Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
22 January 2007
A few notes on artistic games
A piece I wrote speculating on an aspect of games this coming generation is up on this morning. The topic is what I call artistic games, and I thought it might be worth adding few comments here.
  • I intentionally left the term "artistic game" vague, which some might feel is a weakness of the piece. I can certainly appreciate that criticism. There are a few games that folks generally agree are artistic (or simply art) and I tried to stick to those as examples to minimize the discussion of just what constitutes art and focus on the point, which is that an evenly split market may lead to a more conservative market.

  • There are some notable exceptions to the observation that most artistic games ended up on the PlayStation 2. I think Odama would count, and I could even see The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker too. Maybe something oddball like Cubivore or P.N. 03? All the examples I came up with were on the GameCube and I couldn't think of anything on the Xbox, although that might be simply my relative lack of knowledge of the Xbox library.

  • I had to exclude handhelds since there are more experimental, and therefore artistic, games in that space. In particular, I find several of the games from the Bit Generations line for the Game Boy Advance to be beautiful specimens of design.
This post also offers an opportunity for y'all to flame away or offer your own observations, so feel free to hit the comments below.

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--Matt Matthews at 11:12
Comment [ 9 ]

Comments on this post:

Interesting article. I think I get the gist of what you mean, but artistic games are something hard to define. If I had to take a stab, I would call them, "Games which are aesthetically pleasing or thought provoking beyond the requirments of gameplay."

Almost all games contain art, since they have musical scores, visual art, etc. But sometimes the game as a whole has some organizing theme beyond that which could be considered art. I think video games are less welcoming to an artistic take than other media, not because they are lowbrow, but because they are interactive. I'm willing to spend 2 hours/$10 on movie that is more artistic than fun if it has some potent imagery or can make me think. But if I'm going to spend tens of hours on a game it had better be fun, and artistic merit comes in as a distant second.

That being said, I vote for Super Monkey Ball as an artistic game. There is a cleverness in some of the
level designs, which might be disguised real-world
objects or subltle physics puzzles, which have the ability to surprise and delight.

--The Eidolon

By Blogger William, at 22 January, 2007 12:44  

Interesting article. One could say the DS may be in a position to pull off artistic games while remaining low-risk for the developer. Hotel Dusk may be an example of this potential. Of course, we wouldn't see anything as lush and beautiful as Ico or SotC then.

By Anonymous fnc, at 22 January, 2007 13:17  

If you're looking for games which offer a purely artistic aesthetic in their presentation, then I would nominate the Otogi games on the Xbox.

And I also think it was a big mistake to omit the DS, which I pointed out in my response email to the article.

By Blogger Lech, at 22 January, 2007 14:11  

Otogi for sure.

Honestly, I think Xbox games achieved a lot in terms of "sound design" last generation. You have a large number of games with really very high quality scores, and great 5.1 effects etc.

The 360 continues that tradition.

I also think, though, that people in this country have a tendency to confuse "foreign" with "artistic." It's like coming from another country bestows something with some je ne sais quoi that people interpret as art, when it's really a reflection of the designer's cultural leanings.

It's notable that you only mentioned a grand total of ONE western game in the first page of your article.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 22 January, 2007 15:28  

At this point, it would probably behoove you to start reading around in the scholarship of gaming. Not only would it help with your questions regarding defn's, but do so would give you access to a relatively mature, though still (luckily, imo) maturing, conversation on precisely these issues.

By Blogger rufbo, at 22 January, 2007 15:36  

Well, very few Western games even try for something artistic really. It's sad but it's true. (That said, EA's new Def pure art. Actually SSX:Blur looks amazing as well. EA got some good stuff going on right now)

But I think the mistake in the article is assuming console parity. I think that 4 months ago, this was a safe assumption. I think with the success of the Wii, and the relative not success of the PS3, parity looks less likely now. And while all this is still up in the air, it should be taken into account IMO at least as a possiblity. (The possibility being that the Wii ends up as the PS1/2 of this generation)

By Blogger Karmakin, at 22 January, 2007 16:12  

I think if there is any fundamental flaw in the logic - it's this: the generations aren't terribly distinct.

"This" generation is, by the numbers, still the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo DS. Everything else is still in the distance in terms of installed consumer base. The "next" generation is still a bit off - and when it hits - it will make more fiscal sense.

So sure, I wouldn't expect many artsy games for the 360 or PS3 until they get larger bases. The Wii will come closer, probably, just because of the its nature which implies gameplay over graphics - will lean to the more artistic.

The other oddball, as you note, are the online distros. XNA, Sony Online and VC represent not just replacement avenues for smaller studios - but possibly the most tempting solution for publication around for sometime.

However, in the end, I expect the amount to remain roughly the same. Simply because the supply itself probably hasn't grown much.

By Blogger Josh, at 22 January, 2007 20:46  

Excellent article, if a bit depressing. My favorite games from this past generation included Ico, SotC, and Okami, along with some of the quirkier stuff on the DS. For our sake, I hope you're wrong... But as we've seen with the closing of Clover, you're probably right on.

By Blogger Stefan, at 22 January, 2007 23:33  

Killer 7 is my favorite art game, and also the most frustratingly poor as far as game play.

By Blogger Zachary, at 23 January, 2007 00:27  

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