Outspoken God of War creator David Jaffe thinks art games are “smoke and mirrors b*llshit” and that giving them accolades for showing off the potential of the medium is ultimately harmful to “pure games.”
The “game as art” debate has been raging for ages, sometimes as a serious discussion, sometimes as just a topic to kick around during slow times on a forum. One guy who seems to take the matter very seriously is Jaffe, best known as the mastermind behind the God of War and Twisted Metal games, and who doesn’t seem to have much use for so-called “art games.”
“Just because there’s wind blowing and a minimal soundtrack and vast open spaces to explore and a slow pace doesn’t mean that the game you are playing is art,” he wrote in a lengthy blog post. “And just because a game’s story and presentation contains elements you’ve see in the ‘big boy movies’ doesn’t make a game adult or mean the medium is maturing. These are all surface elements that – while challenging as anything else in games to produce well – do not speak to the maturation of the medium one iota.”
The problem in Jaffe’s mind is that as long as people keep falling for the “smoke and mirrors bullshit” of games that trumpet themselves as art, any actual growth of the medium will be stunted because developers will buy into the story that they’ve already “arrived” as artists. But what really gets him wound up is what he sees as the harm being done to “pure games” by all the praise and acclaim that’s heaped upon art games.
“Shining the powerful media light on these sorts of games – that tell you they are important but are not really all that engaging/interesting play wise and are nowhere near as emotional or meaningful as most B rate, night time dramas on network television – means that the media light and publisher cash gets taken away from traditional games,” he explained. “And because of this, traditional games are disrespected, devalued, and shown a lack of appreciation, understanding, and love for the very things the medium does so well, so effortlessly, and so successfully.”
“To shed copious print and e-ink (not to mention publisher marketing dollars) on a title just because it shouts loudly that it is art/important (where – upon closer inspection – said title is usually ‘simply’ a game (and usually an average one at that) cloaked in artistic robes created for – and custom tailored to fit – another medium) is a real problem,” he continued. “To be going on and on about how games need to be/can be/should be/already are ‘more’ than ‘just games’ to me disrespects the joy and happiness traditional games bring to the world.”
Believe it or not, that’s just a small sample of Jaffe’s argument, the whole of which goes into much greater depth and makes some very interesting points along the way. I disagree entirely; I think that by trumpeting the potential of the medium, we ultimately attract new artists who push new frontiers, and that encourages innovation, not stagnation. The assumption that it has to be a zero-sum game is entirely fallacious. But for anyone interested in the games as art debate, it’s well worth reading. Check out the whole thing at criminalcrackdown.blogspot.com.