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RobertoOrtiz
12-06-2005, 05:42 AM
Roberto's Commet:
I like Roger Ebert a lot, so before you get the axes, read what he has to say...

Quote:
"Yours is the most civil of countless messages I have received after writing that I did indeed consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature. There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers."

His comments: (3rd question)
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=ANSWERMAN



Next Gen commets:
Quote:
"Earlier this week, film critic Roger Ebert created a small stir in the videogaming community. This minor tussle has actually been brewing for a weeks; it seemed to swirl into form first in his review of the movie Doom, and it progressed further in a following letters column on his site. It wasn’t until this week’s letters column, however, that he finally gave his opinion some actual body, contending that video games are an "inherently inferior" storytelling medium. He writes, "There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control."
Most of the talkback comments on these reports discounted Ebert as an old codger who was making uninformed comments about fields in which he had no expertise. Others overestimated the literary qualities of certain text-heavy RPGs or pointed to elegant, subtle, artful games that had neither the capacity nor the desire to tell stories . And Ebert has even stated that he accepts the medium as capable of such brilliance.
But Ebert cannot be discounted, because, while he may not be the foremost authority on videogames, he knows a great deal about storytelling. He’s not even completely ignorant on the subject of gaming; in fact, Roger Ebert is credited with at least one game review, a piece on the obscure Cosmology of Kyoto published in Wired in 1995. He reviewed it positively – he said it was wonderful."


http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1784&Itemid=2

-R

opus13
12-06-2005, 05:55 AM
i must say that i agree with ebert. the man sure knows his stuff when it comes to media and communication. games can be quite entertaining, but they lack the ability to involve deep analysis. theres just not much room for social critique and commentary in games as we know them today. perhaps when they become able to portray more depth (alternate reality gone immersive maybe?), but until then we a going to be racing/fps/rpg pokers.

rebo
12-06-2005, 06:54 AM
Guess he's never played Final Fantasy VII.

Bonedaddy
12-06-2005, 07:00 AM
Well, I think that games are more of a sandbox than anything. It's a dialogue back and forth between designer and consumer on the actual text of a game. Even the most linear game can be cracked, hacked, and broken. I think games, in some way, are symptons of a rejection of narrative authority, a sign of generaly uprising in methods of consumption. That's where the interesting stuff is, not within the walls of the game, but outside of it.

Gaming culture, as with the internet, is like a river, rerouting around ineffective or broken strategies and nodes and forging its own way to play the game. It's like taking a movie and redoing the ending until you like it.

No, it's not an authorial artform, and much of narrative theory does not apply. I think that's where the problem lies. It's apples and oranges.

Swizzle
12-06-2005, 07:13 AM
I have to admit that I agree with Ebert, in a way. Video games are one of those rare mediums that comes along every so often just like books and movies. I don't think they're on par with even some of the most mediocre books or movies yet, though I think that at some later point (some) video games or their successors are going to achieve the same status as literature and film. You've got to have cave paintings before you can have the Sistine Chapel.

Stahlberg
12-06-2005, 07:20 AM
Guess he's never played Final Fantasy VII.

You seriously believe it can compete in the same class with masterpieces of cinema and literature? :)

seven6ty
12-06-2005, 07:22 AM
...It's true.

swardson
12-06-2005, 07:34 AM
I agree with Ebert on this,

imo, trying to compare the content of a video game to that of a masterpiece painting, film, poem or play etc. is like trying to compare apples to oranges. Sure they both are often created for entertainment and pleasure to the viewer, but they are playing off of completely different emotions, wants and needs. Even the best storyline games still to me have the same beginning story, task 1, task 2, task 3, ending story timeline as the original mario brothers or even tetris for that matter.

Just because there is more dialogue and character development doesnt change the fact that the game player decides how the story goes and what emotional fluctuations happen while playing.

Think of a game like myst. A player who has a hard time with the puzzles will get more pride and excitement out of the game play when they solve one than someone who breezingly goes through each puzzle without any trouble at all.

The same thing can be described with a film like Citizen Kane: while 1 viewer might have to watch the movie numerous times to catch all the subtle nuances and clues within and another catch them all at once. Each viewer can still appreciate the film as a masterpiece of art because it was the artists intention for that outcome.

The problem with games in this sense is that the artist ultimately has no control over the emotions of the gamer, while in other art forms it is more apparent.

Artistry comes from intentionality.

just my 2 cents.

-Brad

SalmonGod
12-06-2005, 07:43 AM
I agree and I dont. I think that video games have greater potential for storytelling than film or literature, but it is a more difficult form to master. Above all you really have to know your audience.

In the classical forms you are free to brute force the audience through a story. Things will happen a certain way whether they like it or not. Often some will and some wont. There's alot of freedom there.

In games you have to lead the audience through the story. You have to know what will motivate them to make certain choices, or you have to know how to construct their environment such that their choices are limited without making them feel limited. It's difficult to tell a deep and involving story in this manner. You need a firm goal but a subtle hand, and if it's accomplished the audience is left with a much more personal experience than if they had just sat down to watch or read the same story.

The benefits of mastering storytelling through games are just awesome, and I think we have only seen the beginning. Any serious tabletop roleplayer will know the feeling.

I can think of a couple movies and books that I've seen/read that easily tower over my favorite story-based games. But then again my favorite story-based games easily compete with all but those few movies/books. And while I believe the movies were stronger examples of storytelling, I cant help but feel that great games still leave a bigger impression on me.

I can talk for a good long while about Princess Mononoke or LotR (the BOOKS damn you Peter Jackson!)... but when I'm given an opportunity to talk about one of my tabletop roleplay characters or about my favorite FPS moments or about Xenosaga or Final Fantasy 6 (FF7 is overrated)... get me talking about one of those and my god you cant stop me!!!... because at that point it becomes MY story... I was there, I did these things, and it was a personal experience completely unique to me... on TOP of being the story that the original author wanted to communicate to me

to me that's just magical... and it's something that film or literature will never be able to accomplish... the difference between "hey that guy wrote a good story" or "wow I really enjoyed being a part of that story"

JDex
12-06-2005, 07:58 AM
I agree with Mr. Critic... but I believe that Video Games and interactive media are at a point about where film was in the mid-30s and where literature was in 2000BC... someday, likely long after Mr. Ebert and all of us are pushing up daisies or blowing in the wind, this medium may even surpass cinema and literature in it's artistic and human value.

Until then... anyone wanna blow something up?

Stahlberg
12-06-2005, 08:40 AM
Princess Mononoke or LotR
Hm, good examples but they hardly rank among the 100 or even 200 best films of all time... Personally I love them, but you should compare with other works first...
Take the Vatican's list of best movies that was recently featured here in News for instance. Or Google to see what film critics and literary critics pick as the best.

I really believe an interactive experience simply can't give us the same POTENTIAL high as these works of genius. Either the player has more freedom, and will instantly start screwing up and stumbling around and doing exactly what he's not supposed to be doing, or he has less freedom, and is led through the story like in a traditional film or book. There are only the 2 options, no third.

Chris-TC
12-06-2005, 08:52 AM
I absolutely agree with Mr. Ebert. Video games can be very entertaining but I certainly don't consider them as a form of art.

Actually, I'll never understand why movie adaptations of video games are made. They just don't work. And this is not only because Uwe Boll is a horrible film maker - I don't see how a movie versions of a game could ever be anything but mediocre at best.

The other day I read on a forum a thread titled "what would you like to see turned into a movie". There were answers like Monkey Island and Diablo. Yes, they are cool games but how would a movie version of those games look like? I mean, what kind of a storyline does Diablo have? You'd have to cast someone like Vin Diesel and have him go down into dungeons to fight creatures for 85 minutes. That's it. Great movie.
And a film version of Monkey Island would turn out to be just plain stupid. The humor works for comic-style characters in the games but a movie would be ridiculous.

The only game genre that really tells stories is that of the RPG. Adventure games also tell interesting stories but since they're about solving puzzles and combining objects the stories are very dependant of the player's progress and hardly go deep enough to support a movie.

But even role playing games don't really tell that deep of stories once you take the game playing aspect away. If you take out the fighting of monsters, the running endlessly around in huge worlds, the selling and buying stuff, the armoring your characters etc. you're usually not left with a lot.
The problem here is that just like in adventure games the story progresses as you visit certain characters or places. The story lines often consist of "go here, meet that guy" - "go there, kill this creature". This is not what I want to see in a movie.

slaughters
12-06-2005, 12:11 PM
Games are an interactive art form. Movies, books, etc. are a dictorial art form.

One changes according to the audience. The other is static and is dictated to you by some outside authority.

It's very easy to crtique static unchanging mediums. Their nature makes it easier to analyze and and study them. The only change is in the viewer. The viewers perspecitve may change over time but the meduium can't.

Interactive art forms are very hard to crtique. Because they have so many possibilities some of those possibilities result in horrible experiences while others in wonderful. A critique of "Sometimes it's good and Sometimes it's bad" will always be brought down to the lowest common denominator.

Remember, it's still early in the history of gaming. We are at the level of the first black and whiite "talky" films. Very very few of the films from the 20's and 30's would be called masterpieces. Very very few of todays games will be called it either, but just you wait and see what the next 10 to 15 years bring!

Lunatique
12-06-2005, 12:23 PM
I couldn't agree more with Ebert. In fact, I was going to write a Soapbox article for Gamasutra stating the exact same thing, and they said they really liked my background, except that they already have recent articles talking about similar topics (how to make games more mature/sophisticated).

Anyone who can't see the truth in what Ebert said is probably too young or unexposed to the world of serious cinema and literature. There isn't a single piece of work in game history that could be compared to the towering giants in the history of cinema and literature--not one. However, I don't think games has ever tried to live up to that standard--it's always been a medium about escapism and entertainment--not profound manisfestations of one's intellectual and emotional expression.

Slurry
12-06-2005, 12:34 PM
I think it is just as laughable to compare movies with masterpieces from DaVinci, Mozart, Michelangelo, etc
I understand what he is trying to say but I think its a very short-sighted statement.
Games are made to be intereactive. In a way, that makes them superior to film and literary works. Games literally engage the audience and invite them to interact. Films and books attempt to engage the viewr on an intellectual and emotional level but cannot (yet) involve the audience's cognitive ability to interact.
Ebert CHOOSES to lump cinema alongside established fine art mediums such as music, painting, sculpture but who says it belongs there?
I'm not saying it doesn't deserve to be there but it is a relatively new medium compared to those others and Ebert chooses to validate its worth because it is a medium he loves and makes his living from, thereby also validating his worth.
Take his opinion with a large lump of salt. I never thought he was much of a critic either. Some of the films he endorsed....yeesh!
Games used to be only about interaction. Then in the last decade or so, story became just as important. Now character perfomances are also a key element. The medium of video games is still evolving.
Secondly, with video games being such a yound medium, has anybody actually TRIED to create a game that could be considered fine art?
I doubt it.
It's probably not profitable and games are as much a business as they are entertainment or art.
I think if a group of people set out to make a game that is also "art" it could be done and potentially rival any cinematic masterpiece.
After all, it is the person (or people) that make and define art. Not the medium itself.

I think it's funny, or should I say ironic, that leaders in the industry of film, which Ebert so adores, believe that games are a huge link in the evolution of that medium.

Wow. I guess I had more to say than I iitially thought. Soryy for the long post.

Art ;)

colintheys
12-06-2005, 12:48 PM
Give 'em time. I can't hardly think of any medium that has been proclaimed 'inferior' (including cinema when it was new) that didn't later mature into its own as an art. Video games are still very new. Think of all the stuff people said about film in 1910. It certainly wasn't accepted as an art. And 1910 is about as far into the history of film as we are today into the history of video games.

rebo
12-06-2005, 12:49 PM
I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art.

I dont think that Final Fantasy VII compares to citizen kane , cinema Paradiso , la haine or one flew over the cuckoos next ( 4 of my favorite films) however its disinenuous to say that it is only subtle sophisticated, challanging and visually wonderful. Moreover its simply wrong to say that a game cannot become art.

If you take the argument "well no game has matched the masterpieces of cinema yet" and imply from that that "no game will ever match cinematic art" well you are simply wrong. 99.95% of films are not masterpieces but some can still be called art.

Final Fantasy VII's story, plot, character development and emotional impact is better than at least 3 of the top 20 imdb rated films (ofc popularist). So how about stop thinking Cinema is so high and mighty and other mediums will never be able to attain some special 'art' status of films. Noone is suggesting games in general are as good artisticly as films in general at the moment but the critic is suggesting that any particular game never can be.

1. 9.0 The Godfather (1972) 144,146
2. 9.0 The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 174,466
3. 8.9 The Godfather: Part II (1974) 82,802
4. 8.9 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 128,216
5. 8.8 Schindler's List (1993) 110,311
6. 8.7 Shichinin no samurai (1954) 38,256
7. 8.7 Casablanca (1942) 74,424
8. 8.7 Star Wars (1977) 154,119
9. 8.7 Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 120,210
10. 8.7 Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966) 37,678
11. 8.7 Pulp Fiction (1994) 154,024
12. 8.7 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 79,360
13. 8.7 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 177,424
14. 8.7 Rear Window (1954) 46,625
15. 8.6 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) 134,039
16. 8.6 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 71,728
17. 8.6 Citizen Kane (1941) 68,238
18. 8.6 The Usual Suspects (1995) 116,711
19. 8.6 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 104,571
20. 8.6 Cidade de Deus (2002)

The point is you cannot judge "games" as one entity, nor can you judge "movies" as one entity. Fair enough you can point out some of the particular aspects of the medium and state the challanges artists face when dealing with them but you can point out other issues with film. For instance reliance on special effects and blockbuster action to distract from a shoddy script or deus ex machina plot devices. 95% of both mediums are crap.

PhilOsirus
12-06-2005, 12:56 PM
Ridiculous. Metal Gear Solid 3 had a story that far surpassed that of various other movies. The emotional impact is much greater than various movies, especially toward the end before fighting the last "boss". You can't quite realize this until you actually play the game, and unless you have been a gamer for some time.

Considering all the crappy movies out there, it's a bit blind to put all games in the same bag.

mv
12-06-2005, 01:28 PM
I agree that as a pure storytelling medium, games are inherently less powerful, but that's quite logical, as in games you are an actor and not a passive watcher. It's like beeing able to interact with actors during a theater play, it would cut the flow and vision of the writer/actors etc.

But doesn't it open more possibilities on another level? when IA will be developped enough, being able to interact, converse with virtual entities to whom the "video game director" will have put precise personalities, emotional characterisics, psychology, and a real depth; wouldn't that be interresting?

Also, ultimately, the "video games" medium (real time virtual interaction would be a better term) is not bound to always place players on that "actor" level, it can be a medium used by a lot of artists to perform together, at the same time, on a same "piece of art", and people can just sit and watch those performances, passively, like you would watch a movie or a theater play, or listen to a concert.

The potential in what we currently call "video games" is unpredictable, it is becoming a form of art on its own, it just has to find its own way. Let's not forget how young the medium is, and how it has been created mostly by technical geeks, aimed at a teenage audience.

At the moment, the gaming interface, the creative process, the industry, all are turned towards pure entertainment... so it's quite logical "video games" don't try themselves at more experimental ways of communicating emotion and everything that can define "art", especially given the cost of developping a game.

But I'm sure that sooner or later, when the technology will be able to pull out a totally realistic "virtual reality", there will be no more crazy competition to best graphics and best visual effects, and finally there will be a free "virtual space" that artists of all kind will be able to use as their canvas and express themselves in ways yet unimaginable.

MuseSyndrome
12-06-2005, 01:33 PM
Why does player interaction result in the lack of authorial control? I believe that the "author" of a game can limit the players' decisions and write multiple storylines following their choices. It's certainly a huge undertaking - predicting choices the player may want to make, blocking off unwanted choices and writing coherent branching/interweaving stories - but I don't see why it can't be done.

Given that this is a possibility, wouldn't this make games a "better" medium than films, novels, etc.? In other media, the "viewer" has never really participated in the way games allow one to. For example in films, you, as the viewer, can't prevent a character from getting killed. The nature of games, however, makes that possible. The player can intervene as the game allows and have an impact on how the story unfolds, and yet, the author still has the power to make certain events inevitable, events that are clear to the player which are simply out of his/her control.

I certainly agree with Ebert on one point: a game that can match the "greats" in other media isn't out there right now, but I know of a game that came close: Planescape.

Apoclypse
12-06-2005, 01:55 PM
FFVII certaintly doesn't compare to citizen kane or cinema paradisio. BUt it has equivalents to older films where all the stories were the same and here comes one out of left feild with something different. It had technical prowess kind of like a movie which just employed a new special effect, cludgy but never before seen. To deny FFVII from any greatest agmes list is an afront to how revolutionary it was.

My whole thing is why should games be pegged in the same way as books or cinema. They are there own medium, where and by the demands are far greater. Without the ability to lead audiences all the time (try doing that in a game and they'll accuse you of using "rails"), telling a story is much more difficult. The fact that FFVII and the square games have a coherent story that spans 70 hrs. is a great achievement. You do feel something for these characters, but not feels the same thing because there are just too many variables to contend with in a game, specifically an RPG.

Games have aonly really became "serious" in the last ten years. Before, games had little story because the technology wasn't able to handle anything else. It's like a silent movie with the cue cards, there was no sound but there was still a semblance of a story, but they were simple. Games are still learning to walk. Look how long it took before comic books started to actually be more than entertainment ( Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller) the same process will happen in the gam industry, once people realize that games don't have to all be the same, or have to have the same stories or even gameplay. The real problem is that someone (except maybe square to a lesser extent) hasn't realized that games can be art. The problem is that now that games cost so much to make you will find that in terms of story most game companies will go for the middle of the road to get the most out of their dollar. When commercial interests are removed from the medium as its only source of inspiration then we will see art.

But I still believe that a perfect game like tetris can be considered in their own right, it is a prefect game that anyone can play and enjoy, that is art.

Stahlberg
12-06-2005, 02:33 PM
Please let us NOT start discussing what is and isn't art. That never ends well. In fact it never ends full stop.
The issue here is comparing interactive media to non-interactive media.


Metal Gear Solid 3 had a story that far surpassed that of various other movies.
The comparison wasn't between your average game and your average movie or book, but the best games compared to the best movies and books. MGS3 is better than for instance Citizen Kane or Casablanca? Okay... :)

Why does player interaction result in the lack of authorial control? I believe that the "author" of a game can limit the players' decisions and write multiple storylines following their choices. It's certainly a huge undertaking - predicting choices the player may want to make, blocking off unwanted choices and writing coherent branching/interweaving stories - but I don't see why it can't be done.
Indeed it is a huge undertaking. In fact, it's so ginormous it must be considered impossible. Instead of simply producing one Casablanca and one Citizen Kane, you have to do both - plus perhaps A Clockwork Orange, Gone With The Wind and Metropolis (depends how many storylines you want). Because if even one of the potential storylines fail, there you are again - a game not quite as good as the best of movies.

But how do you cram so many great plotlines into one single setup? All those movies I mentioned all have different setups. Seems impossible right?

Or look at it from the opposite direction - take Citizen Kane, see if you can think of a way to make that an interactive story. See how many other alternative storylines you could put in there, that compare favorably to the original at all. Probably none, right? So you'd get one great storyline, and a bunch of boring crap storylines.

DieByTheSword
12-06-2005, 02:48 PM
Video games (machine involved) could pull some very strong feelings
on the person playing.. everyone sure has stories of playing with
headphones in the dark ;) .. your heart can reach high bpm easy on
certain games.. Doom 3?

In same place, a book can really REALLY scare the living crap out of
you.. King´s 'IT' anyone? I mean you fell disgusted and anxious,
and you get the cold shivers down your spine.. you see things from
inside and that´s where nasty horror is in..

Games are real hard to do.. if the focus of the game is more 'text-
based' then critics will compare them with literature, which is not
multi-way like most games are, hence you need to have excell A+ stories
in all your character paths..

if game companies try to do some 'cinema-like' experiences (Medal of
honour is a example) then the comparison is even more cruel. How much
u wanna trade interactivity in exchange for originality and 'evocative'
passages? How many time u think the players will hold NOT playing and
observing?

As far as the apples and oranges comparison goes, IMHO games will
always share the same importance for me as books and movies..


Live actiopn RPG´s on the other hand.... but thats another thread ;)

dbclemons
12-06-2005, 02:51 PM
I can agree with the validity of all the points raised so far, especially Colin's statement about "give 'em time," but I don't think games will be more like films in the future, or hope not. Early films were just recorded stage theatre and sucked because of that limitation, just like most games that are film spin-offs suck. It doesn't seem reasonable to me to even try to compare videogames to other art forms. I don't compare paintings to films, or music to books. Potentially, games offer more than films ever will in terms of the interaction; it's a passive-reactive difference. I think games fail when they try to become narrative, and work better as a set piece in which to play. Give me a bat and a ball not "The Natural," let me be Spiderman not watch Tobey Maguire. Also, in terms of storytelling, films are far inferior to books.

-DBC

jeremybirn
12-06-2005, 02:57 PM
But Ebert cannot be discounted, because, while he may not be the foremost authority on videogames, he knows a great deal about storytelling. He’s not even completely ignorant on the subject of gaming; in fact, Roger Ebert is credited with at least one game review, a piece on the obscure Cosmology of Kyoto published in Wired in 1995. He reviewed it positively – he said it was wonderful."

No matter how knowledgeable he may be about videogames, as a movie reviewer I think he's clueless. Reading a movie review from him you often get the impression he didn't even see the same movie, or didn't "get it" on fundamental levels.

-jeremy

Knotter8
12-06-2005, 03:15 PM
I completely disagree with Mr Ebert. True, there are yet not that many games which would qualify as art but i do believe there are already some which do indeed.

With the upcoming next gen of gaming the tides of media and associated critics are polarising again, I wouldn't have expected otherwise ; Mr Ebert's statements are the first examples of such tidal events.

Once again he indeed tries to measure 'games' artistic value or pretence by base structures
and hierarchies of film and existing media. Apples to Oranges.

Games take elements from all those pre existing media, put it in a blender and integrate it into a system called 'gameplay'.

Gameplay exists already from early mankind ; it evolved from survival/hunting exercise to strategic field battle exercises to boardgames to electronic games into videogames.

What they are ; an iconic system ; a set of rules and icons/signs which can operate randomnly with deciding outside factors like 'skill', 'strategic insight', 'timing' and 'intuition'.

Combined with narrative content, a gameplay system and it's icons can give connotation, deeper insight and meaning to such a system of icons and elements.
Games are very much like the grammatic analysis of Language.

I suggest you read Ferdinand de Saussure about Semiotics ; language is like games a system with icons and signs, simple letters, by society agreement upon that system ; that is the basis for words which can connotate to meaning.

WORD It is formed by the letters W O R and D. By itself they mean not much. But in our system of language we know that we agreed that it's the litteral meaning for 'word'.

When I say ; "Dude, you have my word on it" . ; The 2nd level connotation is that this dude has my guarantee on something.

Modern narrative driven videogames ARE just like that. They resemble books more so than they do films.

It's been a while but I majored media /film class in artsacademy and i graduated on the topic Videogames. I suggest you guys go read Semiotic & Semantic theory by F. De Saussure and also books like Trigger Happy 'The inner Life of Videogames' by Steven Poole. http://www.erraticimpact.com/~20thcentury/html/structuralism.htm (http://www.erraticimpact.com/%7E20thcentury/html/structuralism.htm)

Then you will see that games should be judged on their own merits and once you recognize and acknowledge 'gameplay' as a rightfull 'media grammar' then you will see why Mr Ebert is wrong with his apples to oranges statements on films - videogames.

Let me show you some examples of parts of videogames which imo already have surpassed many films ;

- Silent Hill 2 ; in many ways this game brings narrative connotation to new heights. Remember how the Hays Office in Hollywood for example et many restrictions to content ?

Kingsized double beds were prohibited becuz, according to them, it hinted towards sex outside of marriage in certain script circumstances.
Well, now, Silent Hill 2 presents to the player this interactive world with icons and signs with which the player can interact in various ways or not at all ; In the Heavens Night lounge scene, protagonist James can see a stage. The player can see it and leave it for what it is .. or he can press x and see what James thinks of it. SPOILER.

James says something like (I don't remember the EXACT lines) ;

"Just a regular stage. There is nothing strange about it."

Ok, even if this sentence means nothing special , like that stage, on first sight ; it DOES have a deeper meaning, a second level connotation within the context of SH2's story ;

It means that there is a possibility that James had, in pre SH2 story line, visited such lounge bars occassionally outside of his marriage to his wife Mary who had become fatally ill. If The player hadn't interacted with the game asset, the stage, in sucha way, he'd never gotten this subtle narrative. And there are millions of such innovative elements on different levels in SH2.

Remember Ico ? It contains alot of interactive interpretations of the Adam & Eve story. Afterall, it's a boy and a girl trying to find their way back to 'free paradise'. It also contains alot of food for thought about culture ; why a boy with HORNS, in his society should be sacrificed to the 'GODS' for the wellbeing of the society. The castle itself, a massive combination of medieval architecture and 19th century tech, abandoned , but serves as a prison of forgotten and banned souls. Alot of the kinetic puzzles and interaction with Yorda make the player think about tackling those puzzles and thus the philosophy of the society which had made that castle with THAT specific purpose of imprisonment.

Or like Phil said ; the MGS series ; a red line throughout the Snake's story ; "What am i fighting/ living for" and What do I pass on to the future" ? Most of the things you do as a a player, they are the 'alphabet letters' forming that connotation.
Also, try tapping the R2/L2 shoulder buttons of the DS2 pad in MGS2 ; see what Snake / Raiden think of something the player bumped into or in NPC convo.
I'm sure MGS4 will go even further in giving the players' random ingame decisions ; connotations ; actions lead to narrative consequences. I'm sure Mr Kojima will add alot of depth to that.

Like I said ; gameplay systems and their Icons/Signs might seem superficial at first sight in the afforementioned games. But they DO truly elevate narrative connotation to new and other heights in ways no other forms of media have done before.

It's imo really too bad that alot of ppl, including Mr Ebert, fail or neglect to acknowledge games on their own merits. Instead, they have this 'being threatened by the NEW & Unknown' feeling and polarize even more at the advent of next generation games.

There might not be as many brilliant games as there are brilliant movies and books yet, but games have JUST if not more artistic potential. Gameplay and it's grammar of icon/sign connotation is the direction/ editing of games, but 180 degrees opposed to movie direction by nature.

It's about time games get proper / serious media acknowledgement. Really, give books like F. de Saussure, Roland Barthes and Steven Pooles' Trigger Happy a good read , play games like SH2 , Ico and MGS alot , then come back with enlighted opinion.

some more links to Barthes, de Saussure and Poole :

http://orac.sund.ac.uk/~os0tmc/myth.htm (http://orac.sund.ac.uk/%7Eos0tmc/myth.htm)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1559705981/qid=1133886504/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_11_1/202-9512730-4794238
http://www.answers.com/topic/semiotics

MuseSyndrome
12-06-2005, 03:28 PM
Indeed it is a huge undertaking. In fact, it's so ginormous it must be considered impossible. Instead of simply producing one Casablanca and one Citizen Kane, you have to do both - plus perhaps A Clockwork Orange, Gone With The Wind and Metropolis (depends how many storylines you want). Because if even one of the potential storylines fail, there you are again - a game not quite as good as the best of movies.

It's a bit unfair comparing a single thread of a branching storyline to a solid, static story. A game with multiple stories is something one would want to play in different ways (a strength of games over other media), and I believe the sum of the different play-throughs could be equal or exceed the quality of a solid story. Of course, I don't have any games to back this theory up, so I'll concede for now.:)

Lamster
12-06-2005, 03:49 PM
I believe that the comparison between interactive media and non-interactive media in itself is largely a waste of time, it's like comparing which is the better fruit, apple or orange. Both are so different in essence, and the comparable areas are largely affected by personal bias.

It boils down to how the particular medium affected you in the state of mind that you were in while you were experiencing the game or movie. Once personal bias is involved, comparison is futile.

Personally, there have been situations in games like FF6,FF7,FF8, Metal Gear Solid that have struck me harder emotionally or intellectually than ANY film I've seen. I'd take the psycho mantis fight as an example of utter genius in manipulating the audience in the gaming experience, Black screen with Hideo hahaha! I can read your mind! Sweet genius. Anyone remember the glitchy Roy Campbell and Fission Mailed? How about the feeling of worthless emptiness you get while slaughtering the magnificent colossi for a purely selfish endeavour in Shadow of the Colossus? These are all valid intellectually and emotionally satisfying experiences conjured from the gaming medium. However, I'd never consider these valid for comparison against a film at all because they are a totally different experience!

It's like saying Film is the inferior art form compared to music or vice versa. You can never justify it.

Edit: I just realised that I wrote is quite irrelevant since the initial argument is that Videogaming is an inferior STORYTELLING MEDIUM. Oh well so much for my effort. :p.

Hugh-Jass
12-06-2005, 03:55 PM
videogames haven't been around long enough for there to be enough volume of work to compare against literature and film. And only recently have games been actually trying to tell stories beyond earth is being invaded&;you are under missile attack

While there certainly are some epic game designers out there they are few and far between the countless titles that are plotless or given such little time consideration in the dev process in the story department.

personally I think of them as games... with so much of the industry driven by licensed franchise IP... I can't say I hold out much hope of games telling stories of high quality. But i don't look to games for story experience...I look to direct all the mice intothe rocket before the big cat comes and eats them.

Bonedaddy
12-06-2005, 03:58 PM
The problem with authorial control in games is that the audience will do anything -- cheating, hacking, cracking, exploits -- to disrupt it. Movies and games have completely different audiences. Games, for the most part, have an extremely literate and technologically savvy consumer market. The whole industry has sort of evolved around that, into a symbiotic relationship that film doesn't have. This is because of the back-and-forth nature of the game medium.

The various MGSes aren't &*(^ing games. They're movies disguised as games. I once had to sit for an hour pressing the button "X" in MGS2. It's worse than Xenogears/Xenosaga. Good story, but what about that makes it a game? There isn't anything in the story portions that isn't a direct ripoff of cinematic technique. They only have any sort of narrative because they force you into it, and take away your control. And at that point, you really are watching a motion picture, rather than playing a game.

heavyness
12-06-2005, 04:05 PM
i believe art and what is considered art is decided with each individual.

if someone believes FF7 has the best storyline of all time, so be it. i'm not one to argue over someone's personally opinion. we all watch movies, read books, and play games differently. some of us enjoy these types of media as an on-looker, tourist if you will. while some of us become part of the game/movie/book and get totally engulfed within the story.

in the end, we all experience art different. and that experience weighs in on how much the art impact us.

Stahlberg
12-06-2005, 04:06 PM
Well, I'll also concede that it is indeed an apples/oranges deal. I've just noticed how the term 'Interactive' or 'Branching Story' has become a buzz word, something cool that will be here one day, that a lot of people take for granted without stopping to think how it can be done...

I love games. Games are fun to while away an hour or so every now and then, to relax. Maybe games can even be art. Great timeless classical masterpieces of transcendent genius? That's where I start to doubt.

DirtROBOT
12-06-2005, 04:07 PM
I think Ebert is artificially classifying video games as a story-telling medium to simplify his comparison.

Games aren't primarily about story, they're about interaction. How many fun games have we played that had utter crap for story? LOTS :)

Games ARE an art, they're made by creative and technically competent individuals who are working towards a common vision.

The game industry is still in the infant stages and when it reaches maturity games will be far far more engaging than any movie, book or painting was because the players will be participating and creating inside a work of art itself.

If you think about it, the Sims is essentially a medium for expression - albeit a somewhat simplistic medium :)

Apples are apples, oranges are oranges.

Lamster
12-06-2005, 04:14 PM
The various MGSes aren't &*(^ing games. They're movies disguised as games. I once had to sit for an hour pressing the button "X" in MGS2.

Oh man, I'd not know what you'd consider as a game since I feel that the MGSes are top class games! Especially in the way they interact with the gamer! Excellent gameplay and execution are the hallmarks of the MGS series for me. The excellent storyline comes in closely in third, delivered cinematically and ALSO, in the codec messages in game.

I'd place my first completion of the sniper battle in the forest in mgs3 as the top gaming experience I've had ever. And the biggest laugh I've had from a game being having to defeat psycho mantis using the 2nd controller! These are what make those games memorable for me :)

Although I feel that MGS2 too lacked compared to the other 2, it is by no means not a game to me.

DaJuice
12-06-2005, 04:33 PM
Great timeless classical masterpieces of transcendent genius? That's where I start to doubt.

Give it enough time. Someone will do it. :)

lovisx
12-06-2005, 04:43 PM
this get's back to the age old question, what is art. I am a little slow to exclude video games from being art. If anything it is kinetic art, where the viewer takes part in the masterpiece.

The big problem with video games is the lack of seriousness. I think if used right, video games could portray things much more vividly then any other art form. People are so used to having to view art at a distance, and having to contemplate it. Where as video games are much more in your face, and have you acting rather then just reacting.

Also there is no group of established video game directors, or video game creators, that make video games solely for artistic purposes. It's a very commercial industry, and is not very personal. I think once it starts to be more independent it will start to be more of an artform and less of an industry.

I think now there are video game masterpieces. The only thing is that they aren't valued as much as other masterpieces in other art forms. This, of course, is a lack of understanding rather not a lack of artistic value.

mummey
12-06-2005, 04:51 PM
Myst.

(ten character limit.)

SalmonGod
12-06-2005, 04:51 PM
The various MGSes aren't &*(^ing games. They're movies disguised as games. I once had to sit for an hour pressing the button "X" in MGS2. It's worse than Xenogears/Xenosaga. Good story, but what about that makes it a game?

but they still have gameplay elements to them... you still have to step into Solid Snakes shoes and sneak around and kill people... you still have to put forth personal effort in order to reach that hour long cinematic... and that has a profound effect on the experience... you are much more involved in the character at that point... much more alert... you're ready for the cinematic to end and the bad guy to jump out of it and kill you... you have to be ready to personally react to whatever this story throws at you... you are involved with this character and his problems on a much more personal level than film or literature will ever be able to accomplish...

it's impossible to get that involved when you have no control... when I watch a movie or play a game, I'm just an observer... I'm resigned and will simply like the story or I wont... like I said before... it's the difference between "I just read a good story... I was told about this guy facing all these problems" or "I was just a part of a good story... I faced these problems"

and that, to me, is the highest form of art because in my opinion (and I guess it really is an opinion) art is anything made to communicate experience... emotions, the 5 senses, thought processes... all are parts of experience and no medium taps into all of them more than games

and tabletop roleplaying and video games will never be that much different... roleplaying is the essence of gaming... improvised, interactive storytelling... tabletop is the most stripped down, basic, but most flexible form... and I think if you tell any good GM that their efforts dont amount to art, that they will be very insulted :)... I know some GMs that work very hard to get their players into their characters, emotionally involved with the story, and really work to make it an interesting, cohesive story... and I have gained some very solid experiences from them that would have never been as powerful if presented as film or literature

oh and as for people that will cheat and hack to ruin a game's story... I dont know why they're even a factor in this conversation... those players choose to ignore the story, which does not mean that the story is not told effectively... I can even more easily go take a bathroom break in the middle of a movie at the theatre and miss very important parts of the story... how is that different from, say, using a no-clip cheat to walk through the walls and go straight to the boss?... anybody who brings this up is just picking at whatever they can find

Bonedaddy
12-06-2005, 05:28 PM
Here's my stance: most of the examples people cite as being great immersive gaming moments directly imitate film. That isn't bad, per se. All new artforms imitate their forebears in order to legitimize themselves. The early days of film were basically a static camera recording theater plays, or vaudeville acts. It's only when a medium begins to take advantage of its unique properties that it can start to blossom into an artform. And games haven't really been moving into this realm quite yet.

The salient feature of games is the user interaction, and the gamer determining the outcome of the storyline. Because of this, we've seen a lot of games that are basically plotless, where the player runs around within the confines of their sandbox. But people are always trying to do things they weren't supposed to. Whether it's leveling up so far that they can kill the boss in one hit, or hitting themselves with grenades in order to get to areas they weren't supposed to. That's the unique identity of gaming. An uncertain narrative, where the user determines his future. Games like MGS and Resident Evil and Final Fantasy are just on rails. There's never any doubt of what's going to happen. If you die, game is over. If not, game continues on the same path that the designer intended. It's the same set, forced narrative as film or literature.

I'm more interested in seeing games develop a unique identity and set themselves apart from that. Let the user tell the story. Chronicle the deeds of guilds on Warcraft into legends. Let some big battle that players carried out come back in a few years to haunt them. Figure out how to work with the player, instead of trying to limit him/her into the designer's sandbox.

SalmonGod
12-06-2005, 05:30 PM
many games are still a forced narrative but it's the added bits of interactivity that further involve the audience into that narrative than they would have been otherwise

Stahlberg
12-06-2005, 05:40 PM
games will be far far more engaging than any movie, book or painting was because the players will be participating and creating inside a work of art itself.
Well, that's easy to say... Almost everybody excited about games and interactivity says that, or something to that effect... but what does it mean? How will the players be 'creating'? What will they create?
If you give them enough freedom, utter and total crap is my guess. The kind of stuff Mystery Science Theater 3000 would hesitate to touch with tongs...

And if not - if they're the least bit talented - why shouldn't they try to write their own movie script or book or poem instead?

Knotter8
12-06-2005, 06:14 PM
^ Because there has to be motivation to do something, an incentive.

Now THAT is the beauty of great games which Mr Ebert unfortunately fails to see.

In Japan. ppl play Pachinko basically to Acquire more pachinko balls to play Pachinko.
It's not about a possible reward (money) or some dramatic storyline tagged onto it ;

The charm of the Pachinko game is playing. Videogames are META games ; the joy, the
reward a person gets from playing is finding that joy in the core of a game, it's heart ; which is it's core gameplay ; reaching the next 'level' or 'mini-games'.

Thanks to new technology we're able able to ADD elements like storyline, music and artistic visual styling to that gameplay ; but that same gameplay will always be the deciding factor on how good the game will be as a videogame and to what extent it can bring innovation to the world in terms of narrative, visual styling etc.

Narrative should NOT be the one and only ultimate goal for videogames but at the same time the gameplay should be strong enough and provide enough incentive to play it at all ; by whatever means is possible.

SalmonGod
12-06-2005, 06:36 PM
Well, that's easy to say... Almost everybody excited about games and interactivity says that, or something to that effect... but what does it mean? How will the players be 'creating'? What will they create?
If you give them enough freedom, utter and total crap is my guess. The kind of stuff Mystery Science Theater 3000 would hesitate to touch with tongs...

And if not - if they're the least bit talented - why shouldn't they try to write their own movie script or book or poem instead?

this is one of the reasons hollywood is failing... because major producers dont respect their audience... the people in hollywood dont think that there is a market for sad endings or mix ups in the generic movie formula or intellectual content... and it's biting them in the ass right now

give people more credit... there's alot of crap out there but there's also alot of very intelligent gamers, just as there are more intelligent movie goers than people believe

JMcWilliams
12-06-2005, 07:21 PM
Here's my stance: most of the examples people cite as being great immersive gaming moments directly imitate film. That isn't bad, per se. All new artforms imitate their forebears in order to legitimize themselves. The early days of film were basically a static camera recording theater plays, or vaudeville acts. It's only when a medium begins to take advantage of its unique properties that it can start to blossom into an artform. And games haven't really been moving into this realm quite yet.

The salient feature of games is the user interaction, and the gamer determining the outcome of the storyline. Because of this, we've seen a lot of games that are basically plotless, where the player runs around within the confines of their sandbox. But people are always trying to do things they weren't supposed to. Whether it's leveling up so far that they can kill the boss in one hit, or hitting themselves with grenades in order to get to areas they weren't supposed to. That's the unique identity of gaming. An uncertain narrative, where the user determines his future. Games like MGS and Resident Evil and Final Fantasy are just on rails. There's never any doubt of what's going to happen. If you die, game is over. If not, game continues on the same path that the designer intended. It's the same set, forced narrative as film or literature.

I'm more interested in seeing games develop a unique identity and set themselves apart from that. Let the user tell the story. Chronicle the deeds of guilds on Warcraft into legends. Let some big battle that players carried out come back in a few years to haunt them. Figure out how to work with the player, instead of trying to limit him/her into the designer's sandbox.

I think there is room for sandbox type gameplay and 'orchestrated' games... I would play both.

greynite1
12-06-2005, 07:40 PM
alot of us here enjoy film. Alot of us also enjoy the video game medium.

I grew up playing video games and loved every second of them however I also had a great love of movies which only grew with me studying film in college. Right now from the beginning of Trash 80 games to Coleco Vision to Atari and onwards games are becoming more and more LIKE Movies. but they will never be like them. Film is someone deciding to tell you story and make a statement. A video game is basically giving you a set of circumstances and a situation and saying what would you do?

Now video games are a VERY VERY new Art form. We are still basically JUST getting out of the stages where most people think video games are just toys and consumer entertainment. Only recently with the advent of games like MGS, FF, Resident Evil, silent hill have games really started to try and emulate the complex message and story work that Novels and Films have been doing for a long long time. Its already been stated that its only a matter of time.

Video games right now have been used primarily as consumer entertainment so until someone specifically starts using them for expression and political statements and such they will culturally always be several steps below the other two.


Today with the addition of the public mod communities the possibilities of this are there. If someone wanted to take the Source engine and make a political statement game about the War in Iraq or the Corporatization of the world then that I think could be considered. So I think it will just take time we aren't quite there yet but as long as people love the interactive medium and keep developing it as a means of expression and not just a way to make entertaintaining games it will become a very respectable medium in its own right. :) Like films though Video games are difficult to make an average person cannot just pick up a computer and make one normally there is a huge learning curve which means only a small percentage of the population can also use them as a means of expression so that also hinders things. :)

Skirnir
12-06-2005, 09:08 PM
The problem with even discussing this topic is symantecs. This whole thread is an argument over symantecs and nothing more.

It was mentioned previously in this thread(I forget where; I think Stahlberg mentioned it), that it would be bad to turn the thread into a discussion about "what is art?" I can agree with that fact, that it would destroy the very nature of the thread however, in accepting that you must also understand this.

People are still arguing what makes an art form. People define art differently, some don't consider music, movies, literature, etc. art at all. Some only consider traditional visual art as artforms. Others believe anything can be art. The problem with leaving questions like this without an answer, is you cannot answer questions that use these ideas as a foundation.

Question #1 - "What is art?" , still remains unaswered. As a result...
Question #2 - "Are videogames art?" , cannot possibly be answered.

In order to answer question #2, question #1 must first be answered. Question #1 is still being argued, and thus left unanswered. As a result the fact that this topic is even in a debate reflects negatively on everything that has been presented.

Thus my conclusion: Since we cannot possibly claim that movies, music, literature, photography, etc. are artforms themselves for that matter, we must place videogames in a similar instance of a category. Thus, if you are going to call any of the aforementioned art, one must accept videogames as a valid artform.

slaughters
12-06-2005, 09:12 PM
...Games, for the most part, have an extremely literate and technologically savvy consumer market...Rebuttal : http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7153152098207965240

Ninjas
12-06-2005, 09:12 PM
Video games are art and here is why:
Is a Bach fugue not art because someone puts it in a video game? You would have to believe this if you agreed with Ebert, and thus prove you are an idiot.

Pink Violet
12-06-2005, 09:20 PM
If someone decides to make a videogame based on the holocaust, I don't care about its craftsmanship. You should never take such a serious part of a people's history, and turn it into a game. Ever!

This is the limitation Ebert is talking about.

SalmonGod
12-06-2005, 09:25 PM
thank you Ninjas... even if the storytelling of a game is not art in itself, you would be insulting thousands of developers by implying that art does not go into video games...

alot of that can be seen on these forums... I've noticed a couple pieces of artwork from Gun being featured on the frontpage here and getting rave reviews... does that stuff lose its artistic quality the moment somebody picks up a controller?

if painting is art then think of a game as a huge composition of paintings all viewed in an order decided on by the audience, because concepts common to painting like color theory and composition are definitely considered in the creation of a decent game... as well as elements of film, music, etc...

SheepFactory
12-06-2005, 09:30 PM
I had way more fun playing Half Life then watching citizen kane. It is art as far as i am concerned. :shrug:


oh that must mean i am too young and inexperienced unlike some of the future movie crits here :rolleyes:

imashination
12-06-2005, 09:31 PM
You seriously believe it can compete in the same class with masterpieces of cinema and literature? :)

Yes, I for one do believe it can. Have you ever played it? It has the most compelling storyline I've ever seen in a game, and one which puts many well respected films to shame. Thats why, when the final fantasy film came out, and it had one of the weakest piss-poor stories every told, so many people were dissapointed. If they had just recorded the FF7 screen and edited it together, there would have been a more enjoyable product.

SheepFactory
12-06-2005, 09:50 PM
Great timeless classical masterpieces of transcendent genius? That's where I start to doubt.


Obviously you never played tetris.

imashination
12-06-2005, 09:55 PM
Obviously you never played tetris.

I am rubber, you are glue.

Hugh-Jass
12-06-2005, 09:59 PM
Rebuttal : http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7153152098207965240

that kid does not need a glass of chocolate milk.
That told a wonderfully rich story though

Bulldog
12-06-2005, 11:01 PM
I don't think games has ever tried to live up to that standard--it's always been a medium about escapism and entertainment--not profound manisfestations of one's intellectual and emotional expression.


essscuuuse me while I

http://www.filmwise.com/visual/puke_01/image_07.jpg

ThE_JacO
12-06-2005, 11:32 PM
Anyone who can't see the truth in what Ebert said is probably too young or unexposed to the world of serious cinema and literature. There isn't a single piece of work in game history that could be compared to the towering giants in the history of cinema and literature--not one. However, I don't think games has ever tried to live up to that standard--it's always been a medium about escapism and entertainment--not profound manisfestations of one's intellectual and emotional expression.

man, a bit pompous as far as comments go ain't it? ;)
have you ever considered that it COULD be possible that these "young and unexposed" people MAYBE get movies AND games, and you just don't get the latter?

character developement wise there are many games that created stronger characters then most movies.

where I come from things are judged by the results, Aeris death scene (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about as you have obviously been exposed to everything ;) ) had a large majority of the players crying, or at least with a knot in their throat, and most of these players are kids and adults that would never cry infront of some of the so called cinema milestones.

Isn't that quite an achievement?

and what about Leon in RE4? one of the very few convincing examples of "cool dude" that the audience could sympathize with, much more then most movie characters that very often fail to portrait such characters in a way that is appealing to everybody.

and Guybursh Threpwood?
how many comedies do you know that remained funny and entertaining, on-screen, for anything between 20 and 50 hrs in a row?

mind, I make a living out of working on movies, I've been on set, and I've had the privilege to sit down at the same table with some of the so called "legends" of contemporary cinema, however I don't play games much.
I got a PSP which I only play Lumines and SSX on, and a gamecube which I only play RE4 and pikmin2 on.

And yet it's obvious enough to me that, while there's VERY FEW games of such quality out there (but probably even less movies), there are iconic characters and stunning storylines in the gaming history, and this is with a lifespan that's only a fraction of cinema's.

If you can't see it it's not necessarily the gamers who haven't been exposed to "proper cinema", it could be you who don't get what THEY know.
Ever considered that?

and by the way, no, I'm not "defending games", couldn't be arsed really, but if there ever was a bunch of unidirectional uneducated statements composed in an overglorified manner and yet bringing little on the table, then this thread is one of the biggest repositories of such material ever.

opus13
12-07-2005, 12:02 AM
Games, for the most part, have an extremely literate and technologically savvy consumer market.

I'm going to have to remember that the next time I see an Ayn Rand reference in "Metal Gear Solid 18: What's That Smell?"

Stahlberg
12-07-2005, 01:04 AM
Let's get back on topic. I think we've established that games are fun (duh), that they can make us laugh or cry, and rivet our attention for hours or days in a way few movies can (though when I first saw Star Wars -77 I think that could have done it). They are also seen as an art form by most. None of this is being disputed I think.

The topic is storytelling. How to best tell a story? What is the media which has the best POTENTIAL to tell that story?

Say you woke up today with an idea for a story in your head. Not an idea for a game. A story. You think it's a really great one too, it has real potential... which media do you choose to tell it?
Stories are linear and single-track by definition, it doesn't really work to tell it like this: "So, which do you pick: does the Dread Pirate Roberts kill Wesley or does he keep him alive for now?" If you've seen the Princess Bride you know the whole movie is in the toilet if you kill off Wesley here, which means right there you're giving your audience a 50% chance to ruin everything you've worked on. And that's just one of the many branches

Or if you can come up with an example where a story can work being interactive, I'd like to know.

ThE_JacO
12-07-2005, 02:01 AM
The topic is storytelling. How to best tell a story? What is the media which has the best POTENTIAL to tell that story?



that makes the whole conversation even harder to tackle.

when movies first came out people thought that the short timespan footprint was totally inadequate to tell a story, and quite a few people adversed artists like Chaplin (whom I personally think to have been a much better storyteller then most) and pointed out how there was little progression in his movies and nothing spanned years, or had to do so with a lame "a few years later" print on screen.

before getting into this we'd probably have to agree on what makes a story.

is it characters? their psy profile and the mutation of the character over time?
is it historical events?

and then how much is the possibility to alter such story worth?

because you can't do that in a movie or book format, but in some games, although some choices are binary or trinary in nature, you can see different storylines branching off as a consequence of your choices.

in a book part of the marvel is being cartwheeled through the events.
that feeling of frustration that grasps you when you know more then a character does and you see him or her making the wrong choice and you are riveted to your chair/bed/whatever trying to figure out what is going to happen.

in a game that is sometimes exploited in the same way
a cinematic forcing you down a path regardless of your choices and having you cope and struggle to keep ahead of the events.
sometimes though that doesn't happen, infact your actions take you down a different path and slightly mutate the story.

how much value is there in that?

some good games, like monkey island II, tell compelling stories and present you with some stunning artwork during the process.
Some others aren't about storytelling in terms of flow or epic events, but the character development is of superior quality, and instead of following the story you find yourself more interested in the characters.
some others are about enjoying the game as a progression in terms of gameplay and interaction, and storytelling or character dev fall in the background, if not into oblivion.

there are many ways to tell a story, and there are different things to a story.
some games do it like a book does, some do it the way you tell a story in a pencil&paper RPG session (and I've heard some amazing storylines spun at a table), some aren't about storytelling at all.

in the same way that movies slowly became accepted as an art form and storytelling medium (together with many other things) over the years, so in due time it will be for games.
those who can't see it now are probably ancestors to the people who thought cinema was just puerile entertainment and a bad replacement of theatre plays for the vulgo ;)
but that is just MY opinion obviously, that of a non-gamer if it helps.

Pink Violet
12-07-2005, 02:03 AM
If you read the first post, the question is:

Can videogames reach the levels of high art?

If a baby makes you cry, great. But the baby is not art.
If a rollercoaster makes you scream, great. But that's not art either.

I've been thinking about this question for most of my life. What is art? So when I see a list of films, books, or whatever medium, of things called art, I've realized that they all have something in common. They're all very introspective and personal on the author's level.

Maybe if videogames can stop being made in a round table discussion, we might have some authors who express themselves effectively.

For now, FF7 will always be commercial fluff to me. It made you cry, great. But that's not art. It's way too commercial for it too belong to one voice and one vision.

Call me pompous if you like. I still believe that videogames can reach high levels in interactivity, but interactivity is the element that distracts from the other elements that are more important to art: introspection and feelings.

That's what Ebert is trying to say.

Just because something is not art, doesn't mean it's bad guys. Not everything has to be art.

ThE_JacO
12-07-2005, 02:13 AM
some schools of thought divide art into two categories.
egoistic art, which is introspective, sometimes inexpressive or too cryptically so, and extroverse(sp.?) art, which is meant to CAUSE emotions, comunicate, and be clear in conveying the message, which could be something not necessarily strictly emotional sometimes.

if you consider this distinction valid, a game could hardly be the first kind, but could easily fit in the second.

by your standards though a piece of work like many epics of greek literature wouldn't be art, as they weren't very introspective nor emotional, they were a mix of mythos, chronicling, entertainment, and character portraial.

thinking about it, then frazetta and many other illustrators are also, obviously, not artists.

and what about Manara?

I'll send a mail to homer to tell him his work is crap because it wasn't introspective enough to be considered art ;)

Pink Violet
12-07-2005, 02:18 AM
I don't think you read me correctly.

Homer was the sole author of his work.
So was Frazetta.

Do you understand my dear sir?

ThE_JacO
12-07-2005, 02:26 AM
yes, I didn't read correctly then.
But then you're ruling out cinema as a whole, as no movie that ever made it to the public ever was made by a single person, except maybe starwars kid :D

infact games are often more individual driven then most movies.

I see what you mean but I fail to see the point, will put it down to an opinion divergence though.

Pink Violet
12-07-2005, 02:36 AM
Most films are not art. Their commercial (made by commities) pieces of crap.

Same goes with other media (games, books, music). Who was it that said "99% of everything sucks"?

DangerAhead
12-07-2005, 02:51 AM
When we're all old and gray I think we will look back and laugh at this. Of course video games are going to be art.

I agree that Video Games aren't art... YET.

Video games are in their infancy. I think Mr. Ebert is currently correct, but won't be for very long. I don't believe that choice-making disqualifies something from being art.

Also I believe videogames will make "decision-making" itself an art. Imagine teaching a child about teen pregnancy, STDs, and its life consequences through decision-making. It could change someone's life and the way they think about everything. That's one definition of art.

Look at how many changes cinema went through before we truly had masterpieces of art. Several art forms "inside" cinema had to evolve first; lighting, cinematography, sound, editing, visual effects, just to name a few. And as the component art forms grew so did the overall artform of filmmaking.

Give it time...

Stahlberg
12-07-2005, 03:11 AM
I really recommend you guys not to start discussing what is and isn't art. Instead do a search on previous discussions in the Art Theory forum (and you'll probably see how futile the discussion is). :)

before getting into this we'd probably have to agree on what makes a story.
Good question. From Robert McKee's book "Story" (paraphrased):

A good story is something worth telling that the world wants to hear.
It's structure is a selection of events from the characters' life stories that is composed into a strategic sequence to arouse specific emotions and to express a specific view of life.
A Story Event creates a meaningful change in the life situation of a character that is expressed and experienced in terms of a VALUE.
It goes on to describe what a value is, but I think we get the gist of it.

Ninjas
12-07-2005, 03:23 AM
The problem is that Ebert mentions composers, and music generally doesn't tell a story. It certainly isn't the best medium for it. In fact, movies aren't as good as books at telling stories either, yet people still tell stories with them. The visual arts exist to look cool and make you feel a cetain way. They don't even need to tell a story.

If any of you pompous ignorant troglodytes want to say my music, paintings and 3d models aren't art because they are presented in a game, that's fine, Say it. By doing so you prove how utterly backwards and simple your thinking is, and that is reason enough for me to never respect you, or take anything you say seriously ever again.

Which brings me to a whole other topic. How can one visual artist crap on anothers work when they are doing THE EXACT SAME THING?!

noisewar
12-07-2005, 03:32 AM
You seriously believe it can compete in the same class with masterpieces of cinema and literature? :)

You seriously think video games have had the same time and talent of development as film? Or even literature for that matter?


Video games are in the silent film days of cinema, and until the medium itself stabilizes in technology and conventions, there will be no significant video game art in mainstream games. But there is alot of artwork in the form of games, thought it is often delegated to modern art status. When this new mesium of interactivity leaves museums to join forces with a mainstream gaming plateau, we'll see a gamepad run Citizen Kane.

Until then, to disregard video games as INHERENTLY incapable of great artistic achievement simply because we haven't mastered the narrative with it, well that's just plain silly. It's like saying watercolor is INHERENTLY incapable of conveying still-life scenes because a beginner doesn't understand how water and paper fibres act for a fluid media.

Pink Violet
12-07-2005, 03:34 AM
But Steven, this is a post about that very question, and we shouldn't be affraid of trying to answer questions that can't be answered. Because those are the most important.

For example: "What's the meaning of life?"
Don't retort with a "Don't ask, we are too dumb for the question."

Let's not censor intellectualism.

I doubt most people would want to go to an old thread they can't answer to.

And this thread is not about storytelling. Ebert mentioned music.

Stahlberg
12-07-2005, 03:47 AM
Video games are in the silent film days of cinema
Yes, people in this thread keep saying that...
So can't anyone take a stab at what kind of technical development would allow games to shine in story-telling? Back in the 20's I'm sure smart people could have extrapolated sound and color and caught a glimpse of what was to come. Shouldn't we then be able to do that now with games?

Plus, the fact is, even in the silent film era there were masterpieces of cinematic storytelling. :)

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 04:01 AM
Stories are linear and single-track by definition, it doesn't really work to tell it like this: "So, which do you pick: does the Dread Pirate Roberts kill Wesley or does he keep him alive for now?"

why does a story have to be linear?... I dont understand... I know personally that I've created many of my own stories that I've enjoyed talking over with friends through the course of gaming... has anybody here ever played a roguelike?... the most obscure and underrated game genre ever... I have come across websites that exist solely for the purpose of discussing entertaining stories of gameplay experiences in roguelikes simply because they're that deep and flexible... anybody who has played one will understand... if not I can define roguelike if needed...

now are those experiences not stories in themselves?... they may not have been a specific story that an author decided they wanted to write down for me... but nonetheless they are stories that I've adopted through a medium, and if it werent for that medium I would have never known those stories...

and if you want to talk about linear storytelling in games... I can think of many experiences similar to the specific moment you described above... this kind of situation can be dealt with in two ways in a video game... either you seperate the player as a helpless observer, or you influence them to make the correct choice...

The best example of the former that comes to mind right now is from Half-Life 2. The Half-Life series is a wonderful example of storytelling in the FPS genre and really begins to show the potential of its form. Anyway, I remember a scene where you actually get to fight with Alyx for a while and it's a blast. They really encourage you and give you good opportunity to work together with the NPC. It may not be Shakespearian dialogue but it's character interaction just like you'd see in a movie, except you're the one interacting. I got really drawn into this scene because it was so adventurous and well designed and written.
Eventually you come to this chasm that's been dug across the road and there doesnt seem to be any way across. After looking at it for a minute or two she says "I know... just a sec" and starts climbing a nearby building using window sills, protruding bricks, and the like. When she reaches the top, she does something to create a path for you. I dont quite remember what it was. She's on the roof at that point and you're looking up at her as she's got this confident, smug expression. But then you see a combine soldier pop up behind her and grab her from behind. They disappear for a moment, you hear some struggling, and then she pops back up and he's still got her grabbed and is dragging her away. If I remember correctly, she's struggling against the guy and yells down to you "There's more! Dont worry about me! Go!" and soon this impossible fight starts bearing down on you, the action music starts, and it's clear that you have no choice but to get the heck out of there.

Now that may not have been the deepest plot revelation ever to compete with the greatest classic works of film and literature. But it was an excellent example of the game designers immersing you in your character, then presenting him with an emotional event that really effects the player as well. Alyx is an awesome heroine, it was fun cooperating with her, and she makes life a heck of alot easier for a while. You're really disappointed to lose her! And the player is helpless to stop her being taken away, but helpless in a manner that makes sense in the context of the story and it doesnt leave you feeling like you're "on rails." To me, this is a great bit of storytelling, but if the same thing were done in a movie with no interaction it would have had very little effect on me. The experience would have been diminished drastically.

As for discussing what is and isnt art. I think it's sad that people get so worked up about it that we're discouraged from bringing it up. :/ I think one problem is that so many people have such a limited view of it. It seems to me like there are people who say that movies are an art form, and then there are people who say that only certain types of movies are art. I think some people just dont want to give the title of art to something they dont personally respect.

I can definitely say though that no matter what you think constitutes art, be it cinematography, painting, music, or literature... games incorporate elements from every single one of those forms. So I dont know how anybody can consider any of those things to be art, but not games. It seems to defy logic.

Lunatique
12-07-2005, 04:04 AM
sman, a bit pompous as far as comments go ain't it? ;)
have you ever considered that it COULD be possible that these "young and unexposed" people MAYBE get movies AND games, and you just don't get the latter?

character developement wise there are many games that created stronger characters then most movies.

where I come from things are judged by the results, Aeris death scene (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about as you have obviously been exposed to everything ;) ) had a large majority of the players crying, or at least with a knot in their throat, and most of these players are kids and adults that would never cry infront of some of the so called cinema milestones.

Isn't that quite an achievement?

and what about Leon in RE4? one of the very few convincing examples of "cool dude" that the audience could sympathize with, much more then most movie characters that very often fail to portrait such characters in a way that is appealing to everybody.

and Guybursh Threpwood?
how many comedies do you know that remained funny and entertaining, on-screen, for anything between 20 and 50 hrs in a row?

mind, I make a living out of working on movies, I've been on set, and I've had the privilege to sit down at the same table with some of the so called "legends" of contemporary cinema, however I don't play games much.
I got a PSP which I only play Lumines and SSX on, and a gamecube which I only play RE4 and pikmin2 on.

And yet it's obvious enough to me that, while there's VERY FEW games of such quality out there (but probably even less movies), there are iconic characters and stunning storylines in the gaming history, and this is with a lifespan that's only a fraction of cinema's.

If you can't see it it's not necessarily the gamers who haven't been exposed to "proper cinema", it could be you who don't get what THEY know.
Ever considered that?

and by the way, no, I'm not "defending games", couldn't be arsed really, but if there ever was a bunch of unidirectional uneducated statements composed in an overglorified manner and yet bringing little on the table, then this thread is one of the biggest repositories of such material ever.

Yes, I do come across as pompous often, and that's probably because I haven't learned the fine art of diplomacy yet. I think there are many others who have just as strong opinons as I do, but they don't get accused of being pompous because they express themselves with more tact.

I'm a gamer, so of course I "get" games. I've been playing games since the 70's, and I've worked in the game industry as artist and art director. I love games, and I can't see myself ever stop playing them. It is because I love game, I want to see it grow and expand and be taken seriously by those who state its lack of worth as a form of expression. I was a comic book creator for 8 years, and I felt the same way about comics too, except that comic books did grow up and great works of art did get published, so in a way, the fight was over.

To make the audience feel emotions is the most basic requirement of any storytelling. If a writer cannot accomplish even that, then you have to wonder if the story is worth telling in the first place. However, to be considered a work of profundity, merely engaging the audience to identify with characters is not enough--you must be able to express higher concepts. For example, class struggles, the pitfalls of vanity, hypocrisy of society's double standards, the fall from grace, living with one's regrets, sacrificing everything for one's dream just to realize you've given up too much..etc. These are the kind of things in literature and cinema that resonate deeply, and often change the way people think. Books and films have been quoted as to change people's lives, but how many people can really say that a video game has changed their lives? I'm not talking about how it made you want to become a game designer--I'm talking about the higher concepts expressed in a game that changed your worldview--made you see things in your life you couldn't see before, or affected you profoundly as a human being. IMO, that is what video games lack in general, and are what video games need in order to be considered "art" by those who don't feel that it is art yet. But then again, we go right back to the "what is art" discussion.

Truth is, something doesn't have to be "art" in order to be loved by those that are affected by it. Some people will get far more emotional and intellectual stimulation out of well designed/written games than they would out of some classic films or serious literary works--different strokes for different folks. I personally would rather play through some of my favorite games again and again than sit down and watch Citizen Kane again--seeing that film once was enough. I watched it many years ago to educate myself on what all the fuss was about when people say it's considered the greatest film ever made, and after watching, I understood and could appreciate it, but I would never say it's one of my favorite films, and probably would never watch it again. However, Citizen Kane is just one film--there are plenty of other profound films that I love, and would watch over and over again. Those are the ones that contain both compelling stories and profound messages--and those are the ones I'd like to see equivalents of in video games.

I have no doubt that one day, we will see a game creator/designer/writer that is willing to bare his soul and bring us a profound masterpiece that would become the "breakthrough milestone" of video games as an artform. But the truth is, even if that never happens, I'll still love games. There are some wonderful stories in games that even though might not be profound, still resonate and engage our senses. To be honest, if all games tried to be serious and profound, most of us would probably stop playing them. Games are meant to be "played," right? But there must be a balance we can strike somewhere between entertainment and art in games.

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 04:09 AM
woops... accidental double post

noisewar
12-07-2005, 04:30 AM
Yes, people in this thread keep saying that...
So can't anyone take a stab at what kind of technical development would allow games to shine in story-telling? Back in the 20's I'm sure smart people could have extrapolated sound and color and caught a glimpse of what was to come. Shouldn't we then be able to do that now with games?

Plus, the fact is, even in the silent film era there were masterpieces of cinematic storytelling. :)


Plus the fact is the silent film era took from theater, another linear visual narrative format. Games, on the other hand, have been derided for centuries as "kids stuff." What kind of technical development would allow games to shine in story-telling? I'll tell you.

Thematic reinforcement in the gameplay, and emergent behavior. I would say that AD&D is a place where a truly artistic experience can happen, with DM interaction with player desires. In modern gaming, this would happen in a multiplayer version of Facade, MMORPGS that toss out the mechanical trappings and embrace community, etc. Until games reach a point where content creation comes from audience-side as well, then it will never take off from being a farcical and nicely-rendered equivalent of a crossword puzzle with guns.

It's an interactive medium. So interactive story-telling, with proper mediation, is where it will shine. How will that come about? Better technology and a more mature gaming base. Playing a game will NEVER be the same as watching Citizen Kane, but it doesn't need to be. It needs to let you create, and experience a more intense Citizen Kane through your input. When games teach you to be a "director" and "cinematographer" to your own gaming experience, then it will succeed narratologically, and ostensibly ludologically as well.

One day, Spielberg will take us on the ships in Amistad by hand, chase us down in Schindler's List, and pit us against each other as both Jaws and the sailors.

ThE_JacO
12-07-2005, 04:43 AM
Yes, people in this thread keep saying that...
So can't anyone take a stab at what kind of technical development would allow games to shine in story-telling? Back in the 20's I'm sure smart people could have extrapolated sound and color and caught a glimpse of what was to come. Shouldn't we then be able to do that now with games?

Plus, the fact is, even in the silent film era there were masterpieces of cinematic storytelling. :)

funnily enough, if we consider storytelling by the canons of literature and movie making, then the technological advancements took away from it.

take all the lucasfilm/lucasarts games from the end of the 80s and beginning of 90s, or Sierra's (and many others).

many graphic adventures had a limiting (different from limited) human interface that was there to slowly guide you through a storytelling process.

characters were infront of your eyes and fully flashed out, and while percurrance of the points was non linear, the amount and number of points was set, so was the flow of sequences, and only inside these sequences you could do things in different orders.

old school graphic adventures were a lot closer to storytelling the way books do it then what we have today, they had to be.
Some of them even made such a nice job of it that yes, I would consider them on par with many books and movies.

Broken Sword, if you want a specific example, was and still is in many ways superior to best-sellers like angels and demons in my opinion.

if this is art or not, I don't know, I find the concept to be subjective and prone to evolution; it sure is storytelling though, sometimes a very accomplished form of it infact.

this is probably beside the point, but I thought it was worth getting it out.

what will be of storytelling in the immediate or far future I don't know, that is also, in my opinion, a concept that evolves with time.

however, if you want a comparison with "the classics", like what homer wrote, or even more modern authors like Poe, then you're going into unfair territory, because most of nowadays books, by traditional standards, can't possibly compete with those.

if you consider things in their context, and put broken sword side by side with angels and demons, and monkey island side by side with ben stiller comedies, then I'd say that games don't come out that badly in the comparison.

and if you really can't but consider modern novels and fiction "bad art" or bad storytelling, then just hope that somebody will pick up the idea of making a game out of a classic text or book, but don't expect it to happen anytime soon, in the same way not many movies are made out of such classics without turning them inside out and into something else more digestible for large audiences of consumers (and this is the only point where I agree with pink violet, that the fact things HAVE to reach an audience nowadays does indeed prevent some magnificent ideas to be made into games, but then that is equally true of modern movie and mass marketed literature).

Stahlberg
12-07-2005, 04:49 AM
why does a story have to be linear?
I didn't mean 'chronologically ordered sequence', but the structure. Like not starting a completely new and separate story in the middle of the first one, and then never return to the first. You have to be able to piece together the events, even if only in retrospect (as in Memento and Slaughterhouse 5), to make sense of it.

Better technology and a more mature gaming base.
But your'e still not saying how we can reconcile giving the audience freedom to change the story, yet still have a good story. These 2 are imo forever irreconcilable - unless your audience consists wholly of people as talented as Tolstoy, and even then the group effort - the 'comittee' syndrome - will probably ruin the result. ("A camel is a horse designed by comittee.")

I suspect you're using a different definition of 'story' than I am. :)

noisewar
12-07-2005, 05:23 AM
But your'e still not saying how we can reconcile giving the audience freedom to change the story, yet still have a good story. These 2 are imo forever irreconcilable - unless your audience consists wholly of people as talented as Tolstoy, and even then the group effort - the 'comittee' syndrome - will probably ruin the result. ("A camel is a horse designed by comittee.")

I suspect you're using a different definition of 'story' than I am. :)

Not at all, and I think you hit the heart of the matter. However, what role-playing is essentially is a mutual contract between participants to engage in and explore their role. The art is in teaching a player to play a role without letting them feel forced along lines of actions. That means they must have correct reinforcement for their decisions. Poor enemy AI, for example, shatters the illusion of the game world AND teaches players poor role-playing (i.e. exploiting line of sight).

If you think game shows like Whose Line Is It Anyways? can have a profound moment given the right participants, then you can agree that games have a chance at this too. You don't all need to be Tolstoy, but can Tolstoy teach people to engage each other? Is the medium really the thing stopping him? Or have there just not been any Tolstoys with any experience on any stable platform?

leigh
12-07-2005, 05:26 AM
who cares

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 05:27 AM
I didn't mean 'chronologically ordered sequence', but the structure. Like not starting a completely new and separate story in the middle of the first one, and then never return to the first. You have to be able to piece together the events, even if only in retrospect (as in Memento and Slaughterhouse 5), to make sense of it.


But your'e still not saying how we can reconcile giving the audience freedom to change the story, yet still have a good story. These 2 are imo forever irreconcilable - unless your audience consists wholly of people as talented as Tolstoy, and even then the group effort - the 'comittee' syndrome - will probably ruin the result. ("A camel is a horse designed by comittee.")

I suspect you're using a different definition of 'story' than I am. :)

Well there are many different kinds of stories... the roguelikes of old which gave you massive freedom to create your own stories... they may not be held together by any common theme or the like... but they definitely make for great stories of just pure adventure for the sake of adventure... and the best thing about them is that every one is unique

and I dont know about anybody else but I "pieced together" a really interesting and exciting story from Half-Life 2 and a wealth of other games

and many games have tackled major issues like religion, violence, insanity, love, hate, etc... if this is what's required to raise gaming to artful status... it's definitely already there... let me list a couple examples...

I dont remember his name... the telepath from Metal Gear Solid... I LOVED that scene... not only was it incredibly creative in gameplay which really forced you to get your mind moving and be drawn into the scene... but the character was so damn interesting... he was a telepath who could not drown out the minds of others... and it drove him insane... mostly what drove him insane was the sheer lack of compassion in the human race... so he sought to destroy it... I remember specifically the line "all people are concerned about is passing on their seed"... this strongly relates to the very difficult and mature question of when do you hold a person responsible for their actions?... something philosophers still struggle with to this very day

how about Xenosaga... oh my god... the perspectives on religion they offer are insane... I wont go into any details there... just trust me... Xenogears has deeper religious commentary than any movie I've ever seen... and in Xenosaga, there are Realians... they are a race of people created and controlled by humans to basically comprise an easily manipulated work force, and they are not offered rights on any level equal to humans... in fact, they have a self-destruct feature... this is also a huge topic of ethical debate among philosophers currently and they really play on this in an emotional manner in the game... they show you that Realians have emotions and then they show you that they also lack free will... and then they show them being used like robots or animals...

how do these themes not compete with the social, philosophical, and thought-provoking commentaries offered by classic works of film and literature?

and I know some of you are going to say that these moments are more akin to film than they are to games, but these games still have interactivity to them... and that interactivity is used to draw you into the experience so that when the cinematics hit, it's even more powerful and personal than the experience would have been otherwise

Pink Violet
12-07-2005, 05:38 AM
who cares

Wow, you're so witty. Ain't she cute ladies and gentlemen?

Anyways, I care.

Don't let such comments stop you guys. The last few posts are actually getting to the answers I was looking for. It's getting very good.

leigh
12-07-2005, 05:44 AM
Wow, you're so witty. Ain't she cute ladies and gentlemen?

Anyways, I care.


Why? Why should you care that some people don't respect certain mediums? Exactly how does that destroy your quality of life, or otherwise severely impact your life in a negative way? There are always going to be people that don't like certain things, and wasting hours waffling about it really isn't going to change anything. Life is always going to be full of people whose opinions differ from yours, so learn to live with it.

And just by the way, it isn't a good idea to insult site administrators. I didn't insult anyone here so I'd expect the same courtesy in return.

Pink Violet
12-07-2005, 05:54 AM
Saying "Who cares" is not courtesy. Do you catch my drift. You did first blood, so don't start on me.

And this ain't an argument on art. It's a discussion. If people are not agreeing, that's a natural progression of such.

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 06:07 AM
Why? Why should you care that some people don't respect certain mediums? Exactly how does that destroy your quality of life, or otherwise severely impact your life in a negative way? There are always going to be people that don't like certain things, and wasting hours waffling about it really isn't going to change anything. Life is always going to be full of people whose opinions differ from yours, so learn to live with it.

And just by the way, it isn't a good idea to insult site administrators. I didn't insult anyone here so I'd expect the same courtesy in return.

personally I'm enjoying the discussion and that's enough for me... I think for the most part things have remained very mature and that's rare for this kind of subject... I've only been visiting these forums for a couple months, but I've really come to respect this community

but I also care because people's opinions do affect the world... when people/artists dont respect a medium, then that diminishes the growth of that medium... if Ebert says that games are inferior: then less people play games, less effort goes to developing games, people become convinced that games arent for telling stories so they dont TRY to tell stories

it DOES matter and I dont think ill of Ebert or anybody else for having these opinions, but I cant resist the urge to contest these opinions so that the art that I love gets the respect and attention it deserves and the side effect of a richer growth of content

if people like the esteemed Mr. Stahlberg are already instilled with the notion that games dont have the potential to be a great storytelling medium, then he will never be passionately motivated to donate great artwork to a game story

does that make sense?

discussions like these are the essence of social evolution... the things we say here on these massive forums of public communication are shaping the world

Lunatique
12-07-2005, 06:14 AM
how do these themes not compete with the social, philosophical, and thought-provoking commentaries offered by classic works of film and literature?


IMO, if there are games that are profound and moving, and could be candidates for great art that elevates the status of games as an artform, why aren't they championed by the industry and the supporters of the industry as so? Shouldn't game critics, fansite reviews..etc be foaming at the mouth about how deep, though-provoking, moving..etc those titles are? If the game industry doesn't even champion its own masterpieces of profundity, who else would?


But your'e still not saying how we can reconcile giving the audience freedom to change the story, yet still have a good story. These 2 are imo forever irreconcilable - unless your audience consists wholly of people as talented as Tolstoy, and even then the group effort - the 'comittee' syndrome - will probably ruin the result. ("A camel is a horse designed by comittee.")


This is something I've been thinking a lot about as a writer and a gamer.

If a person is given a choice (or several choices), and he takes one path, does that make his life any more (or less) fulfilling than if he took another path? For example, we all lead different lives, but we all have experienced love, hatred, betrayal, insecurity, pride, desperation..etc to one degree or another. Some have experienced one or more of them in more depth or potency than others, but we don't have a lot of control over our lives, while a game writer could control and manipulate the various paths that you choose in a game. So lets say if you chose path A in a game, you'll probably experience betrayal, hatred, hurt, and vengeance, while if you chose path B, you'll experience desperation, regret, love, and redemption--if the writer is really good, he could have both paths be fulfilling and profound--but in different ways. This actually promotes replay value, as the player would want to see how things would've been different if he picked another path.

The problem is, with the current limitation in the hardware/software, trying to cover each choice so well would be maddening--you'll end up with a game that's 10X larger in size, simply to cover all the choices and outcomes. Some games have attempted this (Deus Ex, for example), but not entirely successfully, because of the limitations I mentioned.

The important thing about having games with meaning is to give player choices that actually ARE important in the moral/intellectual context, and have the consequences be more than just a fancy feature to be included in the game's packaging box ("Multiple endings!"). The consequences need to matter to the very core of the game--they need to require the player to take them seriously.

leigh
12-07-2005, 06:20 AM
Saying "Who cares" is not courtesy. Do you catch my drift. You did first blood, so don't start on me.


WTF? Did first blood? Exactly how did my comment wound you and others? I contributed my opinion to this thread. You're contradicting yourself now, and you're really starting to annoy me.

leigh
12-07-2005, 06:22 AM
personally I'm enjoying the discussion and that's enough for me... I think for the most part things have remained very mature and that's rare for this kind of subject... I've only been visiting these forums for a couple months, but I've really come to respect this community

but I also care because people's opinions do affect the world... when people/artists dont respect a medium, then that diminishes the growth of that medium... if Ebert says that games are inferior: then less people play games, less effort goes to developing games, people become convinced that games arent for telling stories so they dont TRY to tell stories

it DOES matter and I dont think ill of Ebert or anybody else for having these opinions, but I cant resist the urge to contest these opinions so that the art that I love gets the respect and attention it deserves and the side effect of a richer growth of content

if people like the esteemed Mr. Stahlberg are already instilled with the notion that games dont have the potential to be a great storytelling medium, then he will never be passionately motivated to donate great artwork to a game story

does that make sense?

discussions like these are the essence of social evolution... the things we say here on these massive forums of public communication are shaping the world

I still really don't see the necessity for such discussion, especially such a heated discussion. I cannot understand why people get so upset or riled up about other peoples opinions. I play games myself, and I couldn't possibly care less if someone says games aren't deep. People criticise the industry I work in all the time and I certainly don't lose any sleep over it. Personally I really don't agree with:

when people/artists dont respect a medium, then that diminishes the growth of that medium

Because I don't see how Eberts opinion is somehow going to magically bring the entire game industry to a grinding halt, or even diminish its growth to any other lesser extent. That's all. Life goes on ;)

Brettzies
12-07-2005, 06:26 AM
To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers." --Ebert

Video games are an extension of any form of gaming which becomes so commonplace that people fail to see the significance. But, if you can remove the "video" part for a moment and examine all games of the world, you'll quickly see the social impact they've had, which can definitely be comparable to the great dramas, films, poets, etc. Could you say that they are works of art? Some would say the game itself is a work of art, some would say the competition was the work.

Chess. Would anyone not say this is a masterpiece of a strategic game, still played today. We pitted our best players against each other during the cold war to do what? Play.

Sports. Basketball, Football, Soccer, the Olympics, etc. The drama involved in the outcome of such events can outweigh any film or book simply because the outcome is unknown. And once it's done, it goes in the record books. People still talk about the great games. USA beating Russia in hockey. World Cup matches. Record breaking athletes. People are still playing the same games and competing in the same events for hundreds of years. I would say there is something to be said for that.

Video Games. Problem with video games is the same problem with animation in America. They are not universally popular, and are largely seen as child's play...even for adults and despite the adult nature of many games. So it's all just a point of view. Not only that, but why are you all focusing on the narrative? A game does does not need to be narrative or even have to have a story to be compared to such things as Ebert mentioned.

I would say there are three very significant "video" games that have come about in the last few years alone. Though you can argue they are genres, they really are extensions of the same game. The first person shooter, the real time strategy game, and the mmorpg. In all of these you can or are playing with or against people.

But more then anything, it is the playing that makes games significant. Whether you are on the field or at the keyboard or gamepad, it's the playing. Just as the arrangement of sounds can stir you in a symphony, or the words of poem can conjure up imagery in your mind, it is the playing and doing that moves you in a game.

The difficulty with Ebert's statment is that with games it's hard to say "this guy" he made a difference, or "this game" this is the one no will forget and it will stand the test of time. You can't really point to players like a Michael Jordan, or rock stars or Directors, simply because the people who make games aren't that well known. They are out there though, for better or worse. Companies like Blizzard have made an impact, that Nintendo genius game designer, and of course John Caramack, I'd say he's like the Mozart of gaming in regards to the technology.

As for narrative gaming, that's just one tiny facet of gaming and I wouldn't even say that's what makes gaming great or gives it its most important and significant contribution...playing, competing, enjoying.

Stahlberg
12-07-2005, 06:31 AM
Stahlberg are already instilled with the notion that games dont have the potential to be a great storytelling medium, then he will never be passionately motivated to donate great artwork to a game story
Don't know about "great artwork", or "donate", :) but I've contributed to games, am doing it right now, and will do so in the future as long as they want me to...

I love games too, like most everyone here. I mean, who needs "great storytelling" anyway when I just wanna blow some sh*t up? Or look at some chicks in bikinis play beach volleyball? :) Who needs a strong story with role-playing? We just want to assume a different identity from our own, and have some stirring experiences different from what we normally experience, loosely strung together into a coherent whole. If the story is too 'strong' it would get in the way of enjoying the situation.

Brettzies
12-07-2005, 06:46 AM
I mean, who needs "great storytelling" anyway when I just wanna blow some sh*t up? Or look at some chicks in bikinis play beach volleyball? :) Who needs a strong story with role-playing? We just want to assume a different identity from our own, and have some stirring experiences different from what we normally experience, loosely strung together into a coherent whole. If the story is too 'strong' it would get in the way of enjoying the situation.Don't get me wrong. I do think good narrative gaming is great thing. I just felt people were taking it a bit too literal in comparison to film since most films are narrative in nature. It just felt like people are only grasping the great significant game as one that tells a story comparable to a novel or film.

The nature of games is to play. There is a lot of cross-over sure, but at it's core, it's about playing. If you undertand its nature you understand its significance and appreciated it for what it is, not for what something else is.

Bonedaddy
12-07-2005, 06:51 AM
Games aren't good at telling a story. They just aren't. I mean, if you wrote down everything that happened in Final Fantasy 7, you would have maybe 100 pages of plot, followed by several volumes of random battles, chocobo breeding, coliseum fights, random glowing save points, and fetch quests. I realize those things are shorthand for games -- sort of a montage to get you to feel like you've really been on an epic journey. Nevertheless, not a gripping story. It's crippled by its need for interactivity. Purely as a game, I think many would agree it's kind of simple, just a lot of menu choices, fighting, and a few minigames. I think it's really fighting its nature as a game.

That said, games are getting better about this. There's fewer jarring points where the game will suddenly stop and, say, play an FMV. We're starting to see dialogue delivered in places where one still has control, where you can simply walk away if you don't want to hear it -- as in Half Life. I think Half Life represents a good melding of story and game. There is a narrative there, if you choose to look for it. Lure us with the carrot, don't beat us with the stick until we go in the right direction. Make the situation involving, and we'll want to hear more about the plot. If you want to maintain the illusion of freedom, let the player do whatever, instead of forcing us to listen to the dialogue.

Ariel
12-07-2005, 07:04 AM
Yes, people in this thread keep saying that...
So can't anyone take a stab at what kind of technical development would allow games to shine in story-telling? Back in the 20's I'm sure smart people could have extrapolated sound and color and caught a glimpse of what was to come. Shouldn't we then be able to do that now with games?

Plus, the fact is, even in the silent film era there were masterpieces of cinematic storytelling. :)


People keep saying this because it is true. Games are extremely new and need to grow a lot. One thing that should start taking games into that direction is independent game development, which we will see more of in the future.

Also, who said that games need story in order to be art? That's saying, again, that games have to be like films or literature to be art. Games are different, they can be art, by just giving you a great world to explore, or a challenging puzzle to solve, or simply by being visually attractive, etc..

Games already have the potential to be artistically up there with any film, and ironically we don't need any extra technology to do that. We just need good game designers and art directors thinking outside of the box.

If anyone thinks games cannot be art, I would suggest they take a look at Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which have minimal story moments and dialogue, yet have better design, composition, story and immersion level than 90% of most movies these days.

PhantomDesign
12-07-2005, 07:29 AM
“Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.”

By that standard, I would think video games are superior – but the question is superior according to what standard? Entertainment, User Interactivity, Audience Thought, Presentation of a Concept, Story Telling, Immersiveness? The mistake he’s made is presuming video games were intended to a purpose they were not & judging them according to a non-applicable standard.

He does note opposite strategies, he completely missed the opposite goals. Video games are superior for their own purposes. It's interesting to note that some authors *try* (with variable success) to achieve audience interactivity, spark imagination, fill in the blanks – and purport that to be a superior achievement. I even remember books where you made choices (choice A = go to page 28) - those were so cool! (I was disappointed at limited interactivity - but still.)

I think video games have a lot to offer that was previously unavailable – immersiveness, more in-depth worlds to explore, visual beauty, etc.

- Jon

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 07:39 AM
I still really don't see the necessity for such discussion, especially such a heated discussion. I cannot understand why people get so upset or riled up about other peoples opinions. I play games myself, and I couldn't possibly care less if someone says games aren't deep. People criticise the industry I work in all the time and I certainly don't lose any sleep over it. Personally I really don't agree with:

when people/artists dont respect a medium, then that diminishes the growth of that medium

Because I don't see how Eberts opinion is somehow going to magically bring the entire game industry to a grinding halt, or even diminish its growth to any other lesser extent. That's all. Life goes on ;)

well no Ebert's opinion will do nothing that extreme but it has an impact... it's a small thing but small things add up to big things

and I'm not getting upset or anything and I dont think most other people are either... but I certainly dont enjoy leading a disempassioned life... and I guess that comes through a bit too much in my writing... for one I just enjoy the discussion and then when I write I really try to get my meaning across however I can... above all I yearn to be understood and I think that is my primary motivation as an artist

just dont get the wrong idea :)

Ariel
12-07-2005, 07:46 AM
“Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.”

By that standard, I would think video games are superior – but the question is superior according to what standard? Entertainment? User Interactivity? Thought Processes of Audience? Presentation of a Concept? Story Telling?

The mistake he’s made is presuming video games were intended to a purpose they were not & judging them according to a non-applicable standard. - Jon

Exactly what I meant. You just said it better :)

ThE_JacO
12-07-2005, 07:52 AM
Games aren't good at telling a story. They just aren't. I mean, if you wrote down everything that happened in Final Fantasy 7, you would have maybe 100 pages of plot, followed by several volumes of random battles, chocobo breeding, coliseum fights, random glowing save points, and fetch quests. I realize those things are shorthand for games -- sort of a montage to get you to feel like you've really been on an epic journey. Nevertheless, not a gripping story. It's crippled by its need for interactivity. Purely as a game, I think many would agree it's kind of simple, just a lot of menu choices, fighting, and a few minigames. I think it's really fighting its nature as a game.


by the time you add the descriptions to all the fantastic environments, the travels between the cities, picking a few fights and using them in some narrative exercise, describe the features of the characters when they meet and their body language, and add all that...
you'd probably end up with more.

if you take away all the descriptions that in visual arts are immediate and need no narration, take away the description of the battles, and trim dialogues to quoting the literal phrases, how many pages would be left in one book of the LOTR trilogy?

I'd be surprised if it was more then 100.

I'm not saying that FF7 was anywhere close in storyline quality and complexity to LOTR, but if you want to run a direct comparison between apples and bananas (which in some terms is possible provided you prepare the ground for it), then contextualize it properly.

the whole King's dark tower saga would probably easily end up in less then 300 pages if you took away everything that in visual and spoken mediums needs no wordcount.

PhantomDesign
12-07-2005, 07:57 AM
who cares
The most intelligent thing in this entire thread (no, that's not sarcasm). Couldn't have said it better myself. Is it art, not art, superior, inferior - does it realy matter - at all?

Lunatique
12-07-2005, 08:00 AM
An important question that needs to be asked is,

"Do most gamers even want their games to be deeper and have more artistic value?"

If most gamers couldn't care less, then developers would be serving the wrong purpose by trying to be more profound in their storytelling and game design. Those feeling the need to express on that level should maybe write novels or screenplays in their freetime.

The reason why writers and filmmakers do go for the artistic expression is because a big part of the audience does demand it, as does the literary and film critics. If your works are shallow and disposable, the critics will tear your stuff apart in reviews. But there isn't that kind of mentality in the game industry. Most gamers wants excitement and immersion, not necessarily artistic expression. The game reviewers/critics don't seem to be on a quest to demand more profound games either--they just want a solid game that's fun to play, look beautiful, and have great replay value.

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 08:13 AM
if there are games that are profound and moving, and could be candidates for great art that elevates the status of games as an artform, why aren't they championed by the industry and the supporters of the industry as so?

well some games are championed that really deserve it and others arent... any other medium is just the same... I believe there are many underrated and many overrated movies and books... I think Halo and FF7 are two of the most overrated games of all time... I think Xenosaga and FF6 are two of the most underrated...

it just happens... it's a relative thing... however there are common grounds... in all mediums it often comes down to entertainment... Star Wars is an undying classic with a gigantic fan base... with some people because it was the first of it's kind... others because they just like the flashy weapons... I dont think it had much profound content per se and I think it was a good movie but nothing extraordinary... but it's definitely a championed work because it broke ground and engaged people in the process

FF7 is the same story... even though there are games with deeper stories and better presentation, that one managed to grab people... but people picked up Xenosaga, got more cinematics than they were ready for, and it threw them off... that's just the way it happened...

as it stands, not enough of gaming's championed works are of the variety that would elevate it to artful status in the eyes of the general public... but many other less recognized games do have profound content and powerful stories...

books and movies in the past have been championed for tackling ideas of human responsibility for their own intelligent creations (playing god) or for creating sympathy for a villain or for challenging our traditional ideas about god or the role of technology in our species survival and evolution or the nature of free will or humanity, etc... I think most would agree that these issues are profound content

I can think of ways in which Xenosaga alone incorporates every single one of the above mentioned issues into its story... I wont bother to continue picking apart other games... games with profound content are most definitely out there

ThE_JacO
12-07-2005, 08:16 AM
The most intelligent thing in this entire thread (no, that's not sarcasm). Couldn't have said it better myself. Is it art, not art, superior, inferior - does it realy matter - at all?

probably not, but knowing the opinions of others around you, and sharing yours in a civil manner, is a GodGiven right (or reason, Allah, mother nature, whatever you believe in) and kinda interesting too.

whoever doesn't care is entitled to just as much, to state that that is what he/she thinks, and then move on.

if people can't avoid pitching in and saying something it means they are somewhat interested, whether they admit it or not :)

Lunatique
12-07-2005, 08:34 AM
The most intelligent thing in this entire thread (no, that's not sarcasm). Couldn't have said it better myself. Is it art, not art, superior, inferior - does it realy matter - at all?

I personally love internet forums and the fact like-minded people can get together and discuss various topics. Before the internet, to meet other people with the same interests, you'd have to go and hunt down some social club or other official gatherings, and often if you lived in a place where your interests are considered obscure, you'd feel pretty alone in your passions. The internet forums are a blessing, and I love that I can see someone from the other side of the planet comment on something with a totally different perspective--one that I never would've thought of. The only time it gets tiring is if the same topic keeps coming up with the same redundant arguments with no solution or new ideas. I think this current topic does not fall into that category, as it's been a hot topic in the game industry for the last couple years, and developers ARE making an effort and talking about it during conferences like GDC.

PhantomDesign
12-07-2005, 08:41 AM
I should rephrase - does it matter if video games are superior or inferior?

As far as this discussion goes - I'm not trying to stiffle intelectual discussion - please keep going! :)

probably not, but knowing the opinions of others around you, and sharing yours in a civil manner, is a GodGiven right (or reason, Allah, mother nature, whatever you believe in) and kinda interesting too.

whoever doesn't care is entitled to just as much, to state that that is what he/she thinks, and then move on.

if people can't avoid pitching in and saying something it means they are somewhat interested, whether they admit it or not :)

Mu
12-07-2005, 09:01 AM
“Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.”


some thoughts on this:

- first of all and very simple: the above statement lacks a causal/logical chain about why and how this has to lead to an inferiority of video games.

- someone mentioned chess. As concerns mathematical complexity you could also mention go.

The discussion we see here never occured for these games, though they are complex, multi-threaded (I think Go has more possible endings than there are stars in the galaxy - put that in a video game...lol) and interactive. Their interactivity is not between an author and an audience, but between two equally equipped players. And anyone who played chess with a little passion involved knows that some "battles" you fought remain a vivid memory for years on end -similar to, but not exactly like stories.

Still, noone was trying to put chess in a row with certain artforms, really. Or did I miss that discussion?

Taking these two facts about chess into consideration should be quite a relief to people who get upset about the above statement, because:

though chess as well as go is not officially considered art, or even a form of storytelling, they instill a major respect (terms like "the royal game" come into mind): If video games reach that status once, which they eventually will, it will be more than enough without competing with paintings, books, movies, a.s.o.

- music... Oh, the respect masterful musicians receive! But some of the greatest music does not need an author. Strangely enough: improvisation, like gameplay, requires a basic set of rules, equally equipped players and a lot of interaction. Great art! But, according to the above statement, inferior, because lacking the almighty author.

- I just love how he says "serious film and literature" Really folks...

coolrio
12-07-2005, 10:25 AM
perhaps film is like a musician playing a piece of a classical music while game is like playing a jazz or blues its full of improvisation

pogonip
12-07-2005, 10:28 AM
I agree with Miyamoto when he said " Im a toy maker " and in that sense not a story teller . Video games are closer to the evolution of board games like Monopoly then a new way to tell a story so to even think of Video games as a Narrative tool to is ridiculous but could get there in the future. Imagine if he had said " scrabble or frisbee " were Inferior narrative tools he would be lauphed at like he should be in the instance . I mean Super mario games have a basic story line but would it have been a funner GAME if it had the dramaic depth of Gone with the Wind or the witty dialoge of Annie Hall ?....UH NO ... ridiculous ... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Leionaaad
12-07-2005, 11:31 AM
For a second I said "Well, it is art! It is the next step in the history of arts". I still believe that. But I don't know if I want it to be art...look what happened to the fine arts in the last decades. It is just a snobbish decadent crap. We are learning at art history class about paintings with coloured squares (mondrian), white square on white background (Malevich), happenings, Objet trouvee (Duchamp) etc. Thank god we have animation and games, were really committed artists can do their best.

About the story telling devices? I think games simply have a different kind of story, wich is not linear. A story wich can have several tracks is not less than a linear one, and not necessarily better. It all depends on the guy/ team responsible for the story.

Grim Beefer
12-07-2005, 11:55 AM
I would like to first express my admonishment against declaring any philosophical topics “off limits” as some people in this thread have made case to. If you declare that “what is art?” is a verboten, I can find no reason to refuse banishing all subjective inquires by the same logic. I also personally warn against such “who cares” agnosticism (the conclusion of the last premise ironically). I do not invalidate your position, but nevertheless wouldn’t find myself in a religious forum denying that the participants’ search for essential knowledge lacks any merit. Such a skeptical view of the world cannot be denied, but I personally find most people do not need to be reminded of the “absurd”, it lives with us daily. This is the Mu solution; by invalidating the entirety of the discussion you avoid taking any sides. Perhaps you should take into account that a search for higher meaning in art and philosophy can matter, most importantly, to those participating (sociological enrichment is a bonus, but not a requirement by my standards).



By questioning the very quintessence of art you are actually alleging that the process of legitimizing art does not have a universally accepted standard operating procedure. But what does this mean really, that we have different tastes? Is it an artistic distinction that I prefer the taste of tea over coffee? Would I dare claim that my taste for tea is superior, or of a higher quality? Why disambiguate between environmental or cognitive preferences? Science, art, and philosophy all share this crisis of legitimization (what is the true nature of scientific inquiry?, what truly constitutes the mind?, etc), and perhaps you should think of the search as the functional part (sociologically or internally), and not the “answer”. I will come back to these primary questions of legitimization and knowledge later.



Due to the historical tendency of these schema to dissolve into consilience, it must be understood that the question of “what is art?” seems to be the same question as “why should art?”, just as in science and philosophy. It is easy, by this conjecture, to see why we did not have the school of psychology in ancient Greece, even if Aristotle was toying with virtues, ethics and other such musings. Ancient Greece obviously had no use culturally for psychology, but Aristotle did help pave the way for our modern shrinks. It is proposed that art as a definition is actually art as function, and this function can only be “judged” for it’s usefulness as an experience, but can be valued for any number of reasons. So what you really have are questions about judging, like “should a work be judged in the framework of its time, or by modern standards” (think of the Bible); and who gets to be judges, of course. But what is missed, underneath, is why we experience art in the first place, which is a mirror of the conundrums of cognitive science.



For years now linguists have dealt with unraveling the problems of “free expressive actions”, language forms that are unique but immediately understood by others around you. This type of problem is also seen in modern AI research. It can be confoundingly difficult to get a robot to selectively pick up an object on a table, something you and I do every day easily; but we’ve come nowhere near simulating why we look at sunsets for just the amount of time we do, or decide to hum a tune at precisely the time we do (other free expressive actions). The vague intimations are that these conditions of action are at the true root of human understanding, which computational theory is light years away from simulating. I believe that once (if?) we start unraveling these mysteries, we will truly find our answers to questions such as “what is art”.

So to answer some questions here, as to what we could do to create video games that generate multiple conduits of storyline dynamically with interactive elements, I think the solution lies in AI research. With the proper understanding of human psychology and artistic appreciation, the quandary of simulating environments that react emotionally to the characters actions would be solved. It is possible that nothing would be heavily scripted per se, but instead every NPC (organic or not) would react causally to the conditions set forth by the protagonist a la the butterfly effect. You could mix in constraints (a prison, an island, a depressed or oppressed population) or goals to ensure that certain environmental feedback would be assured regardless of the character’s actions, but overall such worlds would be immeasurably complex and unique. Of course solving such cognitive riddles, such as free action, isn’t going to happen overnight. But I will say that we would be nowhere even near it if we didn’t take art and philosophy as serious contributors in this human puzzle.

Stahlberg
12-07-2005, 12:35 PM
If you declare that “what is art?” is a verboten, I can find no reason to refuse banishing all subjective inquires by the same logic.
Actually, the "What is art" discussion is in a class of itself, due to the fact that:
1. It crops up here regularly.
2. It's not against the rules to discuss it, as other equally useless subjects are (religion, politics), so it usually goes on a while
3. Most who join in the discussion (including me) don't have anything very intelligent and learned to say on the subject
4. I don't know of a single instance where anyone has changed their mind from participating in such a discussion :)

So, have a glance through these first then see if you still want to join in
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?t=227632
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?t=252778
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?t=294226
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?t=262807

edit:
and quite apart from this, whatever Ebert wrote, the opinions I myself posted here had nothing to do with if games are art or not, but were focused on the storytelling aspect and how that works with interactivity added in the mix.

Grim Beefer
12-07-2005, 01:06 PM
I would agree with you that it's futile to try and objectively pin down "Art" with any semblence of tangibility, but that wasn't really the point of my post anyways. Regardless of what you may or may not "label" art, you are still going to concieve of it in some way, presumably even if you called it ping-pong or tampon or whatever (a rose by any other name). This creates the reasonable belief that there is a biologically sound purpose to experience art, and figuring out this purpose would lead to the only scientifically justfiable reason that art even exists. Duchamp hammered it home quite well with his readymades, proving that nothing exists inside a "product" to isomorphically produce an artistic reaction. A very quick glance of the posts you directed me to reveals that most are mere value judgements - I like this, you like that, etc. I want to know, however, why it is that we "appreciate" anything, given that my dog doesn't seem to care one bit about my oil paintings.

Mu
12-07-2005, 01:21 PM
3. Most who join in the discussion (including me) don't have anything very intelligent and learned to say on the subject

lol, that's half the fun, isn't it?:scream:

I think, the reason for this discussion is that people are realizing that with video games something big is on its way and we are actually trying to find out what exactly it is and what it establishes.

As concerns A.I.: the A.I. department of informatics (english term right?) is equally full of young aspiring and hopeful talents as well as old disenchanted craftsmen.

How often have we heard what A.I. will be capable of doing in about ten to twenty years and the list of projects merely showed what will not be possible within a century or so.

The easier thing to do will be plot-moderated MMORPGs. Common plotlines and global occurences will lead the general storyline, while decentralized interaction will create the individual's experience.

It's already there.

Multiply this by graphics we until now only see in movies and enhanced AI for the occasional bot-slaughter and you have the most fascinating game experience in the history of mankind.

Gamin is its own merit - no need to be classified as 'art'.

Mutagen Media
12-07-2005, 02:47 PM
I imagine that exactly the same things were said about film when it emerged in the 30's, that it wasn't art and would never be able to compare to painting, sculpture, music, or even theater.

The "art snob argument" seems to be based around what is common to games NOW, not their absolute potential now and in the future. Sure, most games are shallow fragfests or otherwise completely devoid of higher value, but that reflects what is being produced and not what is possible. And if you're going to talk in percentages, film's ratio of crap to "art" is approaching zero as well - for every Citizen Cane you have dozens of bad Police Academy sequels.

This attitude is easily written off to shortsightedness. In the same way that retrospection gives us a good chuckle looking at Pitfall or Dig Dug, today's fare of video games will seem embryonic in comparison to a mere 40-50 years from now (come on, try to see beyond the scope of your own lifetime for a change). The convergence of entertainment media on the internet will produce a wide variety of half-breed video games/movies/serial shows/live events/etc. Many will allow the viewer to have varying levels of participation, from only changing the viewpoint to altering the devlopment of the story to building the entire story from scratch.

Mr. Ebert claims that viewer participation in the storytelling process prevents interactive stories from reaching an artistic level, because artstic stories are tightly-controlled labors. However, I propose that any of the great artistic movies that he cites could be converted into a game to allow a player to experience firsthand the protagonists plight, with all the social commentary and artistic integrity intact. Would it sell in today's "hardcore-gamer only" marketplace? Not likely, but this doesn't mean the potential isn't there.

In the not-so-distant future there will be games that address these issues, that deliver compelling storytelling and social commentary, that have appeal beyond fragfests, resource-managing megalomania, testosterone-based sports, and overused franchises. Just because we have no examples today doesn't mean the potential isn't there.

In short, when it comes to digital - NEVER SAY NEVER. You make yourself a relic faster than today's processors are tomorrow's garbage.

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 03:44 PM
By questioning the very quintessence of art you are actually alleging that the process of legitimizing art does not have a universally accepted standard operating procedure. But what does this mean really, that we have different tastes? Is it an artistic distinction that I prefer the taste of tea over coffee? Would I dare claim that my taste for tea is superior, or of a higher quality? Why disambiguate between environmental or cognitive preferences? Science, art, and philosophy all share this crisis of legitimization (what is the true nature of scientific inquiry?, what truly constitutes the mind?, etc), and perhaps you should think of the search as the functional part (sociologically or internally), and not the “answer”.

coming up with a concrete literary definition of art does seem a near impossible undertaking, but we dont need to bother... we can assess the artistic value of games by comparison... what do most people consider art?... film, literature, painting, music, sculpting, etc... the thing about video games is they incorporate elements of all these disciplines which are commonly seen as artistic... the controversy seems to come about only because it adds one more element of interactivity... I dont understand how that element invalidates the artistic attributes of all these other disciplines...

some people like tea, others like coffee... games are a mixed drink... tea AND coffee plus something else we still have trouble naming or describing

ThE_JacO
12-07-2005, 05:37 PM
I agree with Miyamoto when he said " Im a toy maker " and in that sense not a story teller . Video games are closer to the evolution of board games like Monopoly then a new way to tell a story so to even think of Video games as a Narrative tool to is ridiculous but could get there in the future. Imagine if he had said " scrabble or frisbee " were Inferior narrative tools he would be lauphed at like he should be in the instance . I mean Super mario games have a basic story line but would it have been a funner GAME if it had the dramaic depth of Gone with the Wind or the witty dialoge of Annie Hall ?....UH NO ... ridiculous ... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

this goes back to the question "what is a story then?" though.

I would say quite a few games were MEANT to tell a story, and that side was what made them compelling, not the interaction model or the AI.

all the graphical adventures are like that, a large number of non hack&slash RPGs, and even other games like the Alone in the dark and Resident Evil titles, where the interaction model was extremely simple and the focus was the mood and the emotions (fear, disgust, tension...) they are meant to stir.

infact I miss games where story is king. I'd play more if they came back :)

slaughters
12-07-2005, 06:38 PM
...admonishment....verboten...subjective inquires...agnosticism...invalidate your position....Mu solution...very quintessence...legitimizing art...Why disambiguate between environmental or cognitive preferences...crisis of legitimization...the functional part (sociologically or internally)....historical tendency of these schema to dissolve into consilience...linguists have dealt with unraveling the problems of “free expressive actions”... The vague intimations are that these conditions of action ...computational theory...multiple conduits of storyline dynamically with interactive elements....But I will say that we would be nowhere even near it if we didn’t take art and philosophy as serious contributors in this human puzzle.Must...use...shorter...words... :)

SalmonGod
12-07-2005, 07:03 PM
all the graphical adventures are like that, a large number of non hack&slash RPGs, and even other games like the Alone in the dark and Resident Evil titles, where the interaction model was extremely simple and the focus was the mood and the emotions (fear, disgust, tension...) they are meant to stir.

I've had American McGee's Alice since it was first released, but never played it through because of past computer problems... I finally have a computer that will run it flawlessly and I have a little bit of time right now so I've picked it back up... and it's an excellent example of just what you're describing above...

he really picks up the style of Alice in Wonderland and turns it into something very dark and twisted while remaining very faithful, tasteful, and artistic... even the voice acting is spot on, if a little overdone sometimes... it's not a deep story, but it retains all the personality of the original's descriptive elements and presents a very vivid world and a solid adventure

actually... the GTA series is another great example... somebody mentioned Clockwork Orange before... now that movie didn't tell a detailed story... it told its story mostly through the characters and the environment and the shocking, graphic, visual representations of them... like the scene where the gang beats up a bunch of rapists caught in the act... only to rape the girl themselves... there's no deep meaning behind it... no extravagant dialogue... only characterization

Clockwork Orange doesnt have an elaborate plot progression nor does he necessarily tell his story to make a point... he simply presents the audience with a profound characterization that disturbs them at a deeply emotional level... and then leaves the audience to soak in their own emotions and lets them sort out their own personal emotional outcomes

Grand Theft Auto does this same thing extremely well... it presents you with a very strongly characterized environment and cast of characters and a world vision that is nothing but messed up people, corruption, rampant violence, drugs, sex, and an endless supply of victims... they tell a powerful story in much the same manner as Kubrik

obviously not everybody who plays the game will recognize this story on such a level, but that doesnt mean it's not there... just as I'm sure many people didn't watch Clockwork Orange for the story... many people just want to see some sex and violence

CupOWonton
12-07-2005, 07:09 PM
His statement is so untrue and opinionated. Granted, everyones entitled to an opinion, but the facts are still a reality:

Movies
Fine Art
Books
Music
& Videogames

are all forms of expessive media. And all of them can tell a story.

Videogames are the only media in which a person can not only watch a story unfold, but interact and in many cases now, change the story a bit based on pre-set timelines the creator/author has set upon that fictional world. Therefore, more of a story can be made.

Its all relative though.
One person may get lost in a book. Another may get lost in a series of paintings, people get emotionaly attached to characters in movies, and the same can be said for videogames.

Like time, art is relative.

Jhonus
12-07-2005, 08:48 PM
I have not read any of the posts prior, so sorry if I repeat. I just wanted to say that Ebert may or may not be correct in the broad sense, but his argument is not:

"There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control."

games have complete authorial control. multiple endings, character development, or whatever choices the player has are dictated by the game creators. It does not mean they give up authorial control.

If i'm going to be convinced that games are inferior by nature, i need a better argument than Ebert provides.

Boone
12-07-2005, 09:08 PM
Games aren't inferior - infact, they can be huge epic stories when they want to be.

With the interaction of a game, sometimes it is left to the player's imagination to fill in the holes - or even to make it so! :wise:

What games have done is to add a new playground for story telling - to help the player "experiance" the story.

I bought King Kong on the PS2 this week, and found it to be a rather nice way of experiancing the Kong story first hand( short of visiting Skull Island of course! :D ). But what would have made it better( in story ) would have been to make it a "prequel" to the movie and had Kong explore the entire island(Zelda style) and let the Island tell it's story through backgrounds, ruins etc. Once all was discovered, we could have a further insight to Kong as he could be frustrated that the Island is all he will ever know...leaving it up to Ann Darrow to bring a light to him...blablabla...whatever...

Speaking of frustration( there's a Neriah Davis poster right Behind my monitor :D ), I thought LucasArts were starting to expand the starwars saga with new chapters through games - until they lost their minds and kept rehashing the Death Star Trench run on every release... :wip:

So the great games with a story don't bog us down with cutscenes or intermissions - they tell the story with the game world itself.

Oh, and I once heard of a teenage girl who once kept a diary/jurnal of her time playing Myst... :thumbsup:

Ondrayce
12-07-2005, 11:16 PM
I think Ebert is correct for the most part. Fine art, books, music, and film require nothing more from the viewer than their reaction. They do not participate in or control the course of the story in any way. No matter how loud you scream "Don't open the door!" the door will be opened. I think Ebert appreciates more the ability for the above genres to force reaction onto the viewer. The "greats" which he refers to are successful at making you cry when they want you to cry, making you laugh when they want you to laugh, and scaring you when they want you to be scared. He's not saying that all movies are successful at doing so, but just that the most successful are better at it than a game would be. On that level, I would agree, but I personally consider gaming to be a completely different kind of experience and in turn expect something unique and challenging. And to be successful at doing so is an art unto itself.

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