What ever the devices and the platforms are, we enjoy these games a lot. So there's nothing wrong to think about the new platforms and their development, when i was a kid i thought it would be great if they stuffed my playstation into a portable device and after some years i've found it like a PSP and now i'm looking at my playstation with the same respect and anxiety which i felt the first time i unboxed my console. So with my experience in gaming and game making i strongly feel no matter how many new ways we find to play games , it may be mmo,multiplayer,co-op or virtual life sims etc... Its always a game and we enjoy playing them.:) But it would be good if the devs dont concentrate only on a single platform, and may be we should stop thinking about new platforms for a while which actually may reduce the pressure on the industry. So lets hope for the best gaming experience... :D
We count down to the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo with a series of features about the issues affecting the future of the games industry.
In our first Road to E3 feature we looked at the future of multiplayer gaming and its impact on the development scene, and in the second feature we examined the rise of mobile gaming and its influence on the wider gaming industry. Our final Road to E3 feature focuses on four burning issues currently affecting the global game development industry: the importance of player agency; the need for more complex human emotions in games; the reason digital distribution models are the future; and finally, the need to accept that games cannot yet be compared to high art.
Guiding us through these four topics are some of the biggest names in game development, whose presentations at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year helped drive discussion around these four topics. Former Ubisoft creative director Clint Hocking used examples from Splinter Cell games as well as games like Far Cry 2 in his presentation to illustrate the need for developers to give up authorship and find new ways to let players feel in control. He argued that giving players more agency in games will push the boundaries of game development and take the industry in new directions.
Similarly, the founder and co-owner of French game development studio Quantic Dream and the creator of last year's Heavy Rain, David Cage, argued for the need to build more immersive game experiences that challenge the current standards of characterization. From Cage's point of view, the industry can move forward only once developers learn how to re-create more complex human emotions in games and successfully transform these into better-quality titles.
Design director at Epic Games and industry rockstar Cliff Bleszinski talked about a more practical issue: the need to embrace digital distribution. Bleszinski used examples from his own career to show that what consumers want now is a more seamless game experience that embraces social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the iPhone.
Finally, former LucasArts developer and game design lecturer Brian Moriarty presented a panel on the games-as-art debate, comparing current video games to kitsch art (that is, popular, mainstream art as opposed to high art) and declaring that currently, games do not, and cannot, display the same artistic value as works of high art.
So, while game design models still rely heavily on sets of predetermined rules and outcomes, the gaming industry has begun to question whether it can do more. The idea that gaming experiences can diversify to the point where there is no longer a "standard" is a seductive one, driving innovation and creativity further and further ahead of the demands of fiscal success. Grappling with new ways of distribution and an increasingly growing audience, the video game industry is at a critical turning point. The question is, just how will it use this momentum?
Why Player Agency Counts: Clint Hocking
The question of how video games can be used to create meaning is a popular discussion topic at the Game Developers Conference. Eight months ago, Clint Hocking, creative director at LucasArts and former creative director at Ubisoft for titles including Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2, began writing a series of articles for his blog that focused on the idea that games could reach across platforms and genres and build a relationship with the audiences via gameplay that borrowed elements from core, casual, social, and mobile gaming.
"For the past six months, I have been writing about ways to build connections between different games, and by extension, their audiences," Hocking said on his blog. "How could developers--constantly understaffed and struggling to make every deadline--ever find the time to build a Facebook or iPhone game that would meaningfully link casual players to their 50-million-dollar Christmas release if they couldn't find the time to make their beta? I've imagined fashion design games for portable platforms that feed clothing designs to open-world games where avatar clothing customization matters. I've imagined social world-building games whose player-authored environments become playable levels used in action adventure games. I've imagined players of organization management games popping on to their mobile devices intermittently throughout the day to allocate resources and assign missions that are then subscribed to by real players playing action games."
Doing this, Hocking argues, would give players more of that which imbibes games with meaning: agency. In other words, letting players have control in a game is the essence of games themselves; it is what ties players to the gameworld and thus gives meaning to the game as a cultural artifact. Interconnecting game genres and platforms would create new ways for players to feel in control, allowing them to take the same set of skills and emotions from one type of game to another. This, Hocking believes, is what the games industry should be striving for.
At GDC 2011, Hocking presented a panel on the importance of agency and how it can be used to shape meaning in games. Like a film's meaning can be crafted through the process of editing, a game's meaning can be crafted through its dynamics--the run-time behaviour of the gameplay system. When designing a game, developers are faced with two choices: one, heavily author the game by placing meaning in the game's mechanics; or two, abdicate authorship completely and let each player create his or her meaning through the act of playing. It's not hard to guess which Hocking favours. When working on the first Splinter Cell game for Ubisoft, Hocking heavily authored the gaming experience by forcing players to make only the decisions that he planned for them. In his mind, the game was about three things--sensitivity, proximity, and fragility--and he wanted all players to extract the same three things from playing the game as he did. As the so-called author of the game, Hocking forced a set of dynamics onto players.
This was not the case with Far Cry 2, in which he completely relinquished authorship to let players create their own meaning in the way they played. In his original pitch for Far Cry 2, Hocking told his team it was about the idea of human social savagery being more disturbing than simple teeth and claw savagery.
"This message was embedded within the dynamics of the game: shooting people in cold blood, euthanizing allies, and so on," Hocking said during his GDC 2011 panel.
So, while two different players might play the original Splinter Cell and get exactly the same meaning out of it, Far Cry 2 was designed to give individual players the freedom to extract their own meaning out of the experience, as opposed to a predetermined one. For example, one player may come to the realisation that although Far Cry 2 rewards murderous actions, it never celebrates them, thus reminding players that they may be no better than the people they kill, while another player may stay out of trouble and protect his life inside the game as much as possible, thus coming to the conclusion that the game is actually rather dull.
Narrative also affects how meaning is constructed in a game. During his discussion, Hocking asked the audience to imagine playing a game of Tetris in their heads. He then asked the audience to imagine the same thing again and this time to pretend that the game is taking place in a field outside a Warsaw ghetto during Nazi Germany and that the player's job is to pack as many Jewish people into a train as possible--anyone left behind will be immediately shipped to a concentration camp. While the rules and mechanics of Tetris have not changed, the layer of narrative now means players think about playing the game in an entirely new way.
"By changing the fictional skin, the game has new potential meanings that the game didn't have before; these meanings come from the player-imposed narrative. So, narrative might not touch mechanics at all, but it does impact meaning and can lead to changes in how the game is played."
i think they should cut it out with the new devices i mean consoles annnd pcs are great with gaming but making devices such as iphone ipod ipad etc apple is trying to fit in with the gaming socity!! thats UGLY!!!
One more thing to say. I will never be pleased by a "Digital only" gaming world.I don't want nothing but $1.99 tidbits of gaming on my smartphone or through Facebook.I do not deny the relevancy of these things,in fact,I believe they must be used.But they must not replace fully fledged gaming experiences on dedicated devices.If multitasking is what gaming needs to evolve to,than becoming digital only is the exact opposite,because it rids us of the original gaming experience. In with the new,in with the old I say.Thumbs up to backwards compatibility,full games on cartridges or discs,dedicated game consoles,AND extra features and free/cheap/casual digital content.Get the best of all the demographics.
@ aeatyes I agree. Art is designed to make people think,particularly about emotions,and "life,the universe,and everything." While many games,like COD and other rather mindless and violent games don't do that,games like LoZ:OoT(what a funny abbreviation) or the Metroid Prime series do.They,as you said,take us to far away places,and make us use our imaginations,involving us in fantastic stories and deep emotions in ways that even books can't.(I liked reading the last words of doomed civilizations in Metroid.It produced a very somber feeling for the ruins you were walking amongst.)And in some games like Infamous,the complex moral decision to be good or bad is actually up to your actions.What kind of person are you?Do you stand up for the good?Or are you in it for ultimate power? I also like the music in games like Mario Galaxy 2.The game is light on story,but the big beautiful worlds that make a toy out of the laws of physics combined with the sweeping music produce a really epic,often fun feeling,and anyone who says fun isn't art is just wrong.I'd say fun is probably the first art we learn as kids,and the first one we forget as adults.And what is the first thing a good game should be about?Fun.
I totally support having players work with the devs on games.Like what Mega Man Legends 3 is doing.It's so cool,some characters have already been voted on or even completely designed by fans already,and I'm entering the next contest for a new mascot (like the Servbots for the pirates) character for one of the street racing gangs.When the game comes out,I'll feel like I contributed,or maybe even be able to see a character in it and say,"I made him." Plus my name would be in the credits :P
Oh, and they use music. Almost forgot that one. :P And there have been some amazing video game soundtracks. The Halo series stands out in my mind in this regard.
They depict great skill in art: drawing, animating, painting, sketching, concept art, graphic art, sculpture, design. And these works are just as emotionally moving and thought provoking as the stories they seek to visually represent, as the moments they portray. To deny video games their logical, and rightful, place in art is foolish and ignorant. However, the issue most people are having is their skewed view of video games as mindless, superficial, and artificial experiences; I don't blame them, not entirely. Most are woefully ignorant of the best titles that video gaming has to offer, and have only seen garbage like COD and Doodle Bop. There are also the "critics" to deal with, those of the art world and the video game world. But like any emerging medium, it's going to take some time before people accept it is as art; it will come. Part 2 Cheers.
Gonna have to agree with TheBigKabosh and Sepewrath here. Video games need to be what they are, and these developers, in their arrogance, impatience, and over-excitement to evolve video games and "raise the bar", are blurring the lines that define video games, and the video game experience. Video games qualify for art under almost every discipline you care to name, so take your pick. From drawing to storyboarding to film, video games are utilizing every medium that is considered "art". Factor in that some video games combine all of these elements into one amazing package, and I fail to see how they do not qualify. Some great examples are: Bioshock Ico Shadow of the Colossus Deus Ex KOTOR Chrono Trigger Chrono Cross MGS4 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time There are quite a few more, some newer, some older, but all great pieces of art. Like books, these games transport you to fantastic lands and far away places. They evoke awe, a sense of adventure and exploration; they depict sorrow, hardship, loss, fear, anger, hate, love, compassion, betrayal, redemption, choice, paradox. They are thought provoking, from the simple choice of whether or not to harvest a Little Sister to seeking salvation for Bastilla. All the elements you find in famous literature you can find in video games. Part 1
@James00715 Why change the definition of art? Let art be what it is and if games aren't art then they're not. What's the problem?
As far as games as art, I think of it like web 1.0 vs web 2.0. In the old days the content on websites was created by one person or a group of people. Visitors to the site had no impact. Contrast this with web 2.0 sites, where the users directly create a lot of the meaningful content on the site. So traditional art you could say is art 1.0 and video games are art 2.0. Pretty much everyone I know finds video games more compelling and interesting than traditional art. It's the future, and the definition of art will just have to change. Of course, just like music and movies there are games made to sell and games made for art, both very different.
Games have come to the point where they're more like feature films than games. It's like you play just to see the next cut-scene instead of playing just to have fun. Of course, not all games have a story and yet they are memorable nonetheless.
I don't understand Cage's using narrative as "freeing" players. That seems a contradiction. Heavy Rain is freeing insofar as it allows us to experience new and different gameplay. This too, will become old hat, though. I see freedom as Hocking does, through unlimited choice. As far as games as art goes, it seems that the more games emphasize player agency, the more the players are the artists. But then again, I'm not sure that games always leave authorship to us. In a way, we just shoot and kill our way to the next plot point which is out of our control. Beating the game requires this story, even in an Elder-Scrolls-ish game. I don't think we should let games-as-products interfere with games becoming art, either. Dickens was paid per word for most of his stuff and "artist" Andy Warhol was infamous for blurring the border of art and product. I also think that a game can "deeply reward a lifetime of contemplation" and "make us more cultured, civilized, and empathetic." Some people read Plato's dialogues and only see the outdated logic. Others spend their lives interpreting one sentence. I could probably get some enlightenment out of "The Fast and the Furious" if I cared to, though I honestly think there's less there than in many games. It's what WE make of the game, not Ebert (bless him). I see this as inevitable; games will be art, it's just a matter of time. Besides, "art" is vague to the point of being meaningless. Rant concluded.
"Give writers, not programmers, the power to control the direction of a game." Then you, my friend, have stepped out of the video game industry and into the movie business. Let me give you one example: Super Mario Galaxy. It is one hell of a great game, and it barely has a story at all.
While I was reading this all I had in mid was the game Tweetland, a game with combines our tweets and how they affect the game itself. That is innovation and creativity
I start do wonder if "defining of what is art and what not" is more about arbitrariness, dogmatism, trends and being self-satisfied than being rational, factual, everlasting and neutral. While this Brian Moriarty is mostly right about his description of most video-games, he seems to completelly miss that this description can be applied to most works done in the "true forms of art" too. (Ironically, forms like jazz-music, movies, written fiction and so on, were subject to the same foul arguments and disrespects in their beginnings.) Also some might wonder why most "highbrow-people", in their arbitrary and self-inflating fashion and therefore lack of self-consciousness, often appear to be just as stupid and similar in their demerits as "lowbrow-people". They merely seem to have more sophisticated ways to shroud their ignorance and intolerance
Obviously all games contain elements of art but the games themselves are not art - they're products created for the sole purpose of PROFIT. Gears of War? Product. The Last Guardian? Product. If you want to see art step foot inside a museum. I doubt you'd understand any of it.
I don't understand how games like braid, limbo, world of goo, mass effect, rdr, portal and many others could not be called an art.
Digital distribution? no way either. I've only bought 2 games online, Super Star Dust HD, 1942 Joint Strike. they were okay. but I prefer the disc that I can take to any friends house and play. I can transfer the disc to any other system. not too mention you can resell them, buy them used, or collect them as I do. I totally fear the day it all becomes digital, that will be the day I stop buying new systems.
wow...I mean wow. I fear if games go this way. I wont play them anymore. I found Far Cry 2 to be one of the most repetitive games I've ever had the misfortune to play. not to mention that it had nothing to do with the first and should never have been called far cry 2. But then I also dont like other completely sand box games like gta, or fallout 3.
Art, art is too subjective for anyone to claim to define; the simple reality is people are told what art is. Its not something that most will embrace on their own, that will "make us more cultured, civilized, and empathetic." The Mona Lisa is art because your taught its art, while graffiti is just vandalism. Beethoven's Fifth is art, while a rap song is commercialized noise, because someone told you that's not art. What is and what isn't art cant be summed up by some all encompassing definition; it is dependent upon each individual, because what is interpreted from each individual piece is a product of each persons individual experiences.
the listed examples of games that Moriarty has played--why would anyone call those art? and COD? really? i guess if you regard the story of the game as a separate medium, i guess you could say that games aren't art, but there are plenty of games with "artful" stories in them. as for gameplay itself, i think little indie games, with their freedom to explore different ways of interaction in the game, can come close--if not all the way--to art.
Excellent article, I do think that Cliffy B might want to reconsider his career though, sounds to me like he belongs in the advertising and marketing industry, not the AAA gaming industry.
Just give it a decade or so and we'll have an article titled "When games forgot they were games". Not a good thing in my opinion - games should strive to raise the bar in gaming not try to become cheap movie replacements. That's not to say that certain games shouldn't try that, but I hope that's never the majority.
thats all very well but i don't want to play a game which is basically a romantic comedy, or 'the hand that rocks the cradle'. There is a fine line between playing a game or realising you should just be watching a film!
Hey, very nice article! I think about scripted versus sandbox (etc) a lot of times when I become frustrated with games. Being a RPG fan, more often than not I feel like I'd like to merge many games I love into one percet game, but I fail to imagine how could that be done. I guess devs are also thinking what I'm thinking, so it's at least a hope - if they succeed, they'll create RPGs I'll love to play.
wow lots to think about... i've always liked making my own decisions (elder scrolls IV oblivion) but i like it when they tell good stories too (final fantasy x) so i dont know which to prefer. Still, it's good to know that developers spend so much time thinking and working on their projects. The future of entertainment in games looks bright.