252: Better Than Film

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Better Than Film

Film is often identified as the medium that videogames most wants to be like, in terms of cultural importance. Alice Bonasio argues that in order to shut up critics like Roger Ebert, the gaming industry needs to examine both its own history and that of its closest counterpart.

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While people related to the industry hope games will reach the success and reputation of movies, I doubt it. Computer games have become too firmly fixed in mind of the public as something to as a fun activity rather then as an artistic medium and while I'm pleased with Heay Rains success, the only thing it shows is that there are one million people who are willing to try something new. Sadly, this number is no-where near enough to encourage a large cultural shift.

I liked the comparison between between games and comics. I've always been a big fan of comics because they have everything you could want from an artistic medium. You have creators passionate about their work and the stories they create, you have a decent indie scene and you can switch between dark and serious to light and funny within the same series without it feeling out of place. I say let games copy the comic book industry if thats what it gives us.

While I don't think that gaming should follow film to the extent that it does, I don't think we need to leave behind childish things. Childish things are what makes gaming so much fun, and that's what we should stick with. Film itself is far from mature at times. Watch a Jason Statham film for that.

The thing that must be understood is that if we do leave the space marines and gratuitous gore behind, and make every game a pinnacle of storytelling like Heavy Rain, people like Roger Ebert still aren't going to consider it of artistic merit. They're biased. You can see it yourself in his article, he states that why should gamers want their hobby to be art? Surely, people like Michael Jordan don't care if their game is artistic?

This is indicative that he doesn't even consider gaming on the same spectrum as film. He considers it the same as a sport or a parlour game. I think he's wrong, but it's important to note that that is the mentality, and it's not going to change.

Basically, what I'm saying is, we shouldn't feel the need to leave behind anything just because they say so. Gaming is good as it is, and while there should most definitely be more Heavy Rain type games, there should also be just as many space marines and killing and all those fun things. Why change for our enemies? We don't need respect. We're having fun, who gives a fuck if anyone else thinks we're immature? Who says we need to please them?

I've played games that have made my cry, I've played games with great stories that have drawn me in, and I've played games that made my adrenaline pump and my pulse pound. These games all exist, right now. We're fine as we are.

I like the gaming as comics path myself.

I really liked this article. It actually touched on a lot of ideas I wrote in a column on another site.

I don't think people realize the importance of story. Often enough I hear the mantra that gameplay comes first. However, I look at games like Brutal Legend, Chrono Trigger and EarthBound where the artistic story, narrative and other ideas fed the gameplay. They formed a symbiosis and worked together instead of one taking precedence over the other. I can only wonder why more games don't try for that since you'll inevitably think of more gameplay concepts than you would just saying "Ok, let's make a shooter in space...what features do we want?", which seems to be the average pattern.

I also feel the modern journalism industry is a complete cluster full of fanboys and people that are nothing more than marketers. Hopefully the editorial focus some publications like GamePro, Kill Screen Magazine and Escapist are trying to make will help appeal to the smarter and more mature audience.

In response to Plinglebob, I wouldn't be so sure about people's impressions being solidified. I've had friends from College watch me playing games going through the story and suddenly say "Wow, this is REALLY interesting!". In fact, the same has happened with my sister many times, particularly with Dead Space Extraction where she told me she wanted to see what happened next in the story. The reason people have the impression that they do is, well, what are on the commercials? I haven't seen a TV Spot for the new Splinter Cell mentioning anything about Sam Fisher's daughter, even though that is supposed to be central to the plot. The Bioshock commercials show nothing but violence.

If you want to catch people's interest they have to first know that there is meaning behind it. Iron Man wasn't such a successful movie because it had special effects or was based off a widely known comic (Iron Man is one of the lesser known Marvel properties in main stream media, or at least was). The story provided flawed characters that went through a development arc which resulted in a human interest. This is what games are lacking in comparison, or so it seems.

But really, when most people avoid magazines and websites focused on gaming, how are they going to find out there's more to it than lining up the crosshairs to someone's forehead? We need to tell them, and TV spots do a horrendous job of this.

Furburt:
Basically, what I'm saying is, we shouldn't feel the need to leave behind anything just because they say so. Gaming is good as it is, and while there should most definitely be more Heavy Rain type games, there should also be just as many space marines and killing and all those fun things. Why change for our enemies? We don't need respect. We're having fun, who gives a fuck if anyone else thinks we're immature?

After checking your profile and seeing you're roughly 18, it explains why you would feel the way you do.

I used to love dumb entertainment just as much as I loved smart entertainment. The older I get the less I care about what used to impress me. As I read from intelligent writers in their 30's and 40's, they too start to have less taste for the shallow and flashy. It isn't just a matter of "impressing others", it is also a matter of providing something for ourselves. We are growing up, but the industry itself doesn't seem to comprehend that.

In this context, when people say "childish things" they mean the obsessions with "HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT HEAD SHOT?". Back to my Iron Man example, that has all the shallow stuff but they still managed to throw in deeper emotional material. That's why it's a huge mainstream success. You have humor, character development and bad ass action. It's not really that artistic or deep of a movie, but it's not shallow either.

Why can't we even have that, at least, be the more common attempt at making a game? It's not like we don't want space marines. We just want to have MORE than space marines because some of us are old enough to appreciate something more than "OORAH!" and charging into the maw of a monstrous centipede (my feelings go for hack and slash work as well. I can only give a ho hum when I see a 100foot tall monstrosity towering over me).

In the same way I want both a movie that will pull me into it's world for the 2 hours or whatever it's on the screen, I also want the popcorn movie. That movie thats dumb but fun.

Making more games like Heavy Rain (and Alan Wake by the looks of it) will be good, but to suggest all games should leave their foundations and the "kids stuff" behind, I couldn't agree with. I would like to see more games that go the story route, but I also want to see my space marines blow stuff up from time to time for fun and relaxation.

I don't think story lines are particularly bad now days anyway. Dead Space, Heavy Rain, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Fallout. I even thought the MW2 story was good. It was ludacris, but I enjoyed it for what it was. I mean, it sure beats the story of a fat plumber who ends up in a magical realm trying to save a dumb princess.

ccesarano:

I haven't seen a TV Spot for the new Splinter Cell mentioning anything about Sam Fisher's daughter, even though that is supposed to be central to the plot. The Bioshock commercials show nothing but violence.

Reading this has really stuck with me. I know that story telling in videogames, even the celebrated ones, is mediocre at best. Even the best story driven games wouldn't compete with most films. Having said that all of the trailors for video games can be boiled down to "look at this, this kicks ass".

With the exception of a few film adverts, the hollywood special effects bonanza type, you get a taste for the plot, the feel, a look at the charecters in an Ad. I don't think I've seen this in a game trailer yet.

Example: Dragon Age: Origins. A heavily plot and dialogue driven game. You experience loss, betrayal, tragedy, sacrifice, love and friendship. The player make hard choices with far reaching effects. We got:

Marylin Manson, sex and gore...

Why are games not taken seriously again?

The obsession with making games like film is actually going to be more poisonous to the industry than most would think. For the last decade, the comics industry, for example, has tried to borrow heavily from film, and while that resulted in a select few series being good (DMZ and Ultimate Spider-Man, for example), most of what we got from that industry was long, drawn out, pretentious fluff, often consisting of one or two people talking for 22 pages, then a "To Be Continued" caption gets tacked on the end (for example, the entire body of work of Daniel Way...).

Likewise, "cinematic" gaming has only produced a handful of gems (with probably the best one being Metal Gear Solid, the first one, more than a decade ago! And Kojima took all the wrong lessons from his success in that game), and the rest being primarily mediocre imitations of film (the vastly-overrated Heavy Rain).

I'm not saying games shouldn't borrow ideas or techniques from other industries, what I'm saying is developers shouldn't be looking to copy wholesale in an effort to make their games 'Art' with a capital A, because that's not what artists do (that's the realm of hacks). Instead, developers, just like anyone in any creative field, should ask themselves "What lessons can we learn from other works, even in other fields?", "How can and can't we apply them here?" and, most importantly, "What can I add to the mix by making this?" If developers ask themselves those questions, and some already have, then the industry can and will "grow up," so to speak.

Heavy Rain IS a film, though. Why even give me the options if the story is just going to be so linear anyway?

Oh yeah, because QTE are really good for gameplay and emersion.

Also:
JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASON

You know what game I think bridged the gap between film and games? Grand Theft Auto IV. I felt connected to the characters in a way I'd never before experienced. When rescuing Niko's cousin from the Russian mob, I couldn't help but choke up every time Niko screamed in rage at his cousin's captors. I cried when Kate, Niko's only link to a sane and loving world, was gunned down in front of him by those whom I had chosen not to kill.

Certainly games will continue to be filled with those explosions that we enjoy so much. I mean, the technology is often the only thing that allows the story to be told at all (the massive open world in the upcoming Red Dead Redemption, for instance). The trick is, for the moment, to sneak in a decent narrative for those who are looking for it. I feel that game companies like Rockstar and Valve are the producers pushing forward the medium as an art form more than any other.

Comparing Heavy Rain to Citizen Kane is really pushing it, I'm afraid. And saying that Heavy Rain was a milestone in gaming? Uh, no! Don't get me wrong, I liked the game, but there was as much wrong with it as there was right.

This might be beating a dead horse, but if you want innovation in games look at Shadow of The Colossus: Riding your horse actually felt like riding a horse instead of, say, driving a car as it does in other games with horse riding gameplay. Interacting with skyscraper-tall beings that were beautifully animated, but most of all, it told a story through gameplay instead of cutscenes. Sure, there were cutscenes, but only at the beginning and the end of the game and their only purpose was to set up the game and to conclude the game. The actual emotion of bonding with your horse and coming to the grim realization of your actions, was achieved through gameplay. And that is something I have yet to see in another game, except maybe Ico.

I really liked the big blockbuster games of the last few years like Gears of War 2, Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2, but they seem to feel more like movie experiences rather then videogames. In the end, I want the bulk of my games to feel like videogames and not like movies.

bjj hero:

With the exception of a few film adverts, the hollywood special effects bonanza type, you get a taste for the plot, the feel, a look at the charecters in an Ad. I don't think I've seen this in a game trailer yet.

Yeah, I thought all the GTA IV trailers were quite cinematic, as are the trailers for the new Red Dead Redemption. The difference with game trailers is that they are effectively Hollywood special effects bonanza movies that are interactive. That's where games are, for the most part, because that's what suits fun gameplay. I mean, you can play the Sims with all its social drama and such if you REALLY want to.

Anyway, here's a Red Dead Redemption trailer, cause I'm so excited for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sU0PwzdMiY

Here's my thesis: Games will never advance beyond the pre-1930 "technological wonder" penny arcade without incredible leaps in artificial intelligence. Here's my argument: It's easy to program FPS A.I. - enemies run, shoot, and (sometimes) take cover. It's not even essential that they do these things well all the time unless they're a boss (who's actions can be scripted as necessary to avoid 'mistakes'). From the perspective of the gamer, FPS-type A.I. reacts dynamically to their choices (cover, chasing, shooting) and this creates the sense of interactivity and emergence that drives the gaming experience.

Now try to imagine a game in which the central mechanic is not combat and the A.I. must instead respond to social interaction in a way conducive to the gamer's sense of interactivity and emergence. Completely impossible with current technology - we can script a finite number of set responses to likely player actions, but that's not the same thing as dynamic response at all. Programmers don't script every shot, chase sequence, and shot-out with FPSs - they put in place some simple rules and let the interaction between those rules and the player's actions generate results. We can barely articulate the kinds of rules we would need to program "social" A.I. at this point in time.

Conclusion: I'm not holding my breath for the "Citizen Kane" of gaming to emerge, unless that means an FPS in which Charles Kane single-handedly starts AND FINISHES the Spanish American War through the liberal use of yellow journalism and head-shots (before you laugh, consider how unlikely Dante's Inferno sounded).

I wonder if Hecker has ever seriously considered the outlandish fourth possibility that games could be games as well as toys, comics (!) or movies.

Leave behind exploding cars? LEAVE BEHIND EXPLODING CARS?!

I find the very idea that the game industry must leave behind action, adventure and excitement as forms of entertainment in order to move forward and grow up as an industry entirely preposterous. Especially given the fact that Steven Spielberg and Roger Ebert are referenced so prominently in this article and in the debate overall.

If you ask any film buff (Who enjoys Spielberg films, not all of them do) which of Spielberg's films they enjoy best, you'll probably end up with one of the following three films...
- Jaws
- Raiders of the Lost Arc
- Schindler's List

One of these is a drama, but two of them are balls to the wall, summer blockbuster, CAR EXPLODING entertainment. Look at Ebert's own review of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Four Stars, he calls it "An out-of-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures, and deposits you back in reality two hours later -- breathless, dizzy, wrung-out, and with a silly grin on your face." Essentially a GREAT action film. For goodness sakes, he discusses the artfulness of the great Truck Chase late in the film. He LOVES this movie, for it's action and imagination, not it's ability to make you cry. It DOES evoke emotion however, glee, joy, excitement, fear just not that wanky sadness that we MUST feel for a story to be legitimate apparently.

If these elements of "storytelling", action, excitement, glee and raw entertainment are good enough for one of gaming's greatest detractors and being brought to us by the man who said ,"a game needs to make someone cry," why aren't they good enough for gaming anymore?

Essentially... what the heck is wrong with exploding cars?

"Short films of car crashes" was meant in the context of "spectacle for the sake of technological demonstration." No one's saying "abandon action," only "more context, please."

Continuing with that phrase, though: There will always be an audience which has yet to experience those crashes. And as the box office receipts and game sales show, an even larger audience wants to experience nothing more than those crashes over and over again.

While I do agree that video games can advance as an art form, that does not mean we should leave behind cinematic momoents and mindless fun. Those are the driving points of most great games today. We need to combine fun and engaging gameplay with an artisitic narrative. We got those with games like Prince of Persia, Bioshock and Halflife 2.

For the same reasons explained in the article, that there is always a focus on the new, the upcoming games, I am very frustrated that Media Molecule announced a Little Big Planet 2.

For me, Little Big Planet was THE game that I was going to keep for a very long time, the game that would force me not to sell my PlayStation 3 because it was so special. The game I was going to show to my kids, saying "At the time, this was a pretty unique game!" and then I would show them the first level I've ever created. But, I wouldn't see the point in keeping it now, since they're making a sequel.

The special thing about LBP was the truly near-endless amount of content you could create. I was fine buying DLC to have more songs, more stickers etc. But what could they possibly have more in the sequel? You only need the first game, but there are less and less people online, and when the sequels comes out, the number is going to plummet as everyone is going to move to LBP2.

I think that gaming has actually surpassed film in a couple of areas.

1. Aging - I remember watching many films on the big screen and thinking "this is awesome" only to come back to it a few years later and notice that it not as awesome as I remember it. Example: my favorite film Jurassic Park - Those dinosaurs looked so real when I was 10, but watching it on VHS several years later, they looked kinda fake. And yet Super Mario Bros. is still the same awesome experience it was when I was a kid. They can even resell the same game with huge praise from game critics by just updating the graphics. (New Super Mario Bros.)

2. Sequels - I can't say that all, or even most video game sequels are better that the originals, but I can count on one hand the number of film sequels that were better than the original. Gaming may be hinged on sequels and remakes now, but so is Hollywood. In my opinion, gaming does it better.

To wrap up, I would say that it is less about the storytelling with gaming, and more about the immersion. I would rather play a game that had no story but took me to a different world through game play, than a cinematic masterpiece.

Film is trapped in cliches and redundancy galore...and sadly with gaming ignoring game mechanics to follow film...game is as if not worse due to crap game play..........

Games don't have to be Citizen Kane to be culturally relevant, and there's nothing wrong with FPSes just like there's nothing wrong with Shoot 'em ups--they're a great release from daily life or concerns. But I would say that most releases now are little more than mental masturbation: they offer a way to do something you enjoy repeatedly without any thought, and at some point you always achieve release. Aside from a small number that stand out because they ARE different than the vast majority, recent releases are cliched and formulaic; they put most or all of their effort in to visuals and sound effects, with stories and characters that are weak and two-dimensional. It's bang for the buck, and who cares what infantile crap is being sold as long as it's profitable.

An example: Mass Effect 2 is a shooter, less so an RPG; all well and good. My gripe is not that the ability to individualize one's character was removed from ME 1, it's that the makers treated their audience as juveniles in its portrayal of relationships as some sort of dating sim, and provided a linear storyline with zero suspense. This from the makers of Knights of the Old Republic? Dragon Age? How about something for the adults (i.e., meaning mature story and themes, not necessarily porn thankyouverymuch)

I'm glad there are still some developers who strive to create a product that makes people think, and perhaps even feel, even if they're not going to be at the top of the sales chart.

One difficulty in celebrating the history and culture of videogames is the perpetual advancement of the technology used to present the games to us. Since the invention of the printing press not much has had to be done in order to allow classics to be visited and re-visited for decades and generations to come. Similarly with the advent of home entertainment systems it is possible to experience cinema over and over again for roughly a decade before the next advancement in viewing begins to take over. How many of us have bought a movie in VHS, DVD, and now debate purchasing it again in Blue Ray. Though with the beauty of backward compatibility and some useful media conversion tech. many have avoided this problem first by transferring their movies from VHS to DVD, and now watching their DVD's on Blue Ray players.

Here essentially is the problem. From the days of Atari, the NES, the Genesis, Dreamcast, X-Box, PS3, and the staggering technical generations and operating systems of the home computer we have dozens upon dozens of methods for enjoying games exclusive to a certain piece of hardware. Add in the arcade classics and handheld systems and the trouble only grows. Maintaining a shared culture and passing it to generations who missed a game when it was the new thing on the block requires a closet full of cartridges, discs, systems, and controllers and a personal connection between the keepers of this history and those who want to experience it. Try loading games like Deus Ex or the original Warcraft on a modern PC and watch as it bugs to unplayability if it will play at all.

Some games manage to pass over through such remakes, or re-releases, as can be found in the Wii store, GoG.com's catalog of old games updated to run on newer machines, or SquareEnix's progression through its games of old for new systems. But so many miss out on making the jump to a modern age. Well regarded titles longing to be experienced by new audiences such as Deus Ex and Final Fantasy VII (art or not they can at least be considered cultural landmarks) will either never see the light of day again or not for some time. And if the current trends continue all those titles made available on new technologies will again vanish when the next tech comes around.

Innovation in hardware has dominated the discourse about the future of gaming for a long time, and the discussion of meaningful content has recently grown stronger and stronger, but despite the efforts of a few to maintain our culture's history discussions of "the good old days" or "the games of our youth" can only be discussed amongst the generation that lived it or passed on as an oral tradition of anecdotes and pail descriptions.

Until we can experience the games of other decades and generations we will never be able to achieve the lasting art form we might wish to be. While Mozart and Pink Floyd, Starry Night and Ceci n'est pas une pipe, Dostoyevsky and J.R.R.Tolkien, Citizen Kane and Singing in the Rain, are able to influence and entertain generation after generation the death of Aeris is a scene loaded with the meaning only for those who happened to be able to experience it when it was being sold and the PlayStation or its successor would read it.

It is doubtful that either technology will peter out and gain some stability or that the console companies will set aside their quest for exclusive rights to titles and generational isolation any time soon. The DRM arms race makes the ease of up converting seen in the transition from VHS to DVD unlikely to occur between this and any other generation of games in the future. The massive budgets of money and time that go into making these games make a move toward accessible and affordable gaming for all on par with the status books or movies have now a dream. But perhaps one day we will find a solution that allows us to experience games made at different times, by different companies, and of different levels of quality as a community generations old.

Casual Shinji:
This might be beating a dead horse, but if you want innovation in games look at Shadow of The Colossus: Riding your horse actually felt like riding a horse instead of, say, driving a car as it does in other games with horse riding gameplay. Interacting with skyscraper-tall beings that were beautifully animated, but most of all, it told a story through gameplay instead of cutscenes. Sure, there were cutscenes, but only at the beginning and the end of the game and their only purpose was to set up the game and to conclude the game. The actual emotion of bonding with your horse and coming to the grim realization of your actions, was achieved through gameplay. And that is something I have yet to see in another game, except maybe Ico.

Absolutely: in a well-crafted piece of entertainment, the audience lives/experiences the story. It isn't told or shown, it LIVES it. I think that videogames, because of their interactive nature, can accomplish this in a way that film and literature are not. I'm not saying one medium is superior to another, just that properly used, videogames can provide a memorable experience in a way that the other two cannot.

Here's the ironic thing, and something I'm surprised doesn't get brought up much in these kinds of arguments:

Steven Spielberg, one of the top guys in the film industry, decided to make a video game, and what does he come up with? Not a 'cinematic' game that pushes it towards being more comparable with film, but Boom Blox, which functions as a fun 'toy' game. And is it ever a fun game. Probably up there as one of the top 3rd party Wii titles, and something I'm sure I've enjoyed much more than if Spielberg had made a 'cinematic' title like you might expect with all the hype about 'games as film!' and such.

So when a guy from the film industry comes along and makes a game that doesn't do anything to bring the medium closer to film, you think it might provide some sort of a hint about where games should really be headed.

Games are for playing.
Movies for watching.

When you try to pull any one of the medium too far towards a different medium, you aren't doing it any favors in the long run.

ccesarano:
I really liked this article. It actually touched on a lot of ideas I wrote in a column on another site.

I don't think people realize the importance of story. Often enough I hear the mantra that gameplay comes first. However, I look at games like Brutal Legend, Chrono Trigger and EarthBound where the artistic story, narrative and other ideas fed the gameplay. They formed a symbiosis and worked together instead of one taking precedence over the other. I can only wonder why more games don't try for that since you'll inevitably think of more gameplay concepts than you would just saying "Ok, let's make a shooter in space...what features do we want?", which seems to be the average pattern.

I also feel the modern journalism industry is a complete cluster full of fanboys and people that are nothing more than marketers. Hopefully the editorial focus some publications like GamePro, Kill Screen Magazine and Escapist are trying to make will help appeal to the smarter and more mature audience.

In response to Plinglebob, I wouldn't be so sure about people's impressions being solidified. I've had friends from College watch me playing games going through the story and suddenly say "Wow, this is REALLY interesting!". In fact, the same has happened with my sister many times, particularly with Dead Space Extraction where she told me she wanted to see what happened next in the story. The reason people have the impression that they do is, well, what are on the commercials? I haven't seen a TV Spot for the new Splinter Cell mentioning anything about Sam Fisher's daughter, even though that is supposed to be central to the plot. The Bioshock commercials show nothing but violence.

If you want to catch people's interest they have to first know that there is meaning behind it. Iron Man wasn't such a successful movie because it had special effects or was based off a widely known comic (Iron Man is one of the lesser known Marvel properties in main stream media, or at least was). The story provided flawed characters that went through a development arc which resulted in a human interest. This is what games are lacking in comparison, or so it seems.

But really, when most people avoid magazines and websites focused on gaming, how are they going to find out there's more to it than lining up the crosshairs to someone's forehead? We need to tell them, and TV spots do a horrendous job of this.

Furburt:
Basically, what I'm saying is, we shouldn't feel the need to leave behind anything just because they say so. Gaming is good as it is, and while there should most definitely be more Heavy Rain type games, there should also be just as many space marines and killing and all those fun things. Why change for our enemies? We don't need respect. We're having fun, who gives a fuck if anyone else thinks we're immature?

After checking your profile and seeing you're roughly 18, it explains why you would feel the way you do.

I used to love dumb entertainment just as much as I loved smart entertainment. The older I get the less I care about what used to impress me. As I read from intelligent writers in their 30's and 40's, they too start to have less taste for the shallow and flashy. It isn't just a matter of "impressing others", it is also a matter of providing something for ourselves. We are growing up, but the industry itself doesn't seem to comprehend that.

In this context, when people say "childish things" they mean the obsessions with "HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT HEAD SHOT?". Back to my Iron Man example, that has all the shallow stuff but they still managed to throw in deeper emotional material. That's why it's a huge mainstream success. You have humor, character development and bad ass action. It's not really that artistic or deep of a movie, but it's not shallow either.

Why can't we even have that, at least, be the more common attempt at making a game? It's not like we don't want space marines. We just want to have MORE than space marines because some of us are old enough to appreciate something more than "OORAH!" and charging into the maw of a monstrous centipede (my feelings go for hack and slash work as well. I can only give a ho hum when I see a 100foot tall monstrosity towering over me).

While you say that story is important with games, and that game play shouldn't necessarily come first, I think, personally that, that isn't the path the industry should take.

I think that games need to realize exactly what they are. They are games. And say what you want, but I don't personally think many people realize that.

In the end, we must first define what a game is, and then simplify games such that they contain only that. If you look at paintings, they started off with these big, bold, elegant things, and are now mostly just blocks of color. Why? Because that's what an image is. Shape and color. And most of the time it's beautiful. The Rothkos, the Mondrians, those artists, literally pushed the limits of what a painting could be by subtraction, rather then by addition. And that's the thing. It seems to me like people think that art is a masterly crafted story, when most of the the time, Art is far simpler.

I've said this before, and I will say it again, but videogames will follow the exact same path as all forms of art do. Traditional, Impressionist, Surrealist, Abstract, and Post-Modern. Here is a summary of what each will be.

Traditional: What we have now. Everything is dramatic, everythign is gut wrenching, pulse pounding, etc. Everything is glorified, and is about glorified people, like space marines and such.

Impressionist: Now we have games about smaller things, about regular people, or about regular things, and I think heavy rain is mostly this, if not completely this. It is games about non-glorified characters, and in some cases even unlikable characters, or regular characters, either swept up in unreal situations or perfectly normal situations (even better), where arguably the consequence of failure is nothing big, in terms of the ultimate fate of the world. If James Sunderland dies in silent hill 2, would anyone care? Nobody else in the game world would. That's the thing. The player's only motivation for keeping themselves alive is their own attachment to the main character. These are games about regular people, who no one really cares about, who aren't anything special.

Surrealist: Now we have reached games where the traditional laws of thought are being thrown away. It is perfectly normal for games to take place in odd places, places where things don't make sense. It is where games deliberately stop making sense, and in the end, make more sense then they would if they were literal. These are games, like the Messhof games, that rely on a sense of confusion and wonderment to bring across their points, rather then literal imagery.

Abstract: Now we have reach the point where games are nothing but games. They are simple in mechanic, simple in appearance, and everything else. They are drenched in symbolism, but not obvious, and not necessarily accessible. They are more ideas, rather then things. They are conceptual, rather then tangible, and in the end express far more emotion than anything else.

Post-Modern: Now we have hit the end. Before, games were still decipherable, they where still meaningful, they still had order. Now we take that, and we deconstruct it, we dissect it, and reconstruct in ways that are deliberately incorrect. We have games that are like catch-22, where the levels are out of order, we have games where the goal is to fail, we have games that are more or less a mock of the entire medium and a huge joke, rather then any functional things. Games have now lost their functionality, and are not trying to express anything more then their own existence. It is no longer about interpretation and symbolism but about pure anarchy, pure non-reason, for no reason. And, through some miracle (or maybe not), games that are designed to make no sense end up making more sense then anything else, the complete opposite of what they were supposed to do, giving the whole thing a complete sense of irony, and turning the whole medium into a practical joke, with an abrupt end.

And then there is noise art. At this point, games will just be buttons that don't do anything.

But that's all just my opinion.

It's kind of hard to celebrate old games when the industry wants to lock players out of old games and push them into the new, aka DRM.

I have two things to say about this.

One, of course David Cage expected Heavy Rain to be gaming's Citizen Kane. He also expected that of Indigo Prophecy, which failed to make a dent in gaming history. If Heavy Rain failed as well, five years from now he'd be releasing Heatwave (guy just loves himself some meteorological metaphors) and hailing that as the Citizen Kane of gaming.

Two, sadly, in my opinion games are not in the 'shots of car crashes' period, analogue to the movie industry. They're in the exact same spot. They're both finding out that making a movie or game has become so expensive that you need a massive blockbuster to turn up a profit, so they've turned to recycling old ideas and new concepts as much as possible. I've thought about this and I believe gaming's history goes the same way as movies, only faster.

So we have:

The prototypical age, when technology is new and people are just trying to see what it can do. Movies have Train Leaving the Station and Trip to the Moon, games have blinking Atari games.

The early age, when technology is mostly figured out and people turn to 'but what can it do?'. Here we have the first movies with a story, circa Charlie Chaplin, and strange NES games that the Angry Video Game Nerd mocks, still obviously grappling with game design concepts.

The golden years, when the language of the medium is figured out and evolving into its own voice. That's the age of Hitchcock for movies and the age of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Zelda: Ocarina of time etc. for games.

The stagnation, when the drive for new ways to express the medium still exists, but for the layman is drowned by cheap imitations of the golden years' greatest successes. I have no examples for this because it's an era that's by definition unremarkable.

The downfall, when technical changes have driven up the cost and only massive blockbusters turn up a profit, so earnest attempts to revolutionize the medium are turned down by executives and end up confined to independent producers, while the most succesful items are those that appeal to the lowest denominator by copying the works that succeeded the most during stagnation; that is, they are copies of the copies of the golden years' success. Gaming has only begun this era, but movies have been there for quite some time. It's easily recognizeable because: serials that have been dead for a long time suddenly get a new installment to attempt to cash in nostalgia (Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Die Hard 4.0, Terminator: Salvation/Fallout 3, Bionic Commando, New Super Mario Bros.); series that have had continuous sequels lately have a reboot in an attempt to become relevant again (Nightmare on Elm Street, the upcoming Spiderman movie/Street Fighter IV); and remakes of classics get sequels of their own (The Nutty Professor 2, Ocean's Twelve... I think gaming isn't quite at that stage yet).

After the downfall, what comes is either irrelevance or rebirth. The cost of making the medium the old way isn't worth it for the execs, so the big industry falls apart. Then, either the medium is forgotten and replaced for the next big thing (irrelevance), or smaller producers survive the crisis and start pushing for a new way for the industry to work (rebirth, which leads to a new early age, repeating the cycle). For movies, I think they're settled for a rebirth; I don't think a media so ubiquitous as movies (when was the last time you've met someone who doesn't have a favourite film, let alone has never watched one?) will just roll over and die. For games... I'm hopeful, and think they're set for a rebirth as well, in the hands of indie and casual developers. Maybe this time we'll do it right.

...¨series that have had continuous sequels lately have a reboot in an attempt to become relevant again (Nightmare on Elm Street, the upcoming Spiderman movie/Street Fighter IV); and remakes of classics get sequels of their own (The Nutty Professor 2, Ocean's Twelve... I think gaming isn't quite at that stage yet)¨

no!?, are you kidding?, nowadays, video game industry is all about remakes, sequels and movie-animation based video games, good and original games are a rare treat nowadays...

And I don´t know why you trying to convince gamers that STORYTELLING is like the fu;´=`g lost ark, since when a game is considered art if it has great storytelling!?, storytelling is just an alternative, not a rule, I can name a thousand of examples!, mario, zelda, metroid, sonic, out of this world, mega man saga, street fighter saga, etc, etc... STOP COMPARING VIDEOGAMES WITH CINEMA... you are saying that videogames should LEARN from cinema or that they should IMITATE cinema to reach the art ¨TAG¨... !!!???

and HEAVY RAIN the CITIZEN KANE of video games!?, are you crazy?, the only gaming counterpart of citizen kane I can´t think of, is none other than SUPER MARIO BROS!

Ok, well, this is a tad silly. Let me take on some of the ideas in this story:

1. We don't have to defend games as art. Asteroids is art. Missile Command is art. Tempest is art. Pacman is art. Of course, none of that art is really narrative. What's the narrative in Tempest? Still I know it is art because I seriously jones for a Tempest machine to stick in the corner of my rumpus room, even if I only play it a few times a year. You can't get it with an emulator, you need a vector graphics monitor! God that's a beautiful machine!

2. The problem isn't that games don't cover multiple genres. Games do better than Silver Age comics in that regard. If you want a game about "the problems of modern life" they have them, things like The Sims or Barbie Horse Adventure (j/k).

3. Games are never going to do narrative as well as film. Narrative is not interactive. When Ebert decided to Troll gamers everwhere with his "games are not art and never will be" what he was actually saying is games don't do narrative as well as film. Well, yeah, they are games. Once you add interaction, you destroy narrative. It stops being a predictable story. That's why the best games have multiple endings. Who didn't like getting the "Menace to Society" ending in Enchanter, where your bungling makes things even worse than if you had never started your quest? If anything, I'm somewhat disappointed that most modern games have a limited number of endings. (On the other hand, who says games have to end?)

4. I often get disappointed with the way games are used as a medium. Here's an example. When I was much younger, I had the D. C. heroes pen and paper game, and later I got the Watchmen sourcebook. I dreamed for years of a Watchmen PC RPG. When the Watchmen movie came out, and we had our chance for a Watchmen game what did we get? A pretty generic sounding beat 'em up. Still, Arkham Asylum was a huge step forward. Why? It remembered something about games, they may be inferior with narrative, but they are good at evoking a coherent world.

While artistic games have been successful in the past (see Chrono trigger, Earthbound, FF7, ect.) they face similar threats to the Artiness as cinema and T.V. It rely expensive. Money is their chief concern so sequels present the greatest profit, though i see squeals being the greatest tool for artistic license as well. my example Nintendo. Look at Ocarina of Time, yoshi's island, Fire emblem 4, These games boldly went where no game dare go before and sold well. they not only used their respective series as platforms but soared into the stratosphere.

Jesus Phish:
In the same way I want both a movie that will pull me into it's world for the 2 hours or whatever it's on the screen, I also want the popcorn movie. That movie thats dumb but fun.

Making more games like Heavy Rain (and Alan Wake by the looks of it) will be good, but to suggest all games should leave their foundations and the "kids stuff" behind, I couldn't agree with. I would like to see more games that go the story route, but I also want to see my space marines blow stuff up from time to time for fun and relaxation.

I don't think story lines are particularly bad now days anyway. Dead Space, Heavy Rain, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Fallout. I even thought the MW2 story was good. It was ludacris, but I enjoyed it for what it was. I mean, it sure beats the story of a fat plumber who ends up in a magical realm trying to save a dumb princess.

Hey! Didn't you watch There Will Be Brawl?!? I think that shows there is a ton of story potential for a fat plumber trying to save a princess. (Thought I'll admit the ending didn't work for me...)

And I agree with the list of story lines you posted except for Heavy Rain. I was not a fan at all.

But Dead Space, I am playing that right now and it scares the crap outta me...

I believe it was Jim Sterling who said we should stop waiting on gaming's "Citizen Kane" and be more focused about when we'll see the next Ico.

I'm just really discouraged by Western developers, journalists, and advocates who all are hoping that gaming will evolve to the point where we can tell narratives instead of exploding cars, like one person in this article hoped. To people like me, we've already been there.

Final Fantasy, especially on the PSOne, had amazing production values and included various themes on life and society. With the predominance of Western games today, it's almost as if we've convinced ourselves that gaming began 4 years ago with the XBox 360.

Gaming's gone pretty far already. Our journalists curiously don't seem to get that.

It's interesting that we're comparing game's narrative to film, because all narrative is essentially writing, i.e. some form of literature. All of today's film (unless you go really avant-garde) relies almost completely on language, most likely written in the form of a screen play, essentially making it written literature at its core (although it could be in oral form; I'm not sure if you can call it "literature" of it's only oral).

Without language, there could be no narrative or characters in the film because the film maker would not be able to communicate his vision to the audience. You can't have a modern film (again not avant-garde) without communicating something purposefully that can be expressed through language, whether it is blatantly written down somewhere or not.

The interesting thing is, games can express themselves completely without words. Simple arcade games like pong are not communicating anything to the player. Games would still exist even if you stripped away all the language from them. If Space Invaders did not have the premise of you being a ship destroying alien ships, it could still be a game consisting of a sprite making other sprites disappear via lines that emanate from it.

But are these mechanics themselves art? As I'm writing this, I think that what makes video games art (and I believe some of them are) is not the mechanics of the game at all. I don't think Pong is art. I believe that the ideas expressed through the literature portion of the games is art: the characters, the plot (however simple), the atmosphere, the environment. In the same way, it's not moving images that we find emotionally attractive and artistic about film, it's the message conveyed by the images that moves us. This message is at its core something linguistic. If the images did not have some sort of narrative or atmosphere then they would not be moving.

Even avant-garde art is steeped in meaning that could have instead been expressed linguistically.

So perhaps gaming in its current form and film are both art because they are so strongly connected with literature.

I tend to see literature and music as the pure arts. These two can be deeply emotional without being explained by a further art. You can be moved by words, or simply by sound. In modern film and games, the thing that moves you is the narrative. Although I guess you could be moved simply by abstract images that have no attached meaning, like a kaleidoscope. Interesting. Maybe some avant-garde type visual art has no linguistic meaning after all.

bolastristes:
the only gaming counterpart of citizen kane I can think of, is none other than SUPER MARIO BROS!

You were a bit shouty about it but I think there's a core of truth there. Only I will go one step further than you and simply say it. Super Mario Brothers is gaming's Citizen Kane.

Here was an industry that was cool but didn't know where to go, what to do. And along came an expression in that industry that showed what could still be done and revitalized the entire thing. Kane did it, Mario did it.

There's a massive difference in the development of various mediums and that has everything to do with the age in which the medium comes to rise. Movies came out of the twenties (or thereabouts), games are a product of the eighties. More importantly, with the rise of the internet the global consciousness and knowledge of consumers is expanded greatly. You need only take a cursory look at those lauded films of yore and you'll see loads of obvious, glaring flaws in the way a movie was scripted, shot, whatever, people back then didn't know better. Now, in the information age we do. (I watched Citizen Kane a couple of months back and you really have to read up on why this movie was so special at the time otherwise its just a very dated movie.)

We gamers know the ins and outs on how games are created, how gameplay elements function. Movies could get away with a lot of stuff because the audience didn't know better, these days they simply can't pull those tricks anymore. Games on the other hand were almost never able to pull those tricks. They had to mature way faster or be left in the dust.

Personally I feel the judgement has already been made. Games are a medium of the comic book variety. There's a load of flashy stuff that's utterly enjoyable but not really understood by a lot of people. And among that there's still a greatness that anyone can discover if only they would give it a chance.

This is not the final verdict however. Movies have been around for 80 years, comics for 60, games for a little over 30, who knows where it will be after it becomes as old as music, which is hitting its 2500th birthday or something this year. And speaking of that age-old one, what horrible noise is coming out of your radio today? Is that the sign of a mature medium?

To me the best video games that define the medium are those that can present us with a believable world in which we can immerse ourselves completely. These world-games would allow us to play within them however we want, within the set of "rules" that that game presents us. The more choice that we have within those rules, the better the game is for it. The more linear the game is, the less like a game it is and the more like a movie it seems.

Gaming is about choice and player interaction, and how the player's actions can change the game-world around them. This is why they should never be compared to a movie or a book, or try to be like either of them. Sure, they can include elements from those mediums but they shouldn't be only them.

I think the idea of MMO's is a good start, but we can see already that it is not there yet. You have a world, but it isn't influenced in a way that can be measured. It doesn't change beyond progressing to a different area. When MMOs become actual worlds that you can do anything in...then we'll have something. EVE is the closest to that that I've played, but even it has it's own problems. It will be interesting to see the growth of the medium into the future.

To me, we have yet to see our "Citizen Kane" of gaming. When we do it will be something else entirely, but the question is, will people recognize it as such when it arrives, or will we look back on it and realize it as such after the fact?

I agree with many here who say that "Heavy Rain" is not gaming's equivalent to "Citizen Kane". My reasoning is that for a game to emulate the art of film successfully, which "Heavy Rain" was clearly trying to do, the game needs to be as well written and well "filmed" as the high quality art films that it is trying to emulate. "Heavy Rain" is neither of those things. We probably won't recognize gaming's "Citizen Kane" when it appears, but hindsight is 20-20.

Now, in my opinion, an industry can not find its own niche in the art world by emulating another industry. Films that are considered art are not emulating books, paintings, or even plays. They are usually taking the elements of the film medium and using them to their fullest potential. An art game will end up doing the same thing, whatever the fullest potential of the gaming medium happens to be.

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