I would like to say I’ve been thinking a lot about games lately, but that would be a lie. However, it would not be wholly untrue to say that when I do think about games, one could say that, from a relativistic perspective, I have been thinking A LOT about the current Hats project.
I’ve also been thinking (relativistically) a lot about the kind of games I want to make. That is to say, the kind of games I would want to make in an ideal world. I think that of all the games I could be making right now, the current Hats project is the one that I would most like to work on. But I also think that even within the Hats coterie, we’re all looking at the project from different perspectives. And the thing that I like most about liberal arts disciplines (I count game DESIGN among the arts: literature, film, design, etc, etc. (though that may seem contradictory in short order)) is that answers are only right in so far as a plurality of your peers agrees with your point-of-view. SO! I guess what I’m saying is that us Hats might disagree about WHAT we’re making, and WHY it’s a good idea, but it’s all gravy, because we’re making a game, which is ultimately about the experience YOU have with our conconction.
But I digress. I started this post with the intention of responding to (or building upon?) Mike’s post from nearly a month ago. I read it (for the first time in it’s entirety, sorry Mike) and was reminded of a lecture I attended at GDC back in May. The lecture was entitled “An Apology For Robert Ebert”, and was presented and written by Brian Moriarty. Please find a transcript of the speech at the speaker’s site below. I encourage you, gentle reader, to read through, top to bottom, and if you like what you read, to give the author due accolades as seem appropriate. Addtionally, I would like to apologize for any misinterpretations I make with regards to the author’s intent. Offended parties may contact me (or the Hats) to see wrongs righted (via tarring and feathering).
If I may humbly attempt to summarize thesis of the speech, I would do so as follows — no game yet has been art (art as in Art), and furthermore, the very core which constitutes a “game” (meaningful choices directed at a goal) is in direct conflict with what constitutes art in the classical sense. Finally, we are reminded that games do not have to be art. There can be value to a game, even if it fails to be art.
It’s not that games will NEVER be art; only that no game YET has been Art.
I am inclined to agree with this outlook.
I am by no means a connoisseur of art, but I think the term has been diluted by overuse. We use the term artist to refer to anyone who works in a creative medium, and we refer to books, paintings, music, and architecture — the result of an artist’s labor — as art. But where do we draw the line? Most of the music I listen to I would never consider art. Most of the books I read I would not consider art. “Art” is a title which should be reserved for the most universally thought-provoking and soul-stirring human endeavors.
Who are we to demand recognition that so few before us have truly earned?
What people REALLY mean when they say they want a video game to be recognized as art is that they want video games to be legitimized. But I agree with Moriarty; games can be a valuable use of my time! Even further, games can be life changing! Many people don’t understand how video games can be a useful investment of time, because you can’t understand what there is to be gained as an outside observer. Playing a game is an interactive, give and take experience, and each and every person that plays a game is going to walk away with a different experience.
This is at the core of what gets me excited about the next Hats project. What we’re working on is a tool with which you, the player, will CREATE substance. Our job is going to be to facilitate the player’s imagination, and to foster an open, sharing community. That excites me. We’re not just pushing your next gameplay fix. I don’t want to be an enabler, but I do want to enable you, the player. We’re not going to sell you on a canned experience. I don’t want to give you a toy puzzle to solve. I want you to decide what’s important, and I want you to decide how to celebrate and enjoy what you create.