Plucked From The Thought Bucket: Video Games As Art?

Now excuse me for raising something that is perhaps one of the most overly debated and contentious issues in modern video games but hey it's interesting to think about. Bear in mind this issue is probably too excessive for my moderate brain power so if I miss out anything of importance let me know. The first question to answer before thinking about this topic is this, what exactly is art? Now having innedvertantly raised yet another issue for the ages I would like to quickly tackle this question (if that's even possible) from my own viewpoint.

Art is anything labelled as such, art is subjective, art is personal, art is a word with multiple meanings attached, art is an idea separate from physical space, art is seen by the majority as a positive label. When you say the word art what do you think of? Personally my mind immediately goes to painting i.e. art class, snooty men in berets staring thoughtfully at a blank canvas's. However, in the case of video games the word art is used in the descriptive sense, stating that video games have entered the higher echelon of meaning and effect so to be considered alongside other mediums such as literature, painting, film, poetry, photography etc as a high point of human creativity. From my viewpoint art is simply a label, a word placed upon something in order for it to be taken seriously. But who are these people video games need to impress? Do video games need to be art?

Art, as I have already said, is subjective. So to some they are already considered important enough to be labelled that way and for others they are not. Does this mean games should be considered art or not?

My answer, neither. This debate has already happened, inside the head of every person who has ever played a video game. The question "are video games art?" is null and void because the idea of the question itself is wrong. You can't question what is art and isn't art because your own right answer is the right answer. There isn't some art recognition ceremony where some dude with a big beard gets up on stage and scrawls the word "ART" on Mario's arm. Art is anything you feel it is.

I would really like to hear some peoples opinions on this topic, if you have anything you agree or disagree with

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Plucked From The Thought Bucket: Giant Bomb's Cyber Relations

Ok, I'm going to take a step back for a moment and think. Our basic motivation for visiting Giant Bomb is because we all "like" video games. I put like in quotes because I feel the word has varying degrees of applicability for such a diverse internet community. Some of us are casual fans, who enjoy an occasional expedition into the depths of the ever expanding gaming-verse. Others seem to almost live in and around this infant medium, leaping on every scrap of information like a pack of rabid goombas. This passion is clearly evident in the Giant Bomb wiki, a treasure trove of video gaming knowledge created solely from a legion of loyal fans, who through an unending number of keyboard taps and mouse clicks have crafted something that, within the microcosm of the gaming community, stands above the norm as a significant stamp of pride. But the fuel for this fiery passion has to come from somewhere. Some would argue that it stems from the communities basic love of video games or just the fact that people finally have a venue to open the floodgates on a furious tide of video game knowledge. I would contend however that it comes from a much simpler place. The Giant Bomb crew themselves.

Giant Bomb is a freak of nature. A website that boasts a strong and vibrant community who are intrinsically linked with the website they surround. The barriers between the audience and the Giant Bomb staff seem as minor as they could be without violating some form of privacy law. The relationship that inevitably forms as a result of this is something I like to think about often. I've never met these people in person, they have no idea who I am, they live thousands of miles away in a place I've never been before and yet to a large extent I feel closer to them than I do many of the people around me. If I were to meet Jeff, Brad, Vinny, Ryan or any other members of the Giant Bomb family in person there would be significantly disproportionate levels of excitement between me and them. Like meeting an old friend to find they don't know your name. All I've done is watch them in a little window on my computer and yet to quite a large degree I've built my life around them, constantly checking the web for their next exploits, staying up late to watch TNT episodes. I watch old Giant Bomb videos and listen to the backlog of podcasts every single day, when I'm at home there are only a few fleeting moments when I can't hear their voices in the background regardless of what I'm doing. It is weird when you think about it.

Perhaps psychologically there is a reason why I do this but I feel its merely because this website is so incredibly exceptional at what it does. At some point I feel that I don't visit Giant Bomb for video games, I visit it for the people. The crew has created a website which almost seems to transcend the conventions of your typical gaming website becuase it offers strictly human focused coverage as opposed to the mass of seemingly robotic entities who hide their faces under piles of review scores and masses of text, the only sliver of humanity coming from their name at the bottom of each published piece. The mass effect of the Giant Bomb model is spreading to other similarly focused websites who were previously guilty of this robotic approach.

The reason for Giant Bomb's success is pure and simple, the people. This is something that other websites will find very very hard to replicate.

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Hold on a second!


So I went on a merry little trip to my nearest HMV today with the purpose of trading in Portal 2 and Pokemon: White. And this I did. Got about £35 pounds for Portal and £20 for Pokemon both of which I think are fare deals, especially Portal. What did I get? Well thats were this blog post title might start to make sense. The games I got were Fallout: New Vegas, Singularity and Bioshock 2. Now these are three competent games based on both review scores and my own personal opinion (I already played Fallout). However only when I got home did I realized that I had purchased 3 very similar games. Now obviously they have their differences especially Fallout which sets itself apart due to its open world aesthetic and RPG mechanics but still they are all at their core atmospheric First Person Shooters that take place after a cataclysmic event has occurred. I'm gonna try and play them all in sequence starting with Singularity before moving onto Bioshock then Fallout. Having only clocked in about an hour of Singularity its obviously still early days but two things have already jumped out at me. One this game looks very nice (surprisingly so) and two its basically Bioshock: Russia (but with a backwards R obviously) Obviously buying three games at once like this is an obvious reflection of my current boredom but each one I picked up seems reliable and thats something quite reassuring. 
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Hey Joe, where you going with that game in your hand? #3


Sooooo since my last post nothing of particular interest has occurred in my gaming life. Games have gone in and out of my consoles more often than a piranha plant on speed (BOOM) I'm starting to feel that looking for stuff to play is taking up more time than actually playing games. I can envision a dark nightmare where I spend my life desperately scouring game store shelves and online marketplaces to find anything that peeks my interest, gradually aging more and more until one day I throw in Barbie Horse Adventure, due largely to a mix of old age intoxication and panic, before ending my life in a hail of bullets. 

Now this is obviously on over exaggeration, amazingly I don't own a copy of Barbie Horse Adventure, but I was seriously considering naming this post something along the lines of "Hey Joe, why isn't there a game in your hand?".  In some ways I have appreciated not finding a particularly exciting game of late. The weather here has been real nice recently and I'm no longer one too pass up a lovely spring day for a marathon gaming session in a dark, slightly odd smelling room. I have been in the past but I learnt the error of my ways big time. Gaming is something I adore but, not to sound like a dick, everything in moderation. 

Even though I've said all this crap I have played a tiny amount of stuff here and there. I did play a bit more Persona 3 Portable but I'm afraid to say that my ridiculously short attention span has gotten the better of me yet again and I'm rapidly losing interest. My PSP is now lying behind my drum kit for some reason but I'm sure I'll pick it up when the next big PSP release rolls around...oh...wait. I'm kind of still playing Fallout 3, emphasis on kind of. I think I need to find a game with 2 specific criteria. One, it needs to be something that can be played whilst listening to a podcast. A good example which I might check out is Dynasty Warriors 7, just simple idiotic destruction. Two, ideally it's low investment. For this reason I have predominantly been playing Fifa 11 this week because I can throw it in for 10 mins and get instant gratification.

I realize this was a pretty inane blog post but thats just a reflection of my current gaming situation. Maybe I'll just go back to my Iain M. Banks novels until a new game falls out of the sky. 


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Hey Joe, where you going with that game in your hand? #2


So since my last post I have finished Portal 2 and God Of War HD. Both fantastic games obviously. Portal's ending was interesting but I actually found the game to be a little easy, there were no chambers where I was tempted to go peek at a FAQ. Also I found the game to be over way much earlier than I thought it was going to. Obviously the game is much greater in scope and variety than the first game and I'm sure designing each of those chambers takes a small amount of genius to concoct but I still felt was still something unexplainable missing at the end. Oh and God Of War is great, nothing more needs to be said. I'm still gonna try and keep my interest in Mortal Kombat but the longer PSN stays down the more distracted I get. I'm now in that period  when I've finished what I want to play and am looking for the next thing to sink my teeth into, I'm sure everyone out there experiences this also. I drift between games like a hobo looking for a doorstep to sleep on. This inevitably means I end up trying to go back to games that I put down a while ago in order to avoid boredom. This would be fine for many people but I find it very difficult to go back to games I have previously played. Only last week whilst picking up Persona 3 Portable I grabbed Just Cause 2 for cheap with the over ambitious idea that I was going to 100% it. Inevitably I haven't, both because I played Just Cause 2 extensively when it came out but also because I seem to loose interest I almost instantaneously. I did this again with Fallout 3 just the other day. I sat down with the intention of blasting through the main story, no side stuff, but as soon as I got to Megaton...nope eject. If I had unlimited funds I would just go out and pick up a new title every week but obviously thats just the ramblings of a financially frustrated nerd.

There is one thing I'm playing, something I mentioned picking up earlier. Thats Persona 3 Portable. Now I'm gonna keep doing impressions, the next one at the 25 hour mark (currently 14 hours in) but I can say that I'm enjoying myself. I do have a few minor gripes. I don't really enjoy the cursor control outside of dungeons. I said a similar thing in my first impressions but it's become more and more of an annoyance as time passes. I feel like it misses a lot of the charm that one might get from seeing 3-D models interact with one another. I remember from parts of the endurance run where a lot of the humor was conveyed through body language i.e. physical reaction to what other characters say and do. You don't get that in P3P, just 2D portraits with small animations. Having not played Persona 3 on PS2 I can't say that this is a big part of the experience but it does detract from the experience somewhat. Although I could just go and pick up Persona 3 if it bugs me that much. Also much like what I've seen of Persona 4 the UI could use a little refining, just shortcuts for things like swapping out Personas before and after battle. 

I feel like I've complained to much in this post, apologies for that. Oh and just to convey to you how desperate I am for something to hold my interest I just picked up Diablo II off the blizzard store, lets see how long that lasts.
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P3P Impressions 2 hours in!


Persona 3 Portable hit store shelves over here in the UK today so I got up unnervingly early to go and pick up a copy. The employee working at my local Game store appeared slightly bemused that somebody had picked a game of the (tiny) PSP section and bought it to the checkout. But I didn't care I was pumped to pick it up. I'm now two hours into the game (here or there) and I'm really enjoying it. Having never played a Persona game Persona 3 Portable should probably be overwhelming to me, seeing as the game introduces quite abstract story concepts and gameplay mechanics right off the bat. But as a huge fan of the P4 endurance run (As I'm sure everyone reading this is) everything was nicely familiar, like a warm handshake from an old friend....that I'm meeting for the first time.....if that makes sense. The general tone of the game is incredibly original and engaging but the one small downside is the lack of direct control outside of dungeons. I know that Atlus cut this for an obvious reason (So they could fit one of the largest RPG's of last generation onto a tiny little UMD) but it does detract from the experience somewhat. On the other end by taking out all of that direct movement you can move around the world with more speed than you would otherwise. The music seems fantastic so far, lets see if it gets tiresome the higher up the Tarturus I get. Also as someone who plays games with surround sound wireless headphones on, I can discern every mind blowing lyric (specifically during the rap...)


So in short loving the game so far, it's obviously still very early days but I'm excited to keep playing. I'll post another quick impressions at about the 15 hour mark.

On a quick side note the game came out over here in a sweet box with an art book, art cards and an A3 poster (which is currently residing on the wall of my room). I don't know if this was available in the US but its very nice.


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PS3 MK9 players. Getting burned out?


Typically the way I  play fighting games is to briefly learn the basics in Single Player then just jump into player matches and learn how to get good by getting my ass beaten. Obviously this aint the case with MK9 on PS3 due to PSN problems. What is everyone doing, hanging out in training mode? soldiering through story mode? I'm just grinding the ladder mode. I can get up to Khan on hard without losing a round with Sonya.

I'm gonna be patient and I'm still looking forward to getting online but I can only play single player for so long. Fighting games are all about human competition, something that MK9 is unfortunately lacking right now.
   
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Hey Joe, where you going with that game in your hand?


Right now I'm jumping between MK, Portal 2 (just like everyone else in the free world apparently) and wait for it......God Of War HD.  With the current PSN debacle I can't access Mortal Kombat's online features. Now I'm sure this is frustrating for everyone not just me. I'm concentrating on Sonya right now, having a lot of fun beating the shit out of the AI. It is unfortunate that I can't transfer these burgeoning skills to the online field, especially seeing that MK seems to be an awesome multiplayer experience.  Its also unfortunate that I haven't touched the game in 2 days. I don't like the Story Mode at all, especially the 2v1 fights which are just cheap. The story is definitely well told for a fighting game but the MK story line is slightly to B-movie for my taste. One other minor problem is Shao Khan...you motherfucker. It blows my mind that Netherealm studios put together such a polished and lovingly crafted MK experience but then implemented a final boss in the ladder mode that can only be beaten by spamming projectiles, pattern recognition or just blind luck. That being said I am enjoying MK, I just need to play online soon.

I purchased Portal 2 the same day as MK. I won't go into it too much but the game is Valve 101 which is to say its funny, endearing, intelligent, challenging, interesting, different, atmospheric, brilliantly designed and brilliantly written. GLADOS is the most ingenious character since System Shocks SHODAN. The way she toys with you is something I have rarely experienced in this medium i.e.commenting on how fat you look, the fact that Chell's parents abandoned her at birth before informing her that its in fact her birthday. The bitterness in her voice is almost frightening and its serves to add a bit of tension to the proceeding which the first game lacked. The main reason I love this game is that it does something that the first game also did extremely well. It places you in an environment and its up to you to make sense of it all. There are no paragraphs in the manual that succinctly explain the inner workings of Aperture or the origins of the company as a whole, it is solely up to the player to glean what they can by looking around their environment, listening to what characters say and the way they say it. I haven't finished the game but I hear the ending has lead to a lot of discuassion so I need to get there.

Briefly I have also been playing God Of War HD during the PSN downtime. That game is great obviously. Nothing much more needs to be said. 
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Completely Original Achievement Related Post! 22/01/11 #1

Ok so I decided to start my blog writing on a regular basis. What better (and easier) way to kick things off by writing about the achievements I have earned recently on my now 4 year old Xbox 360. As with most of these kinds of posts I'm going to write as though you actually give a damn and that my audience doesn't just consist of people stumbling onto my profile page because they liked the look of my Banksy icon. So here goes...I can tell your fully pumped for this...whoever you are...hello?....sigh...Here we go then. 
 

DRAGON AGE ORIGINS

 It seems almost stupid that I continue to play this game. I put it to bed over a year ago now but after browsing my achievements on Xbox.com I realised there where some more points to be had. I started a second play through as a female human rogue. Now I'm not the kind of person who can play through a game more than once without getting bored. With most games I see what I want to see the first time through both from a story and gameplay perspective. With Dragon Age however, being as large as it is and with so much room for experimentation/variation in terms of it's gameplay systems, I can delve right in without feeling as though I'm treading tired ground. My current game status as of writing is having just completed the Dalish Elf vs Werewolf quest line in the Brecilian Forest, I went with the Werewolf's this time and felt pretty good doing it.  

MAFIA 2

I picked up Mafia 2 for real cheap recently. I had passed on it during 2010 because of the bad rap it seemed to get for being to generic in many people eyes. I went in with low expectations because of this and yeah I pretty much agree with the general consensus.  The game does have it's high points, I loved the driving for instance after setting it to simulation. The feel and tone of the world you inhabit is incredibly authentic, everything from the songs on the radio to the cars you drive simply oozes with an attention to detail that the games creators obviously spent a lot of time getting right. I only wish that these aspects of the game which obviously must have taken so much time to perfect were presented in a steady frame rate. Every cut scene although well animated for the most part gets incredibly bogged down. The story is also disappointing, running the gambit of typical mob story with little personality. Its creators went with every predictable decision from the characters you meet all the way down to the things they say. This point has been driven into the ground by this point but the lack of ambition and originality that obviously went into Mafia 2's story must have been a real blow for those fans eagerly awaiting some kind of GTA equivalent. Lucky for me though I didn't really care about that stuff, because I was in it for the points, because as we all know points make everything better...

 WTF??
 
I was going to add some images and stuff but this blog tool is not good...
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If you press that panic button...I will have to stop playing! #2

Gamer Jugglelo 16/02/10 (I like to write random BS btw)

 I like to "juggle" lots of games at the same time. PRGH... sorry thats me growing more arms! 

1. Left 4 Dead 2

Still?!?!? Still...*sigh* I have been infected..BUT WITH WHAT????MWHAHAHAA *cough*

2. Team Fortress 2

GET AWAY! DON'T COME ANY CLOSER. I HAVE THIS JAR OF ORANGE STUFF IN MY RIGHT HAND THAT WILL REALLY BURN YOU....oh and a bow and arrow....and a shield....a knife...some sweet glasses.........Ahem..what was I saying?

3. Dragon Age: Origins

Morrigan or Leliana...hmmmm...STEN SHALL DECIDE!!!!!!! Ok thanks Sten.........Both......Stens a friggin downer...I'm gonna go cut my self with some Qunari teeth.

4. Sid Meier's Civilization IV

Peter The Great has returned!!!!!!! Elizabeth is catching up annoyingly fast.....No worries.. Peter's loyal soldiers from Trotskyopia will defeat her!

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