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Videogames Doomed for a 'Comics-like Ghetto'? 354

Posted by Zonk
from the i-would-argue-comics-aren't-even-in-a-ghetto dept.
At the Newsweek blog LevelUp, journalist N'Gai Croal wrote this week about the sometimes-precarious position of videogames in popular culture. The frustrations of legislators, lawyers, and 'pro-family' groups aside, the popularity and record sales of the gaming industry would seem to indicate rising stock for gaming as an art form in the US. And yet, there are some folks who see gaming as just another fad, which in some time will be equal in popularity to comic books or tabletop roleplaying. N'Gai starts to form his response by noting that learning to play videogames is considerably easier than developing an appreciation for literature of any kind. He then goes on to note that the (oft-cited) lack of weighty subjects in gaming is more due to the 'pop culture' nature of the hobby than the medium itself. "Popular fiction generally outsells literary fiction. Summer blockbusters generally out-gross arthouse films. Is this any different from, say, Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat out-NPD-ing BioShock last year, or Madden doing the same to Shadow of the Colossus in 2005?" He discusses some ways to address that, but do you have any solutions? Or are games doomed to be the playthings of adolescent boys for the rest of the century? (And yeah, I resent the 'comics ghetto' label too.)
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Videogames Doomed for a 'Comics-like Ghetto'?

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  • Not a chance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:18PM (#22440328)
    Every male in my high school played starcraft, no matter what social group they came from. The same could be said for halo. Gaming should be thought of as a medium or a category, like comics are a subcategory of literature, and RPGs are a subcategory of card/board games. I don't see the popularity of Halo or of Guitar Hero-type games fading.
    • Re:Not a chance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:30PM (#22440446)
      I think you've missed the point. While gaming may be a medium that doesn't mean that it can't have high quality. Literature has Steven King but it also has William Shakespeare. Music may have Britney Spears but it also has J. S. Bach. In the first case you have simplistic pop culture phenomena that is just for brief entertainment and in the later you have works that will enlighten you. So where is the Shakespeare or Bach of gaming?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Guinness2702 (840158)

        Literature has Steven King but it also has William Shakespeare.
        Ooh, flamebait! Not everything Stephen King wrote was terrible...or are you suggesting Shakespeare was rubbish (not that I'm a fan myself).
      • Re:Not a chance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stormguard2099 (1177733) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:41PM (#22440564)
        Tetris. 'nuff said
      • Re:Not a chance (Score:5, Interesting)

        by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Friday February 15, 2008 @07:27PM (#22440978)
        So where is the Shakespeare or Bach of gaming?

        OK I'll bite:

        The Bard's Tale
        Wasteland
        Pirates!
        Nethack
        Dune 2
        Master of Magic
        Warcraft
        Civilization
        Tie Fighter
        System Shock 2
        Half-Life
        GTA Vice City
      • Re:Not a chance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by meringuoid (568297) on Friday February 15, 2008 @07:35PM (#22441058)
        Literature has Steven King but it also has William Shakespeare.

        Bear in mind that Shakespeare was not writing solely for a sophisticated, intellectual elite. He's rightly remembered as one of the crowning glories of human cultural achievement, but when he sat down to write his plays, a large part of his thought was given to how the material would play in front of the half-drunk crowd in the pit in the Globe.

        Shakespeare's genius was to create superlative works of art which still appealed to the mass market. He blended in cheap puns and sight gags along with his sophisticated plots and deep philosophical allegories, and made it all work perfectly. That's something we've yet to see in games - we have the occasional Planescape: Torment, but when we do it's never a hit - but then, we rarely enough see it anywhere else. Shakespeare is the kind of thing that happens once a century or so, and gaming's only been around for thirty years.

        • They attempt to appeal to niche sectors of the population with puerile stuff.

          No wonder nobody is taking it seriously as an art form.
        • Re:Not a chance (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tedrlord (95173) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:21PM (#22442604)
          Have you played Bioshock? It's a commentary on Objectivism and the fault of pride, a whole city of people ruled by visionaries who felled the society with their hubris, leaving the normal folk who came in hopes of a better life either dead or insane, pleading to God to forgive their sins. You can also shoot lightning from your hands and set people on fire by snapping your fingers, and you get to kill evil mutants and killer robots with grenade launchers, electric shotgun rounds and napalm flamethrowers. Seriously, it's an impressive game.
      • by hhr (909621)
        Tetris!
      • by vikstar (615372)

        The lack of weighty subjects ceased being a problem in the video game industry many years ago, when Tomb Raider's Lara Croft gave us not one but two weighty subjects to consider.
        I think you've missed the point. While gaming may be...
        I think you've missed the point. However, it is slashdot after all, so you're excused :)
      • by TitusC3v5 (608284)
        So where is the Shakespeare or Bach of gaming?

        Unfortunately, Looking Glass Studios closed their doors several years ago.
      • by vimh42 (981236)
        "So where is the Shakespeare or Bach of gaming?"

        They are everywhere. And with everything, to each his own. Show me a Rembrandt, play me some Bach, recite Shakespeare. What if they don't speak to me? What if I find no value in them. Perhaps it's not for a lack of looking. Perhaps there isn't any and someone at some point decided to make something up to sound enlightened and the masses just followed along.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by honestas (1233958)
        Your magnum opus gets obsoleted every other year by the latest video card technology. Unlike video games, a work of music or literature can be created by one or a few dedicated artists, and stays timeless. In contrast, a sophisticated video game requires large teams of people and a large budget, and seems really lame 10 years later.

        An artist can work as a waiter during the day and write his great novel at night. When he is done with the novel, after a few years, he can take a couple more years to be reco
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by KublaiKhan (522918)
      I'm going to agree with you there.

      Games have always been about competition, one way or another. Those games which are only single-player are, in a way, an aberration--sure, Final Fantasy games are wildly popular, but the people who buy 'em tend to like the 'interactive movie' aspect.

      It's no real surprise that a game that offers extensive competition would outsell a game that, ultimately, requires you to sit alone for long periods of time. Beautiful graphics and engaging stories are a great thing, don't ge
      • Re:Not a chance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SQLGuru (980662) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:58PM (#22440730) Journal
        Even in single player games, there is usually some sort of competition.....whether it's a new high score or just to complete the game, there is some mode of competition.

        Not everyone wants to compete in a game, either....or at least not in the fashion you are referring to. I play games to see EVERYTHING. I love RPG games because of how much there is to see. I do every side quest. I save and pick various paths to see how they are different. I don't have a problem with walkthroughs and cheats (in single player RPGs - but only when stuck) because I'm more interested in seeing all of the content than I am in feeling like I "beat" the game.

        Layne
      • Re:Not a chance (Score:4, Interesting)

        by magical_mystery_meat (1042950) on Friday February 15, 2008 @07:02PM (#22440768)
        Games have always been about competition, one way or another. Those games which are only single-player are, in a way, an aberration--sure, Final Fantasy games are wildly popular, but the people who buy 'em tend to like the 'interactive movie' aspect.

        Yes, this is true. I'd rather play a game like Mass Effect than sit through any kind of passive entertainment. The interactivity adds a level of entertainment that no movie can match.

        People need the social aspect of games. They need to compete against each other. If you don't have some sort of socialization and competition in a game, it's not going to sell nearly as well as one that has those aspects.

        I think you're projecting. You may need the socialization and the beer and pretzels aspect to enjoy a game, but if I'm playing a game, I'm doing it to avoid people, not to spend more time around them than I already have to. I've been there and done that w/r/t being a socially oriented person and it just doesn't interest me anymore. Different strokes, etc.
      • I love Halo, but for me, the backstory just gets in the way of gameplay.

        It's a FPS at heart, so why do I need to know how and why the Flood got on the ring?

        I'm with Vasquez on this one... "I only need to know ONE thing, man... where they are!"

  • ...would suggest otherwise, gaming is moving into new areas not well served before. Hde games will only become more accessible for non-gamers. Personally I'm looking forward to fully-immersive games to become a reality. Like a good version of the Virtuality units of old.
  • I can't remember it myself, but in the good ol' days movies were a seen as disreputable form of entertainment only indulged in by youngsters with nothing better to do.
    If video games see a similar development, maybe in 50 years or so they will be seen as wholesome entertainment for the whole family?
    • by spun (1352)
      More than just entertainment for the whole family, video games can become a great teaching tool. Imagine learning about history in an RPG, witnessing historical events first hand. I still remember Oregon Trail. I wonder why more educational games haven't been released? Textbooks are huge business, why not textbook games?
  • supply and demand (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SoupGuru (723634) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:26PM (#22440416)
    Of course, it's really pretty simple. If there's a demand for games, more games will be made. If there isn't, there won't. We can go around and around on whether X is as popular as Y or is it as popular as B? Who cares?

    Right now, the gaming industry is moving a lot of units. There are also a lot of really good games out there now, too. Is this because it's a lucrative market or is the market lucrative because of the good games? Again, an argument that really doesn't matter to anyone that's not trying to get ad clicks.

    In summary, if you like to play games, play them. If you don't, no one's forcing you to. No big deal. Life's short. Get some fresh air now and then too...
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      No, only games that are perceived to make large amounts of money are made. Better yet, the treadmill games like World of Warcraft, Everquest, and like games with X$/month are made preferential over others.

      And also console games are made. What a waste if you cant upgrade them and make content for them (and no, DRM does not count, ask those xboxers).

      Ill look at your games if the following occurs..

      Cheap - 30$ or so, you compete with movies and music... both of which can be easily gotten for free
      Extensible - Do
    • by tthomas48 (180798) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:42PM (#22440572) Homepage
      Actually, a pretty good sign of "art" is that it gets created irrespective of commercial demand for it. So a bust might be good in that we might see video games created for the sake of creation.
    • If there's a demand for games, more games will be made. If there isn't, there won't. We can go around and around on whether X is as popular as Y or is it as popular as B? Who cares?

      Who cares? Gamers do! The games industry do! Whether they're popular or not strongly affects our chances of playing video games in the future. Even if there is demand, the more demand we have, the more choices we will get in which games we want to play. In other words, popularity is everything to the future of gaming.

  • Video games develop a set of skills just as reading a literary work improves comprehension. Problem solving skills are often best learned by being tasks to complete. Video games if properly utilized can be used to develop problem solving skills along with motor skills. The appeal of educational video games (which were already around when I was in elementary school) may wear off, but I highly doubt they will disappear. Just as there are sports that some people don't enjoy during PE, there will be games g
  • Art (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:27PM (#22440426)
    Remember, it's not art unless it takes eight or more years of expensive (and exclusive) education to enjoy it.

    Everything else is just "folk art". But we just call it "art" to make the simpletons feel better. They aren't good enough to begin to understand Art.
    • Re:Art (Score:4, Funny)

      by DeadDecoy (877617) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:46PM (#22440610)
      By that consideration games could be considered art. Some of my friends have spent 8 years mastering the zerg rush and camping creeps for loot and they're still in college!
    • 8 years of education in most countries is not more than the equivalent of primary and a bit of secondary education, which in developed countries, would mean pretty much everybody.

      I don't know what some folks have about exclusivity, to achieve something exclusive requires hard work and dedication.

      If you think you are going to fully understand a fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach, an opera by Wagner or a painting by Michelangelo just by being stupid and don't making any effort, well, be my guest, I am nobody to i
  • Violence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DreadPiratePizz (803402) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:27PM (#22440430)
    Only if videogames learn to use gameplay mechanisms that don't involve violence. Right now, the majority of videogames are violent, whether that be shooting, punching, or stomping enemies. If the games industry were hollywood, this would belike having 70% of the films be action movies. Of course, 70% of movies are not action movies. Video games need to diversify.

    Not everybody is even good at the gameplay mechanisms required. Portal is intellectually challenging with its puzzles, but the coordination required makes it hard for a lot of people to play it. I think adventure games had this right all allong: a simple interface, gameplay that involves puzzle solving and curiosity, and the opportunity to create a good story driven by the player. Instead we have shoot shoot, a cutscene with story here, shoot shoot more shooting.

    It's gettign better, but it's not there yet.
    • Re:Violence (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2@anth[ ... m ['ony' in gap]> on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:45PM (#22440606) Homepage
      Not true.

      The majority of games are of the puzzle/Tetris variety. Bejeweled was far more popular (in terms of users, and hours played) than the top-rated FPS, and I'd guess that MS Solitaire comes pretty close behind it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Seiruu (808321)

      Portal is intellectually challenging with its puzzles, but the coordination required makes it hard for a lot of people to play it.
      Some people might also be put off by the screaming robotic voices when you destroy them. Or when that robotic monotone voice keeps telling you it is going to kill you, and tries to. Or the sound you make during and when you hit the ground after being hit by some shiny energy ball.
  • video games as art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by majorgoodvibes (1228026) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:28PM (#22440438)
    Last year Roger Ebert responded to Clive Barker's comments on Ebert not considering video games art:

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070721/COMMENTARY/70721001 [suntimes.com]

    There are some good thoughts in there even though Ebert is definitely in "Get off my lawn" territory.

    I love the Half-Life series. I think there's a lot of wit and intelligence and creativity there that you don't see in a lot of other games. But every time I sit down to play a new episode I inevitably think: "It's just a First Person Shooter." Portal gets even higher marks for creativity. The way they develop the GLaDOS character and the use of plot twists and the out-of-left-field use of music is brilliant. But is it art?

    I guess I tend to think of video games being "artful" rather than "art".
    • by Omestes (471991)
      This is an issue I've been pondering for a very long time, from a philosophy/aesthetics point of view. the real problem here is that we lack a sufficient definition of art in the first place, people have been asking what art is since Socrates, and we STILL don't have a bloody clue. It belongs in that class of "I know it when I see it" ideas, in that what we call art is largely defined by culture, time, and arbitrary academics.

      To a large part art is vetted by time, just like all things. We really don't kn
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:33PM (#22440470)
    ... American Comics deserve every bit of ghettoization they have. The vast majority are of the superhero type, which are mindboggingly complex in their timelines, crossovers, retconning and super powers galore. Compare this with European comics (specifically Belgian and French), and you'll find everything from High Art to Low Art, super heros, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, surreal, spy, WW2, funny, serious, story-driven, art-driven, and anything else you can think of.

    As an example, after hearing so much about the Sandman chronicles, I browsed through one. I found the art disappointing, and the story mildly interesting. However, it was still miles beyond any of the DC and Marvel comic books next to it.

    Yes, there are great examples of American comic artists - Frank Miller comes to mind. But they are the vast exception in a sea of mediocrity.

    This is also why I think that videogames will escape ghettoization - they are a worldwide phenomenon, and this alone will prevent them from sliding into a state that is as narrowly focused as american comics. To some extent, I think they already have. I can think of a number of games that are more art than game - Psychonauts, for one. Okami, for another.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jarik_Tentsu (1065748)
      Hell, compare it to manga, which has really started to dominate that industry, even outside of Japan and 'otakus'. But it's exactly as you said - where American comics were all superhero type, manga comes in everything for any age and every genre with every potential storyline you could phantom. Different drawing styles too.

      ~Jarik
  • there's no feeling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mewsenews (251487) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:34PM (#22440486) Homepage
    a friend of mine who is a fellow bookworm were talking several years back, and i told him about how i hadn't been touched by the plot of final fantasy 7 in the way that a lot of other people had (there's a touching bit where the female lead character dies and i had heard from several people who had said they'd been deeply moved by it).

    he looked at me and said "maybe you and i aren't as affected by it because we actually read".

    the cinema, theatre, and music can all be as deeply stirring as a good novel. comic books don't seem to get it most of the time, but there are "graphic novels" that attempt to speak in an adult way about adult situations.

    games are just another popular art form, for better or for worse.
    • by H0p313ss (811249) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:53PM (#22440678)

      games are just another popular art form, for better or for worse.

      Moreover games are an EMERGING popular art form, most emerging art forms are effectively shunned by the mainstream art world until they BECOME the mainstream. Video games as a medium are only a few decades old, and as a MASS market medium only a decade or so.

      Look at the history of movies and movie making for example, how many directors, actors or script writers were recognized as artists in 1920 or 1930? Compare that with the explosion of the art form in the 50's and 60's. Note also the parallel between the censorship that occurred then with film that is now beginning with games.

      People who DO look at the best of the gaming world as an art form and appreciate it as such are becoming more and more common, and as that progresses so will it's recognition by the mainstream art world. This is probably not something that will happen overnight, I expect it will take years or decades... but I wouldn't be at all surprised if 50 years from now there was not a gaming equivalent of the academy awards where some otherwise unknown will get the "Best Rendering in a Simulated World" and getting a script writing credit on the "Game of the Year" is as valued as much as one for a major film.

      Patience Grasshopper, waiting is... you grok?
      • Welcome to 1936! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jacobw (975909) <slashdot@org.yankeefog@com> on Friday February 15, 2008 @07:15PM (#22440884) Homepage
        I think you're right on the money about games being an emerging form, and you're right to compare games to film as well. In fact, the more you know about film, the more striking that analogy becomes. So if you'll forgive a film geek for drawing the analogy in even more detail:

        When film first began, it was a widely accepted fact that it would never be an art form. To a large degree, this was because people mistook temporary technical limitations for inherent artistic ones. "Film is silent and in black and white, and theater is in color with sound. Film will therefore always be an inferior version of the stage, at best." Indeed, film was generally seen as nothing more than lowbrow entertainment for illiterates, immigrants, and other types deemed inferior by meanstream society.

        But then technicians solved more and more of the technical problems--allowing filmmakers to tell longer stories, and to film in more settings--and meanwhile, filmmakers were learning more and more about the possibilities of this new art form. Even before sound and color, you were beginning to have masterpieces that were recognized as works of art. Birth of a Nation was the first one, although it seems crude (and horribly racist) by modern standards. But by the time you got to the 1920s, people were making films that can still move modern audiences. Yet it took another decade or two for highbrow literary critics to catch on to this explosion of creativity.

        The comparison to games is pretty obvious, I think. Technical developments are allowing better and better visual effects, and game makers are getting more and more sophisticated about exploiting the strengths of the form and working around the weaknesses. I would say that Doom was the gaming world's equivalent of Birth of A Nation--a work of tremendous energy that synthesized a whole lot of already existing elements into something that felt new and exciting. And I would say Deus Ex and Thief were like the films of the early 1920's--one day they will be classics, but when they came out, they were still part of a particular artistic ghetto. And now videogames are catching up to the films of the late 1920's/early 1930s--they are very sophisticated, and the outside world is just beginning to wake up to their merit.

        One last thought: if commercial gaming began in 1972 with Pong, then the medium is 36 years old. If commercial film began in 1896 with the Lumiere brothers, then it would have been 36 years old in 1932. Which means that videogaming is evolving right on schedule. This means we can expect the Citizen Kane of the videogame world sometime in the next five or six years...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Toonol (1057698)
          My first reaction was to protest that the Citizen Kane of videogames has already appeared... Planescape: Torment.

          But I can admit there are some problems with that comparison. Torment had classic characters, a fascinating story, and important themes. But it was still held back somewhat by technical limitations and a little bit of a clunky game engine. Maybe it is the 'Birth of a Nation' analogue... a promising glimpse at what might someday be done.

          If that game had been done today, with the technical
    • he looked at me and said "maybe you and i aren't as affected by it because we actually read".

      Your friend is quite wrong. I've read a great many books in my time, and still do. I wasn't touched by the plot point of FF7 you mentioned, but I was extremely moved by the plot of the game as a whole.

      If you aren't moved by the plot of something, it's rather pretentious to presume it's because you're too good for it (or some other similar sentiment), isn't it? Apparently the plot (or plot point) wasn't very interesting to you... but that has precious little to do with how much you read, it's just how tha

    • Books are the same as movies, music, videogames, comics, etc. they are all MEDIUMS. They are worth no more than what is put into them.

      On that note,to claim that books are more sophisticated or developed, etc is a bit of an unfair fight. Books and music have been around for centuries and centuries. Does it surprise you that they have diversified themselves more than comics and videogames?

      Plus, I'd say that in the case of videogames there are real limits on what can be produced, as in hardware, input

    • by Sigma 7 (266129)

      a friend of mine who is a fellow bookworm were talking several years back, and i told him about how i hadn't been touched by the plot of final fantasy 7 in the way that a lot of other people had (there's a touching bit where the female lead character dies and i had heard from several people who had said they'd been deeply moved by it).

      As your friend mentioned, both of you actually read. This generally means that you've been exposed to a larger quantity of plot events and twists that some games are now beginning to implement.

      The scene you mentioned where the character dies is considered a cliche and isn't as touching as it could be. In particular, I find it silly rather than touching because of the following:

      • Phoenix Down allows you to revive characters that get killed. You tend to go through a lot of them anyway.
      • Like most other chara
  • I think it's entirely possible, and I think it's quite a good analogy--but not in the same sense that he's using it.

    Part of the reason why comic books, at least in the United States, aren't accorded as much respect as an art form can probably be traced back to the hysterical allegations of Dr. Fredric Wertham in his book Seduction of the Innocent. In short, he claimed that within those pulp pages, the amount of violence, of innuendo and sex, and the like would twist and stunt the growth of the children
  • d) All of the above (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ryvar (122400) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:43PM (#22440586) Homepage
    Full disclosure: I worked heavily on the production of Bioshock's voiceover, so I have a bit of an opinion on this topic.

    My own take is that gaming is a very broad medium - possibly even beyond film. We see in the film industry a single medium containing both Requiem For A Dream and Dumb and Dumberer. Miller's Crossing and Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit.

    Games (not "entertainment software", games, damnit) cover a similar spectrum, even if the high-brow fare is a bit thin on the ground right now. Such was the case for film when that industry was gaming's current age.

    At this point in time much of the gaming industry occupies the same functional niche as pornography - people go home after an exhausting day at work, have a beer, demolish noobs on Team Fortress 2 to relax, and then go to bed. But the existence of pornography in film does not prevent that medium from providing works of real intellectual and artistic substance. Neither does gaming as pornography - both literally and metaphorically - hinder the development of deeper experiences.

    I think if anything gaming provides the potential for experiences of greater power than film because we can develop both narrative-driven and sandbox experiences for our audience. We've seen the promise of the latter in GTA*, Oblivion, and I believe we'll see more of it in Spore. We've witnessed an outstanding achievement in the former named Call of Duty 4 - and my hat is off to Infinity Ward for such an amazing work. Beyond the singleplayer, massively multiplayer games can also provide a great range of experiences - from Ultima Online's open-ended fantasy simulation to Planetside's extremely structured gameplay.

    We will get gaming to the level where it can be taken seriously as a work of art. We are getting it to that level. Right this moment. Your patience, please. :)

    *I am a Take 2 employee, blah blah blah the opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of my employer etc. etc. ad nauseum.
    • by Ryvar (122400)
      I should mention I'm not slagging Valve - TF2 is the best multiplayer game I've played in basically forever. It's just that from a functional perspective people generally use round-based multiplayer games as if they were pornography. I'm not sure whether that's unfortunate or really the entire point, though.
  • I don't think that you can draw a useful comparison between comics and games in the way that this article seems to be trying to do. Comics are a genre, of literature I guess. Video games are more like literature than comics, in that you're talking about a broader range of things, which can be broken down into genres. (which isn't to say that you can't break down a genre such as comics further.)

    You could probably make a decent argument that some genres of video games have already fallen into a 'ghetto'. Flig
  • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:51PM (#22440644) Homepage
    The lack of weighty subjects ceased being a problem in the video game industry many years ago, when Tomb Raider's Lara Croft gave us not one but two weighty subjects to consider.
  • The Perfect Setup (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:53PM (#22440674)
    Games are different. There will always be games in one form or another. Which form will they take? Well, if convenience and accessibility have anything to do with it, then how about in my living room, on my pc, my cell, or a portable device in my pocket? Coincidentally, these all fall under "video games". So unless these mediums go away, video games are here to stay.

    As a species we've been playing games far before we started reading, and surely we will continue far after we stop.

  • The question is useless if you have the mindset that the answer must always be yes for videogames to have a significant cultural impact.

    Most games are not art. Some games come close, most do not. It simply does not matter. A more important and useful question would be 'Are Vidoegames culturally significant?'. There are many things that are culturally significant that are not in any great way considered art.

    World of Warcraft is not art in and of its self. But you can say that it is a common experience s
  • Video games may be a hell of a lot easier to learn than literature appreciation, or even basic literacy, but I do have one question about that...

    So?

    My son is so incredibly happy that he's picking up reading skills that the Nintendo and my wife's computer are almost growing dusty from lack of use while he spends his time reading dinosaur books, and Calvin & Hobbes. True, hardly great literature, but the fact is just because something's easier to do doesn't mean it's going to win outright.

    Then again, maybe the issue isn't the kids... let's face it, movies with substance, with a message, with depth and meaning don't tend to make a lot of money, and thus either don't get made, or only get shown on select screens for two weeks, and then fade into obscurity. Transformers made HOW much money?
  • He discusses some ways to address that, but do you have any solutions? Or are games doomed to be the playthings of adolescent boys for the rest of the century? (And yeah, I resent the 'comics ghetto' label too.)

    This author is making a false assumption.

    Narrative entertainment has many forms, and has evolved over thousands of years. From oral tradition, to plays, to books, to film, to comic books, etc. What do all these forms of entertainment have in common? Passivity. The viewer exercises no control over
  • The best example of innovation came from a game that many of the business people just didn't want to finance, and that is Sim City (and the Sim off shoots). It was a truly think-outside-the-box game; no obvious win scenario, with the real pleasure coming from just creating cities and learning how different elements interacted with each other. As the years went on it proved itself to be an enduring contender.

    Unfortunately the business people (as opposed to the creative minds) will have the ultimate say in ho
    • Of course if people start bringing politics into the game creation equation then this will also be a hindrance to creativity.
      You just gave me an awesome idea! imagine this: Sim Politics.

      You could work your way up from mayor of your town to president of the world. You could choose which bribes to accept, who to lie to, and all the other fun things that come along with being a politician. Tell me that game wouldn't kick ass if it was done right.
      • You just gave me an awesome idea! imagine this: Sim Politics.

        You could work your way up from mayor of your town to president of the world. You could choose which bribes to accept, who to lie to, and all the other fun things that come along with being a politician. Tell me that game wouldn't kick ass if it was done right.

        You just gave me an awesome idea! imagine this: Sim Suicide.

        You could watch people play Sim Politics (or hey, even the real thing!) and then feel compelled to shoot yourself in the face.

      • You could choose which bribes to accept, who to lie to, and all the other fun things that come along with being a politician.

        Indeed, in a truly realistic simulation. I think we are seeing some of this in some online virtual worlds already, like terrorism (in the form of griefers [wikipedia.org]) and fraud (not living up to trade agreements). IIRC, I think the online version of Sim City was more politically based.

        Sadly, I speak mainly from theory now, since I have very little time for games.

  • As artists can't even agree on what is and isn't art when they're talking about art, it's unlikely we'll come to an agreement with games, but even if the vast majority of games are just there to be popular and fun, there will always be the Frank Millers and others who aren't as popular, but continue to create not because they just want the money, but because they want to actually create something artistic (choose some definition of art: your choice). Even if they don't sell as much, people have a natural in

  • I'd say COD4 is almost as artistic, if not just as artistic, as Bioshock. Some of the cut-scenes/events are extremely powerful, especially the last scene and 'Aftermath'.
  • by joey_knisch (804995) on Friday February 15, 2008 @08:02PM (#22441340)
    Just ask yourself these questions.

    1) Does grandma read comics?
    2) Does grandma play the Wii?

  • Translation... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by itsdapead (734413) on Friday February 15, 2008 @08:50PM (#22441782)

    learning to play videogames is considerably easier than developing an appreciation for literature of any kind.

    Odd - since quite young children seem to enjoy being told stories (which sounds like "developing an appreciation for literature" to me).

    So, perhaps the translation is "The videogame industry has yet to fully develop a parasitic industry of critics who 'appreciate' video games by writing pretentious deconstructions of them".

    Currently, so-called "reviews" of video games are just descriptions of what the game entails, whether the gameplay is compelling and the quality of the technical execution. Anybody who has "developed an appreciation for literature" knows that proper reviews are smug little essays designed to impress upon the reader the reviewer's extreme wit and cleverness while scrupulously avoiding saying anything informative about the actual work under review, but citing myriad other obscure works in the clear expectation that any worthy reader will be familliar with them all.

    Once the videogame industry has evolved such critics, all that remains is to ensure that all 5th graders are forced to write 1000 word reports on the influence of the depiction of dwarves in "Colossal Cave" on the works of Scott Adams then videogames will be accepted into the pantheon of true art.

  • by ContractualObligatio (850987) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:41PM (#22442134)
    I'm going to argue that video games are not art, and may never be. But this is not a criticism of video games. The fact that I do not see games as "high art" is not to look down upon games. For example, I consider chess one of the finest achievements of human kind, something of cultural and political significance, and the worthwhile past time of some of the greatest minds that have ever lived. Maybe a goal of seeing video games as high art is not a good standard to judge them by.

    Games can be important, of interest to all people, and held in respect. Their "artistic" role however is generally to act as an inspiration for, or a metaphor within, a work of art. You'll be able to find references to chess in every art form humankind has ever devised. A game of chess could be animated, delivered in 3D with incredible graphics and audio, with chess pieces designed by a world class sculptor moving on a board designed by a reknowned architect, against a backdrop painted by a famous artist, to a soundtrack written by a talented composer, orchestrated by a genius and performed by a philharmonic orchestra. You could devise some sophisticated plot that is reflected in the almost infinite variety of moves the game allows.

    And yet, most would still call it a game rather than a work of art. All the "art" mentioned is simply window dressing for the game itself. The chess pieces may be sculpture, but are not part of the game of chess as such.

    So what would video games need to achieve recognition as a serious art form? I don't think we'll know until we've reached the point they've earned that status. Then we'll look back with hindsight and go, "This is what it means for a games to become high art". But I'll take a stab at how we'll know we've reached that point. Once lead game designers start to achieve general recognition for their games and their meaning, just as everyone's heard of Shakespeare, Dickens and Hitchcock (insert locally relevant artists here...) then video games will have achieved the same status as "art".

    Once they have, we'll be able to look back to now and consider where it all started. But currently, it may just be that even examples of great art direction (I liked the atmosphere of Thief, personally) is really just great interior decoration for a game. Current technology does not allow for the finesse of expression of actors in a film, or oil paints on a canvas, after all, and rarely do you feel the game has been designed to tackle complex dramatic themes - most plots and scripts are fairly cliched, frankly. This could all change however as technology advances and designers / directors are freed up to work on the art rather than the mechanics of their creations.

    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Saturday February 16, 2008 @08:20AM (#22444608) Homepage
      I think the thing to keep in mind is that there isn't just one type of video games. Video games are by far the most flexible medium of all. Take a text adventure with easy puzzles and a linear story and you have something that is very similar to a book, take some 3D game with heavy focus on cutscenes and you have something that is very similar to a movie and you can even completly move away from books and movies and do a game like Tetris, which is something completly different again. You can also create interactive worlds that don't have any fixed narrative at all, but which turn the player into the story creator or explorer.

      Video games simply can be so many different things that there really is no limit in what they can do. They can be as linear or as flexible as you want them or as playful as you want them. They can be a toy or a teaching tool or both or something completly different. They can even be a social meeting place.
  • by RichPowers (998637) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:01PM (#22442238)
    Videogames could be the cultural equivalent of a ghetto filled with thugs, whores, crack dealers, derelict housing, corrupt cops, stray bullets, overflowing sewers, the homeless, broken glass, and gun-toting radioactive giant sewer rats and I'd still be happy as long as games are fun and stimulating.

    I'll leave determining what and what isn't art to the professional intellectual masturbaters :)

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