i just thought i'd express my thoughts on some so-called 'art games'. i don't really like that term, but i understand it to refer to the traditional language of 'gameplay' (controlling an image in a space, and performing actions) that is used in an unconventional manner; often poetic, personally expressive, or 'humanist'.
(from the top) 'moon stories, flower, the path, passage, you found the hookshot'
i've played all of these games, and aside from messhoff's stuff (you found the hookshot), they all seem to be trying to be achingly poetic or emotional. it's something that gamers are always thinking about, or at least an issue that is on the tip of their collective tongues or in the back of their mind somewhere.
flower is most notable for trying to really push the 'art game' angle. of course, i didn't think much of flower myself. i don't mind if you love it. i don't think it's a bad game (but it does bore me), and it flys in the face of what is popular and big and tried something mechanically novel (the wind element). what i dislike about flower is that the developers were so desperate to call it a poem and harp on about games as art. games are already art, and always have been. but i guess.. it doesn't hurt to make a game about a flower in order to create more consciousness in the game world that.. "hey these things are culturally important". so i don't hate it, but it's boring to me as art and boring to me as a game. i think the developers need to get over themselves. flower is a valid contribution in creating awareness of diversity and free expression in the digital interactive format, BUT games have been doing this for years! the atari 2600 has some amazing art and weird interactive stories. it's nothing new. i see flower as sort of a culmination in collective gamer consciousness... "games ARE art! so there!". it just bubbled up to the surface after laying dormant for some years (probably sparked off by ICO and Rez).
moon stories is little flash game i played. there's a pixel animation of a girl and a guy, and a serene lake. you control a camera and can re-organize the scene to change the outcome of the story. i like the minimalist approach to interaction. it's refreshing and has impact in its simplicity. i also enjoy the pixel art, blown up like 2600 graphics but more detailed. it's a well-thought out and good way to tell a story in interactive form. i just don't like the stories. i think they're kind of boring. it's a couple sitting in a boat looking sorry for themselves... is that supposed to be artistic? it's alright, but has very little impact on me personally. it is novel for a computer game though. actually... i do not think moon stories is a computer game. it actually is a piece of art, in that there's essentially nothing game-like in it. while flower is a game, and a pretty boring one that tries to transcend itself.
the path i played quite a bit. you can walk around a forest as a little girl. it's supposed to be a dark re-telling of red riding hood. i like the path because i see it as a virtual installation. so i see it as art, but it's an 'art game' because it still relies on some conventions like item collecting. i'm interested in the concept of a virtual art installation, because to me it felt like that rather than a virtual environment. however, like flower and moon stories i just do not enjoy the 'trying too hard to be poetic' thing. maybe some people like that, and that's fine. i just think that some of these developers are just trying too hard. 'emotion in games' - i don't see the big deal; there's always been emotional reaction to games. why do you want to try so hard to make people cry over a video game? if i met you on the street would you try to make me cry..? why?
if you want to express your emotions using the game medium, that's fine by me. but personally i dislike the desperation surrounding some developers (david cage etc.), and gamers when they really want to manipulate you just in order to get those tears flowing. i don't really like it in books or movies either. maybe it's just me.
passage is interactive art, similar to moon stories. it references video games and uses some of its language. i like the brevity of it, and the minimal design. and it's pretty clever how the pixels morph as you move. i should explain the story: you're a guy who moves from left to right. as you progress, you become older, meet a woman, and eventually grow old together and die. lovely. i really didn't like this. i find it so cliche. and that's not me trying to be better than the game - i just personally have no reaction to it whatsoever. it doesn't make me sad. it's just 10mins that i could have had doing something enjoyable.
i liked you found the hookshot. what i like about messhoff's games is that they're bite-sized chunks of 'gamey' gameplay that are focused and polished. i find them elegant in design and quite playful. they evoke nostalgia, but do so while providing something fresh and new. these are like... memories of video games past.
summing up, i think all of these games are interesting and valuable experiments. however, they don't interest me that much and i think that they tend to distract or take away from the fact that games have always been an art form and continue to be. i really do feel there's more interesting stuff in the mainstream right now..
however, i am all for self-expression on the part of the designer of a game or otherwise, so in that regard i'm not judging these as games. they simply might be how these people feel.
so let's all sit in a boat and weep. aww, there there.. feel better now? want to go for ice cream later? ;-p