One of the most talked about topics within the gaming community in recent years is, whether or not video games are art. While film and television are well regarded as an art form, why do we hesitate a tad over gaming? A new wave of games like Dear Ester, The Stanley Parable and Gone Home were released in the past couple of years and are regarded as great titles, well… except Dear Ester cause you know, it freaking sucks and barely passes as a game (I mean $AU9.99 on Steam to walk around for 30 minutes?!)
I myself, regard gaming as art. The storytelling that is true to other visual media is amplified when the audience is directly responsible for the choices and direction that a characters journey takes. Not to mention visually, game designers have taken us to environments that vary from beautiful to menacing, to lush and even ravage.
A great example is Irrational Game’s Bioshock Infinite, a gorgeous game that really creates a surreal environment where every corner of the floating island beckons for exploration, rewarding players with thorough history, back story and Easter eggs. It’s varying environments, from inside a cathedral to the city streets of 1912, to the rotting walls of an abandoned mansion, the game continually throws the player into beautiful scenery and amazingly diverse environments that seem so spectacularly real that the player can’t help but be drawn into its fictional setting. It truly took my breath away at times, in the same way a brilliant movie would, or a perfectly taken photo could.
Last week I was chatting with two friends, one who I often play games with, the other who’s gaming experience was literally only Plants vs Zombies on iOS. We ended up engaging in a lengthy conversation about modern gaming. It sparked from me saying that Grand Theft Auto V shouldn’t have been given game of the year by a particular company, it then moved to me describing how I enjoy the manner in which particular games can create a universe and lore that’s so extensive I can live in them for weeks, and sometimes years. I continued to talk about story building in games like finding articles or diary entries, narration and flashbacks, when one of my friends interrupted me and basically got me to explain what a cut-scene was.
This friend then pressed me about what my game of the year was, without a hesitation I said The Last of Us. It’s a game that shows real human interaction, character progression, human choices and far from a cliché ending. With lushes and sometimes morbid locations, the game continually surprises you with moments that pull on your heart strings, resulting in a series of emotions.
Speaking through an exhale, with widened eyes, my friend was shocked to learn that games could evoke these kinds of feelings and thoughts. The fact my friend didn’t even know, that she had no comprehension of, the idea that gaming was more than killing people for points and jumping a-top a flag pole to ‘win’, led me to crack the blatant secret of why people don’t recognise games as art, or even register it as a modern medium of storytelling .
It’s because people don’t know that there are games out there that can build stories with greater depth, that are more complex, compelling and elongated (for the better), than film and television. Is it the older generations not taking an interest? Did you ever notice when you were a kid and you went to go see a movie with your friends, and your parents might ask, “honey what are you going to see?” And you’d be like, “the South Park movie seems funny…” resulting in a response along the lines of, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU THERE’S NO WAY MY CHILD, THE BEING I CREATED IS GOING TO BE CORRUPTED BY THE FILM INDUSTRY!”
But if you asked them for a copy of Grand Theft Auto they didn’t have a care in the world as long as you were occupied for a couple hours. It seems like a lack of knowledge may be the villain of this topic. So how do we change this? The answer is simple, make the subject matter more prominent.
One way that I’ve suggested to remedy this is to have a video games ceremony similar to the Oscars, stay with me. Reward creators with more than a freaking VGX awards with condescending hosts, a place where we literally award people for their efforts in writing, coding, directing and producing masterpieces across different genres. It may take a bit longer than the Oscars but aren’t games usually longer than films anyway?
We push to show audiences that the classification and game content directly impact each other, and not just because you get to shoot people, but because the themes and actions within the game are mature. So if you’re reading this, tell your parents the plot of the last game you played no matter what it is, and show them those beautiful landscapes, god knows I do, as much as my Mum doesn’t care who got announced at E3 or not.