|At last, breaking through to the point.|
You might have been wondering why I looked at video games chronologically, since I didn't really talk about technological advancement. The reason I did that is because I feel that those three periods of time - 1947 to the 1970's, the 1980's, and the 1990's to today - nicely sum up the different kinds of video games that are made. There are video games that are made to just be games, mere "electronic entertainment," like most video games before the 80's. Think Angry Birds and the like. Then, there are video games that are a unique art form, games that communicate narratives as only interactive media can - a potential first unlocked, if not always realized, in the 80's. And finally, there are video games that tell their stories through more traditional means like text, dialogue, and visuals. These are the three classifications I've come up with for video games, and while there are certainly plenty of other ways to classify them, I feel that this way works best as an example.
See, this way of viewing video games explains a lot about them, because all three of these game types are still being made today. There are games like the aforementioned Angry Birds, or more serious, story-based ones like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and every so often there are even games like Fallout (the original, mind you), where the way you interact with the game creates an experience on a whole other level. To complicate matters, these game types are often and even usually combined. The BIT.trip series, for example, almost exclusively has entertainment and interactivity as its tools. Each game is built around a game mechanic (an entertainment method), or a number of mechanics, and then uses those mechanics in a way that communicates a narrative (exceedingly well, I might add - especially when you look at the series as a whole). Games like Fire Emblem for the GBA, on the other hand, have used mechanics and a very traditionally told kind of story to create one of the best TBS games to bless gamers in decades. It tells it's story through excellent use of cutscenes (which contain very little actual motion - they aren't cinematic cutscenes) and, by extension, dialogue, along with well placed narration and sound effects, all the while remaining fun at it's core. And finally, a good example of a games that uses mainly traditional storytelling in conjunction with interactivity is Gemini Rue. Now, the mechanics of the game itself are nothing to scoff at, but it's not really fun to just actuate the mechanics. The actual entertainment comes from advancing the story and experiencing the game, not from solving the puzzles. There are also certainly games that combine all three, like Deus Ex or perhaps even the previously mentioned Wing Commander IV (though I can't attest to this personally, as I have yet to play it). In truth, most games probably combine the three, at least to a certain extent (though obviously I feel most games focus on one, primarily).
|Fallout is art, period.|
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all video games are "art." Far from it, I would even go so far as to say that the majority of video games are stupid, ill-conceived messes. Just like all the lousy movies that come out every year, just like all those poorly written dime novels, just like all the terrible music people feel the need to blast at outrageous volumes, and just like all the terrible anime shows that come out every season, there are plenty of terrible games. But that doesn't change their potential, and that's really what we're talking about. There are video games to entertain, yes, but also video games to involve and to communicate. They aren't all art, but they certainly can to be. And, more to the point, they can be art like literally nothing else can. A far cry from mere products made to make money off target demographics, wouldn't you say?
That's all for this post series. Whether you found it enlightening, interesting, silly, or whatever else, I hope you had a good time. Thank you for reading.