Friday, March 29, 2013

High/Low Games

It has long been debated on how video games fit into art and culture. Some see them only as forms of entertainment that shouldn't strive to be anything more, but many artists and designers have used the medium to great artistic effect, although arguably nobody has yet to create the definitive 'magnum opus' game that is to the medium what Citizen Kane is to film, or Watchmen to comics.

However, as with film and literature, there is a noticeable divide between the 'high-art' end of games and the popular games that are designed primarily for mainstream success. It's clear to see the huge number of first-person shooters and armour-and-sword-wielding RPGs, generally of varying quality, as it is known that these games have an audience and they sell - just as generic action films dominate the box office.

Usually 'arthouse' games are all lumped together under the definition/genre of 'indie games'. A couple of examples include Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, Journey and Dear Esther. The development of these sorts of games could be viewed as a reaction against the mainstream titles, many of which lack originality and repeat the same tropes and gameplay mechanics. Although the indie developers' smaller budgets means they can't be as graphically or technically complex as AAA titles, they are still able to succeed in creating very meaningful and enjoyable experiences, as they are made by people who highly value the artistic integrity of their work. The focus is less on what to do to keep the player constantly occupied, but on what the game itself is trying to achieve.

However the audience for games will always be split between those who crave constant Call of Duty-type action and stimulation, and who find indies boring and 'pretentious', those who may not feel strongly either way, and those who are more sceptical of the top game companies and feel that all they want is money often at the cost of originality - as is the case for the film industries and other aspects of culture as well.

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