I'm the Gears of War guy Yahtzee hates...because I think Gears of War wears the Arty Game label

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A while back there was a thread that got me thinking about _Gears of War_. I realized that while everyone makes fun of it for it's oh-so-big shoulder armor, I found the armor ridiculous, but amazing. And then I realized why: the armor in _Gears of War_ reminds me of John Boorman's wonderfully anachronistic/inaccurate _Excalibur_; in fact, thinking back on it now, some of the Locust have head shapes that remind me of the knights in that movie when the knights have their plate helms off and just the chain mail coifs on.

There were quite a few things that struck me as 'medieval' (in a pop culture stereotypes sense of the word) about _Gears of War_ beyond the armor. Take the weapons: the main rifle is called a 'Lancer' and the grenades look like spiked ball-and-chain flails; both of these make melee a much more important, visceral part of the game experience than smacking someone with a rifle butt or tagging them with a Plasma grenade. As far as I know, it's also the only recent shooter besides _Turok_ to include the Bow as a weapon. Then there is the setting: humanity bunkered up on the Jacinto Plateau, while outside of that 'citadel' the Stranded live in a state of perpetual siege. Invaders that can show up almost anywhere with no notice, with Locust and their Emergence Holes taking the place of Vikings and their Longboats. Even the color scheme choice of browns and grays that was raked over the coals for being so drab I found kind of beautiful in the way one would find an abandoned stone castle ruin beautiful.

The decision to look to the medieval period for inspiration seem even stronger in the sequel. Players will now be able to carry around a large shield that they can plant in the ground and use for cover, not unlike the Pavise that medieval archers used to use. Just today I came across the most explicit medieval allusion for the game yet: a screenshot of a Locust that fights with not only a shield but a ball-and-chain melee weapon. And a modular one at that: check out the removable clips to make the weapon as long or short as desired. Or to hold your keys.

Even if _Gears of War_ isn't an 'arty' game, is it time to acknowledge that there's a lot more to it than popular opinion gives it credit for? Is it video game snobbery that has caused people to talk and talk and talk about this almost two year-old game without realizing that it has more in common with the Warhammer 40K universe than teh Haloez? What changes about the 'games are art' debate when a guy called Cliffy B decides that what all those people on Xbox Live really want is the Dark Ages* re-imagined as a futuristic shooter?

+++++

*mandatory disclaimer that there was no such thing as the Dark Ages and that's just a slam that the Renaissance people came up with while simultaneously murdering Latin as a living language. Contrary to popular belief, the period from 476 AD until whenever the Renaissance occurred in your western European country of choice was a dynamic period of history. It wasn't all just illiterate yobs in tin cans hitting each other over the head: look up things like the Carolingian Renaissance or the Kingdom of Sicily or the Lex Salica or Occam's Razor to get a better idea of what was really going on--much of what is associated with the 'dark ages' like witch hunts and the burning of heritics occurred by and large *after* the medieval period.

Perhaps more thought went into the design of Gears than I ever thought to give the devs credit for-- but then again, maybe it didn't. I'm almost willing to chalk all that up to coincidence, since:

1) Big armor looks cool.
2) "Lancer" has been used in other games (Ratchet and Clank) to describe a type of machine gun.
3) Halo has shield thingies-- maybe Gears just thought they'd add a new element of cover to the game.

Of course, I dunno. Maybe I'm just too unwilling to believe that a game like Gears, which is played almost exclusively by whooping cockmonglers, could be "arty".

You make a compelling case there Cheeze. From what I know of CliffyB though, I wonder how much of the medieval allusion is deliberate and how much is coincidence. I always get the impression from him that he makes things spiky because he thinks it's 'kewl'.

EDIT:

HSIAMetalKing:

Of course, I dunno. Maybe I'm just too unwilling to believe that a game like Gears, which is played almost exclusively by whooping cockmonglers, could be "arty".

I don't think that something can be discounted as art because its audience doesn't measure up to your standards.

nilcypher:
You make a compelling case there Cheeze. From what I know of CliffyB though, I wonder how much of the medieval allusion is deliberate and how much is coincidence. I always get the impression from him that he makes things spiky because he thinks it's 'kewl'.

EDIT:

HSIAMetalKing:

Of course, I dunno. Maybe I'm just too unwilling to believe that a game like Gears, which is played almost exclusively by whooping cockmonglers, could be "arty".

I don't think that something can be discounted as art because its audience doesn't measure up to your standards.

I didn't mean to sound so serious.. I was more just sort of just joking at my own expense.

By god you may be onto something, man! You actually had me exclaiming, in my head, "Vikings!" as you started to mention attackers popping up from anywhere with no notice. I msut admit, I think you're onto something, mate. I enjoyed the single player game anyway, online was okay but the community sucks, but you may have added some more re-playability for me.

Well Gears actually had some thought and care put into it, unlike Halo which has no design to it. It was just put together by a bunch of programmers with no aesthetic vision.

nilcypher:

I don't think that something can be discounted as art because its audience doesn't measure up to your standards.

Hmmm. I'm not so sure. The intended audience is important when it comes to art. I believe it's one of the things that separates art from entertainment.

Shit hot topic op. I'll have a think about it tomorrow.

minoes:
Well Gears actually had some thought and care put into it, unlike Halo which has no design to it. It was just put together by a bunch of programmers with no aesthetic vision.

I actually always wondered why no one talks about how in _Halo_ the humans keep shutting down the Emergency Flood Prevention System installed by the Forerunners. I mean, sure the Halos going off would suck for humanity, but, maybe humanity should 'take one for the team' and let the Halos fire up to keep the Flood from spreading across the Universe.

But the Forerunners didn't have Master Chief, Chuck Norris, or Capt. Price, so, I guess they needed a network of galactic poison pill doomsday devices.

Decoy Doctorpus:

Hmmm. I'm not so sure. The intended audience is important when it comes to art. I believe it's one of the things that separates art from entertainment.

What about Portal? The intended audience for that was anyone who happened to buy the Orange Box, which is about as indiscriminate as you can get, yet Portal is lauded as either a masterpiece or at least a definitive step in the right direction.

And some people think the "sands of time" series are artsy, when all it does is trying to copy the feeling of Ico and Shadow of the colossus.

nilcypher:

Decoy Doctorpus:

Hmmm. I'm not so sure. The intended audience is important when it comes to art. I believe it's one of the things that separates art from entertainment.

What about Portal? The intended audience for that was anyone who happened to buy the Orange Box, which is about as indiscriminate as you can get, yet Portal is lauded as either a masterpiece or at least a definitive step in the right direction.

I don't really think of Portal as art to be honest. It's a fantastic game and a brilliant example of black humour but it didn't really do anything particularly new. Just because a game is ninety different flavors of awesome doesn't necessarily make it art.

That being said, even if Portal was designed to be art, bundling it in a big bumper budget box with games about pushing minecarts and shooting aliens really wouldn't have helped it's case.

Edit: Minoes: POP certainly wasn't art but then again, neither was ICO. Simply making a game and adding trappings of surrealist art (or lifting surrealist art wholesale in the case of the cover) does not make it game. Again ICO is a game that offers a relatively unique experience, but I wouldn't call it art.

I kind of hate to say it.

If someone thinks its art.. it's art.

people have the right to disagree, and they do, very vocally, but that's how art works.

it's in the eye of the beholder.

I never really thought about Gears of War like that, but it is good to have a new argument against the Gears hate.

Decoy Doctorpus:

nilcypher:

I don't think that something can be discounted as art because its audience doesn't measure up to your standards.

Hmmm. I'm not so sure. The intended audience is important when it comes to art. I believe it's one of the things that separates art from entertainment.

Shit hot topic op. I'll have a think about it tomorrow.

This is a bit like the philosophical question: "If a tree falls in the woods with nobody to hear it, doe sit make a sound?". If a priceless painting is left in a room full of Halo fanboys(sorry, I couldn't resist), is it still art?

BardSeed:

Decoy Doctorpus:

nilcypher:

I don't think that something can be discounted as art because its audience doesn't measure up to your standards.

Hmmm. I'm not so sure. The intended audience is important when it comes to art. I believe it's one of the things that separates art from entertainment.

Shit hot topic op. I'll have a think about it tomorrow.

This is a bit like the philosophical question: "If a tree falls in the woods with nobody to hear it, doe sit make a sound?". If a priceless painting is left in a room full of Halo fanboys(sorry, I couldn't resist), is it still art?

Depends if the painter stuck it there and decided to charge for it. If the intent is artistic then it's art in my opinion but as another poster just said everyone defines art differently.

What makes things art is their ability to evoke a feeling. something that games like Halo or GTA4 don't transmit they are just games.

minoes:
What makes things art is their ability to evoke a feeling. something that games like Halo or GTA4 don't transmit they are just games.

lol... I will disagree with you on GTAIV, if you're just talking about Evoking emotion. GTAIV is the first GTA game ever that I actually cared about the characters I was playing with. I was right with there with niko

It's an interesting thought... I would think that others would have noticed too, though. Has no games journalists poked at this in interviews with the devs? One would also think that they (devs) would have talked about their inspirations for the game at some point.

My bad.

no, if you didn't feel anything in GTAIV, you're definately entitled to your opinion, and I wasn't trying to shut you up.. I was just stating a contrary opinion.

nilcypher:

Decoy Doctorpus:

Hmmm. I'm not so sure. The intended audience is important when it comes to art. I believe it's one of the things that separates art from entertainment.

What about Portal? The intended audience for that was anyone who happened to buy the Orange Box, which is about as indiscriminate as you can get, yet Portal is lauded as either a masterpiece or at least a definitive step in the right direction.

Just to stir the pot even more: was Portal actually a game, or was it a puzzle? And if it was a game, was it the spiffy graphics that made it a game and not a puzzle?

i dont think he liked halo either....

Cheeze_Pavilion:

nilcypher:

Decoy Doctorpus:

Hmmm. I'm not so sure. The intended audience is important when it comes to art. I believe it's one of the things that separates art from entertainment.

What about Portal? The intended audience for that was anyone who happened to buy the Orange Box, which is about as indiscriminate as you can get, yet Portal is lauded as either a masterpiece or at least a definitive step in the right direction.

Just to stir the pot even more: was Portal actually a game, or was it a puzzle? And if it was a game, was it the spiffy graphics that made it a game and not a puzzle?

uhhh, puzzle and game are not mutually exclusive.

Altorin:

uhhh, puzzle and game are not mutually exclusive.

I would say they are. Of course a game can have puzzles *in* it, but I think a 'puzzle' is different from a 'game' which is different from a 'toy'.

Think of a Rubik's Cube vs. A Deck of Cards vs. A Matchbox Car.

Awesome, an interesting post about gears of war! Shock horror. Those are actually great points but don't really fix what I consider the game's biggest flaw, namely gameplay.

It plays like it really wants to be a FPS but doesn't have the self confidence to pull it off. So to hide its inadequacies by using the cover system - something that has been in most FPSs for about 10-15 years through introduction of a crouch button.

The visual style of a game doesn't make a game art. MGS4 for example isn't art because of the visual style employed by Kojima. It's art because of the totality of it's elements and how they come together.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Just to stir the pot even more: was Portal actually a game, or was it a puzzle? And if it was a game, was it the spiffy graphics that made it a game and not a puzzle?

Portal is a game in the sense that it has has an objective, entertains, is fun, and so on.
It's a puzzle in the sense that there are obstacles in your way that muct be solved with a set number of resources, and is often Puzzling

I don't think that Portal could exist as puzzle on it's own (by which I mean without 3D graphics) because the three dimensional world is the crux of puzzle soving in Portal.

It's a puzzle game. I don't see why we'd need to put it under a different heading.

Anyhoo... More towards the topic

Gears of War can be defined as art, I'm sure, Even if only on a visual level. Even if it does have a double scoop of brown and grey, it's put together nicely enough and there's fine detail around the environment.

The development team may have used the dark ages as source material but that's up in the air at the moment. They might just have done it because it looks cool. Who knows?

Wow, everything you said Cheeze actually made sense. I'm not convinced it's art so much as its followers would rather blow off someone's head than to respect it. All games are a form of art but it only goes to those that can appriciate it.

Plus I hate the game anyway.

Some interesting points made about the game, but I still didn't particularly enjoy playing through it.

In regards to the OP. The first thing I thought when I read the title was ,"Yeah."
I've thought about this before too, but does taking aspiration from medieval times necessarily make the game artistic?

Sure, the game puts a lot of effort into it's appearance with a limited palette of browns and greys (And red. Lots of lovely Red.), but I never really put much attention to it. If that makes sense.

I mean, if it was purposefully made to look like art, and tie in with the medieval theme, then sure, it could be regarded as art.

It just seems like reading art into this is like calling a 4-year-old's scrawl-on-the-wall a masterpiece.

Novajam:

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Just to stir the pot even more: was Portal actually a game, or was it a puzzle? And if it was a game, was it the spiffy graphics that made it a game and not a puzzle?

Portal is a game in the sense that it has has an objective, entertains, is fun, and so on.

Tabletop and puzzles entertain, have objectives, and are fun too.Well, for some people. Art actually in the most direct meaning means visual design. There's also "the art of..." And I always count originality as art.

Cheeze_Pavilion might be onto something...GoW could be the first instance of true bro art out there!

How did this get down here? Bump for epic thread.
I'd like to see the Devs questioned on whether this was their intention or not. There seem to be too many similarities to be a coincidence.

No, I don't think Gears goes in for the whole arty thing. I don't think CliffyB makes any excuses that Gears isn't just about shooting and chainsawing stuff - its just supposed to be a fun game. As for Yahtzee, just because a game isn't wacky doesn't mean it's not good. So what if Gears isn't anything particularly new or adventurous? It's a kickass game!

I'm going to go with what others have said already. Any depth you see in Gears is most likely coincidence, especially after hearing Cliffy talk about the game. Granted, the story and setting can be said to have some similarities with a certain period of history, but honestly, that can be said about any story if you look hard enough.

Don't get me wrong, I like Gears and all (a lot), but I think calling the story and setting artistic, inspired, or anything of the kind may be a bit of a stretch.

- J

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