– Video games as an art form. –

Logo For Extra Credits taken from their website.

I have been on this earth for 25 years now, beginning my 26th in October.  There have been an incredible amount of variation in the interests that I have taken over the years.  Learning to play guitar, researching the business side of Pro Wrestling (NOT just watching it every week), hell I even watched shows like Barney well into my teens just to come to some conclusion as to what makes good children’s television vs what makes it bad.

 

The music comes and goes for me.  I never lose interest completely but sometimes my heart just isn’t in it.  The gritty underbelly of what makes Professional Wrestling tick still seems profound to me but in the end it has been buried to the deeper recesses of my mind.  There really is only one true interest that has stuck with me through my entire life and still stays prominent today.

I am a Gamer.  – Sure, a couple of years ago I sold my Wii (because someone actually gave me 500 bucks for it) and I was console-less for almost two years, but Gaming has always been at the core of my being.  When I’m upset, angry, happy, I can always turn to the appropriate game to nurse that emotion and channel it.  The reason why I’m deciding to write about it now is simply due to the fact that I actually have discovered the perfect description for what I think video games can be, and strive to be.

It’s an art form.  No different from that of a television show, movie production, or musical album.  I wish that I could say that I came to this label on my own but that would be immoral.  This perspective on the gaming industry was actually given to me when I stumbled across an online weekly show analyzing the industry on the whole.  Some of you that I know of are familiar with Zero Punctuation, the video game review show on The Escapist Magazine’s website…

Giant NES controller developed by Kyle Downes

Well one day after watching the new episode of Nostalgia Critic, Zero Punctuation, and some videos on Cinemassacre.com, I decided to see what else Escapist had to offer since I noticed the week before that they house a number of different series of videos.  I came across Movie Bob, and more importantly, Extra Credits

Seriously, I need to give a special mention to these guys.  This is a show developed by three people, Join James Portnow, Daniel Floyd and Allison Theus.  Every week a new aspect of gaming in discussed in detail.  They talk about everything from Controversy, to Piracy, to an analysis of the term “Gamer” itself.  Here is the real treat that I find in this series.  The mandate that they put forward with each and every new episode is that the video game community(Consumers, Developers, and those in the media) needs to make some changes in how we behave and the decisions that we make.  If we play our cards right, then video games may one day become recognized as the art form that it is.

When people think video games, they generally group it together with children’s toys.  The tendency to play video games is supposed to be something that you grow out of over time.  I guess the real reason why looking at video games as an art form really speaks to me is because when I was growing up and I went through a rough patch both mentally and socially, instead of getting down to the problems I was actually having.  My parents would rant and rave about how they regret ever buying me that Nintendo Entertainment System.  It was, and I quote, “The single worst decision” they ever made as parents.

Dad even decided one day to come downstairs and video tape me playing Iron Sword back when I was like 9 years old.  The tape goes on for a solid 10 minutes of me standing 4 feet in front of the television with the NES controller in hand, sound effects blaring from the television.  The only movement out of me was the occasional nose-pick, and the mashing of buttons when I found myself fighting an enemy.

In my teen years my mom would look back on this tape and be horrified that she didn’t stop me right then and there, but “at the time it seemed so harmless” years later all the problems that I developed through the natural progression of living my life was always circumvented down to those “stupid video games.”

The thing is if you were to really look at the potential in video games when it comes to aspects like story telling, or even education. Gaming is a mostly untapped resource, or at the very least is light years from reaching its potential. The contemporary productions that are being released in recent years have taken the industry that much further.

Even some sub-par games can have merit, I mean in high school I knew more than just about all of my classmates about some historical figures. Why?

Because I read a lot of books?… well I did, but no that isn’t it.
I certainly must have seen a movie about them?… nope, wrong yet again.
Okay a tv show?… incorrect.

I knew about historical figures like Ludwig Von Beethoven and Joan of Arc when I was bit a mere child, by playing Mario’s Time Machine for the Super Nintendo. This sounds a bit absurd, but this is just an example of the comparison that you can use to categorize gaming on some level with television, movies, and literature. I tell you I knew something, and instinctively, books and film become the culprit for educating me. Instead, it was a video game.

Games don’t need to be educational to be deemed art. Anything that has the ability to get you thinking about a topic, or something that you can just get lost in visually is my definition of art.

Cover of Gamecube's Eternal Darkness released in 2002

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem for the Nintendo GameCube is an example of a game that garners a lot of talk after its release, it is usually one of the first games mentioned when game reviewers talk about Hidden Gems (games that were amazing for their systems but no one really bought them) for the GameCube. I was very fortunate when I was in university.  I purchased a GameCube strictly to play Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, and this game was at EB Games for a pretty cheap price.  It looked interesting so I picked it up, and truthfully I held onto my GameCube for ages simply for this game.  It’s a dark, yet insightful dive into the madness that plagues a bloodline over different generations.  Ancient deities and tragedy striking at every turn.  As the title hints at, you spend a lot of the game in between flashbacks wandering around a large mansion losing your mind.  Hallucinations, and monsters pop out of no where, but in a tasteful, suspense building method.  It isn’t a game that tries to scare you by just jump-tactics (when loud noises or quick visual effects are used to make you jump)  It builds up the discomfort over time.  I lost myself in this game and when someone wants to discuss the legitimacy of video games I will continue to used Eternal Darkness as an example.  To me it was indeed a work of art that took me to an entirely new plateau of reasoning.

Kudos to the Game Designers of this one.

I didn’t learn anything specific about it per-se, but just the immersion that it succeeded in me is enough for me to call it art.

Thanks to Extra Credits, I know now exactly the words to describe how I felt about gaming for all these years.  Games are not childhood toys, nor do they have to be any more of a waste of time then your standard Hollywood movie or Stephen King Novel.  Video games deserve their place as a protected medium of artistic expression, and through solid decisions from game designers and some key changes in the mindset of the consumers I think that the mission of Extra Credits is something that is unquestionably possible to accomplish.

This entry may not appeal to those of you that also stop in and read my rantings, but ever since the concept of video games actually being a recognized art form got into my head, it really is something that I want to do everything possible to support.  This entry would be the first step, when I figure out what the second one is I’ll let you know.

For now, I am just going to say that if you are a gamer and you are reading this, agreeing with all that I said.  I want you to finish reading this entry and then follow the link above or Click Here, to view Extra Credits home on Escapist Magazine, because frankly they say this a whole lot better than I do.  The team is a lot more familiar with where the industry is right now, and where it can go in the future if we all do our part.  Video Games may not be an endangered species but if we are going to make them be a viable, respected medium there is a lot of work to be done.

This isn’t asking you to sit through a boring discussion, and struggle to stay awake.  The information presented in their videos is done so with accuracy but also a hint of humor.  Especially the artwork by Allison.  Even if you are just a casual gamer, or you are new to gaming you are going to be able to watch these videos and walk away with a newfound understanding as well as a better appreciation for the world of Video Games.

So what are you waiting for, go check them out.
Extra Credits

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