Friday, April 24, 2015

Addendum: Interaction and Art

     In my previous post, I kind of glossed over my rationale for the artistry of games. It wasn't really the point of the post, or something I care to argue about - I was instead attempting to explore an example that confuses the interpretation of that artistry rather splendidly. After it came up in the comments section, however, I feel that omitting an explanation of my own was a mistake. This began as a reply, but got long enough that I opted to give it a post of its own rather than split it into several nested comments. Also, fair warning: wall of text ahead.

Monday, April 20, 2015

You Gain Brouzouf: Interaction Literacy and E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy

     Video games, if you weren't aware, get kind of a bad rap among the other art forms. In one of the more famous (infamous?) defamations in the last half decade, the late Roger Ebert railed on the medium as a whole, opening with the line, "Video Games Can Never be Art".[1] This, and the many criticisms like it, led me to adopt an interesting defense; anytime someone questioned games' artistic potential, I'd replace "video game" with "book" and see if the logic behind the argument still held up (outside of Ebert's own piece, this rarely happened).

     That idea eventually matured into something I call "interaction literacy", the notion that most non-gamers don't know how to "read" games and hence don't understand them, just as a language illiterate person would be unable to fully comprehend books. This idea, as it turns out, is not one that only I hold. In an RPS interview with Charlie Brooker, he expressed the idea rather eloquently, so I'll just link it (note: strong language, most relevant part towards the bottom) rather than give you an arduous, long-winded explanation myself. (EDIT: I lied, I wrote one after all) The point is: a lot of people don't really "get" video games - as in, they don't actually have the necessary training and experience to understand them.

     All this to say, much of the populace find games weird, and this explanation helped me understand how. Video games are an interactive medium, and more importantly an interactive art - they only show you their best when you're in the actual act of interacting with them, of playing them. Without that understanding, they devolve into a mere curiosity, a banal mess of game mechanics and art assets and sounds and programming; some putrid undead creature, its form a pale reflection of the chunks of rotting flesh that compose it.

     Let me tell you: I get it. I totally get it, and it's all thanks to one game. One weird, weird, French, independent cyberpunk-dystopian-grimdark first-person-shooter-RPG-action game. Allow me to introduce you to the bizarre, eldritch existence that is E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy.