Adult As A Good Thing

Irony may be one of the most misunderstood concepts in the English language.  Default bashing of Alanis aside, not only do I see irony incorrectly used on a near daily basis, I even participate in the activity.  In much the same way that being sardonic is too often confused with being sarcastic – though the three terms stand inexorably linked in a bizarre twisting daisy chain of misdirected truth – irony is, above all else, the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of their literal meanings.  Thus, I can only assume the gaming industry is being ironic when they rate titles Mature.

Look, IÂ'll be straight with you.  IÂ'm sick and tired of being embarrassed at being a gamer.  It seems like every time I start to formulate a solid rationale at my borderline obsession, someone comes along with a game that nails the door back shut on this little pigeon hole.  And weÂ've all, developers and gamers alike, become complacent at the idea that gaming buries at least a few of its roots in the realm of graphic, and often pointless violence, not to mention implied pornography.  The rest of the gaming industry revels in its own obscure middle ground, rejecting on one hand the idea that the whole thing is terribly childish, but never embracing the greater possibilities that could lift it all above its own chaff.  It is an industry trapped in uncertainty, and complacent in its established intellectual mediocrity. 

My, but that was dour!  I donÂ't want to leave you with the wrong impression, that IÂ'm suddenly rejecting the staples of gaming, or that IÂ'm putting on airs of intolerant haughtiness, or that IÂ'm just getting tired of playing video games.  ItÂ's just not the case.  But, I do think that this industry can be so much more than it is, and that until it finds the occasional higher ground, it will be defined by the other extreme of spewing crap ejected onto the retail landscape.  Without the balancing opposite, the image is lopsided.  By way of example, I turn you to the mature games of late that have been cropping up.  It was almost painful for me not to put quotes around the word mature in the previous sentence.

LetÂ's start with The Guy Game, shall we; a notable title with all the subtle class and charm of a Girls Gone Wild video.  In this mature title – imagine me making air quotes with my fingers as I ironically use the word mature - players are tasked with answering Â"… well letÂ's just let the website speak for itself.  Â"Shot live at South Padre Island, this Red-Hot Trivia Challenge lets you play with over 60 smokin' coeds during Spring Break Insanity, as they proudly show off their "assets" for your personal enjoyment. You bring the party and we'll supply the game - YOU'LL SCORE EVERY TIME!Â"Ã‚  In this winner, as you correctly answer low-brow questions while predicting the accuracy with which drunk skull-vacuums in easily removed apparel will answer the same questions you build up a flash meter which ultimately rewards gamers, like vacant lab rats that manage to push the right food button, with bared breasts.  Also, it has a drinking game.  IÂ'm not sure why they didnÂ't go the whole ten yards and toss a handheld breathalyzer, bathroom vending machine condom, and the number of several local bail bondmen straight into the box.

Finally, I say, a video game that gives the latest Leisure Suit Larry some credibility! 

With games like The Guy Game, Playboy: The Mansion, The Sims rip-off Singles, the coming Playboy gaming images, and the well discussed DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball, not to mention Larry, itÂ's hard to proclaim oneself an adult gamer without making an inadvertent statement of personal lechery.  IÂ'm tired of saying I like adult games and then having to qualify that statement; it should stand on its own.

Oh, I know what the producers of these games would likely say of my complaints; thereÂ'd be lots of eye rolling, dismissive statements about prudish amateur writers, and probably four or five Â"dudesÂ" thrown in between the occasional Â"extremeÂ" to solidify the image of unwavering cool.  And, IÂ'm not advocating the purging of sexual content from gaming by any means.  Hell, there may even be a place for dreck like this.  In the end, IÂ'm not even directly criticizing those who put forth these games, itÂ's the rest of the industry thatÂ's put up the white flag, given up on elevating the art form, and conceded that violence and titillation is the only path.

Look, movies have Tom Green, music has Kid Rock, and literature has Jackie Collins, but they are balanced by Laurence Olivier, Winton Marsalis, and Toni Morisson.  While there are a lot of Giglis out there, itÂ's mitigated by the occasional American Beauty or SchindlerÂ's List.  Gaming doesnÂ't really have that, a transcendent experience that breaks the bounds of the industry, thatÂ's universal.  ThatÂ's not to say there arenÂ't great games, but theyÂ're usually limited to those boundaries, and the assumptions we take as gamers concede away precisely the things that could move our shared passion further.

IÂ'm tired of reading previews of interesting games that make statements like, Â"the plot wonÂ't be Shakespeare, but itÂ'll be ok and thing will blow up really great!Â"Ã‚  Why do we have to assume that even the best game is barely passable as literature, that the presentation is maxed out at pulp cinema and that if youÂ're not a gamer you just wonÂ't get it?  It canÂ't be an issue of resources; the industry is leading all other entertainment industries in dollars generated.  It doesnÂ't have to be every game, or most games, or even one instance a year, but there should be something we can prop up as the saving face of gaming, something that validates it and defines it.

Because, the fact is that right now itÂ's the games at the bottom that draw the picture of gaming. 

- Elysium

Comments

One glimmer of hope is that the real T&A games are almost always panned by critics. At least there is someone with discriminating tastes.

That said, if you read closely, I think you'll see that this column is really a clever way of setting us up for the impending "Welcome Back Again, Perverts" post.

...but they are balanced by Laurence Olivier, Winton Marsalis, and Toni Morisson.

I'm sorry, I think you spelled Chick Corea/John Coltrane/Herbie Hancock wrong.

Prederick wrote:
...but they are balanced by Laurence Olivier, Winton Marsalis, and Toni Morisson.

I'm sorry, I think you spelled Chick Corea/John Coltrane/Herbie Hancock wrong.

At least he didn't say brandford marsalis, or kenny g!

Hey, come to think of it, Toni Morrison is kinda "light" as modern authors go as well, and Olivier was great so long as he could prance aorund in tights and spout old english, but that's about it.

But we get the point. We're all perverts.

I keed.

But I am a pervert! But in a good kind of way.... yeah now let me get back to my round of The Guy Game... Oh and let me tell you there there questions is hard!.... J/K

I guess I don't totally understand that. You are looking for some type of transcendent experience, but I'm not really sure what that is. A lot of people would probably put Half-Life in that category, just as a lot of people would have put MULE in that category 20 years ago. Alpha Centauri made decent strides at putting "more" into the story and background than is typical.

By nature of being a game, it is about action. Perhaps there can be a shift of models at some point that changes that, but the very definition at this point is that user interaction will be of primary importance. There are games that don't involve blowing things up, like the Sims, but the fundamental model still involves you creating the story, not the story or passivity.

As for the muck, I'm not sure that gaming is worse than anything else. I'll balance a Half-Life or Alpha Centauri against Xtreme Breasts Volleyball in the same way I'll balance an Economist against Penthouse or Newsweek. There's just as much dreck and embarassment in other forms of media and entertainment; perhaps the distinction is that people into mainstream entertainment are too stupid to even recognize that what they partake in should be embarassing.

Not to brighten your mood, Elysium, but we do have some great games to counterbalance the bad ones. Ico, Prince of Persia, Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur's Gate II, Zelda; there are tons of top-notch games that show how fabulous games can be.

I think what you're getting at is that we don't have any titles that push the age rating envelope while maintaining a truly mature atmosphere. You can have sex/nudity without it being gratuitous, you can have violence without it being pointless, and you can have harsh language without it simply being there for shock value. We just haven't had a game that truly pushed those limits in a fashion that was worthwhile instead of being intended just to push sales.

I'm hoping we're nearing the time when that happens. There were a few titles in recent years that I hoped would do that, Max Payne 2 being one of them, but none have truly hit the mark yet.

OT: How is Ely's new job working out so far, anyway? We haven't had any newsworthy reports from him yet, have we?

Hopefully he's pulling down enough jack to afford a DVD drive.

Elysium, well said.

I'll join Slyfrog and Farscry here. I think you're pretty severe Elysium. While there might be games that only have boobies and violence for selling points, I'd say they're a minority. I'd be curious to know what would be a transcendent gaming experience to you, and I'd be even more curious to see you try to turn that into a game design document. I loved American Beauty. It's one of the best movies I have ever seen. But how do you turn that into gameplay? Okay, now how do you turn that gameplay into fun? Easier said than done.

I don't know about you guys, but I like sex & violence. Video games let me do things that I couldn't do in real life without serious repercussions, like take 5 gunshots to the chest and heal myself up by hiring a lady of the night and then killing her and taking back my money. There also isn't much chance of me killing imperialist UN soldiers and defending my Indonesian homeland anytime soon, but in a game I can do that. It's not the gratuitous violence and sex that piss me off, it's crappy gameplay.

I agree whole-heartedly Elysium. Maybe if somebody could hire somebody like a David Mamet to develop a game story or dialogue or somebody like a Steven Spielberg could join forces with a Sid Meier to create something with narrative depth and brilliant gameplay.

I still don't think anybody knows or understands what to do with gamesto create a compelling piece that might transend the medium. BG 2, KOTOR - excellent games both, but they're far too easily dismissable by the general public as being too niche.

The fact is, games as a communication medium are still the new kid on the block. To put it in perspective - when films first game around, it took almost 20 years before D.W. Griffiths made Birth of a Nation - the first film generally accepted as the first great work of cinema. In the late 1920s, a small group of film critics were still make the argument that films should be considered art. It wasn't until the late 1940s or early 1950s that they were granted First Amendment protection as an art form. Even today, a lot of people still don't think of movies as anything other than entertainment.

I really think the closest thing I've seen in the past few years to transcendence in the gaming medium is The Sims. The game really made a comment about our own lives and the need to manage time - balancing relationships, work, wants.

I think someone will eventually figure out how to make something that you're describing Elysium, but it could be a long time. I think things are made even more difficult by the shifting nature of the medium - everything changes on an annual basis. Even films had a 30 years to get comfortable before someone decided to add a soundtrack; 40 before color came along.

To add to what Farscry and SlyFrog added, don't forget the literary masterpiece that was/is Planescape Torment.

I may be wrong here, but I think we are looking at the Video Game industry moving beyond entertainment into art, or at least co-habitating. It is a similiar fight to that of Mountain Biking, SnowBoarding and Trampolinging(sp) being recognized as legitimate sports. Or dare I say the acceptence of Rap.

Do we as gamers need to push the level of our hobby beyond graphics, glamour and high poly count jugular blood sprays. Were the snowboarders champions of their own cause, or the fans?

The gaming industry does have some brilliant and mature minds working for it; love them or hate them Richard Garriot, Will Wright, Sid Meier and Peter Molyneux have moved and shaped gaming as we see it today. But the nature of the medium and the target audience limits the abilities of masters to work art. Would "Catcher in the Rye" have worked as a comic book? Will anyone ever derive deep meaning from house music, are three vertical stripes worth 6 million dollars http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/search/artwork_zoom_e.jsp?mkey=35828

Like the snow-boarders or Callahan and his telepathic friends we have started the job ourselves.
We, the devoted gamer with job, look beyond the bare bones satisfaction of burning, plunder and pillage. We play the same games as battle-net kiddies, but we limit our interaction to our own friends and co-gamers. How many threads, jokes and cartoons have we seen about the x-box live gaming experience.
This site, An idea that was hatched by Certis and Elysium has grown into this community. We have seen other communities grow as well; GamerDad, GoneGold to name a few. In our own way we are advancing the concept of mature gamer.

I feel the need to keep likening gaming to cinema as respective communications/art forms. In the early days of movies (think first 14 years), with a few exceptions, filmmakers would just have the actors perform directly in front of a stationary camera, like filming a stage play. You had exceptions like Georges Meilies' Trip to the Moon, but for the most part, filmmakers tried to imitate theater as an art form becasue they didn't understand or recognize all of the possibilities that cinema offered. It took Griffiths and Eisenstein to fully realize what editing could do, which some theorists have argued is where films truly distinguish themselves as an art form.

So right now, you've got game makers attempting to emulate cinema. Every other game that comes out is advertised for having cinematic graphics or offers a cinematic experience -- just look at Max Payne/2. Is that the direction games should take to define themselves as art?

I think another limiting factor is the extreme amount of risk it requires to develop a Triple A title now. What is Half-Life 2's budget? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million? It's incredibly difficult to have any sort of true innovation, whereas anyone with a movie camera and the mind to do so could create something astounding. To develop a game, you need lots of time and a solid understanding of computer programming/technology. It just doesn't lend itself to the immediate ability to innovate that other art forms offer.

Like I said before, I really think the bottom line is that the medium is just too new. People don't fully understand all of the possibilities that it offers yet. I don't know what the solution is - maybe developers shouldn't consider narrative and storytelling - maybe as an art form, it should go into another direction. Or maybe somebody needs to figure out the perfect combination of subject matter, narrative and interaction.

or somebody like a Steven Spielberg could join forces with to create something with narrative depth and brilliant gameplay.

That has already happened. It was called The Dig. I thought it was a good adventure game, and its plot was on par with any other animated flick out there, I'm thinking Titan AE or something like that.

I took Elysium's article to mean something different. Even in the great games like KotOR, Planescape, BG 2, System Shock, what have you, the plot or the dialogue or whatever would not hold up as good entertainment in another medium. Maybe that's not fair, since I can't imagine Macbeth making for a great game, but if I could get through an adventure game or RPG that had a romantic subplot without really cheesy dialogue, I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven. It can't be too much to ask. Look at the strides made in voice acting since the original Resident Evil.

EDIT: And I'm with Minase. I like sex and violence, too.

I'd be curious to know what would be a transcendent gaming experience to you, and I'd be even more curious to see you try to turn that into a game design document. I loved American Beauty. It's one of the best movies I have ever seen. But how do you turn that into gameplay? Okay, now how do you turn that gameplay into fun? Easier said than done.

This sounds pretty defeatist. It's hard so it's not gonna happen, right? Do you think people always had unwavering faith that a movie like American Beauty could ever be made? It's like Duffman is saying above, it took half a century before films were really considered art. Videogames have barely been around 30 years. I don't think the fact that it's difficult and it's never been done before precludes the gaming industry from striving towards more universal and emotionally compelling applications of their chosen art form.

You are looking for some type of transcendent experience, but I'm not really sure what that is. A lot of people would probably put Half-Life in that category, just as a lot of people would have put MULE in that category 20 years ago. Alpha Centauri made decent strides at putting "more" into the story and background than is typical.

I didn't read "transcendent experience" as what you're talking about. You're talking about a personally transcendent experience, emotionally taking you to places you've never been before. That's not particularly difficult, for any individual there's a certain point in their life that a certain piece of art will grab them just the right way. It's hard to do consistently with various people, but that's really his point. It's not that someone can write a game that "some people" will find to be a compelling experience. It's that the game transcends gender, age, class and racial boundaries to touch all kinds of people. There are several examples of movies that are emotionally compelling to large groups of people. Schindler's List really got to alot of people, if you watch it there's a good chance statistically that you'll find it emotionally compelling. Why? Because it doesn't pigeon-hole itself as "a movie for moviegoers" or "that nazi movie with breasts". It strives for higher artistic ground, so to speak, and for the most part succeeded. If you didn't like Schindler's List, you can at least appreciate it's effect on people. Currently there aren't many games that do that, they're mainly niche titles. Game developers are rarely setting their sights higher than "cool ". That's the catch, that very few are trying to aim any higher than genre pieces or movie tie-ins.

The only real worrying trend to me is that fewer and fewer of the game developers who can do things like that seem to be heading in that direction. Independent game developers are coming up strong, but it's still not exactly a crowded market yet. So we're left in this interim state with unoriginal mass marketed gaming taking over the previously innovative game developers, and the newcomers still getting their on their feet. It's leaves us with creatively stagnant and repetitive titles, with the occasional gem thrown in for good measure. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of kickass games to buy, but 90% of them are sequels. I'm not saying there's no good games at all. Though I'm sure there will be plenty of people replying with "What about Game X, Game Y and Game Z? They're great games!" anyway. I'm saying creatively the mass market development houses are in a slump lately, and it's disappointing. I'm with Elysium on this one, I'd like to see something a little more compelling. It's just a matter of time though, some independent developer will come along like id and Doom and snap us all out of it.

I forgot about The Dig -- I guess that didn't really work out so well. To be clear, I'm not necessarily saying that we need something along those lines. I'm not really sure what the industry needs -- I really think it's going to be some kind of new experience that nobody has really seen before. Or something we've seen before done in a way that nobody's ever tried before.

Sorry for all the lengthy posts -- it's kind of a slow day and Elysium's article really got my imagination going.

Another question that will always limit the innovation is this - what kind of games do people really want to play? Part of me thinks the type of game Elysium is yearning for might never get made because there's really not much demand in the market.

Let's say you've got two developers pitching a project to EA - Developer A says "I'm going to produce you the 'Hamlet' of video games." Developer B says "All you really do in this game is drive around, blow sh*t up and look at breasts." Which game will actually get made?

It's a vicious cycle -- publishers/developers/the public pictures gamers as maladjusted deviants who crave pornographic violence, so they continue to make games that provide us this because they sell, because deep down we like pornographic violence. Every once in a while, a minority speaks up -- "Hey why doees it have to be like this?" To which the gaming community at large replies "Shut up, it's just a game." So in the end, nobody takes games seriousily as any sort of potential art form because very, very few people play games expecting or hoping for any sort of serious art.

Allow an analogy if you will -- I feel like we're all sitting around drinking Miller High Life and we're saying "Hey, this beer is pretty good, but a pint of Guiness would be divine right now." Except, there's a problem -- nobody knows what Guiness is. In fact, it's never even occurred to anybody to try to make anything other than Miller High Life. And we don't even know how Guiness is supposed to be different than Miller, all I know is that it is and it's better.

Dangit, now I've got to go remove Larry from my GameQ.

And romance novels still outsell sci-fi and fantasy. And don't kid yourselves, some of your sci-fi/fantasy novels are just romance novels.

Pyroman[FO] wrote:

I didn't read "transcendent experience" as what you're talking about. You're talking about a personally transcendent experience, emotionally taking you to places you've never been before. That's not particularly difficult, for any individual there's a certain point in their life that a certain piece of art will grab them just the right way.

It honestly hasn't happened with me yet for any media. There's better and worse, but not something so amazing it changes me forever, blah blah. Of course, I'm the guy who thought Citizen Kane sucked.

Pyroman[FO] wrote:

It's hard to do consistently with various people, but that's really his point. It's not that someone can write a game that "some people" will find to be a compelling experience. It's that the game transcends gender, age, class and racial boundaries to touch all kinds of people. There are several examples of movies that are emotionally compelling to large groups of people. Schindler's List really got to alot of people, if you watch it there's a good chance statistically that you'll find it emotionally compelling. Why? Because it doesn't pigeon-hole itself as "a movie for moviegoers" or "that nazi movie with breasts". It strives for higher artistic ground, so to speak, and for the most part succeeded. If you didn't like Schindler's List, you can at least appreciate it's effect on people. Currently there aren't many games that do that, they're mainly niche titles. Game developers are rarely setting their sights higher than "cool ". That's the catch, that very few are trying to aim any higher than genre pieces or movie tie-ins.

I understood his point, my point is that these are games. They are almost by definition a mass form of basic entertainment. I think your definition of Schindler's List doesn't really work; I think Elysium is talking about works of great inherent value and art, whether appreciated by the masses or not. Schindler's List was appreciated by the masses, but query whether it was of incredible inherent value as a work of art. In my mind, a game like "Civilization" was at least, if not greater advancement to its field than Shindler's List was to movies, Holocaust research, etc.

I'm starting to look like I'm trying to pick on a specific example of yours, which I do not want to do. My greater point is that, based on the size of the game industry, the amount of time it has been in existance, and most importantly, what it is trying to do, which is entertain people through action, not through great stories, I think it has made noticeable strides.

Perhaps another way to look at this; when I just finished Huckleberry Finn, I did not think, "Yeah, it was a great story, but why couldn't it advance? Why wasn't there some type of puzzle, something more interactive in there." It is what it is. Having more in there would have been possible, but I don't want or need it in the book, and it would have distracted the author from what is more important to me in reading a book; the story. There is limited time in the life of a creator, and he needs to prioritize based on what he is trying to create.

Maybe if somebody could hire somebody like a David Mamet to develop a game story or dialogue or somebody like a Steven Spielberg could join forces with a Sid Meier to create something with narrative depth and brilliant gameplay.

I still don't think anybody knows or understands what to do with gamesto create a compelling piece that might transend the medium. BG 2, KOTOR - excellent games both, but they're far too easily dismissable by the general public as being too niche.

Games as Art-with-a-capital-A is all well and good, but there have been good games that didn't feature gratuitous violence or gratuitous sexuality. And noone is talking about game games. Not story games, game games.
Testris. Space Invaders. Tempest. Breakout. Astrosmash. Missile Command. You Don't Know Jack.
These were all great games. Tetris had appeal to the broader market way before the Sims. Yes, most of these had violence, but it wasn't something that the game was "about". Hell, these games generally weren't about anything.

They were just games, like Tic Tac Toe or Checkers or Charades or Trivial Pursuit. Now game games are mostly relegated to old arcade compilations, cellphones, flash sites, and "I want to be a game programmer, where do I start?" forum suggestions.

There's nothing wrong with Games as Art-with-a-capital-A, but there's also nothing wrong with game games. Pure gameplay fun. When did games start having to be Games to be good? When did games that aren't Capital-A-Art Games wind up having to depend on sex and violence and key gameplay mechanics?

I think I see part of where Elysium is coming from, but I also think part of the discussion is too concerned about Games as Art vs. Games as Visceral Entertainment. If a Game or a game needs violence to tell the story, fine. If it needs sex to tell the story, fine. If there is no story and "Males 14-24" is the only reason there's a mammarrily-overblessed female on the cover with airbrushed nipples and a missing ribcage, then maybe the developer should concentrate more on flashgames and mobile games until he has some chops and connections.

The flipside for me is Burnout 3. If it didn't have Takedowns, the wife would hate it. I probably wouldn't enjoy it much either. But, then again, wrecking and racing dirty is a core gameplay mechanic. It's needed for the game to "work". It's the hook as well as the line and sinker.

Then again, you have Sanjuro's review of SRS: Street Racing Syndicate, where you race to win your opponent's girlfriend's to be part of your harem. That, to me, is gratuitous and unnecessary to the gameplay or the story. You could write a story around it, modify it such that you are "liberating" these ladies from a life of pseudo-prostitution, but that would require an actual story to the game.

It such a nebulous issue that there is no single answer. There are nude photos, skectches, and paintings of people in Art Museums all over the world, while at the same time, there are girlie mags of varying (heh) hardness). Which is more prevalent? Which is more accessible to your average connoisseur of anatomy? Which is gratuitous?
The difference is, with games, it's easier for a child to acquire material unsuitable for him or her. In public.
By the same token, how many people keep a stack of penthouses on their coffee table when company comes over? And how many will keep a gratuitously violent or sexual game in a plain a view?

I dunno. There's room for everyone, but the market for games is narrower than for porn or John Woo flicks, meaning that the entire market is a target for nearly every game, where porn and movies can afford or even thrive on a fractured market. "Chick flicks" is a great example of purposely excluding part of your market to your benefit.

edit: Pyro says

It's leaves us with creatively stagnant and repetitive titles, with the occasional gem thrown in for good measure. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of kickass games to buy, but 90% of them are sequels.

Is that a real stat or a made up one?
Also, couldn't you say almost the exact same thing for movies?
There's an awful lot of tripe, creatively bankrupt braincandy, with the occasional gem thrown in for good measure. There's plenty of kickass movies to buy, but X% of them are sequels or remakes.

I wonder how the percentage of occasional gems to dreck compares between the movie industry and the game industry? Maybe this is much ado about nothing.

My greater point is that, based on the size of the game industry, the amount of time it has been in existance, and most importantly, what it is trying to do, which is entertain people through action, not through great stories, I think it has made noticeable strides.

I don't disagree. I never said the game industry hasn't made any strides towards artistic depth, I'm saying there are fewer and fewer people actually aiming to do just that. It's disappointing is all. I'm not even saying that games aren't still advancing as art forms, it's just that lately it seems there are very few people who care. It's just lamenting the mass marketing of games, I guess.

Is that a real stat or a made up one?
Also, couldn't you say almost the exact same thing for movies?
There's an awful lot of tripe, creatively bankrupt braincandy, with the occasional gem thrown in for good measure. There's plenty of kickass movies to buy, but X% of them are sequels or remakes.

I wonder how the percentage of occasional gems to dreck compares between the movie industry and the game industry? Maybe this is much ado about nothing.

73% of statistics are made up, except mine which are made up 45% of the time.

Yes, the movie industry is having a major case of sequelitis right now, either doing comic books, sequels or remakes. I never said that movies right now are the perfect model to follow. The real difference is that of the attitude toward the art form. Movies are art, and treated as such. People go to film school, they study it as an art and good filmmakers try to make films with artistic substance. It's the general attitude of filmmakers, they're making art and they're artists. The movie studios don't see it that way, but that's neither here nor there.

The game industry seems to have very few people who take this attitude. Of course the publishers don't, but the thing is that most developers don't seem to take that attitude either. Artistic substance is considered a backburner issue, since most developers still come from a technical background. It's seen as making a product that has to do what it's supposed to. The fans are the same way, they don't call for artistic substance, they just want a prettier version of the things they're familiar with. It's a piece of software, each game is just a patch. It just fixes flaws with the previous game, because it's just a program. What I'd like is for people to look at games and try to see the artistic side of things and quit settling for the familiar. Alot of us do that here, that's why I like hanging around here. And there will always be a large quotient of people who see nothing more than a digital Happy Meal. But that shouldn't stop people from expecting more out of game developers artistically and calling them out on it.

Wow, I don't have much to add at the moment but I've got to say there are some great posts here!

I think Pyroman pretty much just hit the nail on the head, as far as I'm concerned.

Duckilama also made an excellent point -- how many movies or books are released each year that are total sh*t compared to the few true gems?

I'm not trying to come off as some kind of snob who thinks all games should play out like a Godard film or The Brothers Karamazov. Hell, I spent three hours playing Burnout 3 last night - not exactly high culture.

But, I do enjoy contemplating the possibilities of the medium. It may never go in any of the directions we've talked about -- there may not be room for Art at all in an interactive medium. But 100 years ago, everybody thought films were the basest form of entertainment, only viewable by the dregs of society. So, it's exciting, for me at least, to watch things evolve.

But, I do enjoy contemplating the possibilities of the medium. It may never go in any of the directions we've talked about -- there may not be room for Art at all in an interactive medium. But 100 years ago, everybody thought films were the basest form of entertainment, only viewable by the dregs of society. So, it's exciting, for me at least, to watch things evolve.

Exactly! There is no doubt that someone will eventually do something to bring the medium to a new level. I just hope I'm not too old to recognize it for what it is when it comes.

A lot of great points, everyone. I agree by and large, and have a few more examples to add:

Theatre, nowadays pretty much the high art form, was for example long considered entertainment for the unwashed masses. It consisted mainly of lewd jokes, cookie-cutter romances and dramatic fights, thrown together on the backdrop of loosely written plays with largely improvised dialogue. The roaming troupes were considered of the lowest social level, closely followed by their audience. The church often tried to put an end to theatre displays.
Then, one day, a young man named Bill Shakespeare took up his quill - and fifty years later, playwrights sparked revolutions.

Before it became the predominant literary form in the mid-late 19th century, the novel was generally considered a weak, 'unsalted' form of reading, fit for young girls who might be drawn to the cheap romantic plots predominant in the form at that time. Had one suggested that the novel might soon surpass poetry in popularity and artistic merit, one would've likely been declared mad.

Most recently, comics suffered the stigma of the childish enertainment for nigh to fifty years. Yet, since the likes of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman were introduced into the fray, the 'graphic novel' section is the fastest growing part of any bigger English bookstore. Gaiman's 'Sandman' series, definetely no childish entertainment, surpassed 'Superman's' sales in the last year before Gaiman ended the storyline.

Personally, I think that both movie and gaming industry will soon experience significant changes.
In Hollywood, the pressure to produce blockbuster after blockbuster has led to such a risk-intolerant business climate that many high-profilled actors have trouble finding interesting roles outside independent productions. At the same time, the strong urge to sequelled production methords, and the accompanying progressing limitation of the narratives, make more and more of the 'riskless' blockbusters relative failures. Sure, they still draw big crowds, but the insane production values and thus budgets they require mean that big crowds are simply not enough. Hollywood will soon experience one more crash in its long history of crashes. As usual, people will crawl out of the wreckage, look around, pick up the pieces, and start anew.
Similiar in the gaming industry, which limits itself progressively into non-stop catering to a very specific demographic; the young male, aged 14 to 24. The 'Casual gamer' topic we had a while back shows that even the industry begins to realize that this market is saturated. Seeing however that the concepts it offers are generally an attempt at fishing for new demographics without of actually leaving the old one behind, I doubt this'll have much success. As with the movie industry, we see higher and higher budgets and less and less experiments, and as with the movie industry, I doubt this'll go on forever. I'm not prophezising a complete crash comparable to what happened when Atari fell, but imagine EA, pretty much the movie studio among the game publishers, filing bankrupcy afte a series of unprofitable titles. Again, not flopped. EA's games garner tidy profits and I doubt this'll change, but will those profits rise as fast as the demands of budgets that orient themselves after the most marketable franchises?
One such crash would be sufficient to send a shockwave through the industry. And I promise to you, publishers would let the old 'riskless' formats fall as though they burned their fingers. Suddenly, people would remember that games that did not fit the mold, games like Deus Ex, Alpha Centauri, or The Sims, were always good for tidy profits. That'll be the time for new directions - and maybe the birth of gaming's more serious side, as well.

On the other hand, it might just as well be that we'll see a gradual change. As another historic example, the first truly high times of filmmaking were founded on slapstick comedies - and only slapstick comedies. Until one slapstick comedian made a movie called 'Modern Times'...

Let's wait and see.

Pyro wrote:

This sounds pretty defeatist. It's hard so it's not gonna happen, right?

That's not what I'm saying Pyro. Gaming has made quantum leaps since its birth and it will continue to do so. What I'm trying to say is that I tend to listen more to criticism when it's accompanied by solutions. I believe gaming will need more sophisticated input devices and a hell lot more CPU power to get to the next level. Imagine beeing able to have a real conversation with NPC's instead of simply choosing between 3 different lines of text pressing buttons. This will open up the door to a zillion new gameplay concepts but we're just not there yet.

I'm not defeatist Pyro, in fact, I'm quite the opposite trust me. But I'm also very cartesian and realistic. I wish I could teleport myself to work instead of driving half an hour, but I'm not gonna blame the scientific industry for not beeing able to do so.

Mr.Green wrote:
Pyro wrote:

This sounds pretty defeatist. It's hard so it's not gonna happen, right?

That's not what I'm saying Pyro. Gaming has made quantum leaps since its birth and it will continue to do so. What I'm trying to say is that I tend to listen more to criticism when it's accompanied by solutions. I believe gaming will need more sophisticated input devices and a hell lot more CPU power to get to the next level. Imagine beeing able to have a real conversation with NPC's instead of simply choosing between 3 different lines of text pressing buttons. This will open up the door to a zillion new gameplay concepts but we're just not there yet.

I'm not defeatist Pyro, in fact, I'm quite the opposite trust me. But I'm also very cartesian and realistic. I wish I could teleport myself to work instead of driving half an hour, but I'm not gonna blame the scientific industry for not beeing able to do so. ;)

Processing power has made just as many leaps, if not more.
Really, its not about what your computer can calculate - its about creativity and love that used to be poured into games.

Now, I run most games and I just don't feel like I'm having fun.
Battlezone, that was a 1998 game if I am not mistaken, had gameplay which was leaps and bounds ahead of it's time, and nobody has been able to imitate it all too well.
The feeling of immersion that game had, the feeling of the world being alive and not limited by a grid, was a very rare and special thing.

Thats because true talent and inspiration are inimitable.
Just like writing a book - you can't make an immersive book just by imitating Stephen King, if you're not up to his level.
It will have the same cover art, the same size, the same types of events and characters but it will be dull as a doorknob and not fun to read.

Starcraft was a game made of tried and true concepts, which were mostly stereotypical and old even by then.
It had limitations on it's graphics engine and lacked features of games like Total Annihilation, and yet it is the game that sold like hotcakes and is STILL being played, 6 years after it's release.

Why ? It's the inimitable touch of genius. It is the passion and hard work that a true gamer can put into a game.

Games driven by corporate greed never get there.
They imitate all the right features, but the whole comes out of the assembly line as a lifeless, bland mannequin dressed in fancy clothes.
It is like a game is missing a soul. It doesn't connect. It misses things which are fun, or even though they're there, they just aren't fun.

Making a game fun cannot be described in words. It comes from the heart and it is missing.
Without the passion coming from the heart and the effort that comes from this passion, it's just not a game anymore, its an Excel spreadsheet with some rules and fancy graphics.

I never got past level 2 in Black and White.
But you know what, that game was worth my 50 bucks, because of this sense of awe and wonder that I haven't experienced in years.
It, like the likes of Battlezone and Fallout, has reminded me of why I game.

Movies are art, and treated as such.

Some movies are art, and treated as such. There's a tendency to call them films. Some movies are dreck or profane entertainment, and are generally called flicks.

People go to film school, they study it as an art and good filmmakers try to make films with artistic substance. It's the general attitude of filmmakers, they're making art and they're artists.

First, this is an overgeneralization. Plenty of folks making films want to get rich and have fans. Some truly want to elevate the art form - these are usually the indies, such as Kevin Smith or ... balls, I forgot his name, Mexican-American from Austin or San Antonia, made El Mariachi for a few thousand bucks on a friend's parent's ranch... you know the guy... went on to make crappy, sappy, dreck entertainment to fulfil his multi-picture contract so he can get back to making movies he wants to make. Anyway, this is an overgeneralization. Some dudes with cameras just want to make a buck. Some want to make Art.

The movie studios don't see it that way, but that's neither here nor there.

Rephrased, the publishers don't see it that way. How many developer interviews have we read where a developer says "Yeah, we're working on some original IP, but publishers are too risk averse and don't even want to hear the pitch; they want sure things" in the last year or two. I've seen a lot. There's plenty of developers out there that want to make games in new and interesting ways/worlds with a tendency towards exploring the Art form. Publishers don't want to hear it. They want to know it's going to sell X units to the same open-walletted boobs that bought the previous 3 iterations of the same title.
So is this really a developer problem? If we're going to break out Directors from Studios, we have to do the same for Developers and Publishers(where possible).

The game industry seems to have very few people who take this attitude. Of course the publishers don't, but the thing is that most developers don't seem to take that attitude either. Artistic substance is considered a backburner issue, since most developers still come from a technical background.

I disagree. Developers must satisfy the publishers in order to have a job. There are very few devs that have the fiscal wherewithal to go out on their own and fund a project without assistance. 3DRealms gets a lot of flak, much of it deserved, but you have to admire them for being able to fund their own titles, even if it never sees the light of day. While that may or may not prove the publisher's points, I still admire the chutzpah.
Like I said, I've read quite a few articles and interviews with devs who lament the close-mindedness of publishers towards original concepts. I don't think the blame lies with Developers in general. Yeah, there's a lot of guys that just want to make a Doom clone and see their names on a retail box, but there's a good number of devs out there that want to make the next revolutionary title and change the industry forever, the way Myst and Doom and EQ did. (I'd like to say UO, here, and they deserve a mention, but Verant/Sony really kicked it up a notch. Maybe UO does deserve the credit for the revolution, and EQ avoiding the first-to-market curse of tech garners credit for significant innovation, whatever.)

Anyway, my point is, there are devs that want to make art, just like filmmakers, and just like filmmakers, many of them are indies or students inhabiting that grey area where they are not beholden to a publisher or under a multititle contract to a studio.

It's tough not to generalize about this because of the sheer volume of dreck that gets released in all entertainment media, but just like literature, film, television, and theater, there is the rare gem and then there are the off-off-off Broadway musicals of Jekyll and Hyde starring Sebastian Bach.

P.S. I'm not trying to single you out for argument, Pyro, I just find your points speak to me the most in a way that begs me to counter. We'd have great fun arguing religion, politics and philosophy in a pub, I'm sure.

Just throwing this out there...

I absolutely love Fallout and it contains almost all of the "adult" themes; violence, gore, sex (censored, of course), and the possibility to play out may evil acts with killing children being one of them. Despite all of this, I consider Fallout to be a classic in every sense of the word.

I guess my point is that if the game is of high enough quality and standard, it containing violence, sex, or the use of drugs doesn't lessen the title to me.