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Edited by CrossTheAtlantic

@thomasnash: You Barthes comparison is spot on.

I took the follow-up to not necessarily be a campaigning for making single games to a wider-audience. Rather, by making various games for different audiences we can begin to incorporate a wider range of people in the conversation about what video games can be. Further, whether we ask for it or not, "video game" is a successful, expansive and influential medium and, as such, is going to be increasingly subject to a range of critiques. We have to move away from the critique mindset of being good or bad and recognize that as with film, literature, music, etc you can have the feminist, marxist, post-structuralist, whatever critiques of a work that exist separate from the work itself. Just because someone is talking critically about something doesn't inherently make it an attack, and I feel like, as gamers, we have a natural reaction to buck against that for a few different reasons--whether a sense of inclusiveness or protection. What I think Mattie Brice is ultimately getting at is that gamers should be more open to the conversation if not the specific points: it's going to happen whether we want it to or not.

I'm surprised no one's referenced this great New Yorker article by Nicholson Baker about his first experience with video games as an adult. He even mentions how great the Bombcast is!

Posted by thomasnash

The thing I found a bit strange about the article was making any reference to "Game Theory" or the possibility of a theory enmeshed entirely in "games." I think I sort of see where the people establishing the prize are coming from, because what most bloggers and critics (seem to me) to do is only on the level of applying external theoretical principles to examine games as cultural artifacts. It's not a totally invalid form, I suppose, but it will never help elevate games as a "serious" art form in the way that these writers seem to expect, it's a "cultural conversation" with an in built heirarchy.

What they get, whether this was what they wanted or not, is a writer who does exactly what "theorists" of games ought to be doing, which is to try and see what their experience of the medium shows them about games, what the immanent qualities of games might be. I would compare it most, I think, to Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida, where he examines his own reactions to photographs to try and divine something about "the essence" of photography (as a sidebar, anyone who is saying that we shouldn't listen to people not entrenched within the world of videogames, or anything they discuss, or that they have no right to speak, should read some Barthes). I think in a way this comparison is why I didn't think that her references to prejudices or beliefs about games going in were evidence that she couldn't speak about games because of bias. I think by acknowledging the bias (which, incidentally she was acknowledging as experience from afar, so as to contrast with actual direct experience) she is just acknowledging that the immanent features of a form attach themselves to the character of the person experiencing them.

So yeah, that's kind of what I thought she was trying to do, in part. And I think it's a valid direction. I do have to agree with everyone who has said that she needed to put more effort into it though. The kind of examination that Barthes produces requires a dedication to seeing it through that she didn't have. But then again, it is very different writing a book while in an academic position, to writing an article to a deadline for the FT, so...

Posted by JesterPC238

I friggin' love this community. Excellent thoughts from people far more eloquent than I.

Posted by Damian

I welcome 'their' participation in this "cultural conversation". But this conversation has been going on for decades. Only a special sort of ignoramus butts into a conversation they haven't kept up with an attempt to assume any control of it. GameCity prize seems to be the geeks trying to hang with the freaks, so it's a little awkward at first. But, hey, I'm glad their trying.

They should try harder, though.

Posted by Brodehouse

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Brodehouse said:

Judging games entirely by their narrative is like judging music or architecture entirely by their narrative. Perhaps we should ask if those quality as art as well, because they lack the narrative depth of Proust.

Sure, but it doesn't mean game stories shouldn't be better (not that I think you're saying that). Too many of them are cliched, shallow, and juvenile, and I think we should be holding developers' feet to the fire more about this because there's no reason they can't improve. Obviously there's a lack of control inherent to the medium that makes the kind of tight self-contained storytelling you'd get from a movie or book impossible, but there's also things games can do that static mediums can't.

Can I say one thing though? I don't appreciate having my opinion completely discounted and preemptively ignored because I happen to be a white male. If you want to talk silencing, lets look at that. Doing that doesn't make you a paragon of equality, it makes you Robespierre.

Agreed.

They can absolutely be better. But placing Call of Duty under some pressure to become the artistic example of our entire medium is like expecting Katy Perry to make a groundbreaking jazz fusion album. Michael Bay to direct Citizen Kane 2: Revenge of the Fallen. I think that's a case where you have to pick your battles. The 'highbrow' stuff will be the 15 dollar games, with small portions cropping up in the occasional big blockbuster here and there, just like how it works in every other industry. We're alone in that we are only judged by our blockbuster titles, because we're a younger medium and we don't quite have a large older generation yet.

But that's really neither here nor there. The narrative is only one element of a game, and it's beyond frustrating to see every 'outsider' critic entirely judge games by their narrative. It would be akin to judging paintings based on what colors are on it. She immediately writes off Mass Effect (and numerous others) because it has a violent narrative, so how could it possibly be good? That completely ignores the core gameplay mechanics because she doesn't understand them. "This Van Gogh is terrible, because it has yellow all over it, and yellow is bad." If the narrative is completely changed, if you're using the same mechanics to shoot self-esteem at depressed teen girls, would her opinion on the gameplay change? She describes Mario by listing what it's about, and what happens, but she lacks the basic descriptive tools to explain how the control feels. Could you give a critical assessment of a symphonic work if you didn't understand what harmony is? In such a case, you would look at the instruments being used and say "the song has trombones, and cellos, and it gets loud sometimes"? Like I said, it makes sense that she feels most comfortable with Journey; it doesn't require the same experience and understanding with the medium. This is why children like Pixar and not Stanley Kubrick.

Online
Posted by BoG

@TheHumanDove: I agree, I agree, I'm just really bad at expressing my thoughts in a complete way. The majority of games have not yet transcended juvenile fiction. The majority of games have pretty shallow stories. There are absolutely exceptions. These exceptions are the reasons I have hope that we'll see more mature games with deeper themes.

@Viking_Funeral: 100% agreed. I'm not saying that Uncharted is bad, I'm simply saying that I don't want it to be the pinnacle of gaming (not that I think it is, it's merely the first example that came to mind). There is absolutely a place for Uncharted in video games, just as there is place for Indiana Jones in film. Both are excellent examples of their respective mediums. A film with a mostly shallow story can still be exceptional if it is technically a masterpiece, and the same goes for games.

What you said about interaction is what I was trying to get at in my post. I simply didn't express it as well as you. As you said, this is the crisis. The majority of games take the easy way out, turning games into interactive versions of Hollywood movies. I don't think that this is reaching the medium's full potential. I want games to use the interaction to enhance the story, to develop the themes. This is extremely difficult to achieve.

I love that you mentioned Shadow of the Colossus, because I feel that the game makes my point. You mentioned the wide open, empty landscapes, and I think that this helps the player to understand what Wander must be going through. The player is lonely in the empty world, just as Wander is lonely following the passing of his lover. The gameplay revolves around climbing giant beasts, who try to throw you off of their backs. You spend much of the game's only enemy encounters holding on, never letting go. This game play element adds to the story: Wander is holding on to what he has lost, he can't let go of a loved on who has passed on. As you said, it plays up the unique traits of video games. The story is told in a way that no other medium can imitate. Sadly, too few games are like SotC in this way.

It's difficult, it really is. Games need to separate themselves from books and movies. Sadly, as long as games try to be everything that a summer blockbuster movie is, we won't be progressing.

@haggis: I really like your post.

@Kieran_ES: After some thought, I agree. If you saw my post, I was wondering about this. Ultimately, in order to understand any medium of art, you're going to need to put forth some effort. Games require you to understand controls, books require you to understand big words.

Edited by believer258
But what upsets me about Catherine is something else: it is simply too stressful. I don’t find repeatedly being pushed to my death by a giant bottom at all enjoyable.

See? She already has the makings of a game critic. Jeff said the same bloody thing.

EDIT: All right. I don't see anything wrong with this. She tried her hand at video games, delivered some thoughts on the matter, and not all of them were negative. In fact, she had positive things to say about Journey. This is one gigantic leap in the right direction as far as I can tell. And, honestly, the more I think about Mass Effect, the more I agree with her. It's kind of boring. It did some cool and interesting things with dialogue and story in a third person shooter, but there's a huge amount of room for improvement and someday, probably soon, someone will jump on that and make something far, far better, and then no one will be able to understand why Mass Effect was such a great selling game in the first place.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Brodehouse said:

Judging games entirely by their narrative is like judging music or architecture entirely by their narrative. Perhaps we should ask if those quality as art as well, because they lack the narrative depth of Proust.

Sure, but it doesn't mean game stories shouldn't be better (not that I think you're saying that). Too many of them are cliched, shallow, and juvenile, and I think we should be holding developers' feet to the fire more about this because there's no reason they can't improve. Obviously there's a lack of control inherent to the medium that makes the kind of tight self-contained storytelling you'd get from a movie or book impossible, but there's also things games can do that static mediums can't.

Can I say one thing though? I don't appreciate having my opinion completely discounted and preemptively ignored because I happen to be a white male. If you want to talk silencing, lets look at that. Doing that doesn't make you a paragon of equality, it makes you Robespierre.

Agreed.

Posted by Akrid

Read her article, and she seems completely fair. It's a lot less inflammatory then many of it's ilk.

Matt Brice is for some reason working under the idea that someone who is not very fond of reading would still enjoy Ulysses. Complex pieces of art can only be expected to have reduced market penetration, for obvious reasons.

Posted by Brodehouse

Judging games entirely by their narrative is like judging music or architecture entirely by their narrative. Perhaps we should ask if those quality as art as well, because they lack the narrative depth of Proust.

The easiest realization of this was her preference for games that involved low input needs. Journey is emotionally rich, but systemically simple. In video game terms, it's a Pixar film, or pop music. Mass Effect, Uncharted, Call of Duty, they're populist entertainment with their own varying levels of distinction. They require a little bit more knowledge of plot and narrative tropes than your average children's flick. Most of our big AAA studios are the Spielbergs and Ridley Scotts (and also the Bays and the Tony Scotts) of our gaming world; the Steven Kings and JK Rowlings. Then there are mechanically complex games, these are the Prousts and Joyces of the gaming world. I will be cold and dead before I want to unlock the gameplay mysteries of a Paradox game.


Can I say one thing though? I don't appreciate having my opinion completely discounted and preemptively ignored because I happen to be a white male. If you want to talk silencing, lets look at that. Doing that doesn't make you a paragon of equality, it makes you Robespierre.

Online
Posted by coaxmetal

I was very dissapointed when I found out that the article wasn't actually about Game Theory, which is a lot more interesting than what it actually was about.

Posted by Ravenlight

@eskimo said:

Read the article and it kinda seems like trolling for hits. Expecting a middle aged woman to enjoy Mass Effect 3 is akin to a teen male enjoying Barbie Horse adventures, ie a fucking stupid premise.

This is a bad comparison. Nobody enjoys Barbie Horse Adventures.

Edited by deathstriker666

Video games are not for everybody and her article is clearly evidence of that. It wasn't too critical of the medium. It was mostly her admitting her preconceptions and lack of aptitude/experience playing games. The article didn't really criticise the games mentioned, it mostly focused on her experience playing these games. Really, this has more to do with her then it does with the medium itself.

Posted by GS_Dan

I think the issue is -as had already been mentioned here- that you're asking a layman to comment on an industry/artform/whatever you want to call it that has been evolving for decades now. If she's had no interaction whatsoever with video-games in the past, how can she be expected to be able to appreciate the polished gameplay mechanics of Uncharted or the uniqueness of a game like Fez? Because she doesn't have this context, she's instead forced to compare them to things she can appreciate- evidently books and movies. As we know, even the most cinematic, story focused games out today can be horribly flawed in comparison to the best books and film. As the focus is (rightfully so in most cases) elsewhere during game development, that isn't really a judgement which all that viable.

Edited by JesterPC238

I would agree completely that she's entitled to her opinion, and I don't want anyone to think that I have some bullish desire to make middle-aged moms want to play Mass Effect. I didn't particularly enjoy that game anyway, so that's not what concerns me. What bothered me about the article (and I wouldn't say enraged, angered, or pissed me off) was that she's writing for the Financial Times. This is a major publication in the business world, it's been around since 1888, and the things that they publish bear a certain degree of weight in the business and financial sector. Game developers might put more stock in something they read on GiantBomb or Destructoid, but you can be damn sure that publishers are taking just as many cues from things like Barron's and the Financial Times.

Plus at the end of the day this thread has been absolutely fascinating to read, so I just like the discussion, even if it ends up being moot.

Posted by gamefreak9

I don't know why you guys are taking this seriously. The writing style is giving me a high nosed impression of the author. Video games can be deep, Braid is an example, end of story. Actually I think Braid is much more intellectual than most novels, because it doesn't feel the need to spell it out for you. Whilst Books must waste time on BS details to imply a deeper meaning.

Edited by eskimo

Read the article and it kinda seems like trolling for hits. Expecting a middle aged woman to enjoy Mass Effect 3 is akin to a teen male enjoying Barbie Horse adventures, ie a fucking stupid premise.

Posted by bucifer

I don't think she necessarily hates video games, from what I could tell the article ended on a somewhat pleasant note, she said " Some are fun, imaginative and even beautiful. It is possible I might play them voluntarily one day but...". It's kinda hard to expect an outsider, especially a mom with two kids and a job to "just get" video games from the start, especially given the games she was exposed to (Mass Effect 3?WTF?). It's good that she tried, maybe in the future she'll keep an open mind towards vidja games, and that's the best that we can expect from "people like her".

Posted by bombedyermom

I love me some video games. She doesn't. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, even though their commonalities with armpits are two-fold: everyone has them and they usually stink. This is just another human with what seems to be a premature perception on gaming, only people listen to her. I don't know who those people are, but I doubt that the way they perceive games has been changed by Kelly's article.

After reading the article, I shrugged. There was definitely a missed opportunity for "an outsider" to sit down and open their minds to video games. It seems to me like she kind of half-assed it. If that's the case, then why care about what she had to say? I'd be way more interested in her thoughts, good or bad, if she had played all those games to completion, the way they are designed to be played.

Posted by Viking_Funeral

@BoG said:

This is a really interesting issue. On the one hand, I agree with Kellaway in some ways. I really enjoy Uncharted, but it saddens me that the best we can get out of video games is the equivalent of a forgettable Hollywood popcorn flick.

I wouldn't call Uncharted the best we can get out of video games. Maybe that's a misinterpretation of the point you are trying to make, but Uncharted is the video game equivalent of Indiana Jones. And, I think we can all agree, the Indiana Jones movies were well made action flicks that didn't necessarily reinvent film, but did give it a little kick in the pants. Same for Uncharted and video games.

But, that's the other problem. We keep trying to define video games by other, non-interactive mediums, especially those with a heavy focus on story telling. Namely, books & movies. And that's a shame, because the defining characteristic of video games is the interactivity. This interactivity can lead to player agency, immersion, and even a sense of accomplishment. The defining games, our pieces of high art, for video games should be those games that take those unique traits and do something unique with them.

It's easy to point to something like Planescape: Torment and say that it's an artistic game, but unfortunately most people just compare it to a novel with its heavy dialogue. I'd argue that the dialogue and text serves the purpose of the immersion in this game, the unique setting and bizarre situations, rather than the setting helping to define the story. This immersion is, of course, supported by the limited player agency (conversation choices, etc). Making choices in a fictional world, and seeing appropriate weight given to them is immersive.

Not that I would call Planescape: Torment the best game in the field of immersive games. It wouldn't even make my personal top 10 for immersion. (Well... maybe... nah, probably not.) But think of a game like Shadow of the Colossus. There is a beauty to that game that cannot be defined by classic story-telling ideas. It doesn't fit into the same mold as movies & books, and that's because it's a different beast. It's a video game that plays up those unique traits of video games, most obviously the immersion. The sense of wonder you get in that game when you cross the great distances to a giant on the horizon that slowly grows as you span the distance that is a hard to define experience that you would be hard pressed to find somewhere else.

I'm harping a bit on immersion, as that's the easiest aspect to exemplify, but that's not to say that player agency and the sense of accomplishment aren't equally important in games, and that many great games excel in those areas. I'd give more examples, but I need sleep... blah, blah, blah. Anyway, the point is that video games are art, but we have to stop defining them in the way we define other forms of art, especially the easy comparisons to narrative arts like movies & novels.

Posted by haggis

I think her problem is that she doesn't understand that games are a populist artform. The fact that she even mentions Proust, for instance, tells us that she isn't in the right mindspace to understand the impact of what games actually are. She's an elitist--from her comments about helping her son with French down to her literary tastes. There's nothing particularly wrong with being an elitist, except when one is being prickish about it (this goes both ways, of course, for populists who sneer at fine art and literature). She isn't as prickish as many are, but she veers pretty close.

I don't want Mass Effect (for instance) to be Proust. I have different expectations. I just want it to be Asimov, or even Scalzi. Alas, it doesn't quite reach that either. It's sort of like expecting an action/adventure movie to be Citizen Kane. There is a tonal and structural difference that prevents casual comparisons. One doesn't look at a painting and say, "Well, it's not like Citizen Kane at all, so it must suck." Games are games. They're not movies, they're not novels. The entire discussion is predicated on a lack of respect not for the games themselves (although there is that), but for the medium itself.

I would love a narrative game that was more intelligent than what we have now. On the other hand, I'm bugged somewhat by this chip on some gamers' shoulders. This desire for respect from elitists like Kellaway would result in one thing for sure--games that no one wants to actually play. Because Kellaway will never play a game. She just won't. No matter how "intelligent" it might be. Because she doesn't respect the medium. She never will. I'd much rather have developers making games for those of us who actually do appreciate the medium. Yes, I want better games with more complex narratives that can compete with the best films and novels. But I want those devs to do it on their own terms.

Posted by Kieran_ES

Ok so there seems to be some sort of difference in what type of accessibility people are talking about here. I will stress this:

It is not control or mechanical accessibility, it is not 'dumbing down', it is not anything to do with simplifying the controls or mechanics of a game. Everyone has the ability to get to grips with tough games, think of what we played as kids. No, it is the need to create a wider range of identification with games. Seeing yourself, or something that you can readily empathise with, in the medium somewhere.

Is it really any wonder that she didn't get into Mass Effect 3 or Catherine? Or that Journey and Proteus were most appealing? How many games can you name that are not dominantly male, dominantly violent in their interaction or steeped in gaming history? That all excludes people. Those games don't need to go away but some diversification is needed.

@Little_Socrates: Nice little break down of Fez there, I enjoyed that.

Posted by CosmicBatman

If I wanted the depth of a book I would read a book.

Posted by Village_Guy

I'm surprised there is even any fuss about her article. It reads like a person who comes into playing some games with a negative opinion of video games beforehand.

It also sounds like she didn't even bother using more than ten minutes with each game because it didn't immediately impress and engage her emotionally.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@fang273 said:

@Little_Socrates said:

The only thing I disagreed about was mentioned already as a statement someone agreed with.

@BoG said:

"Fez is pretty and ingenious but it’s not exactly Proust. It’s not even JK Rowling."

But Fez is at least J.K. Rowling, if we're going to put Rowling and Proust on the same scale of "artfulness 1-10."

I found that quote funny because, from how the story reads, she didn't get to any of the meat of Fez. It seems as if she put it in, noticed it was a pretty little platformer, then turned it off. You guys are arguing as if she received a deep, meaningful gameplay experience from Fez and based her story on that, when that really isn't the case.

Oh, no, I'm not mad at her, I just disagreed. A chapter of Harry Potter, especially one of the more action-filled chapters from books 2-4, would not deliver a much more artful experience, though. I'm just looking to expand the conversation.

Posted by dudeglove
"Nothing kills pleasure as surely as parental approval: the very best way to stop your teenager playing video games is to play them yourself."

Pretty good article, and for someone who never played a game before, her review of Mass Effect 3 is spot on. A shame that some stupid nerd rage will probably erupt over this because mouthbreathing shitheads can't read past the first paragraph (if it hasn't already).

Developers have only themselves to blame for the knee jerk sweeping generalizations by the public, and regardless of all the ranting and raving in response no one outside of the gaming community is going to bother to penetrating beneath the surface, especially when all they get is being bombarded by material aimed at contards.

In addition, if the writers sat down and actually bothered to read a fucking book for once instead of spouting memes or watching Scarface a dozen times, then you might be on your way to creating a path for cultural conversation. Instead all you get is Dragon Age 2 and Anthony fucking Burch thinking he's fucking Tarantino because he put about 600 memes from 4chan into BL2.

And no, Deus Ex is not going to change her mind either, especially considering it uses half the goddamn keyboard to play. Such a shame.

Posted by fang273

@Little_Socrates said:

The only thing I disagreed about was mentioned already as a statement someone agreed with.

@BoG said:

"Fez is pretty and ingenious but it’s not exactly Proust. It’s not even JK Rowling."

But Fez is at least J.K. Rowling, if we're going to put Rowling and Proust on the same scale of "artfulness 1-10."

I found that quote funny because, from how the story reads, she didn't get to any of the meat of Fez. It seems as if she put it in, noticed it was a pretty little platformer, then turned it off. You guys are arguing as if she received a deep, meaningful gameplay experience from Fez and based her story on that, when that really isn't the case.

Posted by JasonR86

There's no reason to get mad at the article on game theory. The person simply described her experiences with some video games she tried. Getting mad at her for having such a reaction is like someone getting mad at me for not finding soap operas enjoyable or any other example where some person doesn't like some subject. She simply outlined an experience and reaction that lead to an opinion. We do it all the time in our daily life. Why is her experience, reaction, and opinion to be considered as so distasteful?

I couldn't get through the second article because I hated the way the guy wrote. He sounds like a jackass who wants to be considered as high-brow by others so they can reaffirm his own personal self-image due to poor self-confidence (damn!). But if I were to have read his article completely I probably would have the same response as I had to the game theory article.

So, in short, opinions man.

Posted by Soviut

I'm going to be obtuse and pedantic when I say this, but I can hardly understand anymore how someone who "doesn't play games" can even exist today. Saying "I don't play video games" is like saying "I don't watch movies" or "I don't listen to music". From smartphones to facebook, it's practically unavoidable. I get the impression that people who claim they "don't play games" do so consciously because they think there's some maturity stigma attached to them. Yet they'll happily read trashy novels, listen to pop music and watch Jersey Shore.

Posted by commonoutlier

What really got to me was in the article was she said, "I said yes, though not because I particularly care whether there is a cultural conversation about video games or not." Certainly there are things in this world I do not necessarily want to participate in, but that doesn't mean I don't want there to be a growth, a culture conversation about it! Care about the growth of all society, even if you don't participate in it, not just your own little corner of it, geez...especially if your family is involved. So yeah, I do agree with you that it is very unfortunate to not have gaming experts/philosophers and just outsiders involved. If anything, I think it is extremely insulting, almost implying that those within the culture are not sophisticated enough to have that deep of a conversation about their medium.

Now, I do not think Matt Brice is entirely wrong...after all, looking to see why people do not understand things in games, that is PLAY TESTING. We want people to understand our games...if anything, we want those who we know will play them understand them. It is a problem that we do continuously market and create for the same audience, those already within the culture. What’s wrong with trying to expand our audience? Having more who understand will encourage more to be involved...and the medium as art will only benefit from diversifying further. After all, when you're trying to convey something, and someone does not get it, traditionally at least part of the blame is the person trying to convey something...I mean, you have got to know your audience, and how to reach them, what they will understand. That is not simply something in video games, but all media.

Though, granted, there’s nothing wrong with trying to NOT appeal to a non-gamer. If your audience is just those within the culture, then do not mind that there are those who will not understand. But there is nothing wrong, I believe, with trying to understand why people struggle to understand our medium. It will only make us stronger, and its not something EVERYONE has to do...but its okay if many do, too. I just wish that games that are directed towards those who are not as familiar with games do not dumb the games down so much that they give such ill and shallow impressions of the medium.

Of course, understanding art is more complicated than that. Honestly, I do think I am wrong to say “blame” within the realm of art...I do think the artists bears some responsibility, but so does everyone involved with the understanding of art. The artist, the individual viewer, society, the industry or knowledgeable authority...and because games build a lot upon the experiences of the individual, it is difficult sometimes to worry about outside experiences when the message you want to convey is complicated enough that it is bogged down by that additional burden of over-teaching.

On a different note, one thing I noticed in the article was her son getting angry at her for making mistakes. In gaming culture, we've put too much emphasis on being perfect (and although not as evident in the article, the existence of one right way), rather than allowing people to make mistakes. My sister had described an article where in Heavy Rain a gamer and their significant other were playing, the non-gamer was suddenly interested in playing, and the gamer had to stop themselves from correcting the non-gamer. The non-gamer was having fun, even if they were missing some of the clues...and that was okay, or at least it should be acceptable. It makes it difficult for those not in the culture to get into games...and plus, its not something we should expect of ourselves as gamers either. We should be okay with making mistakes--and games should teach us how to live with them, how to make up for them, that there's not just one way...true, it is harder to design, but I think the industry is capable of producing such games.

Sorry, also, if I ranted...just felt like I needed to say that. I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I do not think I’m any more right than you are. Just my perspective.

Posted by TheHumanDove

@BoG said:

@Little_Socrates: Ok, I should say, I took that statement as it applies to gaming as a whole. I've not played Fez enough to be able to say "it's worse than Harry Potter." I played it enough to k now that it has an awesome soudtrack, but I haven't dug too deeply into. As a whole, though, games have yet to really mature beyond the level of juvenile fiction.

I disagree. I think a lot of games have matured beyond juvenile fiction. Lots and lots. But I dont feel like giving examples because I'm lazy.

Posted by BoG

@Little_Socrates: Ok, I should say, I took that statement as it applies to gaming as a whole. I've not played Fez enough to be able to say "it's worse than Harry Potter." I played it enough to k now that it has an awesome soudtrack, but I haven't dug too deeply into. As a whole, though, games have yet to really mature beyond the level of juvenile fiction.

Posted by Little_Socrates

The only thing I disagreed about was mentioned already as a statement someone agreed with.

@BoG said:

"Fez is pretty and ingenious but it’s not exactly Proust. It’s not even JK Rowling."

But Fez is at least J.K. Rowling, if we're going to put Rowling and Proust on the same scale of "artfulness 1-10." Phil's questions about creation, his reverence for both video games and film and computer technology and how scary everything is becoming since he was a young boy is all evident in Fez. The statement that we should explore antiquity, with most of the game taking place in abandoned ruins of old civilizations, is maybe even a reflection on the fact that I somehow now have nostalgia for the Commodore 64 without ever having touched the damned thing in my lifetime because the internet has shown me what was so lovable about 80's game design. But I wasn't there, and Phil was, but we can share the same lessons and learn the same things from Phil's past. And the things he has to say about learning itself, of course, are a pretty monumental step for game design.

Fez isn't introducing those ideas with a clear narrative, or character development, or weighty philosophical aphorisms and speeches. It's making them through art design and world design and puzzle design and a completely different language from the language of film or books. Fez can easily be interpreted as a subtler way of exploring the ideas of songs like Losing My Edge or, well, most LCD Soundsystem songs. And no, you're not going to see a lot of that kind of game design unless you really look for it, but it's RIGHT THERE so much of the time.

Of course I don't blame her for not following that part. Most people would never see that in almost any game they play. But that doesn't mean it isn't there, and it doesn't mean we can't see it when we look. But we can only see it because we speak the language. Like a trained cinematographer can comprehend the off-kilter, never-quite-properly-composed shots in the early goings of the '76 version of The Omen, we speak the language. We can read "hey, I understand how these puzzles were developed, and some of these aren't the normal kind of puzzle you'd find in even a really tough puzzle game. How odd."

If you want games to be Proust, you need to take that next step and figure out why the puzzle was so odd and what that might do for the game or mean. The designers work hard enough already.

Edited by Insectecutor

Nobody seems to have mentioned the single take-away I got from her article, which was that gamers are the most terrible ambassadors for gaming.

Her son should not have intervened. Gaming is about discovery, the fun is in figuring stuff out. She mentions the first thing that happened was her son threw some kind of tantrum because she couldn't figure out Mario which probably made her feel stupid and not want to continue, then she says he made a character of her in ME3 which she didn't like. I mean, imagine seeing yourself for the first time with an American accent and armoured boobs doing shit you abhor.

I don't know how much else her son was involved but his influence was clearly negative. No doubt there are a whole bunch of other gamers currently throwing shit at her on Twitter, and that just proves my point.

Posted by BoG

This is a really interesting issue. On the one hand, I agree with Kellaway in some ways. I really enjoy Uncharted, but it saddens me that the best we can get out of video games is the equivalent of a forgettable Hollywood popcorn flick. Here's the problem: "Fez is pretty and ingenious but it’s not exactly Proust. It’s not even JK Rowling." I want games to overcome this. I want games to be more intelligent.

Of course, we interact with games. Interaction is what separates games from other mediums. This interaction is supposed to entertain us, in the same way that reading a book entertains us. If the interaction isn't enjoyable, why bother? We praise Uncharted because it's a whole lot of fun to interact with.

Then, accessibility. I don't know where I stand on this one. Any literate person can sit down and watch a movie or read a book. The same can't be said of games. We study Steinbeck (because the OP mentioned him) in school because it is considered outstanding, and all students should possess the capability to read it. If they struggle, they can get a dictionary, or SparkNotes. Gaming is different.

I'm thinking about this as I write it, and maybe my last paragraph isn't true. Maybe learning to read a difficult novel is just as demanding as learning to manipulate a controller. What do you all think?

Again, I want games to be more intelligent. I want developers to take advantage of what is unique to games, interaction, and use to tell a story or develop a theme. I would like "higher" games, not so that film critics will like me, but so that I can continue to enjoy them.

Edited by PixelPrinny

Is it weird that about half-way through reading the original article, I started imagining that this was written by Tannis from Borderlands and reading the whole thing as if it was one of her ECHO journals? The part about walking away having learned that not all video games are inherently evil struck me as something especially Tannis-sounding.

I don't really have anything intelligent to add to the conversation, sadly. I mean, sure there was a part of me while reading it that just wanted to knee-jerkishly speak out in protest against many of the things being said but the whole idea of the award itself in which she spoke of and participated in was just so absurd; so detached from the culture and people of which I fancy myself a part of, that there'd be absolutely no point in voicing any objections or counter points. That's her opinion based on her perspective *shrugs*

I will however say that I'm sick of these "developers need to do this or that" sentiments that are floating around in some gaming social circles these days. No, developers don't need to do anything other than make the games they want to make. They don't need to make sure their game is appealing to everyone or have an easy mode or be super forgiving or need to reward failure as well as they reward winning. We, as individuals and, perhaps, as a society, are starting to lose touch with reality in a way that is incredibly frightening to me -- we're beginning to lose grasp of the concept that not everything is designed for our specific tastes.

Instead of being content with the simple fact that, "Hey, that game's just not for me," we've begun trying to collectively point fingers and accuse developers or publishers for not being in touch with our specific tastes; saying their games aren't accessible enough, aren't forgiving enough; aren't hand-holding enough (or inversely, they're catering too much to the casual market, they're too easy, etc etc).

Again, developers don't need to tailor their games to anyone specific tastes nor are they obligated to bring more people (such as the author of that original article) into the 'gaming fold' . If a developer wants to make that their task, then fantastic; all the power to them. But it is not their responsibility to do so, it is their choice.

I guess I did add a little something to the discussion after all. So to hell with it, I'll make a counter-point to one of her statements since I think it's something everyone could learn from -- Parents who play video games are AWESOME.

Posted by Mustachio

As much as I want to write up a bunch of points about why you're right and she's wrong, I can't help but wonder that this is ultimately a non-issue. It might seem cold, but she's of a generation that largely preceded the videogames boom by a substantial length of time, and when her generation has passed on and we become the fifty-something outsiders, it'll probably be some other gadget, medium, trend, fad or craze that we're pompously sneering at from our broadsheets.

Posted by JesterPC238

@Azteck: I completely agree with you. The thing that disturbs me about this article is that a perfectly intelligent individual writing for a well respected outlet doesn't seem to understand that point. I couldn't care less if she likes games, but I feel like once you've determined that you're not interested in something you should kind of avoid criticizing it publicly.

Posted by Aetheldod

@Azteck:Amen duder ...... this is why I always cringe when developers wants to takle a wider audience , if some one want to try to like a game they will overcome the initial hurdles if someone doesnt well , dont make a game to catter to them because they may still not like it while the people who do will be dissapointed for playing another dumbed down game.

Posted by Azteck

It seems ridiculous that we should somehow make games accessible for everyone, despite their history with the medium. While Video Games might share a lot of things with even more mainstream like movies and music, it is still quite different from it. And in fact, games have become more accessible over the years they have existed. Compare for example a Sierra adventure game from the 90's to that of the adventure games we see today. They are far more open to a larger audience, for better or worse. This is the result of the money involved in making games, but also natural progression as the medium goes from something that's looked down upon to something that's as common as watching a movie in the evening.

My opinion is that the need for people who simply don't want to understand video games to be made to is utterly wrong, and ultimately serves no purpose. Simply because a medium exists, doesn't mean everyone has to "get" it. It's the kind of reaction you'd see in the past to things like Rock & Roll music or Punk. At the time, a majority of the older generation (let's use that term loosely for now) simply didn't want to listen to that music, and so they didn't. There is nothing wrong in that. It's not like the market is dying and video games are going out of fashion, the industry is larger than ever today. Just let her enjoy her Faust and Chopin, and let other people enjoy understanding Fez. Why people think that everyone has to like everything is something I will never understand.

Posted by JesterPC238

Awesome thoughts all around. I really don't want to come off as pissed off either, I was perturbed when I read the article because she seems like she has the potential to provide a meaningful contribution to a discussion about the topic, but she constantly undermines herself with her apathy. It's a shame.

Edited by Snail

The problem with your complaint regarding her cinematography-slash-literature analogy is that you submit video-game appreciation as something with this majestic learning curve. Like someone who has never played video-games before playing Mass Effect 3 is the equivalent of a "a kid out of high school who grew up on Kung Fu movies" trying to "judge a Jazz competition".

Even though video-games represent a much more unconventional and idiosyncratic medium, appreciating it really isn't rocket science. And she clearly overcame the social stigma while developing her opinion... I think. Let me read that whole article.

Posted by TheHumanDove

She should play amnesia

Posted by Dagbiker

Some one should have given her a point and click adventure game.

Edited by Etnos

"The next day brought a spanking new Xbox 360 console on which we downloaded a game called Fez. This was developed by a young man in Elvis Costello spectacles who spent five years ignoring his girlfriend in order to make a game that is supposed to make us nostalgic for the early computer games we played (or not) as kids."

hahaha... you have to admit: she has good points! anyway there is no reason to get uber-defensive. Some adults get it, some others don't, some others just don't care.. no reason to get upset, get videogames.

Posted by Beaudacious

Who cares? Who is this woman? Why is her opinion on anything valid?

Ask me about fashion or make-up, and I'll give you an opinion. Why the fuck you listen to me though?

This whole idea of making games more wide spread for baby-boomers is hilarious.

Posted by fang273

I don't have the patience to fully explore every article and your blog, but I would just like to mention how hilarious it is to read her thoughts on Fez.

Posted by FourWude

So the problem with the videogame medium is neckbeards playing mmo's. Ok then.

Posted by Itwastuesday

I feel like there are a good amount of games designed for both camps. Especially in the indie/downloadable/mobile sector, there are a lot of games are pretty lightweight mechanics-wise. I think I may be having difficulty fully understanding what the controversy is.

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Posted by Kieran_ES

I'm very torn on this. Whilst I largely agree with Jim Rossignol's response (here) on RPS, where he basically says that a certain level of education in anything is often required to appreciate it, I also get behind Mattie's assertion that the this is a symptom of the industry's continuing silencing of minority voices.

No, this woman did not have the correct framework in place that every person on this forum has - a history with games that is just inbuilt and allows them to do things naturally that, if we remove ourselves from that education, are actually pretty hard to get to grips with. Picking up and using a controller for instance. That is something that has to be learned at this point and is essential to play most games. Unfortunate, currently unavoidable, problem.

What is not unavoidable is the myopic focus of the industry. Kellaway is likely a smart, well read and informed woman who understands criticism and theory. So if she is unable to find a lot of value in a handful of games she is given, doesn't that say something about them?

I'm genuinely asking here. Although it is hard to see the mechanical nuance in a game without having played them for a while (appreciating immersive sims may be hard), surely there should be some form of connection with at least one of those games that leaves a lasting effect. Games are not good at pretty much anything that books or movies are good at. They handle rougher, less specific, more generalised emotions. They use play as narrative. So they also create a more intuited response, they don't require much thinking to find their value. There's plenty thinking to be had there, but Kellaway (even as someone with no experience in games) should presumably be experiencing the more obvious stuff we see in those games. Journey works in very blunt, wide ranging emotional palette.

Which brings me back to why she didn't. For me that comes down to Mattie Brice's point. The majority, if not all, of the people replying to the original article in a negative way (mostly dismissively) are of the big old white, male, 18 to 35 year old majority. They, including me, are just inherently always a part of the conversation. We are always the primary point of view in a game, it is almost impossible to feel isolated or excluded in this medium. Kellaway is not of that group, and is further removed from it because of her inexperience with it. Most gamers don't think about this. Most don't realise just how gendered and politicised games are, right down to mechanics. So when someone doesn't get it, they jump to attack that someone and defend their medium from a point of privilege. A privilege that most of the world's population can not identify with.

If gamers are the only people who can decipher games, then there’s something on the game developers’ shoulders to address that. - Mattie Brice

This is how I feel. This issue is confusing and contradictory, and I'm not sure entirely where I fall. However, I am sure that we should not be ignoring these voices. Developers need to take heed of them and try to bring them into the medium. Expand it and it only ever becomes a richer, more diverse place because of it.

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