Games Are Not Art: A Rebuttal
Posted on Thursday, October 22 2009 @ 06:45:51 Eastern
Melaisis made the meandering claim that games are art but not in the traditional sense. This is an idea that I can get on board with but his reasoning to lead to such a conclusion cries out to be debated.
“Games are art” is an enormously all-encompassing blanket statement and one that should, perhaps, not be uttered. After all, it’s difficult to see how Big Momma’s House, The Pussycat Dolls and It’s Not What You Think (written by ginger nut Chris Evans) could possibly be described as art and in the same sense we shouldn’t try to claim that Gears of War is a work of art either. Although Melaisis brought things down to accessibility it is plain to see that the above film, band and book are all easily accessible. It is difficult to describe just what makes something a work of art since art, by nature, is subjective, but watching Martin Lawrence parade himself around in a fat suit for two hours isn’t it, in fact it may be slightly perverse.
Instant accessibility is nice, it’s nice enough to have made the internet what it is today (so perhaps it only masquerades as ‘nice’ and is actually as twisted as a pig’s tail). However, pieces, whether they’re music, film, book, game or painting, described as ‘works of art’ are often not easily accessible. Many people see A Clockwork Orange as a violent depiction of the youth rather than the harsh judgement of humanity it actually is. This lack of understanding carries over for many great works of art; viewing a piece of art is easy but understanding it remains elusive to certain individuals. So perhaps true art is actually inaccessible for those who wish not to spend time prying open their outward facade?
Using that assumption it would not be a huge leap to say games are art because of their inherent inaccessibility. Working through Metal Gear Solid with its innovative use of controller ports and cigarettes might render Sniper Wolf’s scene even more gratifying. Perhaps Braid’s puzzles only enhance its reputation as an arty game. Maybe art is the reward gamers struggle towards?
Melaisis says as much in his blog but he also indicates that this should not be the case by proposing the removal of the ‘game’ part of a video game. Games like Fahrenheit, and soon Heavy Rain attempt to create interactive experiences where the plot unfolds as a direct result of the user’s actions. There are no repercussions for failure; the plot simply ends in a different way. While this is an excellent idea and makes the game more accessible to the less able or willing it is also an idea that is not translatable to all games. Can you imagine a Metal Gear Solid 4 where Snake just gives up? An Uncharted 2 where Drake gives in to temptation? A Super Mario Brothers where Mario just ignores Princess Peach? Removing the challenge of these games dilutes the message and removes the entire reason for the game.
If people don’t want to sit through a game for the experience of playing it then that’s fine but such a reaction is a reflection of their own shortcomings rather than the game’s. Impatience has led them to miss out on Mass Effect’s glorious story, Abe’s Exodus’ obscene and unconventional humour and LittleBigPlanet’s endearing charms. The art of these games is ripe for the taking but requires the takers to possess certain attributes. Similarly paintings require viewers to possess sufficient cognitive faculties to understand the underlying message, films need their viewers to understand the concept of the metaphor and books want readers to understand complex sentences and creative word structure. Art is not about accessibility so much as it is about conveying a message in an unorthodox way.
Video games can be art. Braid, the Metal Gear Solid series, Final Fantasy 7, LittleBigPlanet, Mass Effect, even Bioshock, prove as much. But for every beautiful game there is another that just cannot be classed as art thanks to its penchant for unnecessary violence, generic game play or lack of decent message. These games are not necessarily bad but they are also not art. So yes, video games can be art, but they don’t have to be.
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PSPass Go, spend Â£200+
Posted on Monday, October 5 2009 @ 11:37:53 Eastern
So, the PSP Go is out now and has been for a couple of days. I had a hands on go with Sony’s new iteration of the PSP a few weeks ago when Mr Sony popped into a shop I was working in at the time. I had already formed several of my own opinions based on what I had read in press releases and my understanding of the second hand market and concept of downloading and by getting a hands-on demonstration I could decide what I thought of the actual hardware.
The console itself is very impressive. It’s nice and tidy when folded down and the sliding mechanism is smooth. The location of the screen makes gaming feel natural and, although the physical size of the screen has been slightly decreased in accordance to the size of the machine, the resolution stays the same so the image is crisp. The interface is slightly modified from the PS3/PSP system so anyone who has used a Sony machine recently will be able to navigate easily. Now, the physical item is very slick; the whole thing feels polished and high quality but the rest of this article will be denouncing manufacturing choices and lambasting the lack of a UMD drive. Reasons will of course be provided.
First, backwards compatibility has been kept to a minimum. The most obvious aspect of this is the loss of one’s UMD collection but a less reported side is the need to buy a new memory card. Yes, the PSP Go has 16GB of built in storage which will last for a while but when a console’s only means of using data is saving it to a storage medium it should really have a cheap removable memory card too. The PSP used Memory Stick Pro Duos while the PSP Go has upgraded to the M2 Micro. While this is a better type of storage (it’s physically smaller while still holding large amounts of data) it does mean that anyone who bought an older PSP memory card will need to buy another memory card to fit their new PSP Go. Perhaps this is a small gripe but it does set a precedent.
The worst thing about the PSP Go is the lack of the UMD drive. At first glance this is an inconvenience but perhaps not a deal breaker but if you look deeper it’s actually a fundamental, and crucial, flaw in the PSP Go’s design. The lack of a UMD drive or other type of optical drive means that the only way to play games is to download them from the PSN. Obviously this means Sony is in sole control of how much games are priced and this can only be a bad thing. Competition in the retail sector keeps prices competitive; certain businesses price match their rivals, others price low in the first place, those that don’t simply sell less games. There is no competition here meaning Sony is free to use prices gamers have already accepted at street level leaving us with downloads costing £30-40. For any Americans who may be reading this that’s about the average price of a new, boxed game here in the UK: PSP games are generally priced at £30 brand new.
So what’s the problem? You’re getting a spiffy piece of hardware and the opportunity to buy new games at standard new prices so that’s a pretty good deal, yeah? Unfortunately that viewpoint fails to take into account the lack of a second hand market. However much developers and publishers hate the second hand game market it’s here to stay and that’s because it allows the consumer to play great games at a cheaper price. There is a thing called the second price auction where the winner of an auction pays the second highest price bid instead of their own. This concept encourages people to only bid an amount they can afford (since bidding more would make it more likely they would win and perhaps have to pay more than they wished due to someone else’s overzealous efforts). Similarly, the presence of a second hand market encourages people to buy new games, safe in the knowledge that they can trade them back at a later date for partial recompense. This concept has been lost with the download-only PSP Go. There is no possible second hand market with downloads since a pre-owned copy of a game is marked down in price because of wear and tear caused through general usage, digital 1s and 0s cannot experience this degradation and so a second hand market is rendered moot. Therefore PSP Go owners have no way of making some of their money back, no way of returning games they are unhappy with and no way of buying cheaper pre-owned games. Such a tactic may allow Sony to reap enormous sums of money if users were forced into buying the PSP Go but let’s face it, they’ll either buy a pre-owned PSP 3000 or ignore Sony completely and go to the DS.
Another issue with downloadable games is the lack of a physical case, disc and manual. Part of the reason behind the cost of games is the cost of production. Those cases, discs and books don’t cost much to produce but the need to pay for the manpower, petrol and means of transport to actually move hundreds of boxes of the things from country to country to city to city adds up and adds to the overall cost. Downloads have none of these extra overheads: the cost of creating the game and the bandwidth used to host are the only things developers and publishers are required to pay for so shouldn’t downloads be marked down in price to account for both the lack of physical material and lack of effort required to distribute the game? Sadly this is not how things work as you have seen from the pricing I have already mentioned. Sony is still expecting the PSP Go user to pay full price for a product he will never hold in his hands. That’s fine with small arcade style games but that **** don’t fly with full, retail games like Gran Turismo and WipeOut. The lack of a physical product may not be a big deal to some people out there but it is to many. I, for one, like to view my collection on a shelf rather than cycling through a list. My DVD collection spans four shelves and is creeping on to a fifth but I don’t rip the entire lot to a terabyte hard drive even though it is within my capability to do so. I don’t shirk this activity because of how dull it may become by the 50th DVD; in fact, I am of the odd persuasion that sees this sort of thing as cathartic. No, I don’t do it because I like having my collection there to touch and while downloads are a nice thing to have, they really should be one option, not the only option.
The emphasis on downloads for the PSP Go makes the 802.11b wireless adaptor a curious choice. This outdated technology reportedly makes connections shaky and easily dropped. This would simply be an irritation if it weren’t for Sony’s decision to not save download progress. Imagine how pissed you would be if you had spent the best part of an hour downloading a gigabyte game only to have the connection fail and progress wiped.
Of course in the current economic climate the whole thing comes down to price versus usability. As I’ve already described the PSP Go is not the most flexible PSP on the market. It removes control from the consumer who can usually shop at different shops, new and pre-owned markets and online for the best deal for their games. It removes the physical aspect of game buying and replaces it with cold, hard data. It inexplicably uses old wireless technology. For all this you are being charged £225, this is only £25 less than the 120GB PS3 Slim and only £50 less than the 250GB PS3 Slim. Why would someone buy a PSP Go to slowly download expensive games for £25 less than a Blu-Ray player when they could buy a PSP 3000 for around £150 (or even better just buy the cheap Blu-Ray player)? The PSP Go is a toe in the download waters but it seems to have tripped and fallen. It’s really only an option for the wealthy show-offs and even then it’s a bad one.
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TV shows described in 200 words or less
Posted on Sunday, May 3 2009 @ 14:26:26 Eastern
Desperate Housewives follows the lives of two babes, two wives and one conniving b**** after the suicide of their friend. The first season follows their stories as they come to terms with said friend's death and try to force through the mystery surrounding it. Mary (that's the dead friend's name by the way) spends her time in the afterlife watching the trials and tribulations of her still living neighbours and re-iterating them for the benefit of the viewer. In fact, despite being dead, she's narrated every single episode in this five season long television show, apart from two. Considering that the reason for her narration was to remind you about the main drive in the first season (to comprehend her suicide) and that quest was completed by the end of the first season, it's damn impressive she's still incessantly commenting on events you've just witnessed for yourself. The best thing about Desperate Housewives is Eva Longoria because she is the best thing about everything, even stuff she has nothing to do with.
Sex and the City
Sex and the City is about the unrealistic lifestyles of one mutton dressed as lamb, one ginge, one diamond (you know, in the rough), and one horse. The horse has managed to get a job for a newspaper or magazine or something and cranks out a half arsed article based on whatever happens to be going on in her uneventful life every month or so. I guess the hooves slow down the typing progress or something. Mutton spends half her time naked and she's not bad for an older girl but she is quite reprehensible. If you're in a place where you need to hate women just listen to her b**** for five minutes. The diamond reminds you of why women are awesome so ignore her if you're the aforementioned bitter lemon and the ginge... erm, I don't know actually. She must do something but she's not really significant enough to sacrifice brain space to. Oh, I think she fancies the diamond.
Plane crashes, Jack = hero, Kate = babe, Sawyer = arsehole, polar bears, black smoke monster thingy, time travel, hatches, numbers, pregnant death, Dharma Initiative, confusion. That's a small snippet of the stuff I picked up from the wonderfully helpful Nicki and none of it makes a lick of sense. Lost begins with a group of people who are seemingly strangers crashing on an island. All is about as well as can be with a group of handsome and beautiful people (and one fat guy) stranded on an island until they find and kill a polar bear... wait what? Then things get weird(er). Numbers are involved a lot and there's a bit of time travel. Also, pregnant women die but only if they get pregnant on the island and stay on the island because there's a Korean chick who cheats death by escaping. Add in the usual love triangles, betrayal and trickery and you get quite a standard show. Oh and the science experiments, can't forget them... makes perfect sense.
The Ghost Whisperer
The Ghost Whisperer follows Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts, and therefore Jennifer Love Hewitt herself, who spends her time communicating with ghosts whom only she can see thanks to her inherited ability to view the non-existent.* Each show features a different tortured spirit and the same boob fixated camera man (I'm not complaining, like) and it falls to Jenny to satisfy the spirit to allow them to move on to wherever the hell happy ghosts go. This noble cause is less selfless when you consider that Boobs... I mean Jennifer, is harassed by meandering spirits and needs to get rid of them to have a moment's peace.
* Views held within are those of only the writer and do not reflect any opinion that may or may not be held by any other human and/or animal on the planet. No view, perspective, bias or opinion held or otherwise is intended to offend, upset or destabilise the beliefs of anyone.
Save the cheerleader, save the world. Heroes is all about ordinary people discovering they can do extraordinary things. We have a guy who can fly but ignores it because he's running for election, a hotty with an unusually energetic split personality, a time travelling Japanese geek and of course the indestructible Hayden Panattiere around whom the first season centres. From the start you know something bad is going to happen but you don't know why. Is it the mysterious Sylar? Where does the man with the horn rimmed glasses come into it? (And also, what the hell is his name so we don't have to type that long winded description every time? I suppose we could call him Horny though). Mysteries and crappy yet stylised effects abound, the first season is something to enjoy. Shame the writer's strike ****ed up the second, even worse that UK TV sucks so much I haven't gotten round to watching the third season, got to try and fix that some time soon.
24 follows the daily life of Jack Bauer. Far from the boring affair you'd expect from shadowing a person for a day (like every season of Big Brother ever) it mainly focuses on explosions, bullets and traitorous politicians. The first two generally arise thanks to the plots of terrorists which are generally hatched thanks to the last one. Jack spends his time torturing officials for information, giving his word to all and sundry and, in one season, jacking up with heroin. Often, the season starts with a very simple (but big) problem and about half way through it is discovered that something far bigger and more sinister has been at work all the time. Most of the women are beautiful in the way that makes you wonder why you don't live near more of them (just look at Elisha Cuthbert and Reiko Aylesworth) and it's surprising just how many people Jack has pissed off during his career. Maybe he broke his word? Anyway, watch it just to see how long he can go without taking a leak, I don't even think they have toilets in the 24 universe.
Friends stars six... friends. We have the funny one, the sexy one, the neurotic one (who also happens to be pretty fit), the weird one, the slutty one and the clever one. I won't bother naming names because let's face it, you know them. The clever one fancies the sexy one and the funny one eventually marries the neurotic one. The slutty one never settles down but I think he's happy with the stream of beautiful women he beds. The weird one finds her slightly more normal half who could have been in the original six to be honest, he's pretty funny. Every episode follows a standalone story but the overall plot progresses with each episode. Will the clever one and sexy one get it on? Ooh, yeah, no... were they on a break? The neurotic one spends almost every episode freaking out over something and the funny one spends much of his time calming her down and cracking stupid jokes. Give him a break though, his dad's a cross dresser. All in all pretty damn new and groundbreaking.
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Scapegoating - are we doing ourselves any favours?
Posted on Thursday, March 12 2009 @ 09:49:28 Eastern
Any gamer should be aware of their favourite media being used as a scapegoat for... everything. We have been at the sharp end for every school shooting ever featured on the nightly news, for the perceived increase in knife crime,... read more...
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Posted on Thursday, February 5 2009 @ 05:31:24 Eastern
YouTube is a bastion of violent retardation. While I’m sure there are well educated people who choose to visit the internet’s video central walking through the YouTube portal is kind of like experiencing a temporary l... read more...
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What not to do during a zombie apocalypse
Posted on Tuesday, December 30 2008 @ 08:31:09 Eastern
We’ve all planned what we would do during a zombie apocalypse. If you’re anything like my mates when drunk you’ve decided on several contingencies to ensure you will know what to do at the vari... read more...
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The future of game media
Posted on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 17:33:04 Eastern
Gaming's come a long way in every way imaginable, but I'm here to talk about one in particular: capacity. Back in the days of the C64 (that's Commodore 64 bits) for you whipper snappers) entire games were held on cassette tapes. NES cartridges varied... read more...
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69 reasons why it's good to be a lesbian
Posted on Thursday, August 7 2008 @ 07:14:24 Eastern
I'm bored, I have a little green and blue button in my browser window with SU written across it. For those of you in the know you'll understand I'm talking about the magical internet site called StumbleUpon. This website gathers information on you (t... read more...
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Film/TV characters who suck at their job
Posted on Sunday, July 20 2008 @ 13:43:24 Eastern
Philip J. Fry from Futurama
This is obvious, I mean, Fry's (for that is what everyone calls him aside from 'idiot' and 'meat bag') whole... thing is that he sucks at his job. He is a lousy delivery boy when he worked at Panucci's Pizza. He... read more...
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