Jimquisition: Lazy, Boring, Ordinary, Art Games

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Lazy, Boring, Ordinary, Art Games

Your humble Jim Sterling is deep and philosophical, and therefore appreciates a videogame that attempts to communicate something more special than the average bit of software. However, most so-called "art games" are generic and mediocre, for the very same reasons that they THINK they're unique and enthralling. Art games are becoming as ordinary and boring as anything in the mainstream market, and your cultured host shall explain why.

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A tough position to take, but by God it needed to be said. The Jimquisition: slowly going down the line and telling each and every one of us that we aren't as smart and cool as we think we are.

Well, at least these "arty" game developers (as well as the modern FPS game developers) don't expect different results from very similar actions, because that would be insanity.
To be honest, I have no clue what the deal is with that definition of insanity besides confusing the rest of us who imagine insane to be a synonym to crazy or irrational.

As for the episode, it is similar or on the same grounds as the message "Play over DisPlay" (as quoted from the AcornFilms Youtube review of inFamous 2).

The Stanley Parable. There's an artgame that does stuff with the medium - playing on the inherent obedience and helplessness of game-players. Well worth a couple of hours of your time.

I guess I agree with this, but I know that the majority of the people that jump on the "let's dislike art games" bandwagon will just hear you use the word pretentious and assume that it applies to any game trying to have a message or a story. I am therefore quite overjoyed that you did mention an art game you felt did it right. You truly the sage of this modern era, Jim.

Jim, thank God for you...telling me that Journey is good. I've been looking forward to it for ages and dreading that it would end up letting me down. Can't wait until tomorrow!

Anyway, I knew you'd be talking about Dear Esther as soon as I saw the title of the video. I played it myself, and I think I liked it more than the average player (not counting the reviewers, who all liked it more than I did). I agree that it's pretentious and that it's definitely not for everyone, or even for most people, but it affected me very strongly because of something that happened to me recently, and so the net experience was a positive one. That's less of a mark in favor of the game, though, and more of a coincidence.

On the other hand, there was clearly a lot of talent in there and it would be interesting to see what they could do with an actual game. I'm looking forward to seeing what thechineseroom comes up with when they team up with Frictional Games to make A Machine for Pigs later this year.

(Also, please talk about Silent Hill more. I just like hearing it said. The re-releases are shaping up to be shit and I have no reason to have any hopes for Downpour, so just hearing people talk about Silent Hill fondly makes me feel like the franchise is still alive...somehow...)

Hm. I've never really been a fan of games that have some intention of being arty with the closest to a game carrying such a concept being Shadow Of the Colossus a game I bought just to listen to it's score. I don't know they just don't grab me very well. Being very dark and brooding makes them interesting but doesn't really inspire me to play them so much as to listen to other people talk about the game.

This totally reminds me of that completely whacked and useless game where you play as an old lady at a graveyard who sits on a bench. Terrible music plays. And then she dies. I think. That game was garbage but it makes for good laughing at material. Someone really should make a game that mocks these dark arty games.

Having tried a couple of these 'games', I 100% agree with Jim on this. At some point it ceases to be a game at all and becomes an inconvenient movie where I have to press play and hold it the whole time and set up my own cinematography.

I tend to agree with the sentiment. I found Dear Ester to be an interesting experience, sort of, but I never really played it more than once. There were times I thought to myself, "perhaps I should try playing that again" because it did raise questions in my mind the first time round, but I ultimately never went back to play it again primarily because "playing" just wasn't something I really felt like I was doing. I still refuse to call Dear Ester a game. With today's technology, you could make a movie that did exactly what Dear Ester did, so a movie is more or less what I think of it as.
But hey, on the plus side, at least Dear Ester was free when I got it. For free, I considered it a worthwhile experience. And, if nothing else, it gives a good example to point out just how much of a strength the interactive nature of games can be, if only because it does the exact opposite.

This is true the art genre has just as many cliches in it as the action game/movie genre, I have no problem with the art genre but people shouldn't act like it's somehow a superior genre just because the game/movie doesn't act on a need to entertain the audience with a joke or explosion every minute.

Uhm, I don't really agree with you. Which doesn't mean I completely disagree, you make good points but still... Dear Esther is a little bit more than what you say it is.

Perhaps you're playing with the wrong mindset. It does allow you to enter into it's world, the fact that it lacks interactivity doesn't mean it lacks any sort of inmersion. When playing this game I stop and listen to the sound efects, which are amazing, it completely haunts me into it's scenery, it's not a gaming experience, it's closer to something of purely aesthetic value, more like looking at a painting. Perhaps this is not the definite art experience games can deliver, but it is a valid one. It is very envolving, while playing in the caves, try to stop and listen to the sound of the cascades around you, with a good pair of headphones, it has a hypnotic quality. And try to do it stoned, it's even better.

I don't think that's an ordinary experience. I think it is a very valid piece of software, perhaps not a videogame- not a game at all- but it's not a short film or a story I'm reading. A short film will not allow me to divagate, move around it's scenery and just listen to the waterdrops or the waves. It is very envolving in a way other mediums cannot deliver.

And I think that's valid. I do appreciate your opinion though, as art games have a lot of exploring to do yet. But give it time, each of these can be appreciated (or not) given the correct mindset. If we are to accept Duchamp's Fountaine in the museums, or a Capbell Soup or artist canned shit, perhaps we should also be open to experiences such as Dear Esther, far less pretentious and meaningless than many artsy films or experimental music.

But that's just my opinion :)

Really interesting to see that stagnation in game development is not just localized to first person shooter games.

Jim Sterling:
Lazy, Boring, Ordinary, Art Games

Your humble Jim Sterling is deep and philosophical, and therefore appreciates a videogame that attempts to communicate something more special than the average bit of software. However, most so-called "art games" are generic and mediocre, for the very same reasons that they THINK they're unique and enthralling. Art games are becoming as ordinary and boring as anything in the mainstream market, and your cultured host shall explain why.

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Every art goes through this... and, in fact, sometimes a new medium deliberately jumps to this phase in an effort to be the "first to cross." Funny enough, that creates a matryoshka doll of pretense and meta-pretense around this whole thing.

Sometimes a new artistic movement is an intense reaction to an existing trend or trope, and it is explored by a strong personality (or group of them) that charges into the unexplored in a way that shows borderline contempt for the audience -- they don't appear to care whether or not someone "gets it," but whether they can do it.

At the same time, audiences have caught onto this trend, and there are several who understand that they can piggyback on the "depth" of these movements by jumping on the "Get It" bandwagon as quickly as possible.

Seeing this, artists occasionally set out to deliberately push works like this -- the entire point is to "seem deep" by showing that contempt for the audience, because that's what creates "artistic credibility." The goal isn't to try something new, the goal is to seem like you are. The goal isn't to realize your vision, consequences-be-damned, but instead to intentionally damn-the-consequences just to appear like you're realizing some deeper vision.

And, in turn, the "artsy" audiences lap it up, because each iteration makes the artistic "in crowd" that much smaller and more exclusive. It's a game of chicken -- no one wants to be the first to look away and say, "What the hell are we doing? This stuff sucks," because then they're just one of the "Don't Get Its."

Groundbreaking art is usually underappreciated in its time because it's usually a rebellion against its time. Later on, people look back and realize, "Ah, this was just an artist asking why we always do it this way, and just trying to find something new." What we're seeing is not groundbreaking art. It's developers being obtuse dicks in an effort to become "underappreciated in their time."

So... matryoskha doll, cart-before-horse, game-of-chicken, intellectual circle-jerk, choose your analogy here. Every medium goes through it.

It's a pretty solid argument: that art games forget the 'game' part of their title.

I think that it's a valid part of any videogame, really: Do you get to play, or are you just faffing about while something interesting goes on?

I've been playing Uncharted 3 and I am continually struck by how often I stop playing because I think that I'm in a cut scene-and then I die. They go through great lengths to make sure that you aren't just being shown a game, you have to participate or else there is no game.

I think Jim's argument comes down to: How low can the level of participation be, before you can say that 'You aren't playing it, anymore.'? Because this medium IS an interactive one and while there are occasionally good reasons to limit or deny that interactivity, if that restriction is there the whole time then it's valid to ask: Why is this a game, instead of a book or movie or some other work of art?

Dastardly:

-snip-

You sir...

Just yes.

Solid show today, Jim. Some video game artists or whatever you call them are simply so afraid that their houses of cards will fall at the slightest touch that they can't bear to let some peon actually play with something they made. Which oddly enough ruins their stupid, boring, pretentious games anyway.

EmperorSubcutaneous:
(Also, please talk about Silent Hill more. I just like hearing it said. The re-releases are shaping up to be shit and I have no reason to have any hopes for Downpour, so just hearing people talk about Silent Hill fondly makes me feel like the franchise is still alive...somehow...)

Well, Jim did give a pretty positive review to Silent Hill: Downpour. *Hides his overpouring glee*

http://www.destructoid.com/review-silent-hill-downpour-222794.phtml#ext

As for today's Jimquisition, I've got literally nothing to add. The sense of enviroment is the one true strength videogames have over other story-telling mediums, as far as I'm concerned.

Ironically, this is fully applicable to his beloved CoD series.

Got a point though. Journey does sound like the way to do it: keeping the player at least loosely involved is an essential part of a video game. Dear Esther is basically a movie you have to press forward to enjoy. A good movie, but not fully a game.

Dear Esther is not a video game. I don't care what anyone else says. You may install it like a video game, you may intend to sell it as a video game, you may call it a video game, but it's not a video game. It's something else entirely. It's a short story told from third perspective but seen from first perspective in a form that resembles a video game. If you expect it to be a video game then it sucks more than anything else you've ever played. Which is a shame. Because if only it was a puzzle adventure with horror elements it would have been spectacular. Luckily I knew what it was and I didn't expect it to be a video game. And I got it as a gift on Steam. I liked it. Great writing, great visuals. Not as a video game though. If I thought about it as a video game then I hated every second of it.

"How do we make games art?"
"Let's mirror other media!"

Sounds like a plan.

I also like the Homefront comparison because it highlights the limits of the silent first person protagonist.

Jonsbax:

EmperorSubcutaneous:
(Also, please talk about Silent Hill more. I just like hearing it said. The re-releases are shaping up to be shit and I have no reason to have any hopes for Downpour, so just hearing people talk about Silent Hill fondly makes me feel like the franchise is still alive...somehow...)

Well, Jim did give a pretty positive review to Silent Hill: Downpour. *Hides his overpouring glee*

http://www.destructoid.com/review-silent-hill-downpour-222794.phtml#ext

Well, damn! After everything I'd been hearing, it sounded like it was going to be nothing more than an attempt to copy the success of Heavy Rain and various sandbox RPGs (seriously, a massive open world with sidequests? And quick-time events? And what was with that ridiculous KORN song? And where is my Akira Yamaoka?!)...But now I have hope again.

Still going to wait and see what Yahtzee says. I don't trust anyone other than Jim and Yahtzee when it comes to reviewing Silent Hill games. If they both agree that it's worth playing, I'll gladly pick it up.

I suffer from similar problems with many "artsy" games. I find myself bored senseless and my mind wanders. Hell even some of the "Generic FPS" out at least keep me somewhat interested and entertained, but most of the "Artsy" games, not so much. Maybe I am simply a stupid jarhead that can't appreciate it, but I think it is them trying to look deep into something that may actually have not real special meaning.

Thank you for pointing out why I avoid these kinds of games in general,but I guess one time I have to give one of those "pretentious arty" games a chance.Until then I'll call Serous Sam genocide a work of art.

I get the same feeling as Jim sometimes, but I also think 'artsy' games should be given a bit of slack. Art needs some room to fuck around sometimes, to experiment with the medium and that often result in experiences that are lacking in some ways.

Exactly how much or how little interactivity entertainment software should have can be a hard balance to get right. My use of the term 'entertainment software' is deliberate, because who is to say that non-productive software needs to be games?
Still Jim's points are valid, in an interactive medium the audience do need something to do, or it would have been better presented as a movie or book.

Some mainstream titles suffer from the same issues, moving the player between set pieces and offering little in the way of player initiative. I find that much more lacking in an expensive production that is primarily designed as a game.

Dammit Jim, it's because of what you said that most people HATE it when games try to be meaningful and intellectual, and it is because of THAT the the brain-dead idiots that make up most of the Internet keep holding the medium back by saying games that are also "art" can't be fun! >:(

That said, I realize that what you're saying is that games that are supposed to be "artistic" or have "art" as one of their selling points can be just as bland and one-dimensional as an given FPS game, and I can totally understand that point of view. But do you think the people I mentioned earlier are going to realize that?

Can anyone tell me what the scene at 2 19 is off?

MB202:
Dammit Jim, it's because of what you said that most people HATE it when games try to be meaningful and intellectual

Nope. People hate it when games PRETEND to be meaningful and intellectual.

Huh, and from gameplay videos I've seen, I thought there seemed like there was too little to Journey. I've not heard of Dear Esther, but it has even less to it? Yeesh.

I thought devs were more trying to tap into the audience of gamers who just love pure exploration in games. Not being that at all, those games just do not appeal to me. But then you have people like David Cage who are so transparent in their motivations. They wish they were film-makers and view gameplay as a thing the medium should grow out of. And I actively wish failure upon them.

I completely agree. "Games" like Dear Esther are just rolling demos. There is no game per se.
It would have better suited a short movie or something of the ilk.
Another point I think is important are that "games" that don't actually let you do anything in-game are putting all their eggs in one basket. What if I happen just not to like/be interested in the story - as well as it might be written. I just happen not to "click" with it. Then what?
Nowt to do. See with games like Just Cause 2 (just for example) if I don't care for the story (quite likely) then I still have the entire game world to mess about in and stuff to do. It's not a complete waste of my money.

I always think of old 3D Amiga demos where you could move about in an environment to look at the rotating objects from different angles. They were (rightly) not considered games either.

The other thing that has annoyed me recently, is that people think that only these types of "art games" are possible of being meaningful in some way. Is it that, or is it that these games have nothing else than that to rely on?
To me that whole premise is baloney anyway. What stops an actual game (something interactive) being as meaningful as something which isn't interactive?

Also, "Go back to Call Of Duty" has to now be the lamest, most brain dead response possible.
To me people that say that are basically saying "I've lost the argument, I can't think of anything else, here's a canned line I shall spout to try and save face."

Jimothy Sterling:

MB202:
Dammit Jim, it's because of what you said that most people HATE it when games try to be meaningful and intellectual

Nope. People hate it when games PRETEND to be meaningful and intellectual.

Well, yeah, there's that... But some people can't tell the difference.

Those criticisms would be valid if Dear Esther was actually a game, but it's not.

Findlebob:
Can anyone tell me what the scene at 2 19 is off?

Cadbury's Mini Egg ad.
No idea why it was there. Jim is too deep for me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm8kCF_9Uns

I agree with this show basically.

I like it how he's talking about game worlds that make you feel like a welcome guest as he shows Limbo. That game world HATES you and will kill you many times :) Great game though, and very artistic.

jjofearth:
The Stanley Parable. There's an artgame that does stuff with the medium - playing on the inherent obedience and helplessness of game-players. Well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Also, yes to this so much, a free HL2 mod, with enough interaction to be a game, and varied routes through it to different endings.

Dear Esther looked really interesating and something I'd want to try, but having nothing to do does turn me off.

I admit I loved The Path - for some reason the minimal interactivity and strange creepy atmosphere really clicked with me and I liked how you could have the story 'play out' with horrible things happening. That said I regret playing Tale of Tales follow up Fatale which really was what Jim said - a linear vauge story that you have no control over.

Play the Cat and Coup. A thousand times more engaging and interesting than Dear bollocks I made pretty caves.

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