Anything can be art. But yet only art can be art. The answer to the question is, the question is wrong. But the answer is right. Art can be anything. But yet it is only art when it is art. If you think something is art and it isn’t art, then you are wrong. If you think something is art and it is art, then you are right. Sometimes it is wrong to be wrong. And sometimes it is right to be wrong. Sometimes it is wrong to be right.
Art is art is art. And only art can be art. What isn’t art can’t be art and never can be art.
And art is art.
Who adopted the Space Hamster after the events of Mass Effect 3?
The many discussions one can find surrounding titles like Gone Home, Dear Esther, The Novelist, or The Wolf Among Us, inevitably bring forth the argument that these shouldn’t be called “games” but “interactive fictions” instead. In more extreme debates, even games like The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite are criticized for the simple fact that they contain… a story!
It’s not a matter of defending that all games need to be driven by narrative. Games can be good whether they have a story or not, and a good story doesn’t necessarily imply a good game. But video gaming, as a medium, has proven over and over again that it is a powerful platform for storytelling, and has been doing so for decades.
The real problem here lies in a distorted and pre-conceived notion of “gameplay”. The function of gameplay, some will say, is to establish barriers upon the player. By overcoming these barriers, you progress in the game, and if you beat all these obstacles, you win.
This notion, which might have suited the definition of “video games” several decades ago, is completely inadequate for what the gaming medium has become. It is regrettable that in this day and age we often feel compelled to be apologetic about games such as Gone Home, pejoratively labeled by some as little more than a house simulator, a good manifestation of the prejudices that encircle this particular genre.
Beyond: Two Souls is another example of this pathology. If it is a good game or not is irrelevant to this discussion. The question is: does it not qualify as a “game” for the fact that (for the most part) you can’t lose, or die. What many people fail to understand is that the function of gameplay has evolved to incorporate many different dimensions. With Beyond: Two Souls, as with Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit before it, Quantic Dream has been exploring new interface solutions to engage the player with the action on screen. The primary function, then, is not necessarily to “win” but to “feel”. The input is there to draw your empathy and make you connect.
Despite the particularities of all the games I’ve mentioned, they all confront the player with their own challenges and rules, with conflicts, choices, and outcomes. It may not be the kind of interactivity you enjoy as a player. And that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean they don’t qualify as games as well. To disregard their qualities because they don’t fit into the narrow template of what someone considers a game is to express a poor understanding of the medium. The potential of gaming as an evolving and valuable form of storytelling and artistic expression deserves better than that, particularly from those who claim to be gamers in the first place.
The controversy surrounding the campaign that saw YouTube content producers make additional revenue for showcasing Xbox One games is a misleading issue. As much as I don’t want to defend Microsoft (or EA) there is a difference in paying for positive feedback and paying to promote playthroughs of their games.
This was not a campaign to “buy positive feedback”. The point of the campaign was to generate buzz – and plenty of Let’s Play videos, neutral reporting and, shock horror, actually genuinely positive videos for the products in question would have been able to utilize a bonus on their advertising payout for the video – a feature that Machinima actually uses for their affiliates very frequently, for all kinds of campaigns. Also, regarding the “illegal” non-disclosure agreement, it should be noted that it referred to disclosing the terms of the contract and promotion details, not to disclosing whether you were participating or getting paid at all. In the end, if anyone actually published a video with a contradictory opinion to their own for the sake of a tiny CPM boost (the equivalent, while being generous, of a few dollars at best), that’s on them.
Now, I would agree that YouTubers who want to establish themselves as valid opinion makers should stay away from these campaigns or at least disclose when they take part of them. But this controversy, fueled by several mainstream gaming websites, has been a cheap shot to put independent YouTubers in a negative light as non-credible sources of information, because of all these supposedly “shady practices” that are apparently going on.
So you get this deceiving dichotomy: the untrustworthy, unchecked YouTubers, versus the sacrosanct game journalists checked by their ethically driven editorial guidelines. Sorry to say, this is a manipulation and we all know it. These pressures exist in all media, and have existed for a very long time. So what? Game journalists aren’t directly paid from corporate PR but those close-relationships exist and will give journalists an edge. Get friendly with the right people and you’ll have privileged access to exclusive content, get invites for important venues, doors open for interviews before everyone else. Is it illegal? No. Is it ethical? Depends – are you withholding your real opinions not to damage those privileges? And is this going on in official gaming news websites, or in all other forms of press? Yes. Why isn’t that in the news?
Why are we targeting teenage letsplayers that got a few extra cents per view when journalists don’t disclose their interests either? Have we forgot the sad spectacle of witnessing professional gaming journalists promoting a game for the chance of winning a console? Are journalists disclosing every time they get paid travels or free games and merchandise? And which of these do you find more relevant? The 15yr teen that made a few extra bucks playing Battlefield?
Bottom line is that these pressures, that have always surrounded journalism, are now in motion towards independent media sources like YouTube. It’s up to the viewer to judge and choose who it is they find more believable and ethical and serious. As it’s always been.