggery or getting the proper degree) is when a village moron like Jack Thompson uses his stroke to gain sensationalist headlines, or some kid tries to ride his skateboard off a five-story building and then blames Neversoft. Big mouths and stupid kids doing dumb shit make for good headlines, but nobody on Capitol Hill or CBC seems to give a damn what's going on with the gaming industry and media during the other 40-some newsweeks of the year.

Which is good for business. It's going to be a black and ridiculous day when and if the tide ever changes, and some poor editor of a major rag or site becomes the poster boy for insider corruption. I don't see it happening anytime soon, but damn. If that day comes, I'll buy everyone popcorn and a front-row seat. :)

Posted by Brummbar on Nov 26, 2005 eleven pm

Mel,

Good point about the "kiddy pool."

It seems that, unlike the outright payments of the payola era, this is more    of a barter system: The developer and publisher give the gaming 'journalist' access to insider info, screenshots and other preview fodder as well as a sort of backstage pass to a very cool media and hobby subculture.

In return, the 'journalist' understands that he is to maintain an overall positive and uncritical stance in order to retain his coveted Insider status.  While there might not be an outright quid-pro-quo of demanding a good review score for Game X, the overall effect is that nobody wants the party to stop and therefore any criticism and industry watchdogging is kept to a minimum - with the exception of certain designated whipping-boy titles that occasion a critical pile-on.

This also explains the totally out of control Preview Hype situation. Gaming mags and sites lavish almost orgasmic praise on the Hot New Thing - Coming Soon! World Exclusive Screenshots! - because no matter how bad the actual, finished product is they can always say "Hey, who knew? It looked great when WE saw it..."

Then after a perfunctory one-page review that writes off the very same title which the mag or site spent the last year deifying, it's on to the next Hot New Thing!

I think you and I can agree, Mel, that this is no accident. Greg Costikyan has pointed out that the key sales period for most titles is two weeks after the launch; not enough time for negative reviews to sink in (unless the game is a screw-up of Ultima 9ish proportions, in which case bad press and word of mouth precede it like a shockwave) but long enough to cash in on the Preview Hype from the gaming press prior to the release.

Posted by Oscaruzzo on Nov 22, 2005 twenty five to midnight

Me, I found only ONE game who actually made me "think" even when I finished it, and that game was "Torment", an RPG, where everything was built around the "philosophical" question "what can change the nature of a man"; and the game itself didn't give any answer, it just encouraged you to thing about the question from many different point of views.

Now, it's not that every time I play I like to be challenged into deep ethycal/moral/pilosophical thinking, but SOMETIMES that can be "inspiring".

Posted by immortalYemeth on Nov 23, 2005 ten past noon

Jupp... Planescape: Torment was 'art'.
Tons of text and dialogue, fun and philosophical, emotional...

Posted by Queequeg on Nov 26, 2005 twenty five past midnight

Don't forget Katamari Damacy.  Questions about materialism, and why the heck do we need all this stuff?  Doodads, trinkets, googaws, collectible Diablo figurines, etc..  After that game, I became a Buddhist.

Posted by Jurie Horneman on Nov 23, 2005 midnight

Ron, why did the scene with the women with the big breasts in Saving Private Ryan make you think so much?

(Yes yes, I stole that little insight from William Goldman. I'm saving more substantial comments for Intelligent Artifice. I've got my own Paris Hiltons to get rid of.)

Posted by hitoro on Nov 23, 2005 twenty past midnight

Pikmin has changed the way I get rid of these little bugs running inside my house. I don't use insecticide but prefer to catch these little fellows and release them in the nature or use vinegar to keep them at a safe distance. As Metroid Prime series learned me, blasting them is useless, they keep coming anyway.

Posted by hitoro on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to two am

As Ron said, Art doesn't provide an answer but setup a place where thinking is possible. Moreover, Art, unlike games, stays in a unfinished and undefined state, just like Mulholland Drive doesn't really end but is a window on a never ending story. Imagine the outrage if games were going to be delivered in such state. One could argue that games like GTA are unfinished, but they are not: the respawning model is itself a finished state. Kill people, destroy cars, and after a while you will see the same assets running around.

Current games look like these early-19th century nationalist paintings where the subject is shown in all its glory with a inexhaustible level of details but they are indeed very thin on content. Oh, they look amazingly ugly too, just like the next-gen games. Painting really got interresting when photography was discovered and the need for photoreallistic rendering vanished. Painting became a way to render the reality from inside the soul. Other forms of Art are playing with reality as well, uncovering what is important, hiding what's not. It is all about the representation, not the reproduction.

MMORPG has a potential to deliver some interesting mind-bending content but nothing will happen unless such games allow to upload content and modify the rules. WoW is incredibly poor compared to play sets made by children with toys and bricks.

Posted by polysign on Nov 23, 2005 ten past two am

"Art is the imperfect use, of an imperfect medium" - Oscar Wilde

Posted by polysign on Nov 23, 2005 ten past two am

Whoops, mistyped it ;)

"Art is the perfect use, of an imperfect medium" - Oscar Wilde

Posted by Giacomo on Nov 23, 2005 twenty past two am

Is pop music not art? Of course it is. So what's the problem with "pop games"?

The real problem is that producing good art is relatively cheap, while producing videogames tends to be expensive and technically not trivial... Once this problem is solved, commoditizing the production tools (and reusable game engines are a good step in the right direction), you'll see more and more "concept", "artsy" games.

Posted by Jochen Jockers on Nov 23, 2005 half past three am

Hi Ron!
i totally understand your point when you say: "games aren't art" and "there is no game that made me really think about xyz...".
But I'd like to narrow that statement to pc games. There were many PC games I liked and I had much fun playing them. But there is no game that left a lasting impression or even made me think. But on my Playstation 2 I played a lot of games that really impressed me.
There are some games which could be condidered as "art": REZ, ICO and the upcoming games OKAMI and Shadow of the Colossus.
Some games left long lasting impressions due to their great and very emotional stories: Every Final Fantasy game!

Posted by Gabez on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to four am

I'd really recomend both Deus Ex and The Last Express for great games that have an effect on you. At least, they had a profound effect on me, and that's the reason I keep playing them again and again like I keep watching old classic films that I like.

Posted by David Thomsen on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to five am

This doesn't belong here, but I'm irritated enough to comment on the link to Penn's atheism rant you posted. Penn begins with:

"I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God."

Uh, no. He's confusing Atheism with Agnosticism. Penn is, in fact, an Atheist. Atheists believe there is no God. Penn doesn't transcend Atheism in any way.

Yeah, sorry, but people who write essays without having first researched the terms used in the article really get up my nose.

I'm not just a pedant. I'm beyond pedantry.

Posted by John E. on Nov 28, 2005 quarter past three pm

I'm sorry to quibble this becasue you're right, Penn doesn't really know what he's talking about.  Yet, Penn is not making an agnostic statement.  The literal meaning of agnostic is one who holds that some aspect of reality is unknowable. Therefore, an agnostic is not simply someone who suspends judgment on an issue, but rather one who suspends judgment because he feels that the subject is unknowable and therefore no judgment can be made.  I feel agnostism does not adequetly describe his thesis since he does not indicate that he believes that knoweldge of the devine is impossible.

Sure, my family and friends said it was a waste of time and money but my degreee in philosophy has finally payed off.

Posted by David Thomsen on Nov 30, 2005 ten to four am

I knew I was correcting an error with an error when I posted that, but I couldn't find a better word than 'agnosticism' for what I was trying to say...

I didn't complete my degree in Philosophy. I thought that English Literature would be more useful for finding a job with... ha ha...

Posted by Oded Sharon - Buy A Car For Ron Gilbert on Nov 23, 2005 five to five am

Do games make you think about them after you've played them ? Yes !
The game I most distinctivly remember doing that is... (what a suprise) Monkey Island 2.

After the first time I finished the game i couldn't stopped thinking about the whole ending !
Are Guybrush and LeChuck are those two kids and the whole two games I played were just a dream ? What was that sinister LeChuck look at the end ? What's going on ?
It kept me going to ages, until they brought up CMI and well... made up a new story line.
But that's ancient history, I can tell you again, to go play Beyond good and evil. That game had the best story i've seen in recent games. And it too made me both cry and ponder afterwards. And, it the game deals with freedom of the press !

Anyways don't lose hope. Games, when done properly, can and should have a moral impact on our society, like i'm sure that about 99% of the movie hollywood makes are crap and don't make you think about nothing.
So is true for 99% of games they make today.


Oded

Buy a car for Ron Gilbert
Only 1 month to go.

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to six am

Okay, you guys need to shut up. I want to skim through the comments on this blog. I do not want to read dumb-ass sililoquies about your patheticly low IQ's. Let Ron do the talking please.

Posted by David Thomsen on Nov 23, 2005 six am

OWNED

Posted by Whup on Nov 23, 2005 quarter past four pm

Let Ron do the talking please.

Then don't read the comments.  You've entered a public discussion page, and some of us like to read what others have to say.  Some of the posters are obviously just kids and should be encouraged to have discussions like this - not insulted because their post isn't high-brow enough for you.

I do not want to read dumb-ass sililoquies about your patheticly low IQ's

Get over yourself, and don't throw around big words if you can't spell them.  You'd fit right in at slashdot...

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 24, 2005 quarter to two pm

You'd fit right in at a bondage party. Shut the fuck dude.

Posted by Brummbar on Nov 25, 2005 ten to four pm

It's "shut the fuck UP," oh mighty insult ninja...

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 28, 2005 twenty five to ten am

Okay, you are worthless piece of shit who needs to get off my fucking back. I have no time to spell check my posts. How about the next time you post something here you consider other peoples' feelings. "Mighty Insult Ninja" that just hurt my feelings.

Posted by Brummbar on Nov 28, 2005 half past noon

Spell-checking won't help you when entire WORDS are missing. You wrote "shut the fuck" and left out "up," causing me to briefly wonder about some open fuck somewhere that needed closing - like a door left ajar on a cold day. Most puzzling, thou most puissant slander commander.

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 28, 2005 twenty past four pm

Why not cry your way back to the dentist; bitch.

Posted by Brummbar on Nov 28, 2005 twenty past five pm

"Back to the dentist...?"

Are you TRYING to fail at wordplay now?

Also, regarding the use of semicolons, observe the following sentence:

Baiting you is just too easy, POMIF; it's like kicking a child.

I'm done with you. Ciao.

PS - Using "bitch" makes you sound like a wanna-be tough guy whigger at the local shopping mall. Beware.

Posted by Whup on Nov 29, 2005 ten to three pm

I figured the troll would go away if we ignored him long enough. =)

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 29, 2005 five pm

I only "went away" because Ron deleted my posts. He also made it impossible to reply to that post. Dammit Ron! You make me look like a pussy when you delete my post in the middle of a burn war!

Posted by Ilia Chentsov on Nov 27, 2005 half past noon

>Okay, you guys need to shut up. I want to skim through the comments on this blog. I do not want to read dumb-ass sililoquies about your patheticly low IQ's. Let Ron do the talking please.

But he can't even make correct plural of 'subpoena'!

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 28, 2005 twenty five to ten am

I had posted a witty reply to this but Ron thought it would be funny to delete it.

Posted by R on Nov 23, 2005 quarter to six am

Game's are not yet art.  The have the potential to become art though.  What's missing is a critical lexicon - a language and set of concepts with which we can understand a game beyond how to play it or relate its story to another person.  At the moment games journalists, perhaps through the limits of the game, use the language of film criticism, plus a description (note not a critique) of the mode of control.

Perhaps when looking to understand games as art we should start by trying to critique the art of Tetris or Pacman, rather than delve head first into Shadow of the Colossus.

Posted by Justinianus The Mad on Nov 23, 2005 five past six am

As a movie watcher I'm all in for an escapism trip.
When I watch a movie, I'm not constantly "reviewing" the movie in my head, thinking "Now that wasn't realistic" "What a stupid twist in the plot" "That cgi-scene didn't look real at all". No sire, I'm submerging in the feelings of characters as best I can, that's probably why I tend to enjoy some movies that others don't find enjoyable at all.
I'm one of those types who squirm when the characters get in to embarrasing situations, I jump, gasp, laugh, cry, the whole shebang - when the writing and acting are even half-decent, I usually relate to the emotions being conveyed very strongly and that's all I usually need from a movie.

The same goes with games, but only a precious few. Somehow games usually don't put so much effort in the characters and quite frankly I somehow find it more difficult to relate with game characters than I do with their movie counterparts.  Why is that?

That's why I view Mulholland Dr. as one of the best movies ever. It was so peculiar, to this day, I really can't tell what it was exactly with the movie that had such a strong effect to me, but it's the only movie ever that left me with this strange "after-glow" of the whole emotional rollercoaster the movie portrays. I caught myself still mulling in that "after-glow" after a week I'd seen the movie and I really can't tell how or why exactly that happened, all I can say that anything like that has never occured to me with a movie ever before or since. I mean, many a movie have left me thinking, but none have left me so, umm, emotionally involved afterwards. I really can't put a finger on it, it's just so strange O_o

And to be honest, I haven't dared to watch the movie more than that once, as I've been afraid, that somehow, watching it again, would take away this sort of magical impression it has left me with. Maybe I should...

Now, as for games, I've never had anything even remotely similiar, though some games have left me with an impression of greater-than-average depth, one good example being the already mentioned Planescape: Torment. Now basically the game is just your average hack 'n slash and the dialogue does cross over to utterly cheesy every now and then but the overall impression it left me was something along the lines "this has more depth than all the games in a whole year usually contain"

Are games art? Well slap me silly and call me Sally, they are, atleast to me. But in the other hand, "What is art?" has been a question philosophers have been pondering on for centuries to begin with. Can something originally made for utility be conceived as art? Is aesthetic enjoyment the only required aspect for something to qualify as "art"? Does that then make nature "art"?
Is it not art, when 3D environment leaves you with impressed or moved, when you find it beautiful? Is it not created as a pleasure for the eye, just like a painting might? Isn't music spesifically composed for games as much art as any other music?
I mean, I find aesthically pleasing sceneries and touching soundtracks in games all the time, but what I find less is deep and involving scripts. But does that make games less art? Are there not movies, conceived as art, without a single line of script in them? (actually if you ask some particular types, that kind of movies are the only kind of movies conceivable as art :p)
Yes, I think games are art. They're just their own kind of art, and the medium is constantly developing and finding new ways to express itself (atleast I hope so :E)

Now was this a rant about games being less emotionally involving than movies? Or a stupid pointless pseudeintellect pondering about the essence of art? My personal definition of art? I really can't tell, I just felt like ranting for a bit :D

Posted by Space Captain Steve on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to seven am

As someone who makes games that are not "Art", I have no problem with journalists not reviewing games as such.

My problem is that they can't even review a game on "graphics" and "sound" properly yet. Reviewers could start by actually reviewing the games in front of them instead of comparing it to some hyped up sneak peack they've seen for a game that might happen in a few years.

We're stuck in an era of Star Wars episode 3 is better than Schindler's List because it has better digital effects.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Nov 23, 2005 eight am

We're stuck in an era of Star Wars episode 3 is better than Schindler's List because it has better digital effects.

Very true, but we are also stuck in an era where everyone went to see Star Wars (Halo2) and 3 people went a saw Schidler's List (Ico).

As frustrated as I am with the gaming press, they are giving their readers what they want.

Posted by steve on Nov 23, 2005 quarter to one pm

As frustrated as I am with the gaming press, they are giving their readers what they want.
Exactly. Though readers don't actually know what they want until you give it to them.

I understand the criticism of the press, and agree with much of it, but the blanket statements depress me somewhat. There are some websites and publications that are a cut above the standard fanboy drivel.

As for writing more sophisticated reviews, readers give no indication that's what they want. Any time a review strays from the formula, people complain that it doesn't deliver the info they want: How's the story? How's the graphics? How's the AI? How's the multiplayer? Most websites format their reviews accordingly, and people love it. These "reviews" are buyer's guides. And they're fine, as is.

I love reviews. I love reading them and writing them. I don't like sticking to formula, and try not to. I like to talk about art direction and aesthetics more than graphics and technology, and when you do talk about storylines in a way a movie review might-I mentioned that Command & Conquer Generals, with its Anthrax Cannons and Suicide Bombers was in slightly poor taste coming right after 9/11-I was villified by a bunch of readers and it led to numerous canceled subscriptions. Most said, "Keep politics out of game magazines," which is funny since there are lots of politicians looking at games.

Posted by steve on Nov 23, 2005 ten to one pm

As frustrated as I am with the gaming press, they are giving their readers what they want.

Oh, and as long as most games merely aspire to Jerry Bruckheimer-level spectacle, I'm thinking they're just another part of the pop culture flotsam and jetsam. I have no real problems with this.

I think a lot of the desire for games to be perceived as art is so people can better justify the time spent making and playing them. No one really thinks you're weird if you watch a lot of movies or read novels; games, on the other hand...

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Nov 23, 2005 one pm

I think a lot of the desire for games to be perceived as art is so people can better justify the time spent making and playing them.

I am going to disagree with that (at least for me).  I don't want to spend more time playing games, but I do want them to enrich my life like Movies, Books and other art does, not just be the candy they are now.  Its because they are just Jerry Bruckheimer-level spectacle (well said, btw) that I feel bad about spending the time I do on them.

I think it's the main reason that games are mainly consumed by kids and younger people.   They don't have the sophistication and depth that other mediums have that attract older people and follow us through-out life.

Posted by BobFunk on Nov 24, 2005 quarter past one am

For me it's not that much a matter of wanting games to be perceived as art, so I can justify spending time on them. The thing is, that I would like games to be art, so that they would be worth my time.

From when I got my first Commodore 64 and until a few years ago, I did spend a lot of time on computer games. But in spite of still feeling a strange attraction to the media - and a good deal of nostalgia towards it - I spend very little time playing computer games now.

Of course you could say that this is because I'm more busy now and don't have the time, but it's not the whole truth. I still spend a lot of time reading books, watching films, going to the cinema, listening to music, going to concerts, visiting museum and reading various sites (like this one) on the net. I think the reason, that playing computer games is getting only a fraction of my time compared to these other media, is that I feel it almost doesn't give me anything in return for my time.

I generally try to avoid spending too much time on just entertainment, on tv-series that are just meant to make a bit of time go buy with a giggle or two, on totally predictable Hollywood movies or on the kind of books that solely challenges you to read through them once for their engaging plot, and then throw them away. I value my time, and I want to spend as much of it as possible, on something that makes me grow, rather than on something that merely makes it go by.

That's why I would like computer games to be an art-form. I don't care for whether or not they are recognized as such, but I would love to see the possibilities in this new media explored and exploited for other purposes than just some hours of entertainment, just some hours of time that flows by a bit faster.

Posted by space ace on Nov 23, 2005 quarter to one pm

technically, the film cache by michael haneke is a better-looking digitally-shot film than episode 3, and a great film on its own, but hey, who cares...

Posted by Mike (again) on Nov 23, 2005 twenty past seven am

This reminds me of another thing game "journalists" do that pisses me off and it links to what Space Captain Steve just said in regards to writers comparing games. You know the writer is full of shit when in his review he states that the graphics in doom 3 are better than the original. Wtf kind of comparacent is that? That'd be like saying the colours in the new king kong are better than the 1933 version. I've seen TOO many instances of this kind of nonsense. If I was an editor and got this submitted I'd fire him.

Posted by Stewart on Nov 23, 2005 five to nine am

"But when I was done, I was done.  I didn't think about what war means, who I was or my lost friendship with any of my countless spawning squad members.  I didn't wonder about the ravages of war."

Immediately I thought of Vietcong.  

It's much less of a fun romp and a little more of a exposAe on what the vietnam war was like.  The main characters stay with you through all the episode up until the end when they start dying off.  In some ways it's not as good a game as call of duty; it can be tedious and when I played it there were a few bugs and the only reason the team mates stay alive until the end is because you have to keep them alive through all the missions or fail(and sometimes the AI does stupid stuff).  All in all you get a feeling of the pointlessness of the vietnam war and more importantly, something movies can't really do, you get a feeling of how freaky it must have been for the people down there.  I played it for a session much too long after going on a trip and I could have sworn I saw Vietcong poking out of every bush and tree.

Posted by Pikanto on Nov 23, 2005 twenty five to ten am

"Mulholland Dr." is a great movie. First time I watched it I thougt I'd have figured out everything but then the little people showed up and I was just confused.
After another 2 Weeks of thinking and surfing all the fan-sites and so on I think I got every answer I need to understand each part of the movie.
Same with "Donnie Darko".

Posted by Salvius on Nov 23, 2005 twenty to ten am

I've said for years now that the problem is just that we haven't yet seen the "Citizen Kane" of video games. What I mean is that "Kane" is generally regarded as the film that made people sit up and take notice that films could be "Art" (i.e., more than "mere" "Entertainment"). Part of that was exploring what makes film unique as a medium; what can be done in film that can't be done on stage, for example.

The closest games to that level that I've seen still work primarily on a level of recreating "Art" in other media. For example, "Grim Fandango" was the first video game that genuinely affected me emotionally, but it could have accomplished what it did just as well as an animated film as in game form. It's a great example of characterization and narrative structure, but those are not unique to games. I wouldn't hesitate to call "Grim Fandango" "Art" (or even "Literature"), but it doesn't really explore the full possibilities unique to the medium.

Some designers have come close. I wouldn't be surprised to see the "Citizen Kane" of video games coming from Will Wright, or Sid Meier, or Peter Molyneux, or even Tim Schafer or Ron Gilbert. All of these are designers I've seen trying to either do completely new things, or take existing game design principles to new heights. Just the fact that everyone reading this likely recognizes every name I just listed is a good sign: We've begun to recognize game designers as "auteurs". And the fact that we're even having this discussion suggests that the desire and even the ambition is there.

I look forward to a game that can make me feel the way I felt last night watching the new Criterion DVD of "Ran". And I think it's only a matter of time.

Posted by Mel. on Nov 23, 2005 ten past eleven am

I'd put my fifty bucks on Schaf. Molyneux is a force to be reckoned with, but I daresay that Tim's the most relevent game designer the industry's got to offer at the moment.

Psychonauts was great as a way to re-establish his clout, but even as a solid title, it didn't begin to tap what he's capable of.

Posted by Snake on Nov 23, 2005 quarter past eleven am

MGS made me think after I was done with it.

MGS is "Art".

Posted by failrate on Nov 23, 2005 ten past three pm

Games aren't art...  they're even better :D

Posted by zeugme on Nov 23, 2005 twenty to four pm

Your best post so far. Damn good.

Posted by jean-christophe on Nov 23, 2005 five past four pm

Stupid people play stupid games, watch stupid movies and so on. bright people too but they see much more in those and can also watch some hungarian spanish subtitled movie and like it. It's not about the final product but about what people make out of it.

Posted by Ike on Nov 23, 2005 twenty to eight pm

I agree with the comment about game reviews.  Its hard to measure an continuous experience using a discrete measurement (I don't know why Ebert does it with his star ranking).  

I never realized it but I now remember how much more I liked reading reviews on old-school game sites in which I couldn't skip to the end to see the score they were more personal and less long-winded back then.

Posted by failrate on Nov 23, 2005 eight pm

Of course, in those days, the medium was just a baby.  If there's nothing to which you can compare the experience, you're forced to explain it on its own merits.  Once the body of comparative works builds up, it gets increasingly easy to give it a score relative to similar experiences.

I think a preferable mode of review would be something like Amazon's, where it doesn't care about the quality of the products, only that customer A and customer B have similar tastes, so it can recommend products to B that A purchased.

Posted by Jesus the magic Mexican on Nov 24, 2005 one am

Well first we have to define art.  I have heard manny differen't deffinitions.  My favorite came from an artist (duh-ish).  He said "Art is the ability to incite feeling".  Now if Call of Duty 2 is anything like Call of Duty, it was probably intense.  Intense is a feeling, therefore CoD2 is art.  The problem with this is we keep seeing the same art over and over, and on top of that the gaming press is trying to keep the industry healthy by pushing as manny games as they can, even if they are shit (cough Halo cough).  The game industry has become more like the car industry.  Buying this SUV/Xbox makes you more manly.  Sure why not, but then you realize the games are no fun and it costs $80 to fill up your vehicle that gets 10mpg.  The problem is people arn't willing to say certain games suck ass, and the shadow of publications isn't very encouraging.  It's the same kinda fear that drives us to go to football games shirtless in the winter with comical hats and body paint.  Freezing your ass off and playing shitty games is totaly cool and in style now.

Posted by m0 on Nov 24, 2005 twenty to five pm

fuck. you're right.

whenever I play a game, I have to feel the animal is not tame. I have to feel the reality is unique within its own complex little world. All and all, in the end of the day, I have to feel that I have ben entertained by quality.
by the end of Psychonauts, its own crazyness & incoherency felt right in the annoying "painter vs bull level". Even though it felt amost unbearable & nerve-wracking (painters relating boring stories) , that's what made the whole experience ALIVE, like witnessing ART in its own overpowering force over the mind & senses. Sanitarium felt like that, too.

Everything else is already played-out, already happened. Games that are meant to be reviewed on "fps engine 7/10" & "realistic violence 9/10" or "sound 7/10" attributes were created for game journalists to give a score on "something 9/10" wich is sadly, not "originality 1/10".

Ankh has already caught my "interest 8/10" ...

Posted by Ben on Nov 24, 2005 twenty to midnight

Go grab a copy of REZ for the PS2, play it 'til the very end and say to my face that it isn't art.

I wouldn't even believe you anyways

Games have the potential to be Art, just like movies.

If you think of movies as art then how do you classify "Meet the Fockers" ? or junk novels, comic books in general, pop music?

Just because something is commercial does not deprive it from being Art. As far as I know, Saving Private Ryan was a huge commercial success.

On the other hand I strongly believe it is the motive in the creative process that should be weighed in when you look at something. Obviously a follow up to "Meet the Parents" wasn't made to have you thinking. It's all about money.

Rez, on the other hand, can hardly be considered a game made with hopes of great commercial success. It does make you think and totally shock your senses.

It totally changed my opinion on what videogames can do.

Posted by Edmundo on Nov 25, 2005 midnight

I just finished Call of Duty 2.  Damn fine game.  But when I was done, I was done.  I didn't think about what war means, who I was or my lost friendship with any of my countless spawning squad members.  I didn't wonder about the ravages of war.  The Call of Duty 2 world is empty except for my squad and the clone army of Germans.  What if it was filled with civilians caught in the fight, dying from my haplessly tossed grenade or Rambo charges into a house.  What if the designers were trying to tell me something.  Anything.  War is fun.  I don't care.  But something that made wonder and feel.

I was just thinking about Secret of Monkey Island and I remember when I played the old Spanish, 16-color (EGA?) version, it was the first time I realized that video games can be fore than mere toys or passtimes. You guys (everyone who worked on the game, so that you know that I'm not sucking up and I really mean it) did a great job 10 years ago, and it's sad that a lot of game designers still have to grow up over their primitive power fantansies and make games that mean something. It's not that Secret was extremely deep or anything, but it was very immersive and the story was well crafted. The story makes the game, basically... it's not that cool gravity gun you could get or anything like that.

Posted by Edmundo on Nov 25, 2005 half past midnight

Correction, SMI was made 15 years ago! Man, it's been so long, and little progress has been made since.

Posted by Cancerboy on Nov 25, 2005 twenty to two am

Comic books are still comic books. No one expects them to rival great novels or classic films because they are a different medium. There are comic books that are more arthouse, some are black and white (sometimes for effect and sometimes for budget), some are cute or quaint while others are vulgar and attempt to shock with language and images. Comics have been around since the 30's and in the past they have been blamed for tragedy and scandal. Comics continue to evolve but they remain comic books. No one expects them to be a more serious artform.

Why can't we look at video games the same way? They are a unique medium and shouldn't be compared directly to a movie or novel. I could argue that while some movies are more artistic and can evoke emotions from the audience, video games give the player interaction that allows them to be part of the art form. While this may not make a player cry it certainly makes their heartbeat race, the may jump out of their seat at a scary section and they can definately laugh. Multiplayer games allow an interaction with other people (even though it is through a form of avatar) that you could never achieve in movies or novels.

Video games are still in their infancy. We have made the early silent pictures and now we are developing genres. Soon people will discover new techniques to tell story and give players different ways to interact with the game and each other. Maybe someone will come up with a game that makes me question my existence or change my opinion. If they can do that and keep a game fun then I am all for it. If no one can acomplish that then I can always sit down and watch a good movie.

When I compare games today to the games made 5, 10 or even 15 years ago I can be nothing but exicted about the future generations of gaming to come.

Posted by Edmundo on Nov 25, 2005 ten to nine am

Comic books never reached a mainstream audience the way video games have; except for perhaps places like in Japan where they're extremely popular. Most people know comic book characters from Movies and TV shows, and not from reading the comic books themselves. Their little cousin, the comic strip, is a mainstream medium, however.

As for books in general, there are all kinds of books, non-fiction and fiction, and out of those there are several categories, like graphic novels. People can differentiate between these very easily. Right now video games are just under one big category on people's heads, but if you really look hard there are different styles of games that could be separated completely, just like we see the difference fiction and non-fiction and their categories when we walk to the book store.  You could say that the type of game could be the category, but games are starting to become a more hybrid genre, so perhaps that is not the way to classify them. A lot of the games right now are are action games, no matter whether they're first or third person, simulations, role-playing, strategy, etc. And not everyone likes the action genre.

Posted by Jobe the Ear Lobe on Nov 25, 2005 ten past five am

I agree with CCCPforever.

Please excuse my half-baked ravings, but I just can't help myself...

I don't understand why "art" nowadays has to be "meaningful"? It's like over the past century "art" has been bastardised by failed philosophy students, desperately trying to justify themselves and their medium in a world where intellectuality is king.

Can't art just be done for the love of the medium and or beauty? I haven't had a chance to play Ico, but after seeing videos it looks like a game that is along those lines?

kthxbye :>

Posted by Paalikles on Nov 25, 2005 twenty five to one pm

Welcome back to your grumpy self mr Gilbert:D

Posted by mondaen on Nov 25, 2005 five to two pm

http://www.monochrom.at/suz-game/index_en.htm

check out that game, highly recommended :-)

2005 freeware-adventure, but better as you expect ;-)

Posted by mondaen on Nov 25, 2005 five to two pm

and btw. the first game i called a piece of art was shen-mue by suzuki / sega.

Posted by Grant Yeager on Nov 25, 2005 quarter to eleven pm

well the fifty cent game certainly isnt What I would call art

Posted by DaGamer!!! on Nov 26, 2005 quarter past three am

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are ART!

Posted by Adrian Nesterenko on Nov 26, 2005 five past nine am

It is harder to determine what does not fall into the category of "art" than it is to define what does, and I think that's for the best. As an artist, I hold to the nebulous idea that whatever creative product a person emits is a form of art. Whether that art is heuristically good or not is up to the individual. I think that people so often engage in the debate over what is and is not art because it is easier to categorically condemn something than to defend why a person does not like it.

I draw harsh borders between what a person "believes" and what "is." A work, made through whatever medium, IS, as in it exists. An individual can like it or dislike it, express their BELIEF, but there will always be people to disagree with them.

Frankly, though, it's better to just enjoy games for what they are than to say they ought to have done something else. In twenty years, electronic games will have reached a far higher social status and this kind of debate will sound as rediculous as debating whether or not all movies are art.

Posted by AndyBrown on Nov 26, 2005 twenty to ten am

I share much of Adrian Nesterenko's initial considerations.
Defined a suitable medium, everything produced by this mean can and must be considered art, apart from its quality. 'Art' means originally "something produced by man" and not "something which has high qualities of producing sensations and emotions in one's soul".This comes after and is totally subjective.In my opinion this is the reason for which games ARE art. You don't have pencil or colours, there is no ink and paper or a camera, but there are softwares for creating medias, game mechanics and interaction.Make an idea flow through this and you have art.Unluckily, the game market is not driven by beautifulness but by market laws. So only a part of this human production can reach our houses, and its determined by budgets and decision by managers at the sw house, decisions totally subjective. In counterpart, these 'bosses' MUST allow this products to be reachable by the most part of the population.So I agree with Ron about lowering the price to around (and less than) 20$.Then the glory will come by itself, since people will recognize their (personal) good ones and discard their (personal) bad ones. Masterpieces will be defined not by the hype inflated around them and by their high selling price, but by peoples'judgement. There will always be disagreement about which game rocks and which sucks, but only in the measure by which is generated by the differences of taste between people.

I apologise if my english is not perfect, I'm a 22 years-old italian student.
Oh, to Ron...whatever people might say, Monkey Island is art.At the level of Munch's Scream, of Umberto Eco's Il nome della rosa, of Brian DePalma's Carlito's Way with Al Pacino.Greetings.

Posted by Jon Lenaway on Nov 26, 2005 twenty five past eleven am

By consistantly trying to compare games to books, tv, film or even paintings, and claiming we're not "there"... we're shortchanging what games are already, and can become. Shooting for just those standards, is shooting too low.  Sure, games have things in common with all of these things.  Games can be all of that in different degrees, and even become their own professional sports with the likes of Quake, COD, Counter-strike, etc.  It's not that hard for a game to make you emotional, try losing out on a large sum of money on a match!  Art, story, sport, community, puzzles... Games are all of this and more.  (just depends which ones you look at)  

I think the true call of the game designer should be to create something, that isn't also possible to convey in the form of these other mediums.   Could someone novelize Tetris? Would an oil painting or a tv show be able to duplicate the rush a player feels in Burnout?  Does an episode of Desperate Housewives let you see what would happen if you shot invisible ink on all of the characters? (Hi Tim!)  Would a linear story medium be able to represent the social draw of World of Warcraft?  Can anything duplicate the frustration of climbing up and falling from a spinning spikey column for the 50th time? (Hi David!)

Think about Mulholland Drive.   I can't really think of a great way to turn that into a game, so it seems to fit perfectly where it already is... in film (or i suppose a novel.)  But a game, that wouldn't be possible in another medium....that's the trick and some of you have already accomplished this.   (btw, thanks!)

How approptiate. You fight like a cow.

Posted by m0 on Nov 26, 2005 twenty past nine pm

Yes... art in a form of 1 or 2 hours such as movies, music.

why not games, too?

I guess the anwser is something along the fact that 2 hours games feel extremely either "easy" or "too short" since there is interaction involved, thus leaving us with the task to let the player actually "live" a story that spans a couple years, cutting back on length for moviegoers to exit before they fall asleep. Video games should be like a dream. Yes they are a dream!!!

That leaves us with the solution of "episodic" gameplay, wich I'll have to try out sometime since I have no choice because you can't "buy" them entirely.

Posted by Oded Sharon - Buy A Car For Ron Gilbert on Nov 27, 2005 twenty five past three am

Just a though:
A game journalist who drugs puppies with flowers to get into the governor's mansion.

Just a little monkey humor there, eh ?

Oded
car... 1 month..
you know the drill...

Posted by AndyBrown on Nov 27, 2005 ten past nine am

I think the true call of the game designer should be to create something, that isn't also possible to convey in the form of these other mediums

I agree. The creative momentum is the key. Anyway, we shouldn't make the error of flattening books, films, music and paintings in a definition of "conventional art".Every one of this forms of expression has its own peculiarity. I was addressing to the fruition we make of them. Apart from paintings, for which the best is visiting museums, we buy books, cds and dvds,at about the same price.So should be for games. When i go to the library, I can get a masterpiece for 15$ (if you don't turn to Proust's Recherche, of course...but this is another topic...).Similarly, I can get a cd by your favourite artist here, or a great movie, for about the same price.Why should I pay a game $50??Of course, you could argue that game fruition lasts about ten time longer than any of these products(except for books, maybe).This is not enough, in my opinion. Let's make a distinction between 'story driven games' and 'action games' (in a wide sense), without prejudice versus one of them.Story-driven games are similar to novels or movies, and the extra-time they require from the user should be, in my opinion, completely devoted to the player's thinking, which drives the interaction.Think of Monkey Island.Played the way we see in that funny video by Hendrik VogelPohl, it lasts about the duration of a movie(or something less).To solve it the first time, you need about five times longer.So you beneficiate of a funny story and of a funny interaction. Maybe in this case a higher price could be accepted, but I think that halving the price means quadruplicating the sells. For 'sport games', where i mean games in which the mechanics are quite fixed and the players make variations, a high price is unjustified.You can play Tetris for a lifetime, but the game mechanics are quite simple. You can make a million different frags in Unreal Tournament, but the shots and movements are always the same, it's up to you to create new combos. The role of game creators is to grant you an idea of game (surely the most valuable part) and a great degree of freedom for you to express in playing.And this is what I should pay for. I can't pay for the time i spend on that game, that time is already mine.

That's what i believe:if games were sold at 20$, I should add extra shelves in my rooms....

Posted by Jason Artman on Nov 27, 2005 ten to noon

Before game designers worry about creating something that is "art" (in the deeper sense), they should concentrate on producing games that involve the player emotionally. Games seem to do this on a far less consistent basis today than they did 10-20 years ago. (The previously mentioned Brothers in Arms, in my opinion, completely failed to invoke any emotion whatsoever.)

As the first two generations of computer and console gamers enter their 30s, 40s, and 50s, game companies will be forced to provide deeper experiences for them or risk losing their business. My parents are now in their early 50s. Neither has bought a game in years, but there was a time when they looked forward to each new Sierra, LucasArts, or Infocom release as much as I did. I'm now a few years away from 30, and every year I buy less titles than I did the year before (and many of them, I regret buying). I am actually MORE passionate about games, their value, and their potential than I was as a child, but less game makers are providing the experiences that I am willing to pay for.

The good news is that those experiences are certainly coming. The film and recording industries were around for decades before anyone thought to produce an album or movie with a deeper meaning. The financial climate of the game industry is so far out of whack that developers and publishers have to swing for the fences every time out - you don't see anyone TRYING to make a cult classic, because that could mean the death of the developer. Whatever the next business model will be, it'll have to be something that allows (forces?) publishers to share a little bit more of the wealth with their developers. When that happens, the developers will be encouraged to stretch their artistic muscles a bit more. You can't tell me that there isn't enough talent in the game design community to make the Citizen Kane or Quadrophenia of computer games TODAY. They simply don't have the incentive to do it.

As it is right now, think about the developer man-hours that your $50 paid for when you bought a computer game in 1990 as opposed to now, and it's easy to understand why nobody cares about pleasing anything but the lowest-common-denominator gamers anymore.

That being said, Monkey Island 2, Ultima Online, Final Fantasy VII, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, and more recently, Star Wars: KOTOR all approached "art", in my opinion.

Returning to the original topic, Greg Kasavin is an excellent mainstream games journalist, but he is in the minority. I could name half a dozen bloggers whose opinions are more interesting than almost anyone who gets paid to critique.

Posted by David Lawrence on Nov 27, 2005 twenty to four pm

Man I wish games in Australia cost $50 then I could buy a few more.

New games here are $90.  Which means my $400 to $500 budget for games per year gets me 4 or 5 games.

That means for some games I would like to pay I have to wait 12 to 18 months before I can get them.  Or in the case of Microsoft who never seem to drop there prices, I never buy them.

Recently I discovered www.dvdboxoffice.com where I can import a game (free shipping) and save about 30% on cost.

I cant see games every dropping to $20, however if they did it would put a big dint in the piracy problem.

Take a recent game here like Dawn of War.  $90 on shelf, of that the retailer makes about $30, the developer make about $7 and the publisher makes the lions share of $53.

So if a game cost $20, the developer would still want their $7, so that means the publisher would make $10 and the retailer $3.  I cant see that as a feasible economic model.  Certainly not if developers are expecting publishers to fund a 3 year multi-million dollar development, and market the game.

What annoys me is if I buy and download a game and it costs as much as getting it at the store.

Posted by Eliah Holiday on Nov 27, 2005 ten to five pm

I agree with you that most games do not reverberate with people like films do. There is not enough risk taking, not enough creativity, not enough really good writing in video games. The potential is there but it is often squandered. Of course there are a few games that can be considered an exception to the above mentioned statment.

I'm curious to know what you feel about the Max Payne series, Fatal Frame series, and HL 2.

Posted by MC on Nov 28, 2005 quarter past one am

It does not matter whether video games are art or not to evaluate the quality of video game journalism.  Critical and thoughtful journalism does not require art as a subject matter.  It doesn't even require video games as a medium of discussion.  

That's what David Jaffe is trying to get across in my opinion.  Good journalism should be able to stand on its own and be able to actively engage its readers on whatever subject matter is in discussion.  It is not part of the video game industry.  It reviews and reports on the industry.  It should be able to hold its own candle on the merit of its journalism.

Posted by Mel. on Nov 28, 2005 quarter past two am

Exactly. I think a lot of people misinterpreted the term "meaty" journalism as some sort of advocacy for a Wallstreet Journal-like approach to covering industry happenings, as opposed to simply meaning reporting that has both objectivity and effort behind it.

As it stands, it's just plug and play bullshit. Insert excuses about disc space, beta copies and whatever else here during the preview hype, name-drop a few producers with 'promises' of solutions for the final version, repeat and rinse. We don't need embedded journalists or Pulitzer Prize winners, just a source of information that goes deeper than the kind of crap you hear getting thrown around in the lunchtime cafeteria.

"My system can beat up yours.. these graphics beat those.. I heard this producer say blahblahblah so shut up.."

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 28, 2005 quarter to five am

I figured that I should contribute to this:

Ridiculously long pointless essay about the gaming industry with subliminal messages about how big my penis is

Wow, I'm glad that is off my chest.

Posted by Mel. on Nov 28, 2005 half past seven am

omg teh controversiality

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 28, 2005 twenty to nine am

I was afraid that some of you couldn't handle the truth.

Posted by AndyBrown on Nov 28, 2005 twenty five past six am

Going to main topic, I agree with Mel and MC. When I read a game review, I surely don't look for Joyce's Ulysses, but reading tons of unuseful infos written down in teenage style (to attract teenagers, I think)
has no value for me.In Italy we have the same problem with soccer journalism. The game talks for itself, but having some deeper insight by someone who has a good knowledge of the matter would be appreciated.Instead, they all focus on giving hype to a match, on polemize with the referee decisions, on exalting one team and destroying another, all this without logical foundations, but driven by personal feelings or state of mind.

I can't go beyond pointing out the situation, the solution is beyond my means. I will not become a game journalist, but a computer science engineer.I'll try to do my work at best, and I invite other people to do the same.

Posted by UncleJeet on Nov 28, 2005 twenty to nine am

Ron,
  If you've never read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, I recommend you pick it up.  While about comics and not games, most of the ideas expressed within the book apply equally to either.  It's one of the most brilliant books you'll ever read, and it's a great thing to pass on to people who just don't seem to "get it" - trust me.

Informative Link! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006097625X/103-6058281-6215813?v=glance&n=283155&n=507846&s=books&v=glance

Posted by UncleJeet on Nov 28, 2005 ten to nine am

Oh, and that recommendation was triggered by the whole "games as art" idea rather than the people who write about games not being journalists thing.  My take on it?  They're not.  I haven't read the linked blog since it's down, but seriously - I've rarely, if ever, read any piece of online games "journalism" that isn't your basic verbal tripe.  From simple grammar all the way to general topics, most of what's out there is fanboy fluff, wannabe-developer-guy, and/or people lying to themselves and others that they're really real journalists, touching on important issues with a critical eye and a nose for the truth.  I have to laugh.

Oh, and print isn't much better....it's usually the same thing as the online garbage, but with proofreading.*

*Blogs are, of course, excused from the above lashing.

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 28, 2005 twenty to ten am

Oh my god! People please shut up! No one wants to hear this. You think you guys sound smart posting this? Because you don't. You just sound like a bunch of ingnorant assholes.

Posted by Hummer on Nov 28, 2005 twenty five to one pm

*ignorant

Posted by PissingOnMonkeyIslandGamer on Nov 28, 2005 twenty to two pm

BURNT

Posted by PissedOffMonkeyIslandFan on Nov 28, 2005 twenty five past four pm

You guys are fucking retarded

Posted by paulio on Nov 28, 2005 ten to eight pm

I second that recommendation - Scott's book is art about art, and it is actually very relevant to this discussion.

Posted by Someone on Nov 28, 2005 quarter past ten am

>If we expect Game Journalists to be better, maybe we need to give them something better to be better at being better with.

A good game speaks for itself. Sometimes it's more fun to see a trashy game being trashed then to read a long and boring praise.

Posted by Stacy on Nov 28, 2005 twenty past six pm

Very good blog entry. Thank you.

Posted by Christovski on Nov 29, 2005 five to three am

Spot on as always, Ron.

At least at pointing out the continuing trend of games that hardly make you think beyond what's unfolding on screen. Of course, there's a bunch of exceptions to this rule, but they're few and far between and most of them were developed several years ago.

The only real developments are happening in either graphics or casual gaming - story-telling and concocting true emotion-inducing games just doesn't seem to be happening, instead there's a growing trend towards Hollywood style cheap thrills.

Half Life 2 is also a classic example. Compared to the first game, the intrigue and the excitement just isn't there. Sure, there are some moments of defining gameplay in there, but aside from the adrenaline rush, there's nothing there that'll generate deep thought into what's really going on. Go there, kill that and so on.

Posted by Peper on Nov 29, 2005 quarter past nine am

Quite interesting read on why the game industry is going to crash:
http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=27976

Posted by UncleJeet on Nov 29, 2005 twenty five to ten am

Horrible grammar and the total like of editorial oversight aside, that was a pretty bad article.  Nothing was said that hasn't been said much better many times before.  I'm sure the author believes himself to be a critical thinking and hard-hitting journalist, but all he's doing in parroting what many more intelligent and articulate people have said before him.

Also, the industry is hardly in for an "80s level" crash.  A strong tremor?  Sure - it's inevitable.  However, it's not due to the "death of creativity" (that's been dead for a long time in media much more successful than games) and it's not due to bad reviewers.  The reviewers have always been bad.  They always will be.

No, it all comes down to a couple of simple equations.  First, the developer side: Gross - Cost = Net.  Not a very earthshatteringly new concept, really.

Second, and where the problem really lies, is with the game players.  Their equation simply needs to be balanced: Quality + Quantity = Cost

The problem, of course, is that cost is going up whilst quantity (the length of the game) is severely going down.  Quality is a nebulous concept dependent on personal taste, so it won't do any good to discuss it here.  However, what's going to happen is that game players will begin to become very unwilling to pay ever-increasing prices for an ever-decreasing quantity....diminishing returns, sort of thing.

How do the developers address this, then?  By beginning to apply that long-lost creativity to figure out great ways to lengthen playtime in significant and enjoyable ways that do not require creating new art.  Example: San Andreas.

How long it will take them to figure out how to do this effectively will be what determines how severe the "crash" will be.  Simple.

Posted by serwei on Dec 6, 2005 seven pm

wow I read quite a bit of this, and just had to post.

isn't tetris a work of art? doesn't it make you wonder how 4-square variants made u lost to the world for hours on end? it poses a simple problem and you keep posting solutions. It's like installation art!
I'm playing bejewelled nowadays :) (yeah short attn span me)

but strangely, would u pay $50 for either of those, or consider something with "plot" or "story" more worth your money?

how about an episode system? u pay and play each part as u go along, something like the old sharewares.
metering is more accurate for the user, but of course downloads that cash upfront are always more attractive to the seller.
(another advantage is that you can develop further as you sell, or just cut the losses and stop there.)
Of course this last approach loses an easier way to sculpt the cinematic feel, or experience, and authorial control is taxed to the max.

Posted by Gavan Woolery on Dec 9, 2005 twenty to eleven pm

I think 15 dollars for a game could reshape the industry (if the industry were to embrace this standard).  Let me explain just a few reasons why this might be so.  Let's take a look at gift purchases first.  The average middle-class parents will usually willingly shell out 50 dollars for their kids birthday presents, if not more.  But if they are buying presents for another kid (example, their son gets invited to a friend's birthday party and needs to show up with a gift), the typical limit is between 15-30 dollars I would guess...definitely not as high as 50 dollars.  Stocking stuffers and secret santas: usually the price ranges are similar for these items as well.  So, imagine that every gamer's stocking this xmas was stuffed with at least one game, do you know what kind of results that would yield?  Imagine at every gamer's bday party this year, they receive at least one game from a friend.  I think Ron has the right idea with this model. If I werent giving out my next game for free, I would gladly reduce my price to this range.

Posted by GOOD TIMES AND FREE GROG on Dec 11, 2005 twenty past six am

paying for games is for pussies, why don't do you do the same as me?
i threat the lady at the game shop with my shoe polisher and simply empty the shop leaving empty boxes and used toilet paper with a distinked aroma

Posted by Ninomojo on Dec 23, 2005 twenty five past seven am

Of course video games are art. The MEDIUM is or can be used as an art form. Now for the content, let's say that yes, video games are art, but they're mostly incredibly crappy art :).

A bad painting is still art.

Posted by Someone on Jan 2, 2006 ten past nine pm

eMule rules!

Posted by Manuel on Jan 7, 2006 five to six pm

Art is when the author teach you something about the world. A new point of view. An artist is someone who catches a new glimpse of the world and show it to you using non interactive or interactive means.

Gattaca showed us a new view about our future. Blade Runner showed us  our present in a way we cannot fathom before.

There is a game that is a work of art: Civilization. It showed us how tecnology and science changes the course of history and shapes all the different civilizations.

Maybe someday a great designer will use interaction the same way to teach us the difficult of living in the modern world...

Posted by Someone on Jul 4, 2006 five past ten pm

OK THRASH THE SONY COMPANY ON THE DAY IT GETS RELEASED THEN BLOW IT UP WITH DYNAMITE.

Posted by Someone on Jul 4, 2006 five past ten pm

OK THRASH THE SONY COMPANY ON THE DAY IT GETS RELEASED THEN BLOW IT UP WITH DYNAMITE.


Creative Commons License
Hey! Pay attention! Except where otherwise noted, this site is licensed under a Creative Commons License.