Games Are Not Art. Even Game Designers Think So.January 22nd, 2009 | Written by Amadeo Plaza | Topic: Social Commentary
Several months ago, when I was last in San Francisco at the LucasArts campus to check out Fracture, I met with some of the people (Day 1 Studios) who developed the game. Among those people, were Dan Hay (Senior Producer/Art Director), Deke Waters (Associate Producer), and Tony Huynh. Those three especially stand out to me because of a conversation we had about game development. The day we spent at the LucasArts campus was the day I got Dan and Deke in a room and grilled them with questions not about the game or the way it’s played, but instead about social commentary in gaming, and why the lack of it has disabled the medium from becoming an artform.
I challenged them on the design choices of Fracture as it pertains to its story and the message they were trying to send, and was later pulled aside by Dan and thanked for bringing a new perspective to the table when the questions they are typically asked are about the kinds of weapons available and the length of the campaign.
The previous night, the night I arrived in San Francisco, I had dinner with the guys at Day 1 Studios, which is where I spoke with Tony Huynh, and now that I think about it, I believe Dan was sitting across from me. I engaged in the same conversation with Tony that I did with Dan and Deke the following day. I had just gotten off the heels of writing my Social Commentary in Video Games article, and was fired up about about pressing developers with difficult questions about why they made the games they made.
Tony emailed me this week after having put together an amazing post on his blog, LimitlessUnits, in which he explores the problem of social commentary in video games, and why he has come to the conclusion that games are not art, and how we only have ourselves to blame for the limitation that has been placed on them. He hit the nail right on the head with every single point, so, I thought it was all too appropriate to share his post with all of you.
The mandatory “fun” is what pigeonholes the video game medium into a escapist distraction and puts a self-imposed limitation on video games that prevents it from reaching the high art plateau. I recently watched the movie The Terrorist and asked myself the question, was that movie fun? The film was thought provoking, sad and even disturbing, but can hardly be described as fun. What separates films from games as a medium is film’s willingness to tackle difficult subject matter. In the case of The Terrorist, it chronicles the life of a pregnant female suicide bomber leading up to the assassination Rajiv Gandhi.
Thanks for letting me know about this post, Tony. It encompasses all of the arguments I was making that night, and this is something all game designers should remember.