Last week, like many of you I’m sure, I finished Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us.
I stared at the screen, unable to really comprehend what I had experienced. It felt like a little piece of me wasn’t going to be the same again. I had just completed a game that had blown my socks off. It scared me witless, made me laugh, and – I’m not afraid to admit it – I damn near cried. This was virtuoso storytelling. I had witnessed Art at its best. I was challenged and forced to think about issues and the definition of humanity that would otherwise have slipped my mind into the ether and I had fun while doing so.
It was damn good, is what I’m trying to say here. But it got me thinking on just how sophisticated these pixels and physics engines have become, and how in future generations will maybe look back on some of our videogames that way they look back on the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ or the Art Deco movement. We’re pretty damn lucky.
4. Video Games As Art
The whole argument circled on the idea of ‘video games as art’ has been redundant since before video games were even a thing. Anyone that tries to claim that video games are not Art have no more right to claim that a painting is superior to a photograph. Art is a very flimsy definition to try a clasp hold of, at least I believe.
Video games can be Art, some may not be – just as some books, films, music, sculpture are considered artful, many more are not. The debate is like a cheese fart: a pile of hot air that makes a big stink when it happens…hence the phrase Arty Farty. But games are still seen as a bit aloof, wasteful and weird in modern popular culture, even despite the massive boom in casual gaming. But, I believe one artful aspect that many games are rapidly refining is storytelling. Mainstream developers are no longer afraid of producing titles that challenge and push their audience.
Of course, wonderful movies like this will always be produced, but modern ‘arty films’ don’t seem to puncture modern pop culture sensibility in the same way as similar films from the forties through to the nineties. I believe that games, along with television, are picking up this mantle that film’s once held. So, here are further reasons why I think video games are as worthy a cultural pastime as modern popular cinema:
Storytelling in games have been making leaps and bounds with various titles over the past 20 years. As great as it is, we’ve come a long way from Super Mario Brothers. From the stunning Cormac McCarthy inspired and emotionally draining The Last of Us - to time hopping adventurous antics in Chrono Trigger - beautiful landscapes in Okami - epic and tragic tales in Red Dead Redemption and, my favourite in the series - The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask - to minimalist narratives in Shadow of the Colossus and Journey.
Games – along with television – are edging out films as the most sophisticated modern form of visual storytelling. However, as with every genuinely intriguing story and character driven game or film, there are many bigger budget, dumbass titles soaking up money and attention. But that’s ok. There is plenty of room for both. But at least entertaining, big budget, dumbass Call of Duty has something going for it when compared to a similar genre film.
Tags: metal gear solid, red dead redemption, the last of us, the legend of zelda, video games