Friday, March 11, 2011

The Question We Should be Asking (GO!)

Lately this is all I can think about. That whole, "are video games art?" debate.

And I just have to get this off of my chest. I think it's such a silly thing to talk over. Yes, I'm talking about Ebert's infamous "never be art" post. There are currently 4819 comments on that blog post. That's a lot.

Now, I hope this resonates with you, even though I'm totally not at all an authority on this and I only have one game that has something that even resembles a story.

We all have our own definitions of art. "It's something that makes me feel," I hear. "It's something that's beautiful," I hear. "It's something that makes me think," I hear.

Let's stop with all of this definition bullcrap. Let's stop with all of this debate.

Here is the question we should be asking- "HOW can we make our games as great and powerful as they possibly can be?"

Let's stop dancing around. Let's stop using vague words... let's stop generalizing this crap.

Let's make some goals. Let's make some clear objectives, some things that we want to obtain as a collective group of, dare I say it, artistic peoples? I guess I'll just say developers.

I think Ebert makes a good point when he says, "No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, and novelists." That could be true, or it might not be true.

But let's just focus on making games worthy of "comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, and novelists" and stop debating over if his statement is correct or not. Although we should look in the rear-view mirror every once in the while, I think we should be spending most of our time looking forward.

So if you think that games are already at that pinnacle, I say to you "now we must try to improve what has been done before us, and make games even better." If you agree with Ebert on his point about not being able to compare games to these other mediums, I say to you "now we must try to get games to that point." If you agree with Ebert on that whole "never" thing... I say to you "it's worth a shot, let's at least try to reach those heights."

So here's the thing. I'm not going to pretend like I know what it takes to do this. I'm going to be an English major at college, and I'll be lucky if I ever know how to make ANYTHING worthy of that. It's highly unlikely and ridiculously tough to do that.

But here's what I'm going to tell you to do.

Read the great poets! Try to write some poetry! I spent a good amount of time today trying to write a Shakespearean sonnet in iambic pentameter. It was a lot of fun- but my sonnet's awful. It really is. But I know that it's awful and that I'm willing to do whatever I have to do to get better.

Watch the best films! There are so many lists of the best movies ever out there. Over the summer I decided to start living life, and I watched Citizen Kane and Casablanca. They were so good! I don't watch enough movies. I really don't. But I know that if I want to be able to make a videogame that is close to even average films, I'll need to start watching a ton of (good) movies.

Read the best books! I'll admit that the books I read are because of my English class. But the books they choose are the classics, the ones that they want every kid in the world to read. So go out and read the best books.

Live life! Get out there and talk to people. Get out there and be a human being. Make mistakes. Get your heart broken. (Not assuming that you don't do this already, but if you aren't, go and do it now! Especially the bad parts.) When you're a writer, anything that happens to you, good or bad, can be used in your writing. When I feel down, I can get myself out of that funk by thinking, "hey, you can write about it."

They say to "write what you know." If we want games to be viewed like movies, novels, and poetry, and any other kind literature there is (who knows) we have to keep learning. The more we know, the better. Don't get me wrong- we need to practice designing games, too. We need the games to be fun. We need to practice writing, too. We learn through experience, too.

But don't assume that you know what makes a good story. Don't assume that you know what makes something art- go out and feel art, go out and live life, GO! GO! GO!

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