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RIP Ralph Baer (1922-2014) I really, really hate writing obits. I really do. But I take it as a personal honor to be able to say good things about the men and women I respect, whether in this industry or just in my life, and Ralph Baer is the reason all of this exists in the first...

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Video Games as Art: It's all too commercial
Posted on Friday, July 9 2010 @ 00:51:20 Eastern

Hey my first blog post (well, first blog post about video games anyways...)

There's been this consistent debate about video games as art, and do they qualify yet. People such as Roger Ebert still adamantly claim no, while many in the gaming community are steadfast against this view. But it comes down to one problem: it's still too commercial.

Before I get into the why, let's consider what qualifies as art: just about anything. But all works of art have a few consistent, undeniable traits: The work has to say something; the viewer should be, on some level, interacting with the work in a meaningful way; and it has to be personal. Even work meant to reach a large audience still are generally based off of something personal. Video games just don't really attempt that.

This isn't about all the tech talk, or how so many people focus on how great and next gen the graphics are or any of that. It's that I just finished playing Castlevania: SOTN for the first time (I know, a decade or so late), and it was a fantastic game. But there was no personal message in the game, I didn't walk away from it contemplating an important issue in my life or the world. I just walked away from it.

I understand everyone's reaction will be different, but there has to be something personal in a game to begin with to elicit that a real reaction. It's just generally not there in video games.

There's a number of reasons for this, and the fantasy settings of most games don't help much (I guess a developer could have had a really bad childhood experience with a zombie, which would explain "Dead Rising"). But most of it boils down to what sells, and that's escapist settings. Some games do try to transcend the usual contrived stories. "Final Fantasy VII" addressed many complex themes, but this is rare. And despite the success of that installment in the series, the next titles still really never went there again.

And of course, there's the development of "moral choices" in games. But it's too simplistic, and often plays very little into the ultimate goals and actions of the characters. And it just seems that, when your moral choice is "wipeout that whole town for the hell of it" or "go fishing," I think we can agree that isn't exactly a realistic choice...

So are video games going to become art? Of course, it's already happening. Slowly, but there is progress. Remember, cinema and photography (two newer mediums) weren't widely considered art for decades after their invention, and probably 90% of movies made are still just mindless entertainment.

But the less artistic games and movies will always be the majority stake, it is entertainment. But the point is to see progress, and we have slowly seen that in video games. Games that start with a unified concept of what it is trying to say to people, rather than starting with gameplay mechanics or graphics.

For a blog, I guess this is long? It's like half a page printed singel spaced, so a short newspaper article/pathetically short magazine blurb. Meh, if I'm lucky maybe I'll get some TLDNR's. That'd be cool. I'm tired of editing for now...
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