Watching someone die isn´t as fun as thought…

July 16, 2008

Though certain videogames make you think the above, it´s not fun at all in reality. Today we saw E3 die. That is, the part that most of us were looking forward to each year, the press conferences of the three console-manufacturer.

Having started last year, E3 has shrunk down and delayed from May to July. When most gamers were disappointed last year, this year makes one look back with fonder memories. Basically, this year was a joke. What remains in memory is the FF13-release for Microsoft´s system and the 1:1-motion-upgrade for Wii…which failed to properly show its use because of the lack of a high profile game, other than “just” Wii Sports Resort.

Personally, i still had the most fun with Nintendo, mostly because at least they concentrated on new games. Which wasn´t that much, but still. Doesn´t mean the competitor of Nintendo didn´t show anything great. Microsoft showed Fallout 3, which looks promising, though unnecessary violence-heavy. Fable 2 looks great. I found Resident Evil 5 disappoiting. Some fans wanted a HD-port of RE4…well, RE5 is exactly that. FF13 is an important achievement for MS´s games library, though i dont care that much about the series. I won´t comment on Sony, really not interested in anything they showed. Oh, and how did that guy you play in Resistance 2 survive it when the big monster threw him like 30 meters through midair? Oh well.

Nintendo´s conference was poisened from the beginning. I blame red-haired witch. Seriously though, “Cammy” looked like one of those overly expressive, modern parents. Like a teacher, buwah! Brought back memories, you know. Listening to Iwata, though, is always interesting. At least as long as you´re thinking “okay, first the boss talks about something revolutionary, then something awsome will be unveiled”. That didn´t happen exactly. Animal Crossing: City Folk was shown, and so far, it looks like a port of the NDS-version with voice-chat and online-item-trading. Really hope there´ll be more changes. Biggest disappointment of this year´s E3. Completely awsome, however, is the MotionPlus-upgrade. I don´t get the complaints of people that say “this should have been there from the beginning”. There´s like two options: Either you´ve played with the Wii for 1,5 years and had fun, OR your missed that 1:1-stuff. Either way, this announcement should make you happy. Personally, this is what i thought Wii Too, Nintendo´s next console, would give us. Thanks god, i don´t have to wait 3-4 years. The end of Nintendo´s show probably was the meanest action of Nintendo ever. Lights turned off, spotlight on, smoke machine on, and the exciting wait begins…to reveal Wii Music to the audience. Seriously, whoever didn´t expect any kind of big adventure-game here was a lucky bastard. Wii Music itself looks fun, rather like a music enjoyment-software than a typical music game. Which is perfectly fine for me. I love Guitar Hero 3, and the songs i like the most are those that i can nearly play blindfolded, without the pressure of highscore and such.

So, conferences are over, and the one big new Nintendo-game is missing. It´s nice from Iwata to tell us that EAD and EAD Tokyo are working on games, but that´s something i´d take for granted. Hopefully, RetroStudios have something breathtaking underway. Anyway, E3 is dead. Now there´s hoping we´ll get to see a lot smaller conferences soon in the future initiated by hardware-manufacturer themselves. At least Nintendo has to do something, as they are not participating in either Games Convention nor Tokio Game Show. See ya soon, Link, Fox McCloud and Captain Falcon…or not.

The Essence of Videogames

July 12, 2008

– A medium´s right for existence –

Since quite a few years now, many gamers have developed a certain need to express how videogames are art. Some do it because of honest feelings, others try to turn average quality games into something better by hyping them up with that term. But what exactly makes a game art? Directly leading from this question is the puzzle: What is a videogame?

Progessing media

If you ask a lot of nowadays gamers about what games are “art”, you´ll quickly get a grip on how it´s mostly based on the visuals of a game. Be it not-often-used effects or great texture- or polygonal design. Then there´s also that part of the gaming community that tries to explain to you how a great story makes a game “art”. And shortly after the release of Kojima´s latest game, also many people will tell you that cutscenes with gorgeous direction make a game “art”. Now let´s take a look at what we´ve gathered, what gamers think that makes a game art. We have the visuals. We have story. And we have cutscenes.
A look back in history reveals us media prior to videogames and what their essence is of. First there were pictures. Oh, thou Mona Lisa, showing us your mysterious smile. The whole essence of a picture is its visual perception. That it what is has to rely on, as it does not have any other possibility to draw people in. Following pictures, there are books. Besides their importance to save information, they can also tell you fantastic stories. Putting books into their entertainment factor, the story is what makes a book “art”. A book does not have any possibility besides presenting a well written, creative, exciting story to draw in an audience. At last, there are movies. Movies are a combination of pictures and books, bringing things to life. Important to take notice here: It brings things to life, but in a passive way. You´re still watching, just like you did watch a picture or a book (watching is then called reading, my friends). That leads to the real matter being discussed in this text.

Videogames are the latest form of entertainment media. Pictures, Books, Movies, now Videogames.

A medium´s rights

The problem is, and maybe you realized that already, that when people declare certain videogames being “art”, they do it while using attributes of other media. Makes you wonder if the medium of videogames is such a shallow medium that it cannot feature its own kind of art. But if there´s nothing that separates game art from art of other media, does that mean videogames don´t have their own essence of existence? They do!

The one thing that makes videogames videogames is their interactivity. It´s the interaction with the game itself. If it wasn´t for interactivity, games would be movies. But thanks god they are interactive, otherwise i wouldn´t be interested in them. Now when you talk about art, it means that something is a really fine piece of “its kind”. When a picture is awsome, it´s art. When a book inspires you, it is art. When a movie touches you or makes you rewatch it many times, it is art. All that being highly subjective. That´s one important thing to always remember: Art Is Subjective
You can never state for a fact as to what piece of a certain medium is art. Personally, i don´t care about classic literature like Goethe or Schiller. It´s not art to me, as i think those author´s books are bad. Yet i know that millions of people keep praising them as art. But i dont attack them as i know: What is art is defined by my very self. Though it certainly is defined what makes a picture a picture, a book a book, a movie a movie, and a videogame a videogame.

Edging out an essence

A videogame is defined by its interaction. Coming from the above, the more interaction a game gives to you, the player, the better, or rather, the more “worthy” of a game it is. Having experienced really dumb people´s reaction to that phrase, i´ll clarify: A game with less interactivity can be a great product. You can have the best fun of your life with it. BUT it still won´t be a game worth much to its medium from a more objective point of view than your personal liking. We have that definition of a videogame. And we know what makes a piece of a certain medium a piece of art. That can only lead to one conclusion:

A videogame is art, when it features the highest level of interactivity at the most clever use of that interactivity.

It´s okay when people like a game´s look or its story. But whenever they say that that particular game is art because of attributes like these, they´re actually praising other media. Of course videogames are a mixture of all the former media, but praising it as a “game of art” because of these former elements is wrong. A videogame itself should be praised as a piece of art, when it features a level of interactivity that makes it turn into art. Videogames are their very own medium, so give those games that actually try to use the strengths of the medium your praise. Clever use of interactivity is anything but easy to figure out and, at a high level, it becomes a matter of art. The art of videogames.