Zoe Mode Interview

 I've been helping with research into cross cultural translation and the barriers faced therein within the games industry at my university and had the opportunity to interview certain companies with regard to this issue. Below is an interview I conducted with the lovely people at Zoe Mode, makers of Chime and the terribly underrated PSP game, Crush.


Zoe Mode Interview

  • I was hoping to start off with an introduction as to what you, as a company, feel you stand for and what differentiates you from others in the industry.

Zoë Mode makes simple, social, games that are effortlessly fun and don’t take themselves too seriously.  We believe that games are a powerful way of bringing people together and having fun and that there’s more to life than games, but that games can make life better.   We strongly believe that there is a game for everyone. In this, I guess we differ from other more traditional gaming companies who create racing/FPS etc. we make games that are social or musical. 


  •  I noticed that you seem to have focused predominantly on the music and puzzle genres. Is this because of what you see to be a certain amount of crossover within these genres? After all, with the release of Chime, you seem to have taken your experience within both genres and moved towards what can almost be seen as a merger of the two.

It sort of happened naturally with Chime. We love music games, so it was bound to happen at some point that we would have a crossover with a different genre, even though it might not be an immediately obvious one. We had experience with creating Crush before Chime, so were well versed with the pitfalls and triumphs of puzzle game design. 


  • Small Company, Big heart 
       In relation to the question above, is there a lot of collaboration in the creation of these titles within your two studios in San Francisco and Brighton, or are they more independent (i.e. does each studio focus purely on puzzle games and the other on music)?

We aren’t genre specific in the studios. We look to create all types of social and music games in both studios. There is a certain amount of collaboration on every project, especially as our directors are based in the UK. 


  • Received wisdom has it that art and business are clearly delineated enterprises; the artist creates, the businessman pedals. Despite the amount of creativity displayed in the games industry, such a view is still prevalent. What’s your take on this?

I think that it would be very hard for either to survive without the other, especially in games. Often, business decisions involve a great deal of creativity, quick thinking and a flexible approach; all of which are qualities you might associate with art. Likewise, without a business mind when planning out art production, it would be very easy to let freeform creativity get in the way of actually creating a finished product.   


  • In spite of the fact that both film and games are collaborative works, there still seems to be more recognition of specific individuals in the former. Is this another sign that games are often seen as just products rolled off a production line rather than as works with intrinsic value? Or is it a testament to the intensely group orientated approach of games development?

There are certainly ‘celebrities’ within the games industry, those who are renowned for creating seminal titles, but on the whole, the wider public are usually only aware of the game title and possibly who published it. It’s unusual for the ‘average Joe’ to have heard of the independent developers who are behind the production. I see more of a similarity between actors and main characters in games. For example, everyone knows who Brad Pitt is, but then most of the world have also heard of Sonic! 


  • Both Chime and Crush must have been big risks for you considering how niche the puzzle genre can be. Does the risk factor involved in the creation of such games turn you away from future similar products? 

Chime was not really a risk as it was created for charity. We always knew that we would not make any of the initial gains from it. Production was done pro bono.

Crush was pretty innovative for its time and although it paid off with our critic scores, which sadly wasn’t reflected in the sales. It certainly doesn’t put us off creating similarly inventive titles in the future though. That’s what our studio is all about. 


  • Considering the fact that Chime was released as a means of raising money for charity, what kind of financial support did you receive in creating it? How does funding a project like this differ compared to a project such as Crush, especially when money received from the consumer at sale don’t go to you?

We didn’t receive any financial support in creating Crush. This differs greatly from our usual contract with publishers in which we are paid a set amount for the completion of a game, paid in milestones over the development period. We occasionally have royalty deals, but the majority are fixed payment.  


 Zoe Mode's dimension bending PSP game, Crush
  • With the recent plans for tax relief scrapped by the British government , why keep you offices in the UK when places like the Netherlands have a form of income support in the Netherlands for all young artists – including those involved in games development and other countries such as Canada offer great financial benefits?

We love Brighton and can’t imagine living elsewhere. To move the company to another country would meaning the majority of our staff too, and we love them.


  • A few of your products seem to be focused more on the downloadable aspect of sales. How does the move towards digital distribution affect a smaller company like your own?

We definitely see digital download as a huge part of the future of games. It’s important to get a good balance as a development studio though. We are currently developing for both boxed products and download.

  • What is your take on more open services such as the App Store in comparison to something like Xbox Live Arcade? Does this appeal to a developer such as yourself?

It’s great to see a huge number of really innovative Apps being created by developers around the country. We would love to develop for the iPhone.


  • Why did you choose not to release Chime on services such as PSN or Steam but only on XBLA? What are the differences that a developer such as yourself would encounter with each of these platforms?   

Onebiggame (the charity responsible for games such as Chime) have a particular relationship with XBLA. We would love to see the title on other platforms though and there is no real reason why that would pose any particular issues with development. We are well used to working on cross platform titles. 


  • With the introduction of subscription fees, one time used codes, DLC and the like, a wide variety of new revenue streams for old-style boxed games have emerged. Publishers like Activision and EA now see the sale of a game not as the final transaction but as a gateway to more possible future revenue with expansions, map packs and the like. How has this changed the face of the market for you? Is this something that could be applicable to you and your games?

With all games we create, boxed products or downloads, we see it as very important to create scope for future expansion. With every pitch that we do to publishers, it will involve what could happen to the franchise after the initial release. 


  • How important is owning your own IP? Do you own the rights to Crush and Chime? Is it the name of the game or the developer that holds sway with consumers and how do you cater to that?

It’s very important to own some of your own IP as a studio. It would be tricky for us to fund ourselves purely on own IP, but it’s certainly a good idea to have a balance with it. Yes, we do own the rights to Crush and Chime


  •  Off the record, Zoe Mode considers those not paying full price for Chime to be utter dicks (I may be paraphrasing here)
       You’ve worked on building upon the games of others with games like Singstar and the downloadable track packs for Guitar Hero but have yet to make a sequel to games such as Crush or Chime. Sequels are often seen as the best way to make money in the industry as the tech and engine have already been established and assets made that can be reused. Why have you chosen to shy away from building upon your previous games and turning them into franchises?

We would love to do further versions of these titles! There are things in the pipeline which we are unable to discuss with anyone at this stage, but watch this space! 

 

  • What with the imminent release of Sony’s Move and Microsoft Kinect and your past experience with the eyetoy play series and You’re in the Movies, you would seem well poised to tackle games development in an era of ever increasing prevalence of motion controls. What are your opinions on this? Is it just a fad or are these platforms the only way we can attract more people into the world of games?

I would be very surprised if Move and Kinect were fads. Wii has altered the market demographic a huge amount in the UK and I suspect that this will continue to shift and evolve in time. We would love to release a game on one of these new systems. 


  • In what territories have you seen the most success? Are there any aspects of certain games that you had to change in order to appeal more to differing cultural norms?

Our main titles have been most popular within the UK and USA. When releasing titles in a variety of territories, it can affect the game content. For example, an image or word in the US may be deemed as inappropriate for the age group in the Netherlands. Our experience on SingStar definitely proved that! 


  • Have you ever had any difficulties in receiving certification from differing rating bodies due to any specific content in a game? If so, what changes did you have to make? What have been your experiences working with organisations such as the BBFC and PEGI?

As above, our experience with SingStar is probably the most appropriate here. For some of the music videos, we had to edit out nudity, smoking, drinking etc. Rude lyrics were also a problem on occasion. 

 
  • Thanks for all your time!
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GTA4 - The Morality Sandbox

Koyaanisqatsi - In the Hopi language of the people of northeastern Arizona, this word is used to express a crazy life, one out of balance, disintegrating and in a state of turmoil, calling for another way of living. It is also the title for a cult documentary of the same name made in 1982. A documentary film consisting of neither dialogue nor vocalized narration, more a dialogic work, where the poetic and musical themes are so ingrained within its own framework as to make it, in effect, a visual tone poem. A tone set by the juxtaposition of the images and music. Any meaning this film may contain is gained exclusively from the beholder. The film's role is to provoke, to raise questions that only the audience can answer. It is not in predetermined meaning where the value of a work of art is measured but rather, meaning gleaned from the experience of the encounter. And just as this work mixes differing forms of artistic expression, it itself engages in a dialogue with them. All art is dynamic, relational and engaged in a process of endless re-descriptions of the world. We never, in other words, speak in a vacuum.

As the director, Godfrey Reggio, said of his film, ‘The encounter is my interest, not the meaning. If meaning is the point, then propaganda and advertising is the form’. And if that is indeed where the value resides, what better way to transmit it than through videogames, a medium which privileges agency over empathy; where the journey takes precedence over the destination. If it truly is your own shaping of artistic encounters through which we create meaning, then a game where you shape and are shaped by the events around you is best placed to do so.

When Rockstar released their teaser trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV, it was pretty much a direct lift from Koyaanisqatsi. They even used Philip Glass’ score from the original, incidentally, the first score he had ever composed for a film, if unwillingly so. But fate and free will have never been on the best of terms. As Glass had never intended to make music for films, so Dan and Sam Houser had never planned on creating the bestselling video games series in history. One which has gone on to smash every record in the entertainment industry. Hoping to become rock stars the two British born brothers joined BMG Music in London and in 1993 joined BMG Music's interactive division after which they founded Rockstar. Their early days in the music industry have left an irrevocable mark on each game subsequently developed. Respectively, the past 3 major GTA games have had an original line up of more than 800 songs from which cuts were then made. As Glass’ score is integral to the storytelling and tone of Koyaanisqatsi, so the soundtrack of each game affects your own experience of that particular journey. Because art is collaborative, our engagement with it is a species of interference. As the separate artistic mediums within the game (whether audio or visual) participate within a discourse, so we do with them. We cannot read or watch anything new without creating it ourselves.

As we draw meaning from that film through its combination of visual representation and sound, so we do the same from our actions on screen in GTA IV. Where that film has no real, preset and determined meaning, so GTA IV has no set path down which you tread. The sandbox genre which it helped create has been turned on its head. Hegel said of Shakespeare’s characters that they were ‘free artists of themselves’. That is to say, mankind has not only reached the point at which external reality can be grasped in its essence, but men and women are potentially endowed with the ability to remake themselves and their world and in a game world such as the one represented in GTA IV, you are provided with just such an opportunity. 

The GTAs of the past have been restrained by the limitations of the hardware and the moral vacuity of their settings and protagonists. The new world of Liberty City represented in this latest instalment is a far cry from the one seen in 2001’s GTA III. As this has been remade anew, so have the characters inhabiting it. No more has the morality been left to the wayside, no more can you go on a rampage and no longer feel the consequences. This is not a story of rags to riches, a glorification of crime, rather of rags to slightly better rags. The moral awkwardness of the protagonist’s situation is fed into a degree of decision-making on your part, too - take a life, save a life; choosing who to side with. There comes a point where you can no longer play this as you did the GTAs of the past. Now it feels so at odds with the main character, a man haunted by his war torn past and whose Faustian pact with the criminal underworld stems not from a sense of selfish self advancement but from a loss of hope and loyalty. But more than this, as you play you can no longer do so without being drawn into that very discourse upon which the game world is founded upon.

Koyaanisqatsi- the expression of a crazy life, one out of balance, disintegrating and in a state of turmoil, calling for another way of living. Superficially it may seem more than an apt description of a game series which has become notorious for gratuitous violence and anarchy. But look deeper and you realise that you are forced to examine yourself as you play. It provokes and raises questions unthought-of in a GTA title and through this meaning can be extracted. If even people who make games where you can run over hookers have a sense of the wider culture and morality, there’s hope for the industry yet.    

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MGS4 Dissection

SPOLIER WARNING! PLEASE BE SURE TO HAVE COMPLETED MGS4 BEFORE READING!

Before writing any article which might lead to controversy within the gaming community it is always prudent to explain the context in which it was written. I have no hate for Kojima or the Metal Gear series. This is as far from the truth as you can get. He is the Kubrick of our industry and a visionary yet blinded by that very vision and unable to see the flaws that come with it.

MGS 1 is my all time favourite game. The second was far too pretentious and bloated story wise while the 3rd was equal to the first or at least would have been were it not for the god awful over the head camera and an unwillingness to move with the times, a fault which was to reappear in the forth and concluding chapter in the saga.

My main problem with 4 was the story and way it was told. But that's subjective. So here are things that I believe can't be disagreed with. They may not change your mind about the game but that’s not my intention. I just want those who gave it perfect scores to stop and think a little. For even if we search out and see the flaws which cover those we love the most, that doesn’t make us love them any less. As it is with the people in our lives, so it is with the works which populate it, whether they be crafted through the medium of literature, music or games.

Broken Cover system. Can't shoot over objects, only around. Makes it far less useful than it should have been. And on the last Act just before the beauty boss fight there's an arena fight reminiscent of the one at the end of 2 in arsenal gear against the ninjas. In this room it won't even let you shoot around the pillars, proving perhaps the cover system was a late addition and as such never benefitted from the care that was lavished on other parts of the game. While you may argue that MGS4 is a stealth game and therefore criticising a part of it which does not classify as such is folly let me remind you of the original title’s tag line: Tactical Espionage ACTION. There’s no way you can sneak out of certain sections in the game as Kojima forces you to fight your way out instead and if the means to do so is flawed, it hampers the overall enjoyment of the game.

I have read reviewers stating that in the same way that Super Mario 64 revolutionized the way we play videogames, Metal Gear Solid 4 revolutionizes the way videogames are presented. The transition between cut scene and actual gameplay is seamless and constantly surprising. And indeed some of these transitions do indeed impress. My jaw dropped when I released I was in control during the motorbike chase and I was amazed by how others were handled as well. But like the controls, it only goes to highlight what’s missing. Some transitions are seamless but not all. Almost every cut scene is bookended by a load, whether that happens at the start or end (it’s rarely both which I am indeed thankful for at least) which then amounts to only about 50% of them actually being seamless yet this was never mentioned. And if I must critique the technology then no amount of love for the series will allow me to excuse the following:

Otacon makes a point of ridiculing the CD system of the first game when he asks you to change discs before remembering that the game is on Blu-Ray and there’s no need yet the irony of this very statement is lost on him. We lose one inconvenience and have it replaced with another: installs. It would actually be quicker to change discs than re-install game assets at the start of every Act and the fact that Konami made a point of asking reviewers in advance not to mention this is ridiculous. It may not affect many people’s enjoyment of the game but when Sony feel arrogant enough to proclaim the wonders of their system while dismissing the flaws in such a blasé manner, I can’t let it go.

Now I delve into a part of the game that I will agree is completely subjective but humour me for a moment. When you have invested so much in these characters over the years, you expect a lot in return and this is the area where I felt Kojima succeeded the least. There were hints early on which lead me to be hopeful. In fact, I’ll admit I’m being harsh as it was only until the last act that those hopes were crushed. The plot and characterisation kept me playing and credit is deserved for that as is so much praise. But that has all been given by thousands of players and hundreds of reviewers already. I’m here to deal with the faults which seemed to escape so many.

When Meryl launched her first verbal tirade against her uncle, I was shocked. Not just for her pain but because the Colonel I’d known for so long was no longer merely this commanding authority figure. He had flaws and vices just like the rest of us. This infidelity (whether you see it as Rose’s or Campbell’s to his own daughter) made him one of the most interesting characters I’d come across in a videogame for a long time. He was given so much character that it hurt all the more when it was then stripped away at the end. For the greatest problem with cherishing something is fear of losing that which you hold most dear. Kojima’s fairy tale ending for all made me feel as though he’d betrayed his artistic vision. It not only wiped the slate clean for the Colonel but cleansed him of all his personality and interest. While this part of the plot felt unrealistic to me, what I felt to be worse was the ethical questionability of Raiden’s epilogue; one which disallowed a crippled man to go on living with his disability. Which reconstructed his entire body and family. For someone with friends who were born without a limb or lost one during their lives, I found no solace in his happy Hollywood ending.

At least Snake and Otacon remained the character’s I’d always loved, always wanted to fight for and with. But even here Kojima backed away and gave in to what everyone wanted. The microwave room was the most powerful bit of gaming I’d ever experienced. Did I dare stop pounding triangle in order to see if my efforts were actually affecting the speed with which he dragged his wretched body along the floor? Hell no. I couldn’t bring myself to do so as I’d done countless times in God of War or any other Quick Time Eventful games. I even had to look away as Liquid then proceeded to beat a broken man and was on the verge of shattering him into a thousand even smaller pieces. Then Snake got up and the fate of the world was decided by a fist fight on top of a submarine. Snake’s pain; that which had become my own was undone as he stood up, fit and healthy in order to confront liquid. All which I had felt within the confines of that hellish room was undone in an instant as Snake instantly recovered from his wounds and went out with a macho bang. This has been called the greatest final boss fight in recent games. Yet was it necessary? Liquid is no longer Snake’s nemesis. Snake’s fighting himself. Fighting against his failing body, his own ticking doomsday clock. That’s where the real battle was being lost and won. There was no need for Liquid to appear (from nowhere I might add, seriously – where did he come from?!) and destroy all the work done in the prior scenes where Snake was so savagely destroyed.

Although having said this, a word must be said about the montage in the microwave room (praise that isn’t being spread enough even in those 10/10 reviews). Kojima takes a traditional Hollywood device and subverts it. Something I wish he’d done more of. Any other game, any other film would have merely added what is a clichéd and overused emotional device as a bookend to that section. Yet by interspersing it within the actual gameplay itself, Kojima elevated that whole scene into something beyond powerful. This is the sort of genius I wish had been able to shine so brightly through other parts of the game.

One area where I felt this influenced was lacking was in the creation and execution of the Beauty and the Beast Squad: Ever since the first game, Kojima has been attempting to analyse the emotional side of war but what this has amounted to in practice is a stripping down of all other aspects to his villains. Fox Hound were awesome. Dead Cell also. The Boss' unit was where he began to limit them to one just emotion; The pain/fear/fury etc. Yet they still felt like people driven to the edge due to broken dreams and lives. By removing the outer layers of their humanity, Kojima hoped to probe the depths and see what drove them on. Yet in doing so they lost all humanity and became single, unchanging, one note characters which is typified by the fourth entry. The Beauty and the Beast squad lacked depth. Without this, there was no reason to care when Drebin gave you his bed time stories and the characters became one dimensional. Even if you give a 2d character the most emotionally engaging back-story you’ve ever heard, that doesn’t then mean that they stopped being that very same 2d character over the past 16 hours. It's not what we are inside, but our actions which define who we are. If nothing of this comes to the fore, then we are never allowed to glimpse it and the characters remain one dimensional and emotionally uninteresting - keeping you detached from them and not caring as we once did for the likes of Sniper Wolf and Pyscho Mantis.

Also, if they're going to lose their armour, why make EVERY fight the same when they're in their human form? It was just dull and uninspired. I expect more of Kojima and usually he delivers - bike chase with Big Mamma was my most exhilarating moment in gaming of the past few years and cut away cut scenes during the Vamp fight and especially in the microwave room were beyond inspired. And looking back at previous boss fights; the breaking of the fourth wall with Mantis in the first game, the fight against an undefeatable Fortune in 2, the myriad ways of taking out the End in 3, the way you could poison The Fear’s food all show a man who clearly knows how to craft his villains. While visually they awed and made the best entrance of any MGS squad (for this go and re-watch the cut scene introducing them in the first act), I just found them to be lacking as characters and as bosses.

While Kojima did try new things during these encounters, many of them didn’t permeate all the way throughout the game. The destructible environments during the standoff against The Rage only went to highlight the lack of environmental interaction in the rest of the game (a few key scenes not withstanding during Shadow Moses). This, compounded with the fact that many of the boss fights introduced entirely new control schemes for sections amounting to a small percentage of the game all just went to show how it was lacking in other areas.

Finally, a minor gripe which I know is unlikely to be shared by many but the most devout and rabid MGS fan. Virtually no codec conversations: Seriously, as a fan of the series, I loved snake's little one on ones with Otacon and the team but they're been stripped down in the fourth for the sake of 'accessibility' while the cut scenes are even longer than before. It makes no sense to cut one down and not the other. In doing so, one loses the connection which each entry helped tighten between you as the protagonist and those who helped you from behind the scenes.

Some may argue that reviews are subjective and as such not everyone will be willing to share my opinions on the game. However, I beg to differ and insist that when you award a perfect score to a game it leaves the realms of subjectivity and the game must be of such craftsmanship to be able to withstand all criticisms thrown its way. Either it is as near to a perfect refinement of already accepted gameplay conventions and mechanics as can be produced at the time or it reinvents and revolutionises its respective genre. If we review MGS4 in a bubble, away from the splinter cell’s and Gears of Wars of the world and chose to hold it only against the other games in the series than a far more forgiving light is cast upon it; it truly does refine all the ideas Kojima had previously introduced, setting it apart from the last entry. However, we do not naturally live in a vacuum. Everything we do has an influence on something whether intentional or not. The only conclusion I can draw is that either Kojima is ignorant to the progress made over the years or that he chose to encase himself in his very own artificial sphere; hidden away from all outside influence. By holding MGS4 up to the standards already set over the previous years by games of a similar ilk, the light shining upon it seems that much brighter and harsher. The shadows left by the game grow longer and cover, however partially, all the good done within it. They’re visible to all those who take the time to look instead of turning their gaze away. For those who chose the latter path I hope that what I have said becomes the flash of light that makes the shadows strike out upon the ground. MGS4 has received more than enough praise, raining down and seemingly cleansing it of its flaws. All I want this article to be is the lightning in that rain.
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Innovation Vs. Evolution

Twilight Princess was my 12th foray into a series which has been around for longer than I have and while it would undoubtedly be hubris to claim it was the 12th that betrayed me, I feel this to be a somewhat apt a description of my feelings regarding the game in this venerated series and also, quite funny.

I feel like I cannot really blame Zelda directly, it’s not really its fault. The games are, essentially, as good as ever. Well designed, artistically pleasing and a wonderful mesh of engaging (if never overly taxing) combat, devious puzzles and exploration. It’s certainly not for lack of trying or skill on the developer’s part. Then why this feeling of tedium and déjà vu which began to set in as I worked my way through yet another intricate dungeon? If familiarity breeds contempt than I’m afraid I’m beginning to feel as if I know this series better than any single one of my closest friends and our relationship’s suffering because of it.

Maybe I’m missing the point entirely. Perhaps it’s the use of the Wii-mote which changes the experience. Yet while Nintendo have been lavished with near unanimous praise over the innovation they’re currently bringing to the industry, I can’t help but feel that when it comes to the more established franchises, the Zeldas, Marios and Metroids of this world, that they’re playing it safe. It doesn’t do much to change the method of control if the underlying game is practically the same thing we’ve been playing for the past 22 years.

I desperately want Nintendo to finally start delivering on their promises. If you intend to innovate than be sure to do it all the way through. In every new game the player is begins stripped of the equipment and skills of the prior, with each new dungeon built specifically around the one new/retrieved item found within. I think they could: throw a wrench in the works and really start tweaking the Zelda formula - maybe skipping the boomerang, bombs and bow and arrow altogether or--gasp--starting players off with those items. But just as films and TV series (with exception to 24) stopped using amnesia as a convenient device to introduce viewers to a character’s back story, so should such archaic methods be abandoned here.

Back in 1982, another Japanese company, Namco, produced Pacman for $200,000. Now, the average Next-Generation title is estimated to cost $15m. While production costs have tripled in recent years, sales and revenue have hardly changed. It’s becoming ever more expensive to take a chance on the unproven and this fear gnaws away at all the industry giants, even those not usually adverse to upsetting the balance and doing something as radical as Nintendo did with the Wii, a console considered a sure fire flop by industry magnates before launch.

And there are steps being taken in the right direction with Nintendo’s recent announcement of ‘WiiWare’. New and downloadable games different to the vintage games already being offered. What's more interesting is that Nintendo isn't only seeking WiiWare from established publishers and developers like Ubisoft and Sega but rather indie developers as well. Shorter, original, more creative games from small teams with big ideas whose products would not be vetted by Nintendo. If Nintendo itself can’t tap into the potential they created in their own system, maybe one of these can.
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Games in comparison to other artistic mediums

Too often games are held up to unfair standards, criticised for not being something which they were never meant to be. We don’t fault paintings for not telling stories as well as comic books, nor so photography for not telling a story as well as television. Each medium should be judged on its own merits.

To ignore the output of this growing industry and remain unknowing would be equal to any other sense of cultural ignorance. They add up - the words you can't pronounce, the events you haven't heard of, the ideas with which you are not and do not wish to be acquainted. To remain ignorant is to lose any sense of intellectual stimuli, to be immersed in feeling of utter weariness and discontent. This ennui is so often endemic of ‘intellectual’ and ‘cultural’ circles but wherever an art form resides, so such a condition is ever possible. Yet to remain aware of one’s own shortcomings and then do nothing leads to what can be better described as the alienation of the intellectual. At some point the accumulation of missing information and curiosity amounts to your not being in the world at all.

Games are in essence dialogic works. They find themselves in a continual dialogue not only with other mediums but also other developers within the industry. Such a state does not merely answer, correct, silence, or extend a previous work, but informs and is continually informed by it. This is not merely a matter of influence, for the dialogue extends in both directions.. Even the bad works of art, whether in gaming, literature or on canvas, still help shape others.

An artist’s aim is not to imitate but to represent. This free play of the imagination enables one to bring concepts to bear on an experience that is, in itself, free from concepts. When we view art, we are forced to use analogy for what we experience and this can only be done through the imagination. What’s expressed is often intangible, ineffable, outside of this world and moment. This need for the law of correspondence, can often sweep a man's thoughts entirely beyond that which is a justifiable scientific continuation of the impression received from nature. As such, many of the great thinkers of the past had a grounding in both the scientific and artistic. Goethe was a student of science; and his poetry owes much to his scientific studies. Dante and Milton were scientific in their poetry, and Plato and Spinoza were poetic in their philosophies. Games are at a base level scientific creations but are capable of being so much more; to merge the scientific and artistic in ways which convey more meaning to the viewer than any other form of expression as in no other do you find yourself so actively involved.

Games are too ready to imitate rather than innovate. To be ‘cinematic’ is the ideal yet they are unwilling to craft their own language, to speak freely and truly differentiate themselves and in doing so find a means of expression impossible in other mediums. Videogames privilege agency over empathy and as such should be crafted with this in mind.

Commercial games that are most often cited when trying to uphold games as art are light on explicit storytelling (where meaning is communicated through dialogue and cutscenes) and heavier on an embedded narrative (where the meaning of things is communicated through the world itself, as in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus) or impressionism (the recently re-released Rez).

What's great about such approaches is that suggestive sparseness of the plot and the absence of characterization leaves us plenty of room to fill in the blanks with our imagination, which, when supported by a precisely and elegantly thought out framework, delivers a more powerful final product than many other games that give us plenty of characterization and story but precious little genuine mystery. Such games approximate the mood, texture, emotion, astonishment, mystery and ineffability that generally signal the presence of genuine art.
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