PAX 2010: Solace

By: Derek Yu

On: September 9th, 2010

[This is a guest review by NMcCoy. If you’d like to contribute an article for TIGSource, go here.]

So, I just got back from my day at PAX. There was all sorts of delightful stuff on display, fun things to do, and some very impressive demos in the expo hall. The one game that I was utterly blown away by, however, was not LittleBigPlanet 2 or Duke Nukem Forever or Final Fantasy XIV, but a student game in the PAX 10 called Solace. Something that’s been on my mind lately is the fact that while games, as a medium, have certainly been explored as a vessel for expressive artistic statement, gameplay has not often been a part of that. If you take Braid and remove the text, you end up with a puzzle game involving time manipulation that is barely about anything other than puzzles involving time manipulation. On the other hand, if you took Solace, removed the text, and replaced all the beautiful graphics and superb sound design with rectangles and beeps, it would still be about the five stages of grief as represented through the gameplay of its levels – the message would not be conveyed nearly so brilliantly, but nor would it be lost.

Certainly, there have been games in the past that conveyed an artistic statement through their gameplay. Passage springs immediately to mind, for example. But the thing about Passage is that while it may or may not be effective as art, it isn’t really effective as a game. It merits exploration, and provokes thoughts, certainly, but doesn’t really engage the player on a visceral level. In contrast, Solace is fun, challenging, and engaging. The visuals, audio, and level design are all deliberately tuned to evoke within the player echoes of the emotion that they represent. Not just through sympathetic sensory associations, the way a painting or poem or piece of music would – though Solace uses these idioms as well – but through the nuances of the gameplay. The structure of the game expects, and at times effectively requires, the player to demonstrate an understanding of the level’s relevant emotion in order to successfully proceed through the game – and indeed enables the player to do so, with nothing more nuanced than a directional control and a fire button.

Solace, in addition to being a marvelous work of art in its own right, is a lesson to all game designers of what games have the potential to be. In my own game designs, I have often run into a tension between making my game artistically meaningful and having good, solid, fun gameplay. Solace, by being excellent in both regards, has taught me that this is a false dichotomy. If Portal is worthy of a place on a course syllabus, I believe Solace can be similarly instructive, to students and designers alike.

  • rinkuhero

    i'm not saying you can't explain why you like touhou, just that asford pride's efforts to do so amount to saying 'x element of touhou is good'. and sure, i can explain why i like touhou, but i'd do so in a much different way than you are attempting to do it.

    it's not about testing skills for me, it's more about putting myself in a zen-like state of concentration, and i feel that touhou is at just the right difficulty level to allow me to get into that state at will, and that state is why i play those games. not to test my skill, that's just a side effect. i think the state of being in total concentration in avoiding those bullets is a good way to relax (paradoxically), it's sort of a meditative experience. but i don't really care about my skill in those games, the skill of avoiding bullets in a shmup is useless in real life anyway, it's more about the benefit to my mood that it brings.

  • rinkuhero

    that's a fair point, although i'm not convinced that there are no messages that require a game to communicate; in particular the complex systems of simulations (as in civilization, sim city, etc.) would be harder to communicate through books or movies, in particular how all the different systems (crime, pollution, or whatever) interlock. that is really best demonstrated through a game.

  • rinkuhero

    i still have a big problem with the idea that skill is essential to games, or that testing skill is the most important thing a game should do, and your comment didn't really defend either of those ideas except to say that we're talking about a game that requires relatively little skill compared to other games.

    but what if it's intended for players with very little skill? retarded people, for instance. or people without thumbs or fingers. or people recovering from brain injuries. or even just 2 year olds. in those cases, it'd challenge them simply to move the player around and shoot things, even if they couldn't die. it'd still be an appropriate test of their skill.

  • anarkex

    We're on the same page. We're just calling it different things. Think about it this way: if I programmed a calculator, would that calculator be communicating something from me to the user?

    Games are like calculators, they just have different parameters and different interfaces. Like if you made 2+2 show up as a smiley face instead of 4 or something. Now of course, you could plan for the game to basically “tell” the player something when he inserts certain parameters. Like, killing the gnome gives you negative karma, because that gnome was aligned “good”. But all those things are communicated through media inserted into the game, and it's just as easy to say “killing good things is bad” than it is to slyly insert your message into the rule system. As far as we can agree that video games are simulations, we can also agree that they aren't built specifically to communicate, since reality itself (or any reality that is the subject of the simulation) has no inherent message.

    As we've talked about in the past, aesthetics are important as well as mechanics, and the use of media is a part of aesthetics. If you look hard enough, you can find a “message” in everything in every game, including reality itself. What I'm saying, though, is that games themselves are not “about” meaning, though it can be hallucinated regardless of the creator's intent.

    I don't want to overdo the point or repeat myself too much, I'm just trying to make sure I have all the angles covered.

  • Dodger

    Good points Paul and I agree. I don't believe shooters (or other genres with fast paced action) are really about skill, I believe they're more about persistence, patience, and memorization of patterns. That doesn't mean that I believe those are the reasons they are made for. Skill in such games comes with practice. Testing somebodies skill shouldn't be the focus of gameplay in a video game anyway. Giving the player an enjoyable experience (no matter the genre, setting or tone) should be the most important aspects of a game. Then once that's achieved you can tack on a highscore system and let people compete with each other for rankings, but 9 times out of 10 people who play shooters regularly will perform better than a person who does not play shooters but decides to give one a try. It has nothing to do with skill, just the familiarity of the game type which could develop skills for those game types through the experiences the gamer has or has had. It still doesn't mean that that should be the purpose of gaming, though that might be enough for some people… perhaps those who don't enjoy anything unless it's competitive, I don't know for sure.

  • rinkuhero

    understandable, but one thing:

    i think it's a bit of a straw man to say that all or most art games have a “message” — most authors of most art games will tell you that they don't intend any specific message or meaning, but rather focus their game around exploring a theme. e.g. tale of tales have clearly said that their games are not intended to convey a message. so even if it were true that games could not carry messages, that'd be irrelevant to game artists, since meaning is *not* what they usually are going for. it's just a plain misunderstanding of art games to say that they focus more on messages, meanings, and aesthetics than on gameplay. most are intended as experiments of the form, and intended as ways to get the player to think about the game's topic, they aren't usually intended to tell the player anything specific about a topic.

    and there are certain topics about which games can provoke more thought than books or movies. in particular the topic of games themselves: for instance, braid was an art game where the topic or theme was games themselves: it invited the player to think about issues surrounding game difficulty and challenge by letting the player rewind time. it didn't have any specific meaning to convey, it was just a way to incite the thinking process in the audience.

  • Bakana42

    But think of how much more meaning it could have conveyed with extremely generic shooter gameplay! And dispensing with subtle metaphor in lieu of releasing a trailer that awkwardly announces that you “Explore the Five Stages of Grief.”

    What I'm saying here is that Braid did a pretty fair job of linking gameplay and meaning. This game absolutely does not look to do that.

  • Vania

    Art has meaning.
    Art has intent.

    You can find meaning in anything, including nature. But if that meaning is unintentional then it is not art. That is why nature sould not be considered art even if it can be beautiful and inspiring.

    Your definition of art is posmodern: it doesnt lead anywhere, nothing constructive can come out of it.

  • Xhunterko

    *continues eating popcorn while avoiding discussion*

  • AshfordPride

    Cliffy B says that Gears of War is art. It was his intention to make a story of loss and redemption in war-torn Earth. The game allows us to experience the lives of a surprisingly realistic bunch of super-soldiers in a sci-fi setting. The combined work of the modelers, textures, story-writers, character designers, and etc. all had artistic intent when creating their parts of this game, under the banner of Cliffy B who also had equal artistic intent.

    Is it art now, Vania? Can this disgusting, generic, meaningless, gray and brown FPS stand proudly next to brilliant games like Solace with it's chest puffed out proudly now that it's art? Oh please Vania, can it?

    All kidding aside, it's absolutely bizarre how close-minded Indie gamers really are towards anything involving a gun. People like you are willing to sacrifice all semblances of fun, design, and traditional gameplay elements just for the sake of being able to say that you have experienced this beautiful work of art. Your definition of art seems to be masochism.

    Anarkex is right, you are completely ignoring everything that games like Gears of War do to be great video games. Oh, but it's okay to call it a great video game, just don't call it art! It was obviously just shat out by a bunch of talentless, greedy monkeys who only want money and to exploit a bunch of knuckle-dragging fratboys that don't know how truly great video games could be. Anarkex's definition is going to lead us out of a very dark place in indie games. We have to stop considering games like this to be art, and start awarding that title to the games that demonstrate some real knack for creating a challenging, polished, and overall fun experience for the player. Video games are entertainment, they are made to be fun. Art can be fun, which is something that someone at your level of delusion could never hope to appreciate. Because art can't be fun, it has to be meaning and beautiful and about loss or death or something abstractly deep like that.

    How do you think someone who worked on that game would feel if you told them what they did was in no way art, but this game was? I think they'd have some pretty hilarious things to say to you. Someone worked very, very hard to make that Locust split in half with a chainsaw, and you're labeling all that as just a frivolous diversion created by people who don't understand the MEDIUM as well as you do.

    You need to get over yourself and play some video games.

  • Xhunterko

    hmm, comment might've been a bad idea. flagged.

  • AshfordPride

    In a nutshell, we don't consider the greatest works of art to be art because the artist told us they were art. There's a lot of reasons The Burghers of Calais beyond the simple intention to create art. Would it not become art if Rodin just wanted the paycheck?

    And then even you said that a piece of art can't stand on meaning alone. So, this makes both of your justifications for what is art to be incredibly flimsy, subjective, and easy to put a spin on to make anything art.

  • anarkex

    >But if that meaning is unintentional then it is not art.

    What's important is craftsmanship and immersion. Any creation that represents the best of its kind is a work of art. Art is an honor to bestow on excellence, it has nothing to do with some checklist of nonmaterial thoughts the creator happened to be thinking before he even started. If that's the case I've created a million works of art I never had the will to follow through with.

    >Your definition of art is posmodern: it doesnt lead anywhere, nothing constructive can come out of it.

    What could be more constructive than honoring creativity, willpower, and craftsmanship? As opposed to putting my shit on a pedestal because I was reading Kierkegaard on the can.

  • anarkex

    I never said most art games have a message. In fact quite the opposite: I don't really think any of them do, any more than life itself has a message. I'm only explaining this to Vania, who said that great games start with a question of meaning and messages.

  • anarkex

    Rather than reduce the size of the postboxes any more, I'm going to respond as a reply to the same one I replied to last time. Let it be known this is a response to a later comment by Paul.

    We've got the same idea here. Ashford is referring to specific mechanics, you're talking about how the game makes you feel, and I was referring to the general philosophy behind my love for the genre. However Ashford's approach is appropriate, if a little bare-bones (tolerable considering nobody is writing a ten-page paper in this wacky comments format). He's looking at exactly what I'm talking about here: facts that influence his opinion.

    So why is grazing an excellent mechanic? Because it encourages players to play dangerously and gives those with the skills to survive the chance to win big by not avoiding danger. It works together with an item collection mechanic that also rewards risky playing: Items are worth more points the higher up onscreen you are, and by flying up to the top fifth of the screen or so you can automatically collect them all for max points. And the bullet patterns each boss has are more creative and interesting the farther you get in the series. Mizuhashi Parsee, the second boss of Subterranean Animism, really got me interested in what was coming next when her bullets left lingering trails that I had to navigate like a maze while still dodging aimed patterns, or when she creates a phantom twin that punishes you for attacking it. These are awesome things to do with bullets, and that's only stage 2! But in spite of this, the pattern is still very manageable. You have to be playing very carelessly to get into a situation where survival is impossible. A skilled player will find that his bombs regenerate with each life lost, meaning that with proper judgment and reflexes he can extend his survival a certain ways beyond patterns he has trouble with. A smooth difficulty curve as well as such complexity and creativity in the mechanics are defining traits of the best arcade-style STGs in the series.

    The above is a nice overview of some basic mechanics in the touhou series. Combined with specifics depending on the game, it could make a pretty good review. Can you see how it can convince someone who may not know much about STGs that these games do well to represent the versatility of the genre even when they aren't necessarily the best STGs around? Even if he dislikes STGs in general, at the very least I think he could recognize the effort, knowledge, and creativity that a dev like ZUN displays. As much as it's interesting to see your writing about the way the games make you feel (as I completely recognize the state of mind you described), it's probably not a very good review because it's dealing with things that are completely personal and it doesn't really describe the source of your feelings. As I've said before, there's a personal element to all of this (it's easy to say why I like grazing, but why do I think my reasons for liking it are good?) but by giving concrete examples you do allow the reader the chance to decide for themselves. So if they are mentally challenged or missing thumbs or something, they can easily read the review with the knowledge that they have these difficulties (I don't really think it's possible not to). Ultimately though, I don't care about those people. I'm giving my opinion for the sake of people like me, or people who may someday be like me. I don't think reviews should be neutered for the sake of everyone with a slight handicap, even if that handicap is regular run-of-the-mill stupidity.

  • XRA

    a grief'em-up

  • Magnafiend

    The definition of art has undergone so many changes over the past few decades alone, this definition can't even come close to encapsulating what is art. It's a question that society has been struggling with for centuries. I could go on about the different elements of art in the traditional sense, the intellectual art of Duchamp, who's main focus was to completely unravel and undo the current expectations of art at the time. What about the surrealists, or artists who simply conveyed the intangible emotions and states of the subconscious. What about experimental artists who simply tried new things, without having an artistic meaning but simply explored the combination of different mediums? What about the work of Kandinsky, particularly his blue mountain piece (or I think it was that one… been a while since I actually discussed the topic), would the fact he only realized its full potential as art after it had somehow become flipped upside down when he was away from his studio make it not art, because that was not his original intent nor the original meaning of the painting?
    Such a definition of art is so vague and intangible as well, it can be molded to fit any definition. By your own definition, Gears of War is art, because it's meaning and intent is to convey an intense and emotional story of a science fiction near post apocalyptic world in which mankind is fighting for its survival against an outside force, instilling the emotions felt by the protagonists within the audience through game play, dramatic story telling, and giving the player direct control of the protagonists outside of direct story telling elements, allowing them to form a bond with the character as well as provide an entertaining gameplay experience. Yes, there may not be some deep philosophical meaning behind all of this, but a lot of famous works of art don't have deep philosophical meanings behind them either, especially in the case of historical paintings, or art going even further back in history.
    Also, what's wrong with post modernism? The post modern era has done more to unravel the elusive question of what is art, opening up more and more exploratory paths as to what art can entail. If not for post modernism, I doubt we would even be having this debate about Solace at this very moment, because such media didn't fit into the tight little niches art was segmented into before the post modernist period.

  • zaphos

    Craftsmanship and immersion are not particularly important to me. I just want art to be interesting.

  • anarkex

    I thought it was obvious that those are things that make art interesting.

  • zaphos

    They can help, sometimes.

  • Rob Fearon

    “Explore the 5 stages of grief like never before”

    All without someone you love actually having to die!

  • bombboy

    If you want to explore grief like you've never explored it before you could always read through this comment thread.

    Actually, a lot of people and opinions annoying the hell out of each other, but not a lot of name calling up in this comments page! Good work guys. Esp. anarkex, eres, ashforddude and chris guy

    Walls of text, snarly tone but not a lot of actual accusation of being a piece of dookie and all that.

    I'm impressed!

  • Frostden

    I am well aware that this is the wrong forum for this comment, but I also know that it would be seen and then disregarded wherever it were posted. I have been playing games for 20 years. First off, how do you code a game such that it may take 10 minutes to find the tutorial, and secondly, you easily die in that level while reading the tutorial text! The simple act of learning to play your game is so poorly done that you can not have even the most basic understanding of the medium. A good community has emerged on your website, however…

  • rinkuhero

    we kinda feel grief when others die, not when we die

  • rinkuhero

    not to me — i'd far rather play a new cactus or increpare game than a new miyamoto or cliffyb game — i find the former much more interesting. if you don't, great, different people find different things interesting. it's just that i've been playing videogames for about 30 years, so the stuff in new AAA games doesn't surprise me or impress me anymore

  • rinkuhero

    nothing much to say to this, but as an aside, did touhou invent grazing? i think i remember it from earlier shmups. i could be mistaken though. and if it didn't, should we really give it credit for a mechanic not unique to it?

  • Dodger

    I still have to wonder why more grief is given over a shooter as a game of art or an “Art Game” than a puzzle game such as World of Goo, or a Platformer such as Braid. Now, I'll grant that the latter are both exceptionally good games that have been extremely polished, quite simply they're great. But never mind the actual production values. Are people less inclined to enjoy or appreciate a shooter as an art game over other genres? I do realize that Braid got some flack, but nowhere near as much flack as the discussion over Braids initial price point. I'm just curious is all. I believe Everyday Shooter was probably one of the most popular shooters as an art game. I could see how people would disagree that Everyday shooter is both a shooter and an art game, and that might go double for a game like World of Goo, but I've come to my own conclusion that all of the above games I've listed are games and works of art. I'd even go so far as to say that Immortal Defense is an art game – and that is not an insult to Paul or anything – I just feel that those games do capture an essence (I have my reasons for liking these games and you have yours or reasons for not liking them – but that really is besides the point and not what I'm getting at here). My point about these games being somewhat art games could be argued but if that's the case then Art really doesn't exist and the definition is only defined by the individual – either way, I'm fine with that and it's not something that keeps me awake at night. Back to my question though and what I'm actually curious about… If a developer is trying to make a game as close to a work of art as possible, does it matter what genre that game is made under? Or is it harder to swallow as a piece of art based on it's genre?

    Just curious as to what people think.

  • Casimir's Blake

    What I'm seeing here, is not a game about grief, but yet another shmup with no bloody level design.

    Almost no-one makes shmups with levels any more. No far-too-small tunnels to navigate, no volcanic scenery to negotiate, no sci-fi towers and fortifications to avoid.

    Just blank space, enemies, and bullets.

    Bullet-hell was the WORST thing to happen to this genre.

  • Vania

    Dudes, I never said those two characteristics define art.
    You really think I tried to give a complete definition of art in two sentences?

    All I said was meaning and intent must be present in art, along with many more attributes.

    Also, Anarkex and you are making incorrect assumptions about my taste in games:
    -I dislike art-games, because they arent.
    -I loved Gears of War, I just refuse to call it art.
    (The script seems written by a 12 year old. Bland and stereotypical characters. Painfully bad dialogs.)

    I myself have no interest in making art games, but I believe it is possible.
    The problem is all the art-games I've seen so far would work better as a short film, or tale, or poem. Hence my comment:

    'Before you make an art-game ask yourself this question:
    “Is a game the best medium to communicate this message/feeling?'

    If the answer is no, dont make it cause its gonna be shitty.

  • Vania

    Then I guess a Lamborghini is a work of art?

    I'm sorry but I cant adhere to a philosophy that says this:
    is art.

  • Guest

    It's simply way too on the nose, like a condensed Portrait of the Artist that reads “Stephen wasn't getting along with his classmates or doing well with his teachers because he was depressed and alienated. Later, Stephen renounced his faith and made some friends and thus felt much freer and happier.”

    I don't need “artists” to pander to me like an imbecile, saying “this is depression because it's slow and difficult.” Duh. Good art is much subtler and more challenging, requiring active cognitive and emotional engagement on the audience's part. Playing Solace is sort of like playing a video game version of the dictionary. “This is was depression is”; “this is what bargaining is like”; and so on.

    Overall, this is a mildly amusing game in its own context, but the attention and praise given this game by the author of the article is kind of over the top, if you ask me. This whole “art game” thing in general sort of baffles me. It seems like an excuse to spend a couple weeks on a game instead of a year or more. I certainly think games can be pieces of art, but usually the ones made to be art and labeled as such seem weak and rushed.

  • anarkex

    Yes, I guess a Lamborghini is a work of art.

    And I don't really care what dumb philosophy you choose to adhere to, but I'd think that Duchamp's Fountain is pretty clearly more art in your opinion than in mine. But etc. Deal w/ it.

  • Magnafiend

    Duchamp is art because it's not art. Duchamp was all about picking apart the concepts that dictated what art was, and proving that those definitions could not truly define art in its entirety. Duchamps artwork is art for its conceptual properties and intellectual dialogue with the criterion for art, not for the physical properties (ie an upside down urinal with a signature alluding to the company that produced it). Duchamp inevitably lead to the death and eventual rebirth of art. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the aesthetic qualities of the artwork Duchamp produced, but I find the philosophy behind it absolutely brilliant.
    I actually find art games a lot like duchamp's work, only art-games only have half the message. Art-games are art because the creator claims it's art. Duchamp's work and other artists who followed a similar philosophy were art because of two major points I can think of offhand.
    A: The creator was already an established artist at the time of creation, and therefore had the merit and credibility behind them from their previous works (though in Duchamp's case he did it anonymously).
    B: They were disproving the current standards for which art was set in a philosophical and intellectual manner through physical artwork that proved they were art by breaking some criteria on what art is, yet adhering to others.
    Art-games I find tend to do neither of these. They claim to be art because they were made to be art, yet fail to do anything to disprove the current constructs of what is art AND what is a good game.

  • anarkex

    I'm sorry, did I imply that ALL of Miyamoto's of Cliffy's games are masterpieces? Some are, some aren't, just like Cactus' or ZUN or Platine Dispositif or whatever. Miyamoto especially hasn't made a great game since Pikmin. I just want to make sure I'm not giving you the wrong idea, I was using them primarily as examples of devs who have made great games, games I'd even consider works of art, that didn't focus on some “message”. They're works of art, as on occasion Cactus' games are, because they're phenomenal video games, with precise care and creativity taken in design of both mechanics and aesthetics.

  • anarkex

    >All I said was meaning and intent must be present in art, along with many more attributes.

    Which we all have explained away. You're invoking intentional fallacy. The artist is (metaphorically speaking) dead when the work is completed. But consider: art is an expression of beauty. That's pretty much it. Yes, even the ugly art, shut up. Art refers to aesthetics. When considering books as art, you consider the aesthetics of words. When considering movies as art, you consider the aesthetics of acting, camerawork, writing, etc. When considering games as art, you consider the aesthetics of rules.

    >I loved Gears of War, I just refuse to call it art. (The script seems written by a 12 year old. Bland and stereotypical characters. Painfully bad dialogs.)

    Yes, of course, the game is not art because the movies in it are not art./sarcasm that's just tomfoolery. It's amazing how close to the reality of things you can get without seeing it.

    >The problem is all the art-games I've seen so far would work better as a short film, or tale, or poem.

    And that's because they always disregard mechanics in favor of “storytelling”. Games aren't great for storytelling, they're not “about” meaning or narrative, because rules do not tell stories, and all games are, at the center of it, sets of rules. I'm not going to repeat this again, I'm just going to tell you to read my previous responses to Rinkuhero.

    That's why art games aren't art.

  • anarkex

    Touhou probably didn't invent grazing. It's a fairly common mechanic. But no game mechanic is an isolated instance, and everything in each game exerts an effect on everything else. The implementation of grazing in, say, the time points mechanic in IN, combined with the slow bullet speed and character-swapping meter, is definitely something unique.

    >Should we really give it credit for a mechanic not unique to it?

    I think so! We're not talking about a carbon clone of an older game, we're talking about a unique game with some mechanics that *may* have been cribbed. Grazing especially is a mechanic that is highly dependent on bullet patterns themselves: if it was in a game like Raiden I probably wouldn't praise it at all. So I mean, there's a duality here. On the one hand, nothing is original, everything is just an elaboration on things that came before, even if it involves ideas and themes that come from outside the genre. On the other hand, every game is new, unique, and unlike anything that came before.

    While coming up with cool new game mechanics is excellent, it's really the result of all the mechanics and aesthetics working together that makes a complete game. In that context, whether or not some of those mechanics *might* come from somewhere else doesn't matter as much as you'd think. I mean, if no video game could ever copy anything, there'd only be one video game.

  • anarkex

    Dodge, loath as I am to respond to you again:

    There is a huge difference between an “art game” and a game that is a work of art. That is the crux of the misunderstanding here.

  • Dodger

    What about Hydorah by Locomalito? You can't say that there's no level design in that one. I understand where you're coming from, but you can't put all of the eggs into one basket because there still are games in the shooter family being made in a variety of different ways. I respect your opinion but you also have to admit that it's a personal opinion since you'll find people that feel the exact opposite about the genre and that there aren't enough bullets in shooters these days. I wouldn't want all shooters to be about a bullet hell frenzy either because that would get kinda boring, but you gotta admit that a genre full of nothing but Galaga clones would get boring really fast too – however, since there are so many different kinds of shooters to choose from and enjoy (including both eastern and western styles) I don't think one more bullet hell shooter would actually make or break the genre. Besides, lots of people enjoy bullet hell shooters, just like many prefer Robotron and Gyruss clones. As long as there is an audience there's plenty of room for each.

  • Dodger

    I pretty much agree with you on this. I don't think you need a lot of time to make a game playable, but if you want to build or create anything with thoughtfulness and feeling then you're going to have to take the time to do it… Especially if you want others to really like or at least appreciate what you've made as well.

  • John Sandoval

    Perhaps I am artistically or cognitively deficient, but I don't see how this game is as good as the author is purporting it to be.

    Maybe if I got to see more of it?

  • SSss

    I don't understand the phrase “art-game.” It's just about as absurd as calling a piece of music an “art-song.”

    Can't we just respect games for what they are? I'm tired of everyone trying to contort “games” into the confines of this “art” concept.

    It bothers me when people want games to be just like music or painting, or whatever else. Let them be games. Sure, everyone listens to music, but that is not what validates music as a means of communication. Games are special. A much smaller group enjoys video games than the group that enjoys music, or even perhaps visual art (debatable), but destroying what games ARE in the pursuit of making video games “household” is not the answer.

  • Dodger

    There's no misunderstanding actually, not for me anyway. The differences, huge or not, don't matter. My question is, does the genre matter. Is the genre important? Does the genre affect whether the context is hit or miss?

    If there's going to be a message in a game then the message doesn't really matter to the people who don't get it. It's really no different from one gamer absolutely loving First Person Shooters and another gamer absolutely loving Turn Based Strategy. You can enjoy both or you absolutely do not enjoy the other one and avoid it.

    I guess what I'd like to know is how does the genre have an affect on the how the game comes across… does a person who doesn't enjoy shooters end up enjoying an “art game” such as this simply because it's different.

    In the end it doesn't really matter, but I'd like to know what how different the impressions are based on those factors – rather than just the simple positive or negative reaction. I think it would take a broader audience to find out something like that though.

    Oh, and loathe as you are, thanks for the reply.

  • Dodger

    Again, I understand where you're coming from, but there's just one problem… could you imagine if there were only one type of music? Or painting was limited to portraits? That would be far worse than not having variety and I think, whether we get the message or piece of art or not, it's more important for individuals to take risks, especially in regards to being artistic. One great idea spawns another, or one not-so-great idea could spawn a great one. Without that variety though things would be very bland as a whole. I still think that the focus of a game should be how entertaining it is, the fun factor, or the enjoyment that can be had from it. Considering that game development is much like conjuring (as of right now within confines of course) you're given that blank slate or canvas with which to create. It's up to the developers to decide what they want to craft, how they will go about it, and who they want to see it. One thing that will remain true no matter what, if you put your “art” on public display you have to deal with public criticism and / or praise. So you're not wrong in how you feel about video games, but if you understand the point I'm trying to make I think you'd realize that if everyone limited themselves to one type or style then variety would suffer. So the broader the palette the more likely other good things will be thought of and created in the future. We don't have to call “Art Games” – “Art Games”, but it I think it also prefaces the intentions of the developer if they're not afraid to have that kind of label on their game if the ideas and context are less direct and more abstract with the intention of provoking thought on top of being interactive.

  • Vania

    Haha, right on the spot.

    With so many underdogs out there, so many games that deserve attention, why waste time with these “art-games”?

    Read the comments, 9 out of 10 people hate them, yet blogs keep being flooded with them. Isnt that strange?

  • zaphos

    art music is also a thing that exists

  • SSss

    but should it?

  • zaphos

    Oh I don't know … I probably wouldn't have chosen it as a term, but as long as people find it useful as a classification, they'll probably continue to use it. And I don't really see the point in getting worked up about it. I do typically have some idea what it indicates.

  • Superfly Johnson

    games aren't art

  • Magnafiend

    >The differences, huge or not, don't matter.

    The entire discourse of this thread proves that statement so horribly wrong I'm not even going to go there…
    >Is the genre important?

    Extremely. I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream was an exceptional point and click adventure with massive philosophical and moral questions, delving into the human psyche. I now challenge you to achieve that same result using the same basic plot and characters, but doing it via a tetris clone. Point proven.
    >It's really no different from one gamer absolutely loving First Person Shooters and another gamer absolutely loving Turn Based Strategy. You can enjoy both or you absolutely do not enjoy the other one and avoid it.

    You're confusing genre with message. Two VERY different things. I avoid sports games because I'd rather just do it for real than in front of a TV, not because I don't like the message it sends about sports, or whatever the message there is supposed to be.

    >does a person who doesn't enjoy shooters end up enjoying an “art game” such as this simply because it's different.

    Depends on the individual. If they already have a preconcieved notion they'll hate the game before they even play it, odds are they'll hate it. If they've got an open mind, could be hit or miss, but I'm sure they'll be turned on more by the mechanics than the 'art' message, since it's the mechanics that turn them off in the first place, and the mechanics would have to be the interesting thing in order to sway them towards liking the game itself. As amazing of a message a game has, if people don't want to play it past the first 4 minutes because of horrid gameplay, the message is for moot.

  • Rob Fearon

    Well yeah, but it's not exactly helping me take any point they want to make seriously is it?

    It's the most unintentionally hilarious tagline for a game ever.