KJ (owlmoose) wrote,

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More on the Ebert vs. games battle royale

Check out this interview with Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives, a new book about video games and their significance as art and culture. Some interesting thoughts particularly on games as a story-telling medium.

Also, I direct you to a really brilliant essay (in two parts; the second part is here) about games as art by B. Kite. Kite brings up the common comparison of games and film and questions whether that's the right metaphor, in particular the quest for the often-mentioned "Citizen Kane of video games"; looks at the politics of SimCity and "Spore"; discusses the potential of
games to illuminate the world around us, a key function of art; and plays with the question of interactivity in all kinds of media:

I’d go so far as to say that all artwork is interactive and involves a kind of play for both the maker and the receptive audience.

Yes. I love this.

And then we come to the Roger Ebert debate. Kite deftly dismantles many of Ebert's arguments and examples; I recommend reading the entire essay, but this is my favorite part:

The fundamental problem with Ebert’s argument lies in his apparent assumption that games either are or want to be a fundamentally narrative medium. In fact, games can do interesting things with narrative, some of which involve player choice and some of which don’t. [...] But I think it’s a mistake to consider games as essentially story-driven in nature. Part of the reason games are so often thought of in this light is undoubtedly due to a hype contingent among both developers and the press that takes any opportunity to tout some coming together of film and games—“interactive movies”—as the inevitable future of both media.

Video games have points of contact with narrative film and literature, just as they do with experimental film, dance, and architecture. Like movies, they’re a bastard medium, and they may be better off embracing this inner bastard rather than tying their future to any single precursor.

It's a thought-provoking idea, that games shouldn't try so hard to be like movies. Games have their own strengths, and designers should be playing to those strengths. Not that I think games should abandon storytelling -- my favorite games have always been those with strong stories. But tacking a story onto a game that can't really carry one, just for the sake of having one, will often weaken the game as a game.

Anyway, it's an excellent article, full of ideas and very readable, and I highly recommend it.

Finally, was Ebert's dismissal of games the best thing that could have happened to the gaming industry? Discuss.

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Tags: movies, the media, videogames

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