In reading the review of The Path over at Playing with Pat, the author talks about the search for “artistic” games. If you’re trying to defend the notion of games as art (always a surefire flamewar in a can) then you should be able to point at a game and say, “This one”. I know we’ve been over the subject before on this site, but this is a topic that bears revisiting.
I’d actually take the position that just about all games are art, it’s just that 99% of them are “low” art. Nothing wrong with that. So what if the medium has churned out a lot of Walt Disney without producing many Mona Lisas? It’s given us a lot of Lethal Weapons without Citizen Kane. A lot of Three’s Company and not much MASH. The fact that something sucks does not disqualify it as art. Otherwise, it would be impossible to make bad art.
But a couple of “artistic” or “evocative” games can help bolster your argument if you’re in the mood to debate a “games aren’t art” type of person. So, which games would you show to someone to make the case that games are art? My own list would be made up of games that did more than just entertain. They told stories that interested me and continued to provoke thought and curiosity long after I’d stopped playing.
In no particular order:
1) Silent Hill 2 – Just read the linked article. It’s a very interesting study of a man who has been broken very badly in some very subtle ways.
2) Jade Empire – Surprising, beautiful, witty, and well-characterized.
3) Morrowind – This one is a bit odd because most of the game is just an endless series of variations on the “kill ten rats” idea, but the main quest and the villain are pretty interesting.
4) Planescape Torment – I guess this is the gold standard of RPG stoies for a lot of people. I’m not quite in the “PST is the best story game, ever” camp, and the game didn’t completely blow my mind the way it did for some. But the significance of the title is undeniable. It’s deep, rich, diverse, and full of interesting ideas. I’d play this through ten times before I even thought of looking at Neverwinter Nights 2 again. It also makes a pretty good case for hand-painted backgrounds over polygons. Alas that we won’t see another one like this anytime soon.
I wouldn’t suggest the Path, because while the Path is clearly art, its status as a game is kind of debatable. Enough so that I wouldn’t use it as an example when trying to explain the importance of mainstream games to the skeptical. No matter how you classify it, it’s fringe and experimental.
So, what games would you show to someone to make the case for games as art?
Why Google sucks, and what made me switch to crowdfunding for this site.
Who Broke the In-Game Economy?
Why are RPG economies so bad? Why are shopkeepers so mercenary, why are the prices so crazy, and why do you always end up a gazillionaire by the end of the game? Can't we just have a sensible balanced economy?
Why Batman Can't Kill
His problem isn't that he's dumb, the problem is that he bends the world he inhabits.
DM of the Rings
Both a celebration and an evisceration of tabletop roleplaying games, by twisting the Lord of the Rings films into a D&D game.
The Middle Ages
Would you have survived in the middle ages?