E3 is this week
May 12, 2003 9:39 AM   Subscribe

E3 is this week - This week, geeks, gamers, booth babes, and movie execs gather in Los Angeles for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, the premier video gaming industry convention. As the LA Times reports, video gaming is a US$10 billion a year industry, pulling in more money than movie theater box offices. A US$25 billion global industry, video gaming is shaping culture around the world.

Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?
posted by Argyle (63 comments total)
 
Are any other MeFi-ites going to E3? I'll be there, but I'm debating whether to blog it live or not.
posted by Argyle at 9:42 AM on May 12, 2003


Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?

No.
posted by jpburns at 9:44 AM on May 12, 2003


No.

Bull. I'd buy anything David Crane makes.
posted by yerfatma at 9:51 AM on May 12, 2003


Anyone that's heard of Penny Arcade would agree that, yes, gaming is huge and the people who design them well are reaching celebrity status.

But let's be honest, no matter how much games make, you're not going to see them in People magazine anytime soon. The mainstream folk play games, but they don't obsess over the people who design them.
posted by jragon at 9:54 AM on May 12, 2003


Yes I agree, we're not there yet. Thank cripes.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:54 AM on May 12, 2003


Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?

The marketers of Peter Molyneux, American McGee, Sid Meier, John Romero, and "Lord Britain" have had a certain amount of sucess with branding "developers" but I don't see that crossing over into the mainstream yet: GTA 3 is not sold as Bob Rockstar's GTA 3 for instance.

(My fondest hope for this year's E3, by the way, is that it may signal the return of Old Man Murray.The site is live again, albeit with mightily old content.)
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:57 AM on May 12, 2003


Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?

That's already the mindset of gamers. But most people aren't gamers, so no. Not among the mainstream. Non-gamers don't care enough.
posted by tomorama at 10:00 AM on May 12, 2003


Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?

Yes, but one reason why games are so attractive is they are not burdened by imbecile, overpaid actors who hold no real worth to the story, yet drive a Babylon of an industry. Think E! network. Think People magazine.

Focus is more toward the the game itself, with looks toward the intelligent developers, who are probably a lot like the people who play the games in the first place.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:00 AM on May 12, 2003


[...] game developers reaching celebrity status?

Oh god please no. Do we really need more celebrities?
posted by spazzm at 10:02 AM on May 12, 2003


Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?

only if they are able to buy legislation to stave off the legions of game pirates which are currently destroying the videogame industry.
</sarcasm>
posted by quonsar at 10:04 AM on May 12, 2003


You guys don't know this yet, but you grow out of video games. No kidding. One day you wake up, and it just dies on you. You try to force it, but you just can't get lost in your favorite games any more. And the shocking thing is, you can still remember when they were your whole life. Now, they just seem like a waste of time. This never happens with film, books or music.
posted by Faze at 10:23 AM on May 12, 2003


Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?

This Salman Rushdie-David Cronenberg interview raises the same question. And Rushdie pretty much sums up my own feelings on the matter, "There's a different thing between a puzzle and a book. These are just very clever puzzles and they are very enjoyable and they require certain skills which are quite clever, useful to develop. Sometimes they make you use your mind in very interesting ways because it requires natural steps. You have to think in ways you wouldn't expect in order to find the solution. But it's just a game."
posted by ed at 10:23 AM on May 12, 2003


I'll be at E3, drooling over the new Half-Life, Full Throttle, Doom, Deus Ex, and Halo. Besides Gamespy and Gamespot, are there any other essential sites for E3 coverage?
posted by waxpancake at 10:23 AM on May 12, 2003


Hey, I wouldn't have any problem mentioning Warren Spector in the same breath as Wachowski Brothers...
posted by grabbingsand at 10:25 AM on May 12, 2003


You guys don't know this yet, but you grow out of video games. No kidding. One day you wake up, and it just dies on you. You try to force it, but you just can't get lost in your favorite games any more. And the shocking thing is, you can still remember when they were your whole life. Now, they just seem like a waste of time. This never happens with film, books or music.

I'm almost 40 years old and this sad, sad "Puff The Magic Dragon" day hasn't happened for me yet, so you younger folks take heart. I don't know that they were ever my "whole life", but I still enjoy video games just about as much as I do films, books and music. Everything in moderation.
posted by briank at 10:33 AM on May 12, 2003


I have outgrown games several times over the last 20 years- usually when I can't afford to get a new computer. I think it's easy to outgrow old games because you get to a point where new games just look and play so well, but new games will always be something I will enjoy. When life is really busy with work and social life, I'm just as likely to play a good game as I am to put in a good film or read a book. If I could set up a LAN party and make games social anytime, I might forget about films and books.

Also, people forget to put television in the same category as movies, books and music. Television is much more popular as a mainstream art than movies, books, music, or games. For myself, though, television has disappeared almost entirely from my life (2 hours a week) thanks to the internet and games. Looking back to when I was 15, I would guess I watched more than 2 hours a day alone and with friends. Now my friends (and girlfriend) and I are more likely to play a game together if we just want to unwind.
posted by crazy finger at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2003


Are video games ready to join movies and music as mainstream art forms with game developers reaching celebrity status?

They're almost there. Certainly, certain developers are celebrities in the game-playing world, this isn't new. What is new is increased recognition in the non-hardcore world. This just parallels the growing number of people actually playing games.

When will game developers themselves appear in the pages of People? When they start fitting the media's idea of attractive.

As to growing out of games, I honestly don't think that will happen. My generation is the last one to remember a time when there were no videogames, and now they're just another thing you do.
posted by SiW at 11:18 AM on May 12, 2003


You guys don't know this yet, but you grow out of video games.

Yeah, like you grow out of porn.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:21 AM on May 12, 2003


From the Rushdie interview:

"I like computer games. I haven't played many. At the Super Mario level I think they're great fun. They're like crosswords because once you've beaten the game, you've solved all its possibilities."

This view is terribly limited and tiresome. "Beating" the game is hardly the main concern for many gamers--what about the sensory appeal, originality/enjoyability of the experience, and replayability of the game itself, qualities which define classic games like SimCity and Duex Ex? It makes about as much sense as "having read a book solves all its possibilities." (Which reminds me of the Twain quote, "A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.")

Devoting one's life to consuming film, literature, and music is just "a waste of time" IMO--what's the difference between a tenured PhD in esoteric period literature, an indy film buff, and a 15-year-old Quake fanboy, aside from social status? "Terence, This is Stupid Stuff" applies to them all equally. I doubt the former two's specialized artistic expertise makes gives them any particular insight into, you know, life. History maybe.

The interactivity of video games blows away decades of wanking reader response literary theory to boot. Rushdie makes a foolish blunder in trying to define art (greater men have failed) in his interview:

"In the end, a work of art is something which comes out of somebody's imagination and takes a final form. It's offered and is then completed by the reader or the viewer or whoever it may be. Anything else is not what I would recognize as a work of art."

I would argue that video games fulfill his criteria, especially the one regarding completion by another, better than film, books, or music. (The ever-growing necessity of game patching weakens the "final form" one though... sigh.)

"Video games are for kids" is so last century. Gaming has become an increasingly social phenomenon. If the Author is dead, there are no shortage of Gamers to take his place. And the crassly democratic and blatantly commercial nature of video games is part of its aesthetic appeal to me--after all, this is the generation where kitsch is cool and irony is king, right?
posted by DaShiv at 11:51 AM on May 12, 2003


"Video games are for kids is so last century"

It is not as so last century as you'd expect. Sure, games are not perceived as the medium for kids any more, but when you buy games you can't help but walk in and out of the store with a certain level of embarrassment attached to it. I also have to put in the effort to make my wife better 'understand.'

And hey, speaking celebrity, wouldn't Tomb Raider kick more ass than any of the Charlie's Angels?
posted by mversion at 12:24 PM on May 12, 2003


It is not as so last century as you'd expect.

That's only because this one is still so young.
posted by DaShiv at 12:28 PM on May 12, 2003


DaShiv:

what about the sensory appeal, originality/enjoyability of the experience, and replayability of the game itself, qualities which define classic games like SimCity and Duex Ex?

simcity was a great game, and it was one that did not have a set script. the story was your city, which you built however you want. deus ex, on the other hand, followed a script regardless of the path you took in the game. in that, replayability was limited.

i liked deus ex, but it suffered from some bad bugs when i bought it. when you installed the game, some of the levels would be corrupted during the install. that's the kind of thing that makes me hesitant to call it a classic, but then that is a plague on most modern developers.
posted by moz at 12:37 PM on May 12, 2003


DaShiv: The issue isn't "Video games are for kids." Because nearly all the twentysomething geeks I know still play games. It involves whether the video game has reached the level of Art. I would argue that since the ostensible purpose of any game is to get to the end, that video games have utterly failed in offering anything more than the standard linear model. While there is some advantage in playing a game a second time and discovering side quests and details which may not have been there before, this particular pursuit is probably limited to the programmer, level designer or hard-core gamer. Outside of stunning deposits of boredom, there is utterly no incentive for the commonweal to play a game through repeatedly.

This is not to suggest that evolving the video game to a greater tier isn't possible. Warren Spector's interesting experiments (Deus Ex and Anachronox) have improved the form by taking risks in how the game is set up and opening up greater possibilities to the player in flow, choices and narrative. But textures and engines alone are simply not enough to sustain a game, nor are polygons and particles.

The base, so to speak, remains the same. (And nowhere was this more apparent than in Unreal 2, which features great technology but a shoddy story and conventional levels.) Where the average Joe might return to a movie or a novel to see how the story came together, to enjoy it and even subconsciously discover details that were not there before, chances are that your average person won't return to the original Doom or the Space Quest games, precisely because the plotlines are utterly conventional and the technology has become dwarfed by the latest model. In the novel, the language is so multifaceted, so irrevocably intertwined with the narrative, so established within the form, that even someone reading for pleasure might return to it to note things that weren't there before. While certainly rules have begun to be laid down for specific game genres, they are still not concrete enough to be attributable to anything less than technical perfection. I don't see a Strunk and White for the video game. I don't see an ASC manual. I don't see a Video Game Awards ceremony broadcast on television. I don't see a section in the bookstore devoted to the video game's many issues, as I see with these truer, more established arts.

While today's game engines have produced stunning beauty and realism that is coming ever so closer to a world that we can become completely immersed in, it is still a far off goal. You might say that the video game has yet to achieve its Birth of a Nation, a masterpiece that established clear language for the medium. Right now, like in the first decades of the twentieth century, games are confined to nickelodeons. People enjoy video games. People purchase them and play them. But for the average user, they remain mostly a diversion.

One curious thing about the defenders of "video game as art" in this thread: They seem threatened, preternaturally protective and inflexible to the idea that maybe the video game hasn't paid its dues in full. I would suggest that they look upon the solution realistically and innovate, so that the video game's full potential can be unleashed upon the public at large. Where are the simulated universes? Where are the video games that make us laugh, cry, that reflect the human experience, that do more than simply entertain -- that, indeed, transmute the video game to a level in which it is Art?
posted by ed at 1:13 PM on May 12, 2003


One other thing: moz makes a very good point with SimCity. The success of the Sims games (both City incarnations and individuals) rested with a user being able to create his own story. If the video game is to evolve, then it must account for that distinction and encourage it.
posted by ed at 1:17 PM on May 12, 2003


(My fondest hope for this year's E3, by the way, is that it may signal the return of Old Man Murray.The site is live again, albeit with mightily old content.)

Old Man Murray will indeed be coming back, BTW.

My fiance and I met through OMM's forumites, I run the spin-off site for the forums crowd (noticeably the OMM forums are NOT and will not be back up), caltrops.com. There will be new content in the near future, according to Chet.

If you want an explanation for the absence - until they provide one we're all assuming it was (to steal from Mac Hall) "a typically brilliant parody of Team Fortress 2" (they came back the day the HL2 news broke).
posted by Ryvar at 1:29 PM on May 12, 2003


I'll be at E3, drooling over the new Half-Life, Full Throttle, Doom, Deus Ex, and Halo.

Me too, Waxy. I plan to bring a drool-towel.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:35 PM on May 12, 2003


since the ostensible purpose of any game is to get to the end

Everquest? Sim City / The Sims? Pretty much any sports game?

Outside of stunning deposits of boredom, there is utterly no incentive for the commonweal to play a game through repeatedly.

You missed Blade Runner then? Short game, but with something like 15 different endings. Incidentally, the only people I know that found all of them are in their 50s.

Warren Spector's interesting experiments (Deus Ex and Anachronox)

Anachronox was Tom Hall, Warren Spector's other big title was Thief.

Where are the simulated universes?

What, like GTA? Or Black and White? Or Freelancer? Or any of the MMORPGs?

Where are the video games that make us laugh, cry, that reflect the human experience, that do more than simply entertain -- that, indeed, transmute the video game to a level in which it is Art?

Have you played ICO?

Do you actually play games?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:46 PM on May 12, 2003


Yeah, well, I'm in pre-E3 crunch, so excuse me if I'm a little brusque.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:49 PM on May 12, 2003


I don't see a Strunk and White for the video game. I don't see an ASC manual. I don't see a Video Game Awards ceremony broadcast on television. I don't see a section in the bookstore devoted to the video game's many issues, as I see with these truer, more established arts.

All of these things are also true of comic-books.

The success of the Sims games (both City incarnations and individuals) rested with a user being able to create his own story. If the video game is to evolve, then it must account for that distinction and encourage it.

Similarly, if movies are to evolve, they must all become Historical Romances.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:02 PM on May 12, 2003


Well I just got out of the video game industry (I was a programmer). I'm very happy with my decision so far. What killed me was the insane stress and politics.

Do I think video game developers will reach the celebrity status of movie stars? Of course not. Video game developers are more like the crew of a movie. How often does a director reach celebrity status? The only two I can think of are George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and they are nowhere near the level of, say, Julia Roberts.

Video games have produced one star: Lara Croft. The people we see and hear in media become the stars, not the creators.

I was at E3 last year. I found it incredibly boring, but then, I'm not a huge gamer. I like some games a lot (Zelda Wind Waker and Jet Set Radio Future come to mind) but it's not very important to me. I think I spent a few hours in the conference, and then thought to myself: why am I in here when one of the most important cultural centres of the world is outside? So I spent the next two days exploring L.A. In that respect, the trip to E3 was great!

The thing is that E3 is more of a hype conference. It's about marketing, not development. The real conference for video game developers is GDC.
posted by Emanuel at 2:03 PM on May 12, 2003


From the Rushdie interview:

"I like computer games. I haven't played many. At the Super Mario level I think they're great fun. They're like crosswords because once you've beaten the game, you've solved all its possibilities."

This view is terribly limited


To say the least.

For the record, DaShiv, this interview is way dated - takin' it back to the summer of 1995 - plus also anyone who's tried to read Rushdie's rock 'n' roll novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet can attest to the fact that he's way out of his depth when it comes to contemporary North American pop culture. Much as Sid Meier isn't being invited to join the Booker jury, Rushdie won't have a guest column at Gamespy any time soon.

As for celebrity videogame execs, how about these guys?
posted by gompa at 2:11 PM on May 12, 2003


One curious thing about the defenders of "video game as art" in this thread: They seem threatened, preternaturally protective and inflexible to the idea that maybe the video game hasn't paid its dues in full.

I don't even bother with the "Are video games art?" debate. I only ever seemed to get into it with people who knew nothing about video games and had to listen to them talking out of their asses.

If you consider Shrek, the motion picture to be art, then Xenosaga and Final Fantasy X are as well. I don't see much of a distinction.

The success of the Sims games (both City incarnations and individuals) rested with a user being able to create his own story. If the video game is to evolve, then it must account for that distinction and encourage it.

While inpHilltr8r's quip about this makes the point well, I'd also argue that the mediums of book and film are the exact opposite of your statement. It sounds to me that you're desperately clutching at reasons not to call video games art. Elitist much?
posted by eyeballkid at 2:17 PM on May 12, 2003


Emanuel: I had the same experience back in 2001 when I covered it. More deafening than an LAX runway, more disorienting than Las Vegas on shrooms, and more antisocial than repeated smacks in the jaw. The kind of environment perfect for self-serving agitators who fail to acknowledge the sharp dropoff of interest in "innovative" titles like Max Payne, Black & White and Neverwinter Nights and who have never heard of Scott McCloud.

I talked with stressed out, sleep-deprived designers trying to explain how great their games were in front of slick PR men measuring up their every gesticulation. They were nervous and frenetic. They shifted their feet. You couldn't ask them a tough question about compatibility or pressure them about a long delayed title like Duke Nukem Forever. Essentially, covering E3 was like spending an entire weekend surrounded by advertisements.

Granted, you get that kind of PR crap at any expo, but I had never seen it blown up to such gargantuan proportions. GDC, I would imagine, is completely different and more instructive. But since the video game industry is controlled by a few big guns -- much like Hollywood -- they always blow away the little guys with the ideas who hide in the conference rooms.

Hardly a forum for artistic innovation.
posted by ed at 2:30 PM on May 12, 2003


Art says thing about people and the way they are and their emotions. I have never played a video game which revealed anything new to me in this way.
posted by dydecker at 2:32 PM on May 12, 2003


Here's a proposition good for kicks.

Video games can be art, but the more they are art, the less they are games - expression in video games always comes at the exclusion of interactivity. Basically, games express themselves by what you can't do.

Cinematic games like ICO and FFX and Xenosaga are all very linear stories. Interactivity basically consists of getting to wander around until the next part.

Even games like Grand Theft Auto express much of their worldview by limiting your actions. You can't start conversations with a guy on the street or play a game of chess against them. You can, however, cap them.

Okay! :: sets up the kickstand ::
posted by furiousthought at 2:34 PM on May 12, 2003


Ed:

You bring up many salient points. Central to the discussion of whether video games can be Art, of course, is how one defines Art itself. If you define it by what "makes us laugh, cry, that reflect the human experience", then yes, games like ICO have done that for me, and I doubt I'm the only one. Is music not art if the music of Philip Glass has failed to do so for me? Evoking emotions is hardly the only task of Art, and I submit that gaming provides more intellectual challenge and and satisfaction than fiction. The best games and the best fiction, of course. I'd rank some of the mental challenges involved in gaming above the allusion-tracking and unravelling of narrative structures any day.

As an artform, however, gaming, in its current state, is full of failings. Its close adherence to traditional models of narration (and due to its commercialism, generally poorly at that) is a sign of its infancy, like photography's early still-lifes and early cinema's imitation of staged plays. Yet those claiming that video games aren't artistic remind me of the same early critics of photography and movies, who only see it as a poor imitation of an existing one. On this point I believe we will agree.

The most compelling similarity I see between photography, film, and gaming is technology: as you've pointed out, often games are simply showcases for what is still technologically evolving. But while I would consider movies like The Matrix to be similar entertaining technological showcases and not Art (one which I rather enjoy), I wouldn't use that to preclude the possibility of movies being Art. Every genre of art has its Unreal 2's. Popular romance novels, play cycles in Renaissance England (morality plays), postcards, hallmark cards, what have you. It is easy to be dismissive of a mode of expression (if that is how one defines Art) by its lowest common denominator, its entertainment value.

Interactive gaming will be able to legitimatize itself as a medium of expression once it's managed to fully harness its unique power, that of changing dynamically with its audience. I do want to see completely open-ended interactive gaming experiences as artpieces, but I'll take SimCity as a baby step in that direction for now. I do want to see narratives, nay, whole universes that adapt, change, and is distinct for every single person who experiences it, but I'll take the rudimentary branching plotlines in Deus Ex for the time being. Do I hope to see a game that will unquestionably be labeled as Art in my lifetime? Of course, and I have great hopes for it. We have classic "games" but games have not become classic Art to the masses yet (at least partially because playing a game requires more than turning on the radio or going to the library)--but I believe it's just a matter of time. I'm willing to label the medium as an Art medium for the time being. Proto-Art, if you will. And seeing as how the other media have had such a large head start on gaming, I invite time to prove me wrong on this. :)

"Outside of stunning deposits of boredom, there is utterly no incentive for the commonweal to play a game through repeatedly."

One can say the same about consecutive viewings of any movie, or reading of any book, or what have you. But that one can return to a game for reasons other than nostalgia--to take different paths, try different methods, notice different things along the journey--strikes me as similar in some way as watching a favorite movie or rereading a favorite book reveals new things about a familiar object. "It is not the spoon that bends." (groan)

And one final note: what's the difference between "hardcore gamer" and, say, "hardcore fiction-reader" other than centuries of tradition and university degrees? Saying that some aspects of gaming is only interesting/accessible to the former is analogous to the same of literature to the latter. Does cultural legitimacy and establishment have a say in what is Art?

On preview, as for E3 and artistic innovation, I never use the Oscars to judge movies as Art, either. :)
posted by DaShiv at 2:38 PM on May 12, 2003


'pulling in more money than movie theater box offices'

Just thought I'd remind us that this is also true of the porn industry in the US.

I am presently playing 'Oids' (on the Steem engine) and it is still fantastic. Good physical modelling, gameplay and freedom, level editor, what else do you want?

I presently like games which I can dip into, have not the time for full immersion. I mean, I know someone who took two weeks off work to complete 'Silent Hill' when it came out, which is just silly.
posted by asok at 2:42 PM on May 12, 2003


Cinematic games like ICO and FFX and Xenosaga are all very linear stories. Interactivity basically consists of getting to wander around until the next part.

And movies don't even have that much interactivity.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:48 PM on May 12, 2003


make sure you get us some info from e3 on hl2 meta-agents !
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:51 PM on May 12, 2003


dydecker:

I've learned that I have a sadistic streak via SimCity. Does that count? :) More seriously, I've learned that I really, really like novelty and new things, and that given a foreign enviroment I'm likely to find pedantic details fascinating. My interest in issues of interface (i.e. how the "I" in the game--or in life--is connected and manipulates the world) also surfaced through gaming. I'm trying to figure out what I've learned about myself through literature, other than that I have a strong interest in the connection between language and expression.

furiousthought:

The problem with interactivity and narration is that in order to "affect" a player emotionally (ICO, RPG's, etc), games typically restrict your ability to interact, to lead you along the familiar exposition-development-climax-denoument plotline. Now if some genius could figure out how plots could be generated dynamically and still be intellectually/emotionally evocative...

After all, people are still affected by formulaic stories in many different media as long as they are presented well; what if that "formulaic" plot was a literal formula, manipulated by a computer?
posted by DaShiv at 2:52 PM on May 12, 2003


arg. too many ideas here i disagree with to respond.
[head explodes]

(yes vid games are art. very very few of them are good art.)
posted by juv3nal at 3:02 PM on May 12, 2003


DaShiv: Many good points. You're quite correct in attributing the value of Art as one of personal perspective. But ultimately it boils down to collective perspective to ensure a specific medium's stature. While we have gaming sites and computer magazines that review and chronicle games, we do not have anything like this in mainstream media. Books, films, music and even television get in-depth coverage in just about every major metropolitan newspaper. Video games, on the other hand, are limited to the occasional feature. That says something about how we, as a society, value and therefore gauge video games.

On the human experience front, what I am suggesting is verisimilitude. I admire your ability to cry with a video game (if you're doing that with ICO), but let's face the facts. Unless you're spending your real life blowing people away with lasers while shouting "My house," carjacking vehicles, flicking villagers across mountains or committing other physics-defying behavior, outside of savage impulse and adrenaline, there's really nothing human to relate to within these games, as enjoyable as they are to play. However, it looks like Carmack's determined to have all objects in an environment be affected by a blast in Doom II. So that's an additional baby step in the right direction.

It seems we are in agreement here over the embryonic state of video games. For the record, I would like to see them develop just as much as you would. But I think some form of cultural legitimacy could go a long way toward improving the medium. If the medium is respected, then more people would be willing to contribute to it and advance it. Games may be artistic, but they have not reached the level of Art, whereby they are respected on the same level as films, paintings, books, and -- yes -- comic books.
posted by ed at 3:14 PM on May 12, 2003


Hardly a forum for artistic innovation.

It's the trade show, for the retail end of the food chain. It essentially is one big advert. If you want to talk about 'art', or more practically, about game design and development, then either DICE or GDC would be several orders of magnitude more appropriate.

However, if you want an advance viewing of almost every title that's due out in the next 12 months, then E3 is the obvious choice.

However, it looks like Carmack's determined to have all objects in an environment be affected by a blast in Doom II. So that's an additional baby step in the right direction.

Nooo, what's impressive about DoomIII is the lighting model, where every object shadows every other object. The 'universal blast' thing has already been done by numerous other games that you no doubt haven't played.

Jeebus, this is liking arguing for films with someone who's only watched last summers blockbusters.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:23 PM on May 12, 2003


I admire your ability to cry with a movie, but let's face the facts. Unless you're spending your real life as a hacker trying to destroy machines who have taken over the world, donkey or and ogre trying to save a princess, defying the laws of physics by letting bullets bounce of your chest and flying on command, outside of the visual thrill and popcorn, there's really nothing human to relate to within these movies.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:23 PM on May 12, 2003


A question: why is it that the only people who seem to have offhand E3 stories are people that think most videogames are boring? I know it's theoretically a trade show for "people within the industry," but I know a guy (who cares about nothing but giant robot games) who got in by swiping an absent booth babe's placard. "Kaye Norita" got to see the whole show and then come back and tell me they don't make enough games about giant robots.

Whereas people like me, who have an enthusiasm for all games old and new that borders on madness, would chew their own arms off-- wait, no, legs-- wait, DDR, crap--- well, we'd do some unpleasant things to gain entry to the big, dumb, loud, giant commercial that is E3.

Maybe I can't go because I don't not care enough. Or something.
posted by kevspace at 3:38 PM on May 12, 2003


there's really nothing human to relate to within these movies.

Not true at all. Shrek is the story of an ogre who learns how to overcome his mistrust of other people and join society. That's a pretty powerful dramatic theme which plenty of people can relate to.

Furious thought said it right--the more interactive a game is, the less expressive it can be narratively.

what if that "formulaic" plot was a literal formula, manipulated by a computer?

While the form of plots is pretty well known, plots which are merely form with no content, which fail to reveal much about their characters, make for bad stories. It's a hard thing to achieve artistically, which is why there are so many terrible movies. If most human can't do it, I don't hold out much hope for computer algorithms.
posted by dydecker at 4:00 PM on May 12, 2003


dydecker, you miss my point. I was rewriting this.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:07 PM on May 12, 2003


ed:

One of the things I like best about video games is its freedom from verisimilitude. Skirting through nebulae and spotting a blue planet in the distance, for example, is entirely unlike my experience of the real world outside of the game, but nevertheless brought Drake's formula into a certain startling focus. I doubt the effect would have been as strong if I weren't so busy interacting with the enviroment before--in other words, if it weren't specifically in this medium. In literature, it's one of the reasons why I like science fiction (another genre suffering from legitimacy issues, yet at least its medium is established enough for people not to question it), this free manipulation of possibilities instead of (or more accurately, as) actualities. I love Virginia Woolf as much as the next lit geek, but I'd hate to play a game where I'd have to experience stream of consciousness. After all, I'm bombarded by that all the time already. :)

In an interview I read with Carmack, he expressed hopes that the DOOM 3 lighting model will represent a certain plateau of enviromental and world realism that will allow for cinematic gaming (that silly Nvidia buzzword), after which game developers can focus on the other aspects of game development instead of purely technological. I couldn't find it in a search--did anyone else also read this one? At some point graphics aren't going to get any more lifelike, but unless DOOM 3 really is the next coming of Christ, there'll continue to be improvements for years, decades even. But what next? I suspect it will be a very interesting time for gaming once the graphical arms race in game development is no longer the obsession... if I had to place my bet for when gaming breaks into widely-accepted Art, it'll be right then.

In terms of what the "mainstream media" legitimizes, given the dearth of mainstream coverage of poetry (without even an "occasional feature" in major media sources these days), is it no longer Art? It is coasting along by its honorific status, but like many other marginal art forms, its influence on mainstream culture is nil. Even if it's not "Art", video games is in the mainstream consciousness, if only for the anti-video-game-violence hysteria being a definite blip on the cultural radar (which only serves to mask the true societal Evil that is Dance Dance Revolution--but I digress). (I only hate DDR because, to add insult to injury, being a terrible player makes you look stupid as well. In public no less!)

I think the social proliferation (and thereby, influence) of video games will continue to grow. Now that it has spilled out of its under-18 pigeonhole, the likelihood for it to become widely recognized as more than "mere" entertainment increases as well. I really, really want to see what artists with an affinity for computer science are capable of in the future. Or better yet, now.
posted by DaShiv at 4:09 PM on May 12, 2003


Sorry, eyeballkid, I get you now. You're right of course. Mistaking verisimilitude for depth is what doomed Ridley Scott.
posted by dydecker at 4:17 PM on May 12, 2003


dydecker:

What I mean by doing plots by formula is this: take your standard hack-and-slash RPG. Let's say your character displays antisocial behaviors--then the computer responds to YOUR decisions and makes plot resolve itself through some way in which the character comes to terms with some societal acceptance (the Shrek story, if you will)--instead of trying to conquer the world with an army, the Bad Guy uses some world destruction plan instead so that foiling it gains you the gratitude of others (rather than inspiring fear from watching you hack everything up). Or if your character acts extraordinarily brave, the game sets up encounters which cannot be resolved by brute force but rather by diplomacy (alliances, compromise, betrayal, fight for lesser victory, etc). If you show more attention toward a certain female NPC, something bad will probably happen to her but you will probably have a chance to save her by the game's end, thus earning her love. Or whatever--the possibilities are manifold, and need not be so hackneyed. Now take a party with real AI that respond by having certain "personalities" (predispositions really), who respond dynamically to your character's decisions (with possible intra-party conflicts--certain NPC's may by predisposed to conflict with each other in fact), as well as respond to the resultant events from your decisions--and their decisions also cause different events to occur to your party like your character's does, creating subplots, and all intertwining in some way. No scripting, pure AI. The complexities are staggering, if played out for long enough. (And why not decide whether you want a short game or an epic, to determine how fast things come to their climax and how many NPC's to include?) For game designers, the tasks of writing memorable character interactions and predispositions, creating event generators, and fine-turning plot-resolution engines could really become an elaborate craft.

Now imagine playing this game again, when you're in a different mood, maybe years later, returning to a world you've grown to love (think LOTR or Star Wars--why should world-creation be limited to literature or film?) and have changed through playing, and then doing something entirely different. Imagine comparing the different histories of your worlds with a friend.

Far fetched? Yes, for the time being. But I firmly believe that interactivity and complexity will be something that will evolve in video games--slowly or by quantum leaps, whatever. A few branching plotlines here, a few interactive NPC's there, and eventually a story you can truly live in. It will be like films going from silent to "talkies", or from B&W to color. By comparison, games of our generation, like SimCity, will be classics, but hopelessly outdated in their limited interactivity--yet recognized an early groundbreaker in a medium for interactive Art.

Question: given the obvious multimedia capabilities of video games and considering the artistic merits of linear narrative in film, how will an adaptive, interactive version of the same not become recognized as Art? And telling stories is but one thing games can do.

(As the thread dies...) Don't mind me, I'm smoking my pipe dreams. :) Ahem, E3, Half-Life 2, etc etc.
posted by DaShiv at 5:07 PM on May 12, 2003


I only hate DDR because, to add insult to injury, being a terrible player makes you look stupid as well. In public no less!

The thing it took me a while to realize was that DDR is, in fact, an equal-opportunity humiliator. The only time you could even pretend to ascribe any grace to the game is when players (it helps to be female) are on the medium level, where it almost resembles dancing. The advanced level just looks like a disturbing coordinated seizure.

Interesting to think that games promoting the humiliation of the self seem to come mainly from Japan, where US games seem to make every attempt to promote the concept that the player is awesome. Hmm. Now I'm wondering why I prefer the humiliating games so much more.

I'm the only one I know who'll play DDR in public-- due to the aforementioned humiliation factor-- but I've known a few people to enjoy the soundtracks on road trips, and don't discount the ability to buy a couple cheap pads, draw the drapes, and embarrass yourself for nobody but the terrified cat.
posted by kevspace at 5:26 PM on May 12, 2003


Games are fun.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:17 PM on May 12, 2003


Going back a little to the 'game designers as celebrities' bit:

some weeks ago, during a promotional tour, Miyamoto (Zelda, Mario, etc) stopped at a Virgin Music store in London. The Virgin people were amazed at the turn-out... there were considerably more people for Miyamoto than there were for Britney Spears a couple days before.

The game celebrities are there, they just get little recognition (as does the whole industry) in the mainstream media.
posted by mkn at 7:55 PM on May 12, 2003


Question: given the obvious multimedia capabilities of video games and considering the artistic merits of linear narrative in film, how will an adaptive, interactive version of the same not become recognized as Art? And telling stories is but one thing games can do.

Well it can't, it would have to be recognized as art. Xenosaga is basically an interactive movie, and while you could argue that the cut scenes don't amount to great art, I don't see why it shouldn't be called art because interactive elements were added. Now we could argue wether these interactive add anything on an artistic level or are just puzzles or gimicks that don't add a substantial amount. But getting back to the original point, can games be great art, I say yes because of...

ICO, yes ICO, I can't stress strongly enough how important a game this is. It's been mentioned several times in this thread. Never before in a game have I felt so engaged with the characters, such suspension of disbelief. It is more than a film with interactive elements, the suspension of disbelief, the atmosphere of the game, comes out through the interaction.

One should not confuse the medium with the content, the thousands of juvenile, plotless action games does not make ICO less art. Sure the game is somewhat escapist, we can't relate our daily lives to the game, but that shouldn't be a criteria for art. Heck, none of us are Danish princes trying to avenge our father's murder, but Shakespeare is still great art.

furiousthought wrote:expression in video games always comes at the exclusion of interactivity

Interesting, I'm curious if the failure of non-linear rpgs (is Ultima IV the best example?) to express themselves emotionally is because of the non-linear nature or the limitations of the technology at the time, or is it just Origins games in general are a little cold.(Why is it that only Japanese games seem to handle romance at all?) I've heard fascinating things about "Animal Crossing" and how it's suppossed to be like an interactive world and fairly open ended.

(oh and one small point, Rushdie wonders if game players could become known for their skills like athletes. I think this has already beggening in Korea where top gamers can make money doing commercials, but I'm not absolutely sure.)
posted by bobo123 at 7:57 PM on May 12, 2003


expression in video games always comes at the exclusion of interactivity

Unless, of course, the interactivity is the expression being made.

A lot of talk about games as art always involves comparisons to movies, naturally. As such, fingers often get pointed at a game's story or linearity or cinematics. Which, I think, is too limiting.

Take a game like Rez, for example. I consider it art, and it doesn't fit any of those criterias. The art of it comes solely from your interaction with the "enemies." Music gets generated by it. Visuals get distorted.

Do I get an emotional response out of it? Yeah, in some regard. Just as I do by looking at a Mondrian or a Kandinsky painting.
posted by mkn at 8:54 PM on May 12, 2003


I think that anyone who subscribes to the "videogames are not art"-viewpoint should try making one.
posted by spazzm at 9:18 PM on May 12, 2003


ICO, yes ICO, I can't stress strongly enough how important a game this is. It's been mentioned several times in this thread. Never before in a game have I felt so engaged with the characters, such suspension of disbelief. It is more than a film with interactive elements, the suspension of disbelief, the atmosphere of the game, comes out through the interaction.

The strange reluctance. The role-reversal. The realisation. The final discovery. Moments I can still see clearly, and stir the emotions. What more could you want?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:32 PM on May 12, 2003


Why is it that only Japanese games seem to handle romance at all?

Because decades of schoolyard cruelty have rendered American geeks utterly terrified of being percieved as "unmanly" in any way whatsoever. That includes romance, introspective doubt, and generally all forms of dramatic pathos. The only "safe" emotion for an American game is macho vengeful raging power trip. Japanese geeks have their own problems, but automatically being labeled a "fag" isn't one of them.

Really, Japan's full of games where emotional drama is the central theme, but even the best ones will never get translated due to (a) the difficulty of translating even more text than an RPG, (b) the lack of a receptive audience stateside, and (c) the low-tech nature of such titles, due to most of them being done by small groups who devote the bulk of their effort to dramatic scripting, not 3D programming. The only time such games are even noticed in the West is if they happen to be pornographic.

ICO was lucky in that it used "textless" drama and had a stunning 3D engine. Otherwise it would have been passed over for yet another easily-translated 3D fighting game.
posted by PsychoKick at 9:52 PM on May 12, 2003 [1 favorite]


Right on the mark, PsychoKick.

Apparently my entire game collection makes me a "fag."

I tried to learn Japanese, but it was out of desperation and not love, and dropped out when I found out how many kanji there are.
posted by kevspace at 11:01 PM on May 12, 2003


I think that anyone who subscribes to the "videogames are not art"-viewpoint should try making one.

I'm not sure I follow. Are you implying that making a game would prove to someone that the claim is wrong? Or right?

I subscribe to the notion, and I have made games. Granted, they were obviously simplistic -- a web game here and there, and some really basic PC stuff in high school -- nothing comparable to the modern commercial release, but they were functional games. (whether they were good is another story.) With that "experience" I'm much more inclined to look at it as an art-form.


And I agree with you fully, psychokick. It's why gritty first-person shooters and games like GTA3 are very Western, and why whimsy and fun is generally regarded as *gag* "kiddie." All insecurity. As though playing a game like "The Wind Waker" somehow discredits one's maturity or threatens one's macho guyness.
posted by mkn at 12:57 AM on May 13, 2003


One example of games becoming mainstream: GTA: Vice City has been nominated for the UK's Designer of the Year award. You can vote if you like.
posted by biffa at 3:05 AM on May 13, 2003


"The Last Express" for that you're-there feeling and historical intrigue. (Why no sequel, WHY???)

"Grim Fandango" for beautiful visuals, great sense of humor and characters you care for.

Deus Ex for the promise that it made about how interactive games are about to become.

Squad-based shooters like Rainbow Six for the community and teamwork that it encourages.

It's a vibrant, social medium which is growing increasingly sophisticated in its storytelling capabilities... It's a good time to be a gamer. It is also true that the barriers to entry are high, and that there is an extraordinary amount of drek out there...
posted by kahboom at 7:12 AM on May 13, 2003


A computer program can be anything. Sometimes it resembles a game. Sometimes it's like a movie, comic book, amusement ride for the eyes, or any number of things. The question is what parts are not art and your answer says more about you than the huge number of programs thrown together and called "games."
posted by john at 3:08 PM on May 16, 2003


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