I’m not here to argue if games are art or not since the requirements for something to be “art” is vague and dependent on personal view. But what most young gaming enthusiasts want is justification – validation from the public that the medium they love is worth something more than $60. They want others (non-gamers, academics, old people, etc.) to acknowledge there is a type of artistry to videogames that can’t found in any other medium. It may seem like a silly mission, but it’s worth it if just one person is converted. However, there is more to this quest than getting people to pay attention.
Sliding a bit off topic, Matt Helgeson of Game Informer recently wrote a little post about videogames appearing on late night television shows in America. Since videogames tend to gain negative publicity when on television here in the states, the inclusion of videogame segments on late night shows – surprisingly in a positive light – does present a different side to gaming to a new audience. (Maybe.) It’s an interesting read, though the ending seemed a bit ambitious:
While games haven’t supplanted the George Clooneys of the world on the chat circuit, their increasing presence on late night television is another sign that the industry has become an integral part of popular culture. For games, it’s a great opportunity to reach an audience that is interested in the hobby, but not in tune with more traditional game media outlets.
I would like to think this is the case, but I have doubts about this idea. Though I love Conan O’Brien, his Clueless Gamer segments aren’t really reaching for anyone to play the games he “reviews.” They’re just there for laughs. Then there’s Jimmy Fallon (bless his little gaming heart). Fallon creates time for gaming developers and publishers, introduces them to the audience, goes into detail about the games they are creating, and maybe gives a demonstrate of what is to come in the near future. Does it help expose the game to a newer audience? Probably not, but at least it gives videogame sites something to write about the next day. I may seem a bit pessimistic about the whole late night TV thing, but I really think there is more to videogame acceptance than showing up on the boob tube.
So how does it begin? It starts with talented professionals from other mediums looking at games with the same seriousness as their field of expertise. Only then will games be more than just jumping and killing things. Example: LA Times recently printed an article about movie and TV composers looking to videogames for creative exploration. Due to certain restrictions movies have imposed on composers, the videogame medium sort of lets these well-known composers “go wild.” Naturally this would be an enticing welcome to musicians, but not everyone found the videogame space an appropriate place for their work. Dexter composer Daniel Licht didn’t think of videogames as a significant plain for his creations, originally thinking he would be making something along the lines for Super Mario Bros, but soon realized his thinking was wrong and wished he entered the medium sooner. Changing a well-known composer’s thoughts on videogames is how people will take gaming seriously, or at least introduce a new side to this medium.
Another talented professional Courtnee Draper, voice of Elizabeth from the upcoming game Bioshock Infinite, had a similar thought process as Licht when it came to gaming. She viewed the typical stereotype of videogames as “a waste of time,” the lower form of entertainment compared to books and such. Yet once she was brought into the world of gaming and saw what Ken Levine and Irrational Games was doing, her perspective changed. She wasn’t voicing some platform adventure game (side note: nothing wrong with that either), but a game with complexity in narrative that tested the delivery of her acting. It was a challenge, but one she overtook and gained valuable insight from.
When you can convince people like Draper and Licht the videogame space is more than just bouncing and killing things, that’s when you know videogames have “made it.” Of course people are still aiming at Robert Ebert for the ultimate validation, but maybe we should aim a bit lower. Robert Ebert is, in my opinion, a lost cause when it comes to the art debate. So let’s aim for others, maybe not so well-known, who we think can be convince there is more to gaming than just sitting down and pressing buttons to shoot things.