So I’m glad to see that videogames & computer games keep getting brought up in this forum whenever the topic turns to artistic disciplines. For years I’ve been hoping for games to mature to the point even of comic books, especially when it comes to the quality of the writing. There’ve been some high points in writing, especially in text adventures (which I hate for the most part) and some of the point-and-click adventure games. But for the most part, I read some of the derivative storylines for games, or hear some terribly amateurish piece of dialogue, and think that the situation’s hopeless.
To give an example of the state of “art” in games: one of the companies I worked for was doing a children’s game where each of the levels ended with an animal giving the player a riddle to solve. Each animal was a parody of some celebrity, like Woody Allen, with the voice to match. At the last minute, though, the legal dept. made the team alter all of the voices and remove any references that would identify the celebrity. The reason is that videogames are legally classified as “product” instead of “art,” so they’re not protected by the right to parody that a movie, book, or comic book has.
The interesting part is that I’m starting to wonder if I’ve been expecting the wrong thing all these years. Some of the games that I’ve had the most fun playing have had a lousy story, or no story at all – Doom, SimCity, Diablo, Super Mario 64, and Final Fantasy Tactics (which had a complex story and interesting characters, that I couldn’t follow and didn’t care about at all). And many of the games that have great presentation or interesting stories, turned out not to be so much fun as games – Grim Fandango, Space Channel 5, Freedom Force, and Crimson Skies. If I can enjoy a game so much just based on the quality of the gameplay itself, does it really even need a story?
So my question (finally) is this: are there any games that you would classify as works of art? If there are, then what’s your criteria for calling it “art”? And is that even important to you, or is it just enough that a game is fun to play?
Some examples of games that I think would qualify:
Jet Set Radio – the game has loads of style, fantastic music, extremely well-designed levels that get more complicated as you go through the game, and is just a hell of a lot of fun.
Ico – beautiful art and character design, with simple gameplay that almost never feels forced or disconnected from the story.
You Don’t Know Jack – a simple trivia game, but some of the best writing ever. One of a bare handful of games I’ve played that was actually funny, instead of just “funny for a videogame.”
Seaman – probably the best example, if you ask me. It’s really more of an “interactive experience” than a game. I was consistently fascinated by what was going on in and was genuinely upset when I accidentally killed my Seaman!