Why Videogames Aren’t Art Yet: Lack of Passion
In the first part of my “Why Videogames Aren’t Art Yet” series I discussed the lack of romance in video games. I think there is an overwhelming reason why their isn’t good romance in current games, a subject that is my next point. That’s the lack of passion in the gaming industry.
Now sure, we have talented and passionate people like the teams of Naughty Dog, Bioware and Kojima Productions, but they seem to be few and far in between. My last article related to films quite a bit, which is only natural as it’s a highly visual experience, much like video games. But for passion I have to defer to music and art on this one.
What sort of passion am I talking about? I’m talking about that deep urge (and need) to create something great. A need that transcends common sense. Take for example Kayne West, he was involved in a near fatal car crash on the way home from the studio. He was crafting his first solo cd at the time, arguably the biggest moment of his life. There he was, lying in a hospital bed, his mouth wired shut. No one would have blamed him if he said it was a cosmic sign for him to quit. But he didn’t, in fact he penned his first single “Through the Wire” while in that bed. And then the crazy man proceeded to record the single before he had fully healed, he was barely able to open his mouth at all to rap. That album would eventually go double platinum, and he would go on to make great music and annoy the hell out of a lot of people.
So what am I getting at? How often in the video game industry do we ever have a person or team, crawling through hell to make a game? Not just a passable game, but a truly great game. Now yes, this industry does not play kindly to small and poor studios, no one is discounting that. But I can’t help but wonder how much of that is because of all the crap clogging up our shelf space.
Games like Knights Contract was obviously not finished, Rogue Warrior was so full of bugs it price dropped to $20 within months, and Quantum Theory is an awful and blatant Gears of War clone. These are games so awful their misdeeds are accepted almost universally. When was the last time a CD came out with half finished songs that sound like they were made in a basement. Sure you can dislike the music, but it rarely ever sounds unprofessionally produced, or well…like crap.
Lately it seems like all the really good and daring new games are on the console arcade markets. Bastion, Shadow Complex and Braid have raised the bar for how we see arcade games. All for one reason, the passion the developers had in making them. It’s not always about the graphics, or sound (or even A.I.), Sometimes its just about a single and ultimate vision that the developers want to see accomplished. Look at games like Amensia on Steam, a game made with a fraction of the budget of stinkers like Big Mother Truckers. Yet the game is selling well and getting critical praised.
A game with passion is a game that can be played no matter the year, the time and day. Gamers passionately still play Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy 7. Both games visually are outdated with musical scores done in midi format. Yet the soul and passion of the developers can be felt. Both games were made by individuals who bleed and sweat until their games turned out the way they wanted.
More developers need to get back to that point where they LOVED what they did. Get money grubbing publishers out of their heads and just worry about shaping the projects they love. Stop breaking apart teams that work for a new team that won’t. Passion isn’t just about a great story. It’s about dedication to the project, the vision to create something great and the tenacity to stay until its done.
What ever happened to not going home until it’s done right?!
Putting passion back in games is no easy task, because as the industry has grown it has also lost site of its sister story telling mediums. But it can make its way back faster than Hollywood and without having to go through wars and regime changes like art. Artists don’t care what the world tells them is right, they simply do what they want. Musicians will play in a dirty subway for change because they love it so much. Lets bring back the mod scene, full power, go back to the days when any kid in his basement could be a small star.
However, (once again) it’s up to us, the consumers, to back developers when they take a leap of faith. Support games crazy enough to try an insane mechanic (Katamari Damacy) or a game that had more setbacks than Lindsay Lohan and Microsoft combined (Duke Nukem Forever), and games that dare to have a main character that never speaks (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus). As we (the audience) mature, so shall the games – or at least we hope that they will; eventually everyone will get the picture. Sure someone (somewhere) will always crap out an easy money game (Haze, Infernal, Damnation, Vampire Rain, etc). But hopefully I won’t have to wade through a pile of crap at a GameStop before I find a game worth spending money on.