Experience Points: Gaming Doesn’t Need A Citizen Kane
If one more person compares a GOTY game to Citizen Kane, I think I’m going to blow a fuse. There is the prevailing assumption that Citizen Kane is the pinnacle of cinema and film-making because Orson Welles not only directed the film, but starred in his creation, co-wrote the screenplay and was a producer for the film. In essence, critics and theorists regard Citizen Kane as a crowning achievement of film, one which clearly equates film to the level of art. Cue the “Games As Art” debate and we have the whole internet searching for the “Citizen Kane” of videogames. Let me put this out there, personally I feel Citizen Kane is overrated. I have watched the film, studied and written about it. I did this all in a film studies course and I was awe struck initially by the film.
It was quite a different experience, the film has a solid narrative with little to fault. In retrospect, by taking a good hard look at the film I consider it to be decent. In comparison, there are other films that I’ve watched, which I feel are vastly superior. I have far greater impressions from watching Fight Club than Citizen Kane. Why can’t there be a “Fight Club” of gaming, that would definitely be my style. I think “hype” and nostalgic influence have a great deal to do with how we evaluate something we experience in the immediate. We have rose-tinted glasses that lose their hue a few days later after we’ve experienced something and we come to realise that a film, book or game is not all it was cracked up to be. Just ask resident staff member Cavie about his feelings towards The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite, and you’ll understand the broader idea. Gamers want a game to be “Citizen Kane” to alleviate their doubts that videogames may or may not be art.
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There are always going to be those pillars of a medium that define expectations. We will forever be seeking the next BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, Half-Life 2 or Journey. Games which gamers can easily consider viable assets to the “games as art” debate. This is an inevitability of any form of entertainment. Any medium be it literature, film and videogames will have these definers of what is considered “Art”. For example, we have Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and in film there is Citizen Kane. These examples are benchmarks of quality in their respective mediums, but when you take a closer look they are not necessarily the best in the business, or more specifically games that fit into each gamer’s own personal preferences. My personal “Citizen Kane” is not your “Citizen Kane”. Gamers’ opinions and tastes diverge.
We all have different ideas about what constitutes a “Citizen Kane” of gaming and arguably we could come to some kind of consensus about a game which needs to be revered because it sets a standard that other games should aspire to reach. The argument supporting the idea that identifying the “Citizen Kane” of videogames is important would be: that it propels the medium further, and helps to deduce what makes an exemplary game a “work of art”. At the end of the day, it feels like a pointless exercise one where the result is futile, because many games are good for different reasons, and how would you choose those “reasons” to argue a game that a certain game is a work of art.
Being critical of games and praising the good ones is vital, but there is the question of: to what degree? Stating that one game is the pinnacle of achievement in the medium is an act of redundancy. The argument itself is rhetorical by its very nature, because gamers would naturally disagree with what one would deem the “Citizen Kane” of videogames. We don’t need to select one game as the ultimate benchmark of what a game can and should be. Because that very notion stunts creativity in the development of games. This has the negative downside of creating over-saturated trends that dominate the market. One can come to the realisation that every game doesn’t have to be a work of art as attributed by a set of standards dictated by other mediums. We can’t decide what is and isn’t art. Picking a “Citizen Kane” is pointless.
The games industry is begging for diversification and finding that one game, that “Citizen Kane”, is a near impossible task. There are a number of games that have influenced how the industry has changed and evolved. One game defining everything about videogames as an art form is ludicrous. Moreover, I am not saying that a game cannot be a a work of art. Games can be works of art for various reasons including: being a catalyst for change in the way videogames are developed, revolutionising narrative structure in games and pushing technological limits. All I am saying is calling one game “Citizen Kane” is bad practice. If we are to go down this road, there are many videogames that are “Citizen Kane” in their own rights. Yet this is relative to you, the gamer, and once again we start the cycle asking, “What is the Citizen Kane of videogames”? The answer is irrelevant. Gaming does not need a “Citizen Kane”.