When games are art

Well, here we are. Something that’s been bouncing around my head as I see reviews for some of those up-and-coming games. Games like Journey, The Unfinished Swan and No Man’s Sky. Now, I know the former two aren’t new games by a long shot, But the PS4 remakes are a little more recent, or on their way in the near future.

The games don’t have any kind of central narrative, save for Unfinished Swan. They are games with the intention of capturing the senses through sheer visual appeal. Frankly, I think they’re on to something. Don’t misread me. I still think a well crafted story is the key to a fantastic game. Granted, I’m biased. I couldn’t draw, paint or craft a decent picture/object to save my life. I’ve always been a word person. So at the end of the day – the words the game chooses to impact it’s world and the end user – that’s always going to be where my bread is buttered.

That’s not to say, though, that those games don’t have something going for themselves. The majestic dunes in Journey and the picturesque planets and galaxies that we’ve seen of No Man’s sky thus far are exactly the kind of games I’m talking about.

No Man’s Sky may be the first time, in games at least, where true inspiration can be born. Now, I know games like Minecraft and Littlebigplanet have been around for some time and they are by and far away the best games to inspire creativity. However, they are limited to the extent that their creative spaces are only creative within the enclosure of their models. Meaning, they are creative but limited to the tools given to the end user by the developers. Yes, I know this is more true for LBP than Minecraft, but I feel my point stands. No Man’s Sky gives you the ability to explore and interact with planets and people to whatever end works for you. Discovery – I think that’s the key. Bear in mind that I’ve said some of this before and the game still isn’t out – but I really think the potential here is colossal.

Journey – I won’t lie, I’m not crazy about the game. I bought it because it was something that was talked about and raved about for some time. Now, gameplay wise, not my cup of tea. But the game is majestic looking at the worst of times. Does that make up for the game’s flaws in terms of structure – no. But, it does present a unique insight into the game/art paradigm. The game is a moving Monet. There really is almost nothing like it. Keep in mind too that the game was released on a 720p console. Seeing something like that is tantamount to something directed by Kubrick. It’s a world that is amazingly beautiful and mysterious at every turn and every frame. It’s clear that painstaking efforts were put forth to make this game what the developers had in mind.

The Unfinished Swan deviates from the others mentioned in the sense that it does have a linear story and, basically, an on-rails story. That being said – the world that is there – even though it’s white from the get-go, is still yours to create to an extent. At least in the sense, that the world doesn’t appear without you. Your interaction, either through paint or water or the problem solving that is necessary to advance, is all there because you make it. Much like the story in the game, it’s a world that is a blank slate until you are involved. And then, much like moving through a gallery or museum, the paintings change when you move through them and they only exist (existentially speaking) because you are there to be a part of them. To bear witness, as it were.

Enough of my bloviating on art. Frankly, it’s always been a subject I’ve known very little about and therefore, interacted with it on a limited basis.

– The Ego

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