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.