Experience Points: Art Games Aren’t Superior
It is 2013 and we’re into a new year of games with a great diversity of releases where it’s really difficult to pick a favourite. My biggest game this year will probably be Bioshock Infinite, which I hope washes away the distaste I had playing Diablo 3, and its abysmal ending. An ending which is far worse than Mass Effect 3’s mind you. In terms of what can be learnt from the past year of gaming is that 2012 has taught us is that games can solidly be both works of pure entertainment and pieces of art with the likes of The Walking Dead and Journey as marks of the ‘Games As Art’ movement. Other AAA titles have been the requisite populous form of entertainment as demarcated by a large proportion of critics. The argument I pose is that whether a game is purely entertainment, or an artistic expression, these factors are negligent to the quality of a game.
The problem is that people in the gaming industry can fit into two distinct camps, this of course is not a hard and fast rule. These two groups are gamers whom play games for their entertainment value, and those whom play games for their artistic value be it for the narrative, art style and game design of a game. Some people can fit into both camps, but for the sake of clarity I will go with both of these camps being probable potentials. Working in the gaming industry you come across these two separate viewpoints of games, and what factors make a game ‘good’ is dependent on which of these camps you view a game from.
What I would classify as purely entertainment driven games are for examples games like Call of Duty Black Ops 2 that don’t position themselves as actively being a work of artistic exploration and groundbreaking innovation. Such games have a formula they follow much like action blockbusters. At eGamer, we’ve spoken many times about the quality of a good game that can purely entertain you. Not every game has to be a work of art that moves you at the very soul. That is not to say that Call of Duty Black Ops 2 doesn’t have artistic features in its characters and narrative. But when comparing it to games like Journey which has a main core and focus which is to be an active work of art. The aims are totally different for both game with very different target markets. However, I think many people consider the artistic games to be in some ways superior to purely entertainment driven games. Because they feel that such games don’t have the same artistic depth as the self professed art game, and as a result entertainment driven games are in some way inferior. These different types of games serve different purposes, and have different markets. But undeniably so the entertainment driven games are highly popular when compared to the ‘art’ games.
Although an art game may have a uniqueness about it, this does not discredit that a game like Call of Duty Black Ops 2 can be equally just as as ‘good’, or equal to, the qualities of an art game. Being blinkered by preconceptions that art games are somehow the epitome of what a videogame can and will be is both limiting and a tireless venture that bears no fruit. Rather you’ll continually be disappointed and agitated by games which revel in their entertainment factor and won’t play those games because you feel them to be worthless and of no consideration. For the people who don’t care about such distinctions that means more games for us, and less for gamers who are too focussed on being a hipster in their gaming tastes.
Yes, some people may not enjoy Journey and think it to be self indulgent, that is their choice. Yes, they can play the game and by some magical occurrence their mind will be shifted into how awesome an art game is. But sometimes gamers prefer the simpler entertainment packages like Call of Duty or even Lolipop Chainsaw because they are fun games, and can rely on their entertainment factor as a selling point for gamers. This is all a matter of preference. Yet discrediting a gamer’s opinion because he or she believes a game like Call of Duty Blacks Ops 2 to be as good in their mind, or even better, than a game like Journey doesn’t mean they have bad taste, or don’t know what a ‘good’ game is. It’s just that they enjoy a good action film, and you prefer to go to the gallery so to speak. But then you get Bioshock which bridges the gap between the two so well. In other words, just play Bioshock and all other arguments are irrelevant.