Arty Games

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Haven't played it before, but the 'Dear Esther' mod for Half-Life 2 is meant to just be you walking around, reading letters from someone. Intellectual horror, you know? Something that's 90% reading will be great for breaking someone in.

While the titles mentioned in the article are definitely good games, I don't think very many people would call them "high art" (which is what the original debate was about anyway). After all, even Ebert himself admitted that very few movies would fulfill his definition of art.

With that in mind, I'd probably recommend Shadow of the Colossus, The Path, Passage, and maybe even Katamari Damacy and Flower. Those titles are all fairly easy to control, and they definitely have the "high art" aura about them. Not to mention that some of those games pretty much fly in the face of the whole "art can't have points, objectives, etc" argument.

The Touhou series tends to be famous not just for its large and diverse character cast but the colourful display of projectiles thrown at you. Unfortunately it's only in Japanese and not a mainstream commercial game series but it holds itself up.

In trying to judge what bits makes a game "art" as opposed to simply a good game, I began thinking about what normally seperates the art movies from the mainstream explodaramas.

You need a distinctive and consistent visual style.
Just like a good movie, the game should have characters with depth and good portrayal of personality (usually boils down to the quality of writing and voice acting).
It should engender an emotional response in the player. They should care about the people, and what to see more of the world.
The story can be linaer, but should not be predicatble.

Based on that, I'd say the Legacy of Kain series, starting with (and especially thinking of) the Soul Reaver line might be a good fit (the original game might have set the backstory, but wasn't that brilliant on its own). It has a solid anti-protagonist, good voice work, a wellcrafted and beautiful world, and a plot that sucks you in and make you want to know more about your fate and the fate of the world. Raziel goes from an angry and bitter seeker of vengeance, to a desperate man fighting to escape his fate. Every turn he takes seems doomed to put him further into trouble.

It's also fairly linear and storydriven, meaning a new player will not lose track of the big picture by endless sideqeusts. It is also not Nintendo Hard.

ICO. Beautiful game. Simple controls. Love story. Mistery. Has it all. This is the winner, by far.

Vagrant Story (PS). Beautiful setting. Great Story.

I disagree on Jade Empire. The combat was... too annoying, i guess, and that caused me to play it for less than 2 hours.

Then I would go for games with a great story: Xenosaga Ep. 1 (did not get to play the other 3 episodes), The Witcher. Of course as you say, the combat would be too complicated for a newbie.

Bioshock, Audiosurf, Max Payne (1 & 2), Osmos, Katamari Damacy, The Pitt (Fallout 3 DLC), Mass Effect 2... a fairly varied list, I would say. Difficulty would vary from easy (Katamari Damacy) to pretty difficult (Osmos and Max Payne). I would venture to say that single player Modern Warfare 2 could be considered "art" as it has a very movie-like plot and the intensity of a war movie.

And that's what I can think of. Really good games with a very heavy lean towards art (either in the form of visuals, writing, or both).

"Somewhere, the baby was crying."

What about Shadow of the Colossus?

You can't forget the games from Team Ico: Ico, Shadow of The Colossus, and the upcoming one. Also, there is something artistically beautiful about the crashes in BurnOut 3 Takedown.

Are you kidding? No mention of The Path? But... you love that game!

I know you do!


The purpose of art (my opinion of course) is to make a person feel something. I think that is why SotC has been mentioned so many times; not just for its aesthetic beauty, but the emotions invoked by the environment and the actions of the main character, which is ultimately you. Judging by the responses and personal experience, it achieved "art" quite well.

This topic of discussion is endless. Some art may just look like paint dumped on canvas to certain people, others might think it brilliant.

As for a game to sway Mr. Ebert and others to declare video games art, I think previous suggestions cover all the bases. As for my suggestion, something simple: Legend of Zelda (NES). It convinced me, albeit at a young age, that video games are something more then just simple games.

Okami isn't listed.
Braid isn't listed.
Silent Hill IS listed.
Anything by SMT (save Persona) aren't listed.
Grim Fandango isn't listed.
Monkey Island isn't listed.
Ico isn't listed.
Touhou isn't listed.

You've really got a hold on this, Shamus.

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