Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Games as Art 2 - The Living World

One of the things that people say about good art is that it draws you in; paints an entire world for you to escape into for even a moment. Getting lost in a painting is something that people prize as one of the most treasured experiences when looking at pictures or paintings. And yet, video games have been doing that for years, and they’re only getting better at it as well.

It’s nothing to mention today when looking at a game like Grand Theft Auto 4 which plays host to an entire living, breathing city that video games can and do build worlds. I can only imagine that it won’t be a long time in coming before we might see games with cities that are populated with unique citizenry as well, because right now there is some twinning going on that seemingly can’t be helped.

But even without the advantages of the current generation games have never had problems crafting a world that it’s all too easy to get lost in. I’ve seen kids pretending to be Mario or Mega Man as much as I’ve seen them pretending to be Superman or other comic book or television heroes.

If the purpose of art is to ignite the imagination and inspire works of creativity, then games always have and always will qualify. Look at how many of the currently successful game producers and designers attribute their love of the industry to the games that they escaped into. Art begets art as games beget games.

Even a game where the story is minimalist can leave such an impression. Katamari Damacy is a quirky experience, but also a great example of how the world matters and ultimately springs to life as you progress through it. Sure, you start off small, barely noticed rolling detritus to make new stars for the cosmos, but soon you start attracting attention, people flee or stand in awe of what’s happening around them. Ultimately you can even roll the entirety of the world into a star, and somehow that doesn’t come off as horrific as much as it does funny. The game inspires the reckless abandonment of simply not caring what gets in your way: what’s too big for your britches now won’t be in a couple of minutes, so why worry about it?

It’s that carefree attitude that helps elevate KD from something beyond a mere game into more of an experience; unique in and of itself. And really, isn’t that what all good art truly aims to be: a unique experience to be treasured and enjoyed for as long as possible? Surely that is one of the prime indicators that the would be artist has done their job right, and it should be no different for game developers either. For every bland, uninspired piece of art there’s plenty of equally uninspired attempts at cash-ins like movie games or platformers cranked out with obviously marketable mascots abound. But there are gems in both cases as well: the Da Vincis and the Marios. What ultimately separates them is only time, and that is becoming less of an issue as the inevitable passage of said quantity blurs the lines between what is classic and what is modern.

1 comment:

  1. Now I like this topic but I feel you could have dug a little, or a lot deeper on the subject of worldbuilding and the immersive factor of games. For me, that immersion is more critical than even the gameplay, as I don't quite feel the universe of a series like DOA quite nearly as much as I would out of Halo or Metal Gear Solid.

    One game that surprised me with its scope, despite it's extreme simplicity was Yume Nikki. It centers around a girls search for various objects in her own dreams. The moment you start, you begin in her room, and as soon as you sleep, you find her in a reflection of what appears at first to be her room again, but as you open to the next room, you reach a set of doors, each of which reflect a smaller portion of an even larger world behind them. There's no dialogue, so any plot is a complete reflection of opinion and conjecture. The only name is that of the protagonist, "Madotsuki=Windowed". The minimalism of the experience has belied that a massive community has formed around it, covering it with almost as many theories as FF7 or Evangelion. That it went from merely being a freeware title released quietly online to having notable status is an unusual feat, especially since it had to jump from japanese before it came to english.

    For another experience I feel is immersive, one that is less recent but that I feel fits is Freelancer. Worldbuilding-wise its in my view one of the richer space simulators, even taking in development by the creator of the Wing Commander series. The world wasn't the most honed, or at times the most completely thought out, but it was, at least in my mind, a break from how so many people who create space stories tend to reflect the common memes of star trek or star wars. You could skip just playing for its gameplay and simply watch the world go by in it. You could even see what was the result of someone aiming obviously for having a beautiful feeling, rather than merely just making a game to blast people in starfighters up. There's a community that is dedicated today to continuing to develop for it, including mods that change the world to things like star wars and wing commander

    My advice, don't skip on being willing to expand and elaborate on your topics. I feel there's plenty to say on the subject that you should already know of at least 2 more games that fit a description of deep.

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