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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Art or not art? That is the question… – Musings on Video Games

imagesForgive me for my bad Shakespear impression…but first,…I have to slap myself for writing this. Not only for this unexcusable attempt to write a fitting title, but for the whole idea of actually meddling with the game politics and speak my mind about it. (What outrageous thought…) If you haven’t noticed by now, this is going to be a lot more serious than my other “reviews”….I’m so going to regret this, am I?

So, don’t like, don’t read. I’m not angry when someone disagrees with what I’m writing about. I’m a supporter of open mind and free discussion. So, I’m going to throw the central question in here.

“Are Video Games Art?”

…Don’t mind me if I’m getting a headache right now, because this topic is a glorious absurd vicious circle and of course, I can’t withstand the temptation to write about it. (I’m slowly thinking I’m a masochist at heart…)

What is the clear definition of art, in general? I dare you to not open wiki or google (bing, yahoo or use the classic book dictonary) the word “art”. What comes to mind when we think about art? Well, pictures, sculptures, paintings, music, literature, performing arts and so on.

And why do we consider these things as art? It is human made, is a part/product of our culture, has influenced culture and was/is influcenced by it. We admire it, we debate about the meaning, we consider a deeper meaning behind it, or just simply accept it as “a piece of art” because we were told that this is art. It’s a human product, build out of our knowledge, vision, time, interpretation and talent.

First of all, this is a personal definition and I don’t know if it does cover with other definitions or not. The problem with such topics is, in general, that there a many definitions in different contexts on art. And don’t get me started on culture. In some circles it either provokes a neverending discussion, which may or may not escalate or dead silence, depending on where you bring up this topic.

In my point of view, it is rather subjective, strongly depending on different influcences, the culture we have grown up in and the knowledge we have aquired through years, on the period of time we are living and our own interpretation. What may be on wiki or in a dictonary is the general accepted explanation, but that doesn’t mean, that it covers the essence what different people might see in the topic of art. But let’s explain it with a personal example.

By all means, I’m no art student and I’m not familiar with the history of art in any way…but I was on different exhibitions. I went through classic art like portraits (Mona Lisa and the Kiss by Klimt being famous examples) to sculptures of Michelangelo to Impressionists to “Modern Art”. The first examples being almost beyond price and the last a pile of bananas on a table.

You can guess what my reaction. I was seriously confused. I considered art as something exeptional, as a product not every human can produce, as something unique, a talent not everyone has and now I was confronted with a pile of banana peals which can be considered as art (This is nothing unique since every person could do such a thing). Then it was explained to me that this piece of art is about the message the creator wants to send to the viewers and the discussion around it. Since I’m a writer in the amateur department I’,m familar with this. When telling a story you want to get a point across, but what point it is, can vary from the point of view.

And that is a major thing which is funny and frustrating at the same time.

For example you can take it for what you see: A sculpture, a stone, a simple story of a boy and a girl or a pile of bananas on a table. Or you can try to explain it with symbolism and interpretation thereof. And the last thing can be considered a problem in some cases. Symbols and interpretation of symbols vary, depending on the person and the person’s culture and story. A dagger can be a weapon, a threat, a symbol for war or a soldier, of betrayal or , according to Freud…You know what I mean.

images (1)A coded critic on society? On economy? On enviroment?  Or was Freud right?

And depending on the person you ask you can get a different interpretation. If you don’t ask the creator, that is. They were sheldomly asked what they really meant by it or say it is “to provoke the mind and people”. I feel with the authors who suddenly were accused to embed a hidden message in every thing they describe, even if they didn’t have the intention to do so. (Oh there are red curtains in the book! That has to mean something!)

So, bananas on a table is art, because it stirrs up your train of thoughts? Because it provokes me to question it? Then what about Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey? They did as well stir me thoughts and provoked me to ask how could it be considered literature, but it can hardly considered art (…or I’m I wrong?) Of this, I draw the conclusion that writing is an art form, but it doesn’t produce art automatically, at least, in my opinion. I have nothing against Modern Art but some pieces make me wonder..,Is this really art? The answers I get ranges from yes to no to maybe.

What has that to do with Video games? It is made for enterainment from humans for humans. But so are books,    films, theatre performances and music. I dare to say their first and furthermost goal is to entertain humans in different ways. But when does entertainment become art and when is art not some form of entertainment? You may think, maybe sculptures or portraits are an example to rebut this argument, but aren’t they entertainment in things of aesthetic? Of self picturing? In every work is a hidden meaning, but only the creator or employer knows what kind of meaning. Either he/she wanted just a statue or I don’t know, wanted to show off their money or talent, or something completely different.

Of course there are other important questions as well. In case of film or video games, what defines this point of turning the work into art? Just because someone threw in some symbols, so we can interpret what it should mean? Maybe. Or is it what the story behind it that tries to tackle and question society? Could be as well. There is no clear definition of what differs the one from the other, although some consider that there is a line. There are people who will never consider video games as art form or modern art for that matter.

I can remember that I was called narrow minded because I questioned some exhibits on modern art and asked if that is really art, because everyone can splash some paint on the wall and say “Look here I created art”. People called me out that “I don’t understand art” and “don’t see the meaning and idea behind it.”. I won’t deny it. I don’t have the slightest clue what art is supposed to be. I think art describes something that humans created. Something man-made, but at the same time I don’t consider everything that humans create as a piece of art. I think, I don’t know. And I’m well aware that what I’m taught about art depends on my society and own experiences with it. In the end, human societies decide what can  be regared as art, regardless the individual person. But societies always change.

journey__cloudy_mount_by_gekidami-d4let45

Poetical and entertaining…How can this be not art?

My conclusion is: Programming games and telling stories are an art form, since it creates something, yet at the same time, it doesn’t always create art depending on different views. To say that Video Games will never reach a certain level of art or isn’t art, is, in that perspective at least, a little bit rashly and an argument without good footing. What art is, depends on different factors and let’s be honest, the argument that art can be timeless or at least, survives a certain periode of time, because it is unique and will be remembered…Pieces what we see today were, to put in bluntly, just lucky to survive to this day. What we consider as art can be forgotten by the next generation.

But I will come to an end with this. I called it a vicious circle because there isn’t really an end to this debate. It is a subjective matter and thus everyone can have a different opinion without really being right or wrong.

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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Musings

 

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Just some musings

Ah…and my laziness finally returns to me. At the worst possible moment. Just a few days before I start my venture through the exam hell and back. Fortunately (or unfortunately) it has more to do with my health than my non existent ambition to do something. (physically, If my mental state can be saved is still debatable xD). Those are as well the reasons  why I can’t update that often anymore (besides the fact that there are no new games to “review”)

I just wanted to say that I really don’t care about “game politics” and try to keep my head out of those topics. Why? Simply, because there are so many people who talk and write and discuss these topics to the gaming hell and back that I see no reason to talk about it. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m still interested in the debate, but…Let’s say there are some things that I can’t stomach anymore like the “Video Violence”- discussion. It literally makes my eyes twitch with annoyance and this can’t be good for health.

Naturally, I have heard the whole Ps 4 vs. Xbox One thing and although I don’t meddle with this whole affair of console wars…From the neutraI point of view, I have to say…Wow.

Not wow, what games!
Not wow, what graphics!
But WOW what an one-sided slaughter that was!

No offense to the people who like the Xbox, but that was…a rather one sided matter.  It’s a pity that the Xbox had to take such a blow. (or not. I won’t lie, I’m a sadistic person. Every Crub-stomp-battle in such matters makes me smile with delight, but… there is always a next generation, so as long as Microsoft is still in business and learns from mistakes, there is no need to worry)  But that is just my thought to that, more important is the fact what I’m doing next.

Well, I, maybe, analyse Pandora’s Tower and the Neverwinter Nights series and maybe, just maybe, give some food for thought about game stories and stories in general. And just maybe I’m going to say something about “Games as Art”-thing (but you know that is more a game politics matter, so…I. Must. Resist.) Don’t worry, for those topics I’m more serious…well, just a little bit.

For the rest…I wish a good hunting session and till next time.

P.S. I have to apologize for the Remember Me review…I don’t think it was as good as the others…

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Just Updates

 

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Remember me – A hunt for memories

Remember_Me_Game

What would you do if you could reset unpleasant memories, share your precious moments with your loved one, see things through their eyes, feel what they felt in that situation? And when you happen to have the ability to alter those memories, turn, twist and form them just as you like? Would you use it?

Nilin has this unique ability and ,as a memory hunter of the Errorist, decided to use it against the corrupt industry of memory trade and the city of Neo-Paris (You guess right, it’s a futuristic setting). Of course along her way, something went terribly wrong and she got captured and her memory deleted and this, ladys and gentelmen, is where our game starts.

A story full of questions underlined with philosophical flavour and rounded with action gameplay. Oh, I’m going to have fun with this one…in one way or another…

I will start with the gameplay. First of all, the levels are very, very linear. Most of the time, it is essentially a road with tiny branches in which upgrades wait to be collected by the player. You have to go from A to B to continue the story and you will meet obstacles along the way. Either enemies you have to fight or you have climb around an obstacle.

The combat system…is interesting. Yes, we settle with “interesting” here as description, since I lack a better term. You will fight, for the most time, hand to hand and try to execute combos. Nothing out of ordinary, but you decide which button does what effect in the combo. I’m aware how stupid this wording sounds, so let me explain this in a more detailed way. There are different combo-sets which you gain throughout the story and you can unlock different buttons to fill those combos, so you can execute them in battle.

Fnez6

There are buttons which can fill up your Focus-Gauge (which you need to activate special attacks), some which do more damage, some which can heal you (…I can’t really come up with a decent explanation how this should work, other than Nilin has to be a complete sadist who takes pleasure in the pain of others.) and some which can enhance the effect of the buttons which follow in the combo. So you can create a combo-chain which does damage, heals you and does other nasty things.

Naturally, your enemies try to break your combo and they do a really good job. Of course, you can dodge and try to continue your combo, but with a narrow battleground with lots of annoying enemies, this isn’t as easy as it may sound. I have nothing against difficult battles, but some battles are difficult because I can lock the camera on an enemy which I want to keep in sight, so I can dodge its attacks.

For example, there is an enemy type which is stronger when other monsters/people are around. The logical solution to this problem is “kill the critters -> then kill the bigger critter”. This would be go smoothly, wouldn’t the camera switch when I take a few steps forward (you can’t control the camera by the way) in a way I can’t see the bigger critter attacking me from behind. It’s really annoying. The only time you can lock on an enemy is in “gun mode” (or rather the gun-like weapon which you obtain in the story).

But that aside, what is with the whole memory stealing and memory altering? That should be the focus in the story, right?…Right? It revolves around it, but the parts in which you use your altering ability are few and this is really a pity. How do you alter memories? Well, you see a sequence which you can rewind and you alter some details which lead to another outcome. It’s a really nice aspect of the game, but like I said, they are few, unfortunately. This system would be good for side quests in which you decide what the people think and remember. Ah, I should mention that this game has no side quests.

Now let’s get to the last point(s). The story and atmosphere.

ConceptArt_Mid_Paris

Corrupt state/industry? Check. Rebells who do questionable things? Check. An (at first) amnesiac protagonist? Memory dealing/altering? Check. Yes, we had all those things in a way. (Why am I reminded of Total Recall?) But what is important is the presentation and in what way you do it.

When I say, the story isn’t surprising and predictable, I have to add, that I have the ability or more the curse to predict twists and turns in a story before they happen. (Which led to my reputation of being a “walking spoiler”) So…How predictable was it for me? To say it metaphorically…Some things had the nasty flavour of a punch in the face, because I have not only seen it coming, but it was so predictable that it hurt me. (or rather my non-existent heart). But I will forgive that…somewhat, since the story is not that bad, not at all, just not the strongest or the best thought out. Just some things had me raise my eyebrow and say “Really now?”

I have to give credit for the designs in this game. They are interesting to look at and you have the feeling that someone has put thought in it and tried to make a good world and atmosphere which goes along with the story. On one hand there are the Slums with the ghoul like creatures  and other poor people who wither in pain, on the other the city were people talk normally to each other. It is not the best I have seen, but it’s well made. This and the naming theme in this game. (Slum 404, the Errorists, Bad Request…etc. and the fact that Edge has a resemblence to Alex Mercer (Prototype))

My conclusion on the hunt? I didn’t expect anything from it or at least, I tried to not expect anything. The Artwork is great and so is the world in my opinion, but in the gameplay and writing section it isn’t more than medicore. There was a lot of unused potential which was, sadly, not used. I could talk about the story more, but  I don’t want to spoil anything for those, who haven’t played it yet. I will sum it up in the words, such a topic as story is hard to bring in a game and this game bit a little to much then it could chew in the end.

For those who want to know what Nilin means…It means flower. Nalin means lotus, in the buddhism, its the flower of enlightment…Yeah.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Ps3

 

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