Monday, November 15

Moving Choreography

Don't judge me. On the weekend I went to see West Side Story, and now I can say definitively that musical theatre is not my thing. There was part of the experience that stuck with me though. Before Carly and I went to the performance, I lamented the fact that there is no gaming equivalent to live theatre. You could set up a big screen, and get Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong to duke it out on Street Fighter IV, but few would see that as an exercise in high culture. After witnessing some inordinately tall and muscular men prance and tumble around on stage to emulate a knife fight, I came to the realisation that the skilled articulation of Street Fighter's world warriors is even more graceful and despite what my lovely fiance says, much more entertaining.

Save for the chanting between rounds, the crowd showed the same reverance towards the players as that observed for the actors on a stage. Slight exaggeration I guess, but the action was far more convincing, and there were far less campy songs about fighting (that didn't really sound overly threatening). To give you a taste of my pain:

We're gonna rock it tonight,
We're gonna jazz it up and have us a ball!
They're gonna get it tonight;
The more they turn it on the harder they'll fall!

These are lyrics from a song that is sung before people die! I'll concede that West Side Story is a little more coherent from a narrative perspective, but that is understandable when in SFIV you have twenty-something characters that can each be the focus of the story.

It's not that I didn't enjoy myself. The company was more than enough to make the night worthwhile, but it does sadden me somewhat to think that a night spent gaming will for sometime have as much cultural currency as witnessing a brawl in a carpark. Some (read: most) of my fondest memories have involved videogames, but I know of few who have experienced the heartbreak of murdering your mentor in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (players are forced to pull the trigger), or endured the death of your companions in the Fire Emblem games, or witnessed the betrayal of Hobbes in Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger. I'll never forget when I was first asked "Where do you want to go?" in Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure, or when I first conquered the lava spider in Devil May Cry. These are all events that shaped me in some way, but to most they are relegated to the realms of childish fantasy. I'm not trying to engage in the Are Games Art? debate, for me this issue has long been resolved (Games ARE works of art, live with it). What I am trying to say is that while the experiences listed above may not fit into the star crossed lovers paradigm, they still have dramatic and emotional impact.

What are the most powerful moments you've observed in videogames? What did you play this weekend?


  1. Homeworld's Return to Kharak level is the saddest yet most inspiring piece of gaming I've ever experienced. But then again, Homeworld has the best damn evocation and story of any game in my opinion - and it's a damn RTS, a genre where stories are more often than not DOA.

    I'm hesitant to call games wholesale works of art, only because they're part and parcel a product wholly reliant on the mechanics of interaction.

    I prefer to liken the games medium to architecture, an artistic format of interpretation with tangibility – more as a defense for my own sanity under both the Ebert naysayers and the frankly embarrasing kneejerk-protectionist responses from a swathe of the gaming public. Architecture has an undeniable physicality, whereby intent, dimension and direction meet to form something a lot easier to compare a game to than, say, a Klimt, a Tarkovsky or a Proust. With the great artworks and their respective mediums, it’s always been at arms length and through the internal two-step filtration of creator’s interpretation then viewer’s. What I like about gaming is that it is an interest in possibilities within a construct – however restrained or seemingly linear. Architechture is a practical form of artistic expression that goes that one step further than what we generally perceive our classical art to be: it’s a fully-functional interaction of both restraint and possibility. So when considering what literacies or fundamental pillars I’d suggest to someone to get at least familiar with or experiment within, it’d be games that celebrate that physicality and sense of actualisation within a construct.

    Onto more jovial topics...Sunday night was more Blacklight, salivating over the Apache demo (and taking photos via the XMB screenshot feature) and budgeting in - of all things - GT5. So, talk about a strong end to the year. Apache: Air Assault, NFS: Hot Pursuit and GT5.

  2. Definitely wasn't expecting that kind of depth in a response, but it is far more enlightening than the usual "Games are pretty, they're art!" nonsense. I tend to think of games as works of installation art (PC pun!), although I must admit that I don't have sufficient knowledge of the medium, and its champions to mount a competitive defense of my thesis.

    I'm glad to hear that GT5 will be released before the end of time, however I am rarely compelled by racing games that are not of the violent arcade school. GT5 does look fantastic though, no argument there.

    Watched a lot of footage for Hot Pursuit. I dare say that and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood will be my final acquisitions for the year.

  3. I wasn't meaning to go into that silliness, sir. It's just very very difficult - and I think you'll agree - to know our defense line in the "quest for cultural legitimacy" is made up of teens who are vastly lacking in background and elocution to do the "games are art" argument any real service. It's just kneejerk protectionism at its very lowest level. We need a Dutch resistance.

    I think GT5 will be a game I'll fiddle around with every now and again. It won't be a compulsion, just a nice way to blow my mind on a Sunday afternoon. My Logitech wheel is going to waste, too.

    Hot Pursuit autolog rivalry! Don't you do anything silly and get it on that 360 of yours!

  4. I can agree to that, my friend. And while I'm at it, I guess I can opt for NFS on the PS3.

  5. You guess you can opt for it on the PS3? What the hell has happened to you?!

    I was so greatly surprised by NFS: hot Pursuit, that I am going to pick it up. I told myself I wouldn't after the last god awful NFS game I picked up (Undercover), but it is just so much fun.

    On the whole "Are Games Art?" debate, I believe that they are a medium of art. Movies and music rely on a form of interaction (albeit not directly), and they are most definetely considered art. While games are not a conventional form of art, I challenge anyone to mount an arguement that GT5 (the prettiest game I have ever seen) does not take an artistic approach.

    I view games as art, much as I view music and movies.

  6. They're both fine machines, Sambo. I've realised that I have both, and games generally get released for both. The quality of the multiplatform releases can differ, and more often than not, the 360 versions perform better. For an example, check their comparison of the 360 and PS3 versions of CoD: Black Ops

    Speaking of Black Ops, being able to customize my classes more than any other instalment has meant that my performance has increased exponentially. My K/D ratio was 0.97 at last check. Far better than my performance in any online FPS by a long way.

  7. That is actually pretty good dude. Mine is only 1.05 I think at the minute. Mind you, it sufferred greatly at launch because of the shit house servers and massive lag being experienced.

    Also, playing the objective in domination when no one else on your team does isn't the best way to increase your KD. On a plus side, I still rape in S&D. My points per minute in S&D is currently 377.9, which is just insane!

    And BO performs better on the 360 because it was built on the 360, the PS3 and PC are basically ports.