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On Game Developers and Legitimacy 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-there-yet,-and-most-box-art-doesn't-help dept.
Gamasutra is running a feature by game developer Brian Green on how he and his colleagues are still striving for legitimacy and respect as part of a medium that's still commonly thought of by many as "for kids" and "potentially harmful to kids." He notes that while financial legitimacy is no longer in question, artistic and cultural legitimacy are taking more time. Green makes some interesting parallels to the early movie and comic book industries, and points out that moral outrage against comic books did significant damage to the medium's growth in the US. "... in the United States there was a 'moral panic' about the corrupting influences of comic books on children, as there often is with many 'new' media. The government threatened to enact laws to censor comic books, for the good of the children. (Does that sound familiar to game developers?) The industry reacted by enacting their own regulations, the Comics Code Authority (CCA). The Comics Code Authority heavily restricted the content that comics could contain. For example, the words 'horror' and 'terror' were not allowed in the titles of comics. Werewolves, vampires, zombies, and similar creatures of the night were forbidden."
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On Game Developers and Legitimacy

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  • by Nutria (679911)

    My parents didn't have to worry about what comics I bicycled up to the corner convenience store to buy.

    Now, to remain "relevant" and "hip", comics are "graphic novels" with topics I don't want my son reading about (yet). Even if the corner convenience store still existed, and it sold comics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lysergic.acid (845423)

      translation:
      your parents didn't have to worry about parenting. after all, why should they take an interest in what their child is reading?

      there are still plenty of G-rated and completely tame comics that cater to children (like the funny pages in the newspaper). but i guess all comic books need be censored in order to meet the approval of lazy parents. god forbid comic book creators are given the creative freedom to write/draw what they want--including material that adult audiences can connect with.

      i suppos

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nutria (679911)

        your parents didn't have to worry about parenting. after all, why should they take an interest in what their child is reading?

        You don't know my parents. (Specifically, my depression-raised grandparents who were always nosing around in my room, and wouldn't let me watch the 10PM TV shows when I was a young teen, or SNL when I was an older teen.)

        i suppose if people like you had it your way there'd be no movies beyond PG-13

        You need to watch Turner Classic Movies http://www.tcm.com/ [tcm.com]. Lots of great and powerfu

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:34PM (#26807727)

      My parents didn't have to worry about what comics I bicycled up to the corner convenience store to buy.

      "Internet censorship is a good thing! My parents don't have to worry about what websites I'm visiting!"

      "TV censorship is a good thing! My parents don't have to worry about what I'm watching!"

      Maybe your parents should have worried about what you were buying? Maybe, as parents, that's their job? I certainly see it as part of my job to watch over what my daughters are seeing.

      The problem with gaming being seen solely as the preserve of kids, is that I, a 41 year old, am restricted to content that's been approved for 18 and under. As a game developer as well as a player, I get that from both sides. I can't work on a game with a plot that's too involved, or the kiddies won't get it. I can't show too much emotion between two NPCs, or someone might think it's sexual tension and ban the game.

      The lack of respect for games puts us in a vicious circle where we can't do anything that would let us confront the player, and at the same time, we're not given respect because we never do confront the player.

    • My parents didn't try to censor my reading material. I respect them to this day for that, even though I didn't really need to read Mario Puzo at age eleven.

    • Did your parents have to worry when you went to a bookstore? There was no CCA for books, so how did they know you weren't picking up something horrible like Huckleberry Finn? What about going to a museum? Did they steer you away from works of art like Goya's El Tres de Mayo, which depicts a vivid scene of violence and bloodshed?

      In the end, the CCA did more harm than good. The reinforced the idea that comics were only suitable for children. There's a story about how Stan Lee did story in Spiderman about

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lgw (121541)

        So, a comic book story couldn't even give the message, "Kids, don't do drugs."

        The Sandman comics did a story about a lesbian. She had just come out of a failed relationship, no social acceptance was shown, and IIRC she ended up stabbing out both of her eyes (man, I loved Sandman). The story was frequently criticized as endorsing a homosexual lifestyle, and a stink was made by religious nutjobs. You just can't win.

        The primary purpose of the CCA was to sell more comics. The secondary purpose was to stave off government intervention by self-regulating. It was successful on both cou

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Psychochild (64124)

          I love Sandman, too. But, understand that the comic wasn't published under the CCA. Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics, actually. A lot of the big comic publishers started creating imprints during the waning years of the CCA in order to publish comics that wouldn't get CCA approval.

          It was successful on both counts, much like movie and ESRB ratings.

          I don't think you can really compare the CCA to the MPAA or ESRB ratings; movie and game ratings in the U.S. don't restrict what content can be in the work. A

      • by Nutria (679911)

        There was no CCA for books, so how did they know you weren't picking up something horrible like Huckleberry Finn? What about going to a museum? Did they steer you away from works of art like Goya's El Tres de Mayo, which depicts a vivid scene of violence and bloodshed?

        You're being aggressively narrow-minded, presuming that my guardians were fundamentalists. When I read Lolita as a high school senior, my grandmother was quite upset, at first, but didn't stop me, because she knew it was "literature", and th

        • You're being aggressively narrow-minded, presuming that my guardians were fundamentalists.

          I made no such assumption; rather, I was trying to show that your guardians probably didn't worry about your exposure to unusual ideas or graphic violence in books or paintings. So, why would your guardians be so worried about exposure to these things from comic books? Why was the CCA a good thing, but there was no need for the equivalent for books or paintings?

          This is the core of the issue of "legitimacy" I talked a

          • by Nutria (679911)

            So, why would your guardians be so worried about exposure to these things from comic books? Why was the CCA a good thing, but there was no need for the equivalent for books or paintings?

            Because in my "tweens" I had no desire to read "adult" books. Comics (including Mad Magazine) and the Hardy Boys (all 66, plus "specials") are what I remember wanting to read at that age.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by tverbeek (457094)
              So why would your parents have needed to worry about you picking up Sandman or Preacher (if they had been available)? Your "reasoning" makes no sense.
      • There was no CCA for books, so how did they know you weren't picking up something horrible like Huckleberry Finn? What about going to a museum?

        At the time about which we speak, these media weren't new anymore. Everyone has grown up with books and museums around. Thus nobody is seeing them as "bringers of the end of the world as we know it".

        (But if you go back in history, you can pretty much find lots of examples of fundamentalists movement burning books to protect the population from their corrupting power)

        Back in the comic book scare (or in other recent past scares like role playing games, rock music, etc.) or in the current video game scare, the

    • You are quite right. (Also my parents didn't have to worry about me riding to the library on my bicycle. Our English teacher actually had a set of stock letters which she handed out to us, when she thought we were ready, to give the local librarian, saying in effect "Please can you give so-and-so an adult library ticket." ) In their desire to avoid all censorship, other people are responding to this post suggesting that intrusive parenting is better than censorship. I find that an almost incredibly immature
    • No, the Comics Code Authority sucked. The reason why it sucked is not just because it censored adult content.

      Put it this way, do you consider Mickey Mouse and Scooby Doo adult content? No? But they have ghosts, witches, werewolves, zombies and vampires in them. Uh-oh, they broke the comics code.

      The comics code went completely overboard, specifically to put E. C. out of business. The code wasn't about censoring adult content (comics had been limited in what they could legally show before the code, altho

    • The Comics Code Authority effectively crippled the medium of comics for decades, restricting it to kiddie humor and simplistic superhero stories. The only comics that were able to tell intelligent, challenging, or sophisticated stories for grown-ups after the CCA was established were those that developed through the "underground" drug culture, which weren't distributed to a mainstream audience and market. Fortunately, the CCA gradually became less relevant when comics stopped being distributed widely thro
  • by The Wooden Badger (540258) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:03PM (#26807621) Homepage Journal

    A critically acclaimed video game turned movie will go a long way towards legitimacy.

    • by fishybell (516991)
      Oh, like the critically acclaimed Super Mario Brothers?

      Best. Movie. Ever.

    • A critically acclaimed video game turned movie will go a long way towards legitimacy.

      Yeah, somehow it seems to me that you'd be better served actually doing something than worrying about your artistic legacy when you're a nobody.

      That would be like me writing my memoir which would, at this point, consist of nuggets like "got up...went to work...came home...jerked off to midget porn." Maybe later when I've become an international man of mystery or whatnot, some of the later chapters might be more interest

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:14PM (#26807625)

    We've had movies based on games, games based on comics, games based on movies and TV shows, movies based on TV shows, games based on books, and soundtracks for all of them (but comics of course). Everything has been intertwined for years. And only the most idiotic of individuals could possibly isolate any one of these media and consider them not to be works of art.

    Chrono Trigger. Street Fighter II. Virtua Fighter. Starcraft. Metal Gear Solid. Art?

    Games are some of highest forms of art in existence as they include:

    - writing: storyline, plot twists, character history and back story
    - visual art: graphics, design, characters, creatures, environments
    - animated art: motion capture, cartoon animation
    - special effects: rag doll physics, explosions, stop motion (Max Payne), complex lighting
    - sound: sound effects, samples, ambient noise, environmental sounds, foley noise
    - music: original and licensed music, Chrono Trigger has amazing original music, Grand Theft Auto has amazing licensed music
    - acting: voice acting, including many AAA games having Hollywood level talent

    Are games considered brilliant works of art? David? Mona Lisa? Sistine Chapel? Are they considered as exceptional art because of the difficulty of the work?

    What about the difficulty in creating an original title such as Half Life? Or Starcraft? Or Chrono Trigger?

    David wasn't the first statue, Mona Lisa not the first painting, Sistine Chapel not the first mural, Starcraft not the first RTS, Half Life not the first FPS, Chrono Trigger not the first RPG, but they are standouts, works of a art, and unique accomplishments. And much time, thought, and effort went into the making of all them.

    Just look at the balance of Street Fighter II (which took fifteen years), or Starcraft (still being balanced every day in Korea and Blizzard HQ), or Virtua Fighter (Sega revises the arcade versions several times). Is there not an art of game balance?

    Balancing Virtua Fighter, where you have a cast of 19 extremely different characters that fight in different ways, or Starcraft where three completely unique races competing on different maps with different starting locations. Is there not an art to balancing those games? If it was a science then each character would be the same, each race the same.

    And level design. It's EXACTLY like set design but more imaginative as you aren't confined to real world physics. Cliff Blezinski designed some of the most amazing architecture I have ever seen. What buildings did he create? None. He made levels, amazing levels, in Unreal Tournament. Levels that are works of art. (UT1 also had an amazing soundtrack).

    Directing an in game cut scene is exactly like directing a scene in a movie (except the actors don't talk back). Look at Final Fantasy X or Metal Gear Solid 4.

    Creating a game soundtrack is the same as making one for a film or television show. Look at Grand Theft Auto, Chrono Trigger, Halo.

    Creating the 3D models for characters in game is the same as carving a statue. The characters in Virtua Fighter 5R are extraordinary when you see them moving on an HDTV monitor at the arcade.

    Writing a script or character for a game is the same as writing one for a book or comic. Solid Snake & Niko Bellic have fuller lives and stories than some of the longest running television characters.

    Animating a character and his or her in game moves is the same as animating a character for an animated or 3D movie. The animations for Virtua Fighter 5R are just as impressive or better than Toy Story or Wall-E. VF5R moves at a blazing 60fps and the animations are fluid and jaw dropping.

    Cinema is art, music is art, television is art, painting or photography is art, writing is art, and so are games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      Yup, and golf is a sport. Golfers are athletes.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by uniquegeek (981813)

        "Golfers are athletes" is like saying "gamers are geeks". The statement has the potential to be true, but it really isn't likely to be. This misuse of the word belittles the true athletes & geeks out there.

      • Yup, and golf is a sport. Golfers are athletes.

        So you are comparing golf to all other sports and saying that all games are like golf? Wrong.

        How about some games are like football, rugby, baseball, and soccer in the world of sports, games like Starcraft, Virtua Fighter, Half Life, Unreal Tournament, in the world of games. What football and soccer (those are different sports in America) have in terms of athleticism, Starcraft and Virtua Fighter have in terms of artistic design.

        Then there are games like golf, and bowling, and darts or whatever in the world

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by arogier (1250960) *
      As some support for this position, Ars had a nice story on a game that is little other than art. Link [arstechnica.com]
    • by Jack9 (11421)

      only the most idiotic of individuals could possibly isolate any one of these media and consider them not to be works of art.

      You misspelled "rational".
      Balance implies an absolute value that has correctness. There is no art to most games, other than the assets. Technology? no. Gameplay? no - you never choose to make a game less fun in the name of "artistic freedom", rather simplify to distill gameplay rather than make it intentionally less fun. Most of the games named are specific examples of games that are n

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @06:15AM (#26810117) Journal

        1. As opposed to what other art medium?

        A crucifix in a jar of piss is considered art. A TV displaying static in an empty room is considered art. Or I've personally seen such works of art in a private collection as 4 pieces of A4 paper, 2 crumpled and 2 folded, then straightened out and framed. That was art. I've seen a sculpture apparently representing "death" which was really a steel sheet monolyth. No, seriously, it was a big rectangular box of steel sheet. That was it.

        Or probably the best example here was a modern painting I've seen, which looked _exactly_ like a tetris game when you just lost. No seriously, it was essentially a square grid with 1 to 4 adjacent squares filled with one of 5 or 6 colours or so. Except I recon one of the rows should have been eliminated before because it was full. I wonder if it was an error of the artist or that was some thought-provoking part about the unfairness of life.

        If _that_ is art, why isn't Tetris art? It can produce the same kind of an image. Why is it art if it's displayed in some snob's collection on canvas, but not when it's on the screen?

        2. The general idea (or excuse) of art these days is that it's supposed to be "thought provoking" instead of anything else. (In fact, last I've heard about it at an arts college calling someone else's work "pretty" instead of "thought provoking" is the most grievous insult you can throw and not be sued for it. But use it only if you want to make an enemy.)

        So then why aren't, say, the story arcs of City Of Heroes art? I know several did get me thinking about morality, or about doing what you think is right and discovering that you've been manipulated, and a few other things.

        And I'm not even saying that City Of Heroes is the only game like that. Most games can provoke _some_ thought. E.g., KOTOR 2 did a good job of being pretty morally complex, and had more than a couple of situations worth thinking about. E.g., The Witcher got pretty philosophical at times, and it made a good point that sometimes there are no right sides to pick. E.g., Black And White, much as I otherwise thoroughly despised that game, did get me thinking a bit about divinity and such. Etc.

        Heck, I once even wrote an essay about Chucky Egg as a metaphor for the struggle of the common worker against the oppressive corporate chickens. Ok, it was a big joke, but it did provoke that kind of thought at least. So even a simplistic one-screen platformer can technically be thought-provoking.

        And again, if a crucifix in a jar of piss or a crumpled sheet of paper can use the "thought provoking" excuse, then virtually any game can. If you're the kind that's inclined to think of the deeper meanings and possible metaphors of that jar, I see no reason why you couldn't do the same about a Mario kart game. (See the XKCD strip where she gets all philosophical about choosing to not cross the finishing line. Ok, just to make him lose, but still, that's some thought provoked.)

        • I've seen a sculpture apparently representing "death" which was really a steel sheet monolyth. No, seriously, it was a big rectangular box of steel sheet. That was it.

          I remember reading about that one. Some well-known artist had a vision of a huge cube of metal. One day, he was driving around in New Jersey and saw a sign "You design it, we fabricate it". So he called them up. At first, he wanted a solid metal cube. It was explained to him how much a cubic meter of steel weighs and what it would ta

    • by grumbel (592662)

      Games are some of highest forms of art in existence as they include:

      Games also include tons of mindless shooting, monsters and other random just-for-entertainment crap. There have been quite a few good games that told an interesting story (The Longest Journey, Planscape Tourment, Grim Fandango, etc.), but more often then not they are over 10 years old and their genres no longer deemed fit for todays game console generation. If mainstream gaming wants to be taken serious it has to try to be more then a gameified version of a monster b-movie. Heck, even highly acclaimed games

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Games also include tons of mindless shooting, monsters and other random just-for-entertainment crap.

        A finely balanced mindless shooter is just as much a piece of art as a plot driven character heavy RPG. You don't need plot or character to make a game a work of art. Play Radiant Silvergun sometime. I don't know what the plot is, or who any of the characters are, since I don't know the language. It's still quite obviously a work of extreme beauty.

        • by grumbel (592662)

          Yes, very true. However its really not so much about games being art or not, since that is a very theoretical and pointless discussion, but about games getting respect from mainstream news, politicians and such and that just isn't going to happen as long as games are mainly about saving the world by shooting zombies/aliens/whatever.

    • What you described is art, but that is not the art of a video game. Everything you list is a category of its own. No, the art in videogames comes from having a stimulating and challenging system, that flows and rewards players at high levels of play. Completing Metal Slug 3 without dying, dodging bullets in Ikaruga, running a speedrun in Mirror's edge, it's the games that get the player into the zone with a hard and intense flow that are art. This cannot be duplicated in any other medium. Everything on your
  • "Low" art (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Calvin: A painting. Moving. Spiritually enriching. Sublime. "High" art!

    The comic strip. Vapid. Juvenile. Commercial hack work. "Low" art.

    A painting of a comic strip panel. Sophisticated irony. Philosophically challenging. "High" art.

    Hobbes: Suppose I draw a cartoon of a painting of a comic strip?

    Calvin: Sophomoric, intellectually sterile. "Low" art.

  • Consider that to some even chess champions who make it be and become rich and famous are just game playing kids. (I'm reminded of the teacher in Searching For Bobby Fischer [wikipedia.org]). It's not realistic to expect people who won't take an intellectual game like chess seriously where becoming good at Grandmaster level requires serious study to suddenly take game developers (and professional game players for that matter) seriously. It would take a massive cultural shift in multiple cultures and countries for that to ch

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by uniquegeek (981813)

      It would take a massive cultural shift in multiple cultures and countries for that to change."

      Cultural shift in the perception of people on the outside looking at gamers, or cultural shift in personal character of the gamers?

      Seriously, I think the second point requires more attention. Then the first point will change.

      • FWIW the second is changing, not because the old school gamers are changing but because the medium has become good enough to attract mainstream fans. You have an increase in casual games, a recent introduction of rhythm games to the mainstream, and graphics that can easily compete with animated (and sometimes non-animated) television. This has spread the love to lots of other people. I say gaming is almost to the point that it is mainstream. In a few years all this videogame regulation stuff will disapp
  • by boredhacker (1103107) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:32PM (#26807717)
    "The most virtuous are those who content themselves with being virtuous without seeking to appear so."

    Plato
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Crumplecorn (904797)

      Be that as it may, if the world is run amok with deviants, happily blending in despite your virtuosity will not achieve much.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Any actual game developer who states otherwise is just being modest.

    -Modeling
    -Texture Painting
    -Effects
    -Art of Balancing Gameplay
    -Art of Writing Story ...
    I won't bother to list any more.

    Some may say that there have been no games good enough to be considered art.
    Bullshit.
    If everyone sucked at painting, would it no longer be considered an art?

    • But you're confusing the issue. All of those things are art in games. The game itself isn't art because it contains art.

      I'm firmly in the games-as-art camp, but this is not the correct way to argue that games are art.
  • An insiders view (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StaticEngine (135635) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:49PM (#26807841) Homepage

    I work in the "Games Industry", so I'll throw in my two cents.

    Part of our problem is that the high profile titles are still stuck in what I'll call the Sitcom and Movie Of The Week phase. We have lots of heavily promoted titles that, to an outside observer, are only midly different (my mother would not be able to tell the difference between L4D and Fallout 3, just as I can't tell the difference between Fraiser and The King of Queens), and the production and release of these titles is largely driven by profitibility.

    There are smatterings of "art" games, and it is my belief that these games are the ones that will bring legitimacy to the industry, although it's going to be an uphill battle. Let me take this sentence apart, because I want to clarify what I mean and why I'm making this argument.

    A game like Emily Short's "Galatea", which is a text based game (ostensibly "Interactive Fiction"), is art, if solely for the beauty of the prose and the exploratory nature of the interaction. There are a vast array of possible conversations that the player can have with the title character, and these are mature, adult conversations, with depth and emotion fitting of any high quality published novel. But barely anyone knows about this game outside of the IF and Academic community.

    Another game is Johnathan Blow's "Braid", which I began playing for the third (fourth?) time again last night. Not only is it beautiful, fun, polished, and unique, but the time-manipulation gameplay ties in with the plot in an almost magical fashion. Who, or what, is The Princess, and how exactly does she fit into the timespace continuum? Even after I put down the controller, I find myself thinking about the story far more than the button mashing or the puzzles.

    But these two games also reveal part of the challenge, in that a game in the purest sense, as James Earnest (of Cheapass Games) used to attempt to impress upon me often, doesn't care about plot or story or pretty graphics. A game is about rules and play and fun, and that's it. So intertwining the game play aspect with the story aspect is the real challenge for legitimacy, because it's through story and narrative that people develop an emotional connection to the content, but it's via interaction that they experience this narrative.

    I think there are a handful of approaches that are starting to tie interaction and dynamic narrative together. Fallout 3 (which I haven't played, admittedly) and Fable 2 are probably good examples, although they're perhaps the modern day "Die Hard" equivalents: yes, romance drives the plot, but it's really about guns and explosions. Cultural legitimacy, when playing a certain video games becomes the mass-populace in-thing to do because there is a positive (or at least thoughtful and broadly appealing) common experience to be had, this is probably at least another decade off. I think we need to see more Braids and Galateas, and better Fables that are less about sword slashing and more about our inner conflicts as human beings, before we get there. I think we need development teams who are more artists and storytellers than algorithmic optomizers, and I think we need to make games that take more risks and fail not simply because the framerate was poor or the textures were blocky, but because they tried to teach us something about what it means to be human and just wound up being weird.

    Those are the mistakes we need to make in the industry, so that we can learn from them. Only when we understand how to merge interaction with introspection will video games be legitimate forms of art and entertainment.

    • Re:An insiders view (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @01:51AM (#26808723)

      Fallout 3 (which I haven't played, admittedly)

      You really owe it to yourself to give Fallout 3 a try, especially if you are a fan of the series. I got hooked as a CS major in college and although I have little time now for serious games, I made time for Fallout 3 and let me say that I was not disappointed. It is obvious while playing the game that the team at Bethesda are real fans who played the original games, groked the Fallout universe, and really wanted to do justice to the first two games and the Fallout name after the series had been tarnished and sold down the river by Interplay with embarrasing console money makers and cheap third party "tactics" spin-offs. The result was really marvellous and the few minor flaws remaining can very easily be fixed in the patches to come. I was especially impressed that Bethsoft had the courage to preserve the over-the-top violence (ala Bloody Mess), drug use, and dark humor that had always been a staple of the series (even though they compromised a bit on Med-x == morphine, and some minor usage animations); no mean feat these days when games receive the sort of intense public scrutiny that comics once received. I am really looking forward to a revamped Fallout series with fan contributed side quest add-ons and more content in the future (there is talk about a sequel where the level cap is raised to 30 and the player takes a cross country trip to the ruins of Pittsburgh). Just talking about it makes we want to pick up my A3-21 plasma rifle and blast some super mutants into piles of goo.

    • "I think we need to see more Braids and Galateas, and better Fables that are less about sword slashing and more about our inner conflicts as human beings, before we get there"

      Most gamers couldn't give less of a crap about "inner conflicts of human beings", when I play a game I don't want some game developers whiny philosophical whinging of characters to be the forefront of the experience. I want to get on with the game.

      Most game writing and movie plots do not support "high art" for the most part. Really go

    • Re:An insiders view (Score:5, Interesting)

      by martyros (588782) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @08:32AM (#26810877)

      But these two games also reveal part of the challenge, in that a game in the purest sense, as James Earnest (of Cheapass Games) used to attempt to impress upon me often, doesn't care about plot or story or pretty graphics. A game is about rules and play and fun, and that's it.

      Actually, that's a very good point. There have been games around since before writing began. But no one has ever tried to say that Poker, or Hearts, or Chess, or Monopoly, or golf were "art". That's not what the inventors of those games was going for. The difference is that a lot of modern video games involve both the "game" aspect and the "story" aspect. And for the vast majority of games, the "story" aspect isn't particularly respectable art (nor does it particularly need to be).

  • Green makes some interesting parallels to the early movie and comic book industries, I once heard a psychologist compare Grand Theft Auto to Birth of a Nation as technically brilliant and psychologically poisonous. Ideas have consequences.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @12:21AM (#26807997)

    I work kind of in this area as a researcher, so maybe I have a rosy-glass view, but the arguments seem a bit dated to me. Sure, in say 1999 this was a problem, and not that many people took games seriously. But in 2009? Yeah, people still like to kvetch ("games are rarely taken seriously blah blah and we aim to change that" is a standard opening move if you're writing a paper), and maybe the average person on the street doesn't, but there are plenty of inroads:

    There are journals [gamestudies.org] and academic [digra.org] conferences [aiide2009.org] on games [foundation...lgames.org], in both the humanities and computer science.

    MIT Press has an entire division [mit.edu] of books about videogames. I'm currently reading one about the Atari 2600 [mit.edu], which, yes, even covers its role as a cultural and artistic platform.

    There are initiatives [seriousgames.org] and companies [persuasivegames.com] to use games [gamesforhealth.org] for "serious" purposes. The U.S. Army in particular takes them seriously and funds development [usc.edu].

    Braid [braid-game.com] sold over $1m, despite being a kind of weird arty game made by a single guy. You can even get an MFA [ucsc.edu] doing fine-arts stuff related to games.

    Heck, Gamasutra itself frequently publishes about games as art [gamasutra.com], and it's semi-high-profile (at least to the extent that getting linked at Slashdot once a week counts as semi-high-profile).

    I mean yeah, I'll agree that far more people respect, say, film than respect games. But it's not as if this is some novel argument and nobody has ever thought about taking games seriously before. Also, to some extent, it's the fault of people not making more interesting games: Hollywood may be crap, but there are a lot more innovative indie films out there than innovative indie games.

  • by Protonk (599901) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @12:35AM (#26808083) Homepage
    ...you need to push things along. It has taken a long time for comic books to be accepted as an capital "A" Art form, almost 2 generations (or three depending on how we date things). I don't see a good reason why games will be accepted more quickly. There is the general reason of "cultural change happens faster now", but that comment is usually unaccompanied by argument or data so I take it with a grain of salt. We are 30-40 years into the history of video games and ~25 years into their entrance into the mainstream. I have no idea what arc they will take, but I can almost guarantee that it will travel through acceptance as an art form at some point. Will they be subject to an independent resistance against big studio control (a la the movie business in the late 50s to 1970s?) Will they await some major change in creation overhead before artists move into the genre? Are we too far in late capitalism for that to happen? No one knows.

    But I can tell you one thing. Most of these game designers aren't helping. Sure, Ted Sturgeon can tell us that 90% of everything is bunk, but we really are reaching into the crapper for most of the content here. There are some wonderful games out there. There is some deep work going on in the business, both in writing and in the design of a game experience. But most of these guys are pushing out undifferentiated games with middleware populated by Mary Sues and John Does. The studios (just like movie studios) don't care and honestly neither do the fans (in most cases). Where a game is a rare combination of artful, AAA, and well promoted, it will make bank. When it is two of the three or (worst), only artful, it will usually sit unloved. Like I said, this is not a problem unique to the gaming industry. For every truly wonderful film out there we have a dozen Dane Cook rom-coms that make you despair for humanity. But simply making that comparison leaves us with an incomplete picture. Those movies that we consider artful and important all took risks. They all represented serious investments of time, blood and money from their creators. They came about (at least in the case of Hollywood) from bitter fights and internecine warfare. Some of the works we think of today as powerful and compelling were almost eliminated (or mutilated) by studios interested in formulaic crap. And for every Kubrick or (young) Lucas or Scott there were hundreds of equally talented souls who just didn't make it. Who said the wrong thing to the wrong guy. Who pushed too hard or didn't push hard enough. Who said "fuck it" and decided to make Disney movies for the rest of their career. Game designers have to be willing to take those risks--the studios aren't going to do it themselves.

    Surprise, surprise, striving for legitimacy and respect involves...striving for legitimacy and respect. You don't get to be respected as an "artiste" until you make some games that can seriously be considered artful. Meridian 59 is pretty god-damn good. But most people don't have games like that under their belt.
    • by lgw (121541)

      Gaiming is only 5 years or so into the mainsteam. When people born this century become ar critics, we'll see recognition of games as art.

      And Sturgeon would *never* tell us that 90% of everything is "bunk". 90% of everything is crap.

      What was artful about Meridian 59? Wasn't just a whack-a-mole "MUD with pictures"?

  • let's not forget about the medium of machinima, where films (a medium often seen as high-art) are being made with video games (a medium often seen as vulgar and low-art)

    or how about artists who use video games as an artistic medium? I have stepped into commercial galleries where video games were the basis for an artwork.

    as a professional artist, who has been formally educated in the fine arts, and who has exhibited work on 3 separate continents; it is my opinion that video games are very much a form of art

    • by dwye (1127395)

      let's not forget about the medium of machinima, where films (a medium often seen as high-art) are being made with video games (a medium often seen as vulgar and low-art)

      That is as much art as anything that Ray Harryhausen ever produced.

      BTW, films are only seen as high art when they lose money, or the director and/or stars is/are dead. Roger Corman would still be derided as Schlock-meister One-Shot Corman is he was still making films with Vincent Price and Boris Karloff.

  • sooky sooky la la (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ramul (1103299)

    Maybe this guy would get some respect if he wasn't such a little bitch.

    Who cares if people don't respect your industry, are you SO hungry for approval from people you have nothing to do with that you lose sleep over the gaming industry being dissed or misunderstood?

    How is it even a bad thing to be making things for kids? Its a fantastic thing, if not necessarily the case.

    God, when will i stop asking rhetorical questions?

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @01:28AM (#26808561)

    Werewolves, vampires, zombies, and similar creatures of the night were forbidden.

    For example, from the wiki article [wikipedia.org] on the Comics Code Authority:

    Marvel skirted the zombie restriction in the mid-1970s by calling the apparently deceased, mind-controlled followers of various Haitian super-villains "zuvembies". This practice carried over to Marvel's super-hero line. In the Avengers comic, when the reanimated super-hero Wonder Man returned from the dead, he was also referred to as a "zuvembie".

    • Sure. But, consider that Marvel was one of the largest comic publishers at the time. They likely had enough political pull with the CCA to get that approved even if someone wanted to cry foul at that point. A smaller publisher might not have.

      Also, by the 1970s, the damage had been done to the industry. Comics were already minimized in importance. That creativity didn't extend to creating new genres of comics to generate more interest with a wider audience. Compare this to manga and French comic books

  • Comic book mythology (Score:4, Interesting)

    by westlake (615356) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @02:02AM (#26808791)
    It can be useful to think clearly about the comic book in the fifties:

    Kids - like everyone else - were watching television. Men were reading paperback books.

    Mickey Spillane. "My Gun Is Quick"

    Comic book sales were in a steep downward spiral and crime and horror looked like a quick - cheap - way to recapture an older audience.

    The immediate problem was that distribution was routed through the same news outlets as everything else.

    In the drug store with Scrooge McDuck and the cigar store with the bondage themed True Detective magazine.

    The hard core stuff sold under the table. It could be - and often was - a very sleazy business.

    The larger problem was that the newspaper comic strip was still in its prime.

    Caniff. Al Capp. Chester Gould. Walt Kelly. Charles Schulz ---.

    Both veterans and newcomers producing really, really, good stuff in every genre

    --- and when they fought their own battles against censorship, they came into the fight with much better ammunition.

  • by Psychochild (64124) <psychochild@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @02:05AM (#26808807) Homepage

    A few general comments here.

    First, this article is intended for professional game developers. I wrote another article on this topic for game players and enthusiasts at RPG Vault: http://rpgvault.ign.com/articles/807/807409p1.html [ign.com] Read that article if you want to see why legitimacy is important to everyone, and why attempts to restrict the content of games hurts more than just game developers.

    The question isn't really if games are Art (with a capital A), but if they're seen as legitimate. The biggest example to show that games are not necessarily considered legitimate is in the numerous laws enacted to restrict the sales of games to "protect the children". Most of these politicians railing against video games are the same ones that would never think about trying to regulate books or even movies. Politicians will speak out against games because there is enough sentiment that games aren't really legitimate that the politician can score easy points. Thankfully, at least in the U.S., the courts have defended games in terms of free speech against various legislative attacks.

    Personally, I think games are an incredibly powerful medium. I think that in the future we'll be able to develop games that have the same impact and meaning as classic movies and books; of course, we still have a very long way to go. On the other hand, we may not get that opportunity if we're hobbled by people who scream the battlecry "save the children!"

    • by Aceticon (140883)

      The problem of the legitimacy of games now is just like the problem of the legitimacy of rock-and-roll in the 1950s:
      - Like rock-and-roll, games as an entertainment medium has been mostly adopted by people of the newer generations.
      - Most people from older generations have never really experienced the new media (play games/listen to rock-and-roll)
      - Since they do not understand the new generation, those people from the older generation will rant about how the new media is doing all sorts of bad things to the n

      • Actually, if you go back and look at earlier art forms, you will see that the fear of a "new medium" has been a problem a lot longer ago than just games and rock 'n' roll. Games are just a more recent example.

        And, yes, the problem will probably resolve itself if we sit back and let things go at their natural pace. The problem is it's not guaranteed. As I pointed out in the article, the CCA did tremendous damage to the U.S. comics industry that it still has not recovered from. I don't want to see my indu

  • make better games (Score:3, Interesting)

    by j1m+5n0w (749199) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @02:26AM (#26808955) Homepage Journal

    If a game developer wants games to be taken seriously, he (or she) ought to start making games that can be taken seriously. I can't think of any game on par with The Lord of the Rings, or Les Miserables, or Till We Have Faces, or (to use more modern examples) Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, or Hyperion, or any of dozens of great books I've read.

    Sidenote: more prominent boobs on the box aren't going to earn the gaming industry any more respect. They may increase sales, but the same can be said of romance novels, and they're not widely regarded as great literature either. Sometimes, to gain respect you have to give up a few sales.

    I realize that games aren't books, and we should have different expectations, but the best games still seem to be about on par with mediocre books in terms of character development, emotional impact, and philosophical content.

    I think games ought to take some inspiration from the anime industry; there's a whole lot of bad anime, but there is also some great anime, and I think part of the reason why is that the people in charge are willing to take risks and explore complex issues, and they trust their viewers to "get it". (This can result in bad anime as often as good anime, but the industry on the whole seems to encourage risk-taking, whereas the game industry does not.)

    I don't play a lot of games, so it may be that I'm just not aware of the rare gems out there. Riven is the best example I can think of off the top of my head as a game that made me think deeper thoughts (and I don't mean the puzzles). Some of the Zeldas have been pretty good overall (though all of them are rather silly at times, and perhaps a little too predictable). I have heard good things about Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, though I haven't actually played either.

    If anyone has any great suggestions for what they think is the video-game equivalent of, say, Pachabell's canon, or Michaelangelo's David, or the Notre Dame cathedral, or the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, please enlighten me with your suggestions.

    • by lgw (121541)

      A terrific novel, painting, or sculpture can be the work of one artist for less than a year. This makes art with no commercial value practical. It's only a matter of time before games reach the same stage, once the tools stop changing (of course, interactive fiction is already there, but few people think of that genre these days).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662)

      I can't think of any game on par with The Lord of the Rings

      If am to believe Wikipedia, Lord of the Ring took around 12 years to write and that is without ever having to think about gameplay, technology or other stuff that games have to worry about. The game industry just hasn't existed long enough and technology hasn't been stable enough to allow any work of such proportions to exist (aside from Duke Nukem Forever of course). But we still have games like The Longest Journey, it might not be Lord of the Rings, but its 'close enough' to at least demonstrate that such

      • by j1m+5n0w (749199)

        It's interesting that the opposite argument was expressed in a separate reply: that books can be written by one person in a short length of time, whereas games require a large team (and a lot of money up front).

        Maybe you're right about the stability of technology; it's hard to spend a long time working on a game because then it will be "obsolete" before it goes on sale. That may be part of the difference between anime and games; the technology of the former does not change as fast.

        I have not played The

  • and stop looking at other people to validate you.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

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