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May 3, 2013 2:48 PM   Subscribe

"Remember kids, whenever you get frustrated at the state of the art, or you find yourself struggling to express yourself, just repeat after me: FUCK. VIDEOGAMES." Darius Kazemi (previously,previously and previously) writes about the use and abuse of video games as a means of expression.
posted by codacorolla (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
FUCK. THAT INTERFACE.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:55 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


But generally yeah, I agree. The whole videogames/art thing needs to calm down
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:55 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that irritating slow fade-in/fade-out supposed to make us meditate on how people can abuse a medium? Because that's what I'm doing.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:59 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've never tried this before: Instapaper Text Version
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:00 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


...and the thesis:

I guess what I’m trying to say is: if games AREN’T working for you as a tool for creative expression, don’t give up on games, but also try some other stuff. Don’t try and bend ideas to fit into the mold of “game”. MAYBE try and bend “game” to fit to your idea, that might work (I’m thinking of Twine games here, which bend the concept of game so much that it makes traditional game designers cranky that the authors have the audacity to use the word “game”. This also works in the other direction: please think about whether your Twine game should be an essay instead.)
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:01 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Use arrow keys or touch to go forward/back.)

please think about whether your Twine game should be an essay instead.

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 3:04 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can I just say, I'm so happy this is now a problem for more people than, like, the two dozen "Creative Directors" that were facing it when I started in games a decade ago. We have come so far.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:08 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, except that when you put a game up on Newgrounds about your gender dysphoria, you're not just doing it because it helps you cope but also because you are specifically targeting a demographic that has historically been extremely close-minded to the issue. Not every 14-year-old kid is going to play the game and like it but they are going to see it at the top of the weekly lists and they might see the people raving about the game on other sites so they too will buy into the fact that transgendered people are just normal folks who happen to suffer from a disorder that's usually misunderstood.

The games as art argument has always been superficial because it puts the focus on gamers to make art instead of celebrating the growing body of video gaming criticism as more than just Gillen's travel writing. Art is understood to be more than just authorial intentions; it is a text to be interpreted in a thousand ways, argued about in thousand frameworks, and canonized by the attention that's paid to it not by those who would consume Dan Brown or Michael Bay but by those who dig deeper. The critics are the ones looking past blatant pathos and into the semiotics of the game, into the class representations within a game, into the depiction of gender, and so on and so forth. And without this body of critics all you have are complicated, digital playthings that go unappreciated by all those Youtube commenters who know very few multisyllabic words though 'pretentious' is, of course, one of them.
posted by dubusadus at 3:15 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed the article thanks. Branching out into other creative endeavors is always a good thing. Still if your game sucks it probably just means you need to make another and another... (* and play some boardgames!)
posted by meta87 at 3:17 PM on May 3, 2013


This game is really linear. I mean, I kept going right, and it seemed like I never left the intro cutscene.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:20 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

I laughed at that part too.
posted by codacorolla at 3:20 PM on May 3, 2013


The games as art argument has always been superficial because it puts the focus on gamers to make art instead of celebrating the growing body of video gaming criticism as more than just Gillen's travel writing. Art is understood to be more than just authorial intentions; it is a text to be interpreted in a thousand ways, argued about in thousand frameworks, and canonized by the attention that's paid to it not by those who would consume Dan Brown or Michael Bay but by those who dig deeper. The critics are the ones looking past blatant pathos and into the semiotics of the game, into the class representations within a game, into the depiction of gender, and so on and so forth. And without this body of critics all you have are complicated, digital playthings that go unappreciated by all those Youtube commenters who know very few multisyllabic words though 'pretentious' is, of course, one of them.

I wouldn't call the critics that mouthbreathing. Here's a little more background, I was typing this up before I previewed.

The just of it is: People in previously marginalized groups like LGBTQ, have been using things like Twine to make video games. Twine is a hypertext creation system used to make choose-your-own-adventure stories.

This whole thing got kicked off because one of the greybeards in analyzing games, Raph Koster, of Ultima Online fame, see games as being about player agency, their ability to make choices. Some people have taken that as personal criticism, so it was simmering in the background of the recent Game Developers' Conference, in which these types of games were gaining prominence. Which caused Raph Koster to respond to a twitter post Leigh Alexander, notable game journalist, posted, in a public letter.

A lot of the problem is that Koster doesn't see them as games as such, or at least not very good ones, in terms of their "gaminess". Some of the Twine stories are pretty similar to the above joke:

This game is really linear. I mean, I kept going right, and it seemed like I never left the intro cutscene.

The issue people are having is that this type of criticism is very dry and academic, and being put to games that are directly tied to their identities, and people are taking it personally. In one response:

There's simply no way to say, "Anna, you should've tightened up the graphics on level 3" without coming off like an asshole with an axe to grind. Maybe if we were talking about Starcraft, that nitpick could be legitimate critical dialogue and we could add it to the annals of Starcraft Studies and Starcraft theory because Starcraft is (partly) *about* the graphics on level 3, and "tight graphics" actually means something to the Starcraft developers. For personal games, it isn't and it never will be, partly because we are our games.

This ties into the original link's part about community, which I think is a partial response:

"A lot of the perceived rewards of expressing something as a game are extrinsic rewards from the culture that's sprung up around gaming, and rather than chase those rewards in all cases, it's better/more rewarding to pursue the intrinsic reward of successfully expressing something on a case-by-case basis, in whatever medium fits that idea best. [...] Buying into the idea that validation can/should/will come from a given culture is way more nourishing to that culture than it is to you."[emphasis mine]

This sort of ties back to dubusadus's comment about targeting the demographics of Newsgrounds.

This is the tail end of a conversation that has been going on for the past month or so, and I had thought about putting this in a post, but I found almost too many links to get it down into a concise post. So it goes here.
posted by zabuni at 3:39 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's an interesting thing to be said about what the fundamental medium of a video-game is. The answer I found most convincing was that of the game mechanic. That is, a fundamental model or abstraction of how the world works. I think this is why the greatest influence on video games has been tabletop games, which require similar abstractions.

For example, the idea of hit points is a game mechanic. It was innovated in tabletop games where there was a need for an abstraction of injury which could be stored down in a character sheet, and so that game mechanic went around everywhere. The non-denominated health bar is a spin on that game mechanic: the FPS-style "get shot, have non-denominated injury that is still backed by a number off-screen" is another spin on that game mechanic: the DEFCON-style "every hit has a chance to destroy unit[not buildings, units]" hit point system is another spin on that game mechanic. Star Wars D20 Tabletop RPG has another spin on that game mechanic, which is that hit points are an abstraction of your heros' extraordinary luck and skill in dodging, parrying, etc, which is worn away as a function of tiredness: there's another set of hit points which represents you getting actually hit, which is attacked after your "dodge and parry" hit points go away or when your opponent scores a crit.

And the idea of the critical hit is also another abstraction put upon reality which has been handled in a myriad different ways.
And the idea of the item: for example, the only items that matter in Exalted TTRPG are epic artifacts: the rest of your crap is abstracted away into a "resources" and "epic wealth" rating: compare this to the many simple platformers which only allow the idea of powerups, or to the murderhoboes of RPG's.

And the idea of the inventory: FF-style or Diablo-Style or RuneScape-style or what-have-you.

So I think that there is definitely a thing that video games are good for: they are good for imposing abstractions upon the world. Some abstractions are better than others, in a certain way, or at least more compatible with the rest of the game. And these abstractions can make rhetorical points, subtle or unsubtle. Note how Braid's time-manipulation mechanics work so well, so symbolically with its story. Note how the tax mechanic in SimCity 5 makes its brazen point (infinite happiness at 0 taxes: quite the anarchist-libertarian creed). Note how the different health mechanics I talked about make different inherent points about the fragility of the person, and how a Final Fantasy murderhobo might be different from an Exalted character.

I think that this is the fundamental medium which a video-game maker works in, because this is the thing which will fundamentally change a game if you modify it. There is an overlaying rhetoric: you may think that what someone takes away from Braid may be different if you change all the graphics and storyline and such, but the fundamental world-view inherent within the game, I think, will not be changed. It feels good if that weltanschauung is compatible with the outer shell of the game, and it feels wrong if that world-view is not compatible. Isn't it a little bit silly that a Final Fantasy character has 97 pieces of shell in their inventory while they're killing the maniacal Chaos Lords with The Ultimate Weapon?

But if we're talking about the article, we must note that the fundamental message that he wished to convey could not easily have been converted into an entire world-view, or an abstraction which conveys an entire world-view. You could portray it as a grand symbolism, you could make a game about ill-treatment, but you couldn't say something directly about how your girlfriend specifically treated you ill.
posted by curuinor at 3:42 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


If my thoughts are true, by the way, you would be able to innovate, at least in RPG's, in the ways that actually pertain to the mechanics of gaming by pulling in all of the new ideas in tabletop gaming nowadays and integrating them. The latest version of GURPS and DnD have mook mechanics, where many enemies are there to merely annoy you in encounters and make you look good because you can kill swathes of them: why don't your normal computer RPG's have those? Or less fine-grained abstractions of wealth, wealth "ratings" such as in D20 Modern or any White Wolf game? Or "make-you-better" points such as exist in Paranoia and many DnD splats and versions, which let you do better on a certain action abstractly?

FPS's could look closely into paintball and airsoft rule variants, which to their credit they sometimes have. And of course, there exist RPG's which implement many of the above mechanics. But I say that this should be what innovation itself should look like, precisely.
posted by curuinor at 3:55 PM on May 3, 2013


Try not to frame the problem you’re trying to solve as "I need to innovate in this medium" -- that is a poisonous way of thinking.

Artworks that improve the medium can be great works of art even if introducing new techniques is the only respect in which they are great. Improving the vocabulary that other artists use is an important achievement. (e.g. minor Renaissance artists who collectively improved perspective techniques)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:27 PM on May 3, 2013


Here's a few comments on this from game writer and theorist Ian Bogost, titled Doing Things is Okay
posted by thedaniel at 4:29 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


You guys complaining about the interface realize that it was a slide deck from a talk, right?
posted by nev at 5:14 PM on May 3, 2013


This seems kind of obvious to me. But maybe that's 'cause I work in theater and spend a lot of time talking about which designs/type of designs fit a particular play script, there's a lot of discussion about whether something is "this kind of play," or if things are clearly written for another medium (I'm looking at YOU film). A lot of sighing and saying oh it's so cinematic, so I think part of being a baby art form is about finding your edge cases and knowing what's well suited for the medium and sometimes that means failing spectacularly to serve as a signpost for future generations.
posted by edbles at 6:27 PM on May 3, 2013


You guys complaining about the interface realize that it was a slide deck from a talk, right?

That's not how it came across to me, given that I've always heard you aren't supposed to recite the text from your slides. I mean, that's an awfully wordy slide deck.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 7:49 PM on May 3, 2013


wait, why is cat poop lower than twitter
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:21 PM on May 3, 2013


(this ignores the work of some very important cats such as :3turdKrump, :3MOM_DRUG, :3dongggay, :3Bee_Poop_Bong, :3TheTwerk, et al.)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:04 PM on May 3, 2013


man, that screed would've worked WAY better as a side-scrolling platformer.
posted by luvcraft at 10:13 PM on May 3, 2013


(use the left and right arrow keys to navigate)
posted by Peevish at 5:55 AM on May 4, 2013


I must be part of the problem, because what I got out of all this was "What's Twine? [30 seconds of Googling] Holy shit, I gotta make one of these!"
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:18 AM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


This, of course, alludes to you: "(this ignores the work of some very important cats such as :3turdKrump, :3MOM_DRUG, :3dongggay, :3Bee_Poop_Bong, :3TheTwerk, et al.)"

And :3Samizdata'sAwesomeLittleBuddyMrJ, who, despite not the best quality, is a prolific producer who requires little motivation to start a new project.

(Of course, I refuse to beta test for him, so it's not entirely his fault.)
posted by Samizdata at 3:14 AM on May 5, 2013


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