David Jaffe, he of Twisted Metal and God of War fame, likes to rock the boat and, over the weekend, threw up a lovely little rant on his blog encouraging gamers, journalists and other developers alike to start calling game developers out when it comes to artistic pretension. He attacked the critical and appreciative public and press for being far too willing to trumpet games and elevate them higher than they deserve:
'Just because there's wind blowing and a minimal soundtrack and vast open spaces to explore and a slow pace doesn't mean that the game you are playing is art.
And just because a game's story and presentation contains elements you've see in the 'big boy movies' doesn't make a game adult or mean the medium is maturing.
These are all surface elements that-while challenging as anything else in games to produce well- do not speak to the maturation of the medium one iota.
I'm tired of seeing gamers- and game journalists especially- falling for this.'
Jaffe went on to suggest that this hyperbolic appreciation for the 'trapping of art' was in fact hampering the industry, and used an example involving his own daughter to illustrate his point:
'If I tell one of my daughters- whose current obsession is learning to draw a photo realistic unicorn/Pegasus hybrid- that her art is perfect and her image looks like a photo realistic magical horse AND if this is NOT ACTUALLY TRUE (and instead I only wish that it were true), then am I really helping my daughter? Am I really respecting her? Am I really DISRESPECTING the craft of art, in both the medium and long term? Because best case- assuming she cares what I think- and I think she does :)- she'll think she's a better artist than she really is and lose some of her ambition. WORST case my lie will make her think she's achieved her goal when she really hasn't, and she'll no longer want to improve at drawing. It's not that different when it comes to the 'games as art' issue.'
Jaffe continues, expanding into theories involving teenage angst, telling his readership that it's time for developers to be made to 'shit or get off the pot' and, crucially, underlining his fear that to look so closely and so eagerly for signs that 'gaming has arrived' might well have a negative effect on those he terms 'pure games'.
'To be going on and on about how games need to be/can be/should be/already are 'more' than 'just games' to me disrespects the joy and happiness traditional games bring to the world. I don't know about you, but my life would be at least a little less fantastic (and probably a hell of a lot worse) without Baseball, Basketball, Chess, Chutes & Ladders, Old Maid, Ms. Pac Man, Zork, Super Mario Bros., Gears of War, Killzone 3, Guitar Hero, and Call of Duty:Black Ops Multiplayer.
'See, I'm ok if games are never 'accepted' or 'legitimized' or called 'art' by those folks that many in the 'games as art' argument seem to care about (although I accept that perhaps one day games may very well be viewed that way, by elitist snobs and your 'average' people alike). But I'm not ok if the progress of making pure games better and more successful is slowed or even stunted by a significant enough redistribution of energy, funds, and media attention into the 'games as art/games are important' camp.'
There are a few other points too - including a tasty cheese pizza metaphor, a rather vague history lesson and an end paragraph that relates the argument to religion (and breaks the 10-pint rule) - but his arguments regarding a detrimental overeagerness to champion the artistic merits of our medium perhaps carry some weight. You can read the whole thing here. [via VG247]
What do YOU think? Are we getting there? Does Jaffe have a point? Does it matter? Are you really hungry after reading the cheese pizza paragraph? Let us know in the comments below.