03.12.2018
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A video game as a piece of art

Can games ever rise in aesthetic and intellectual levels?

Игры как искусство
Reading time 5 minutes

From the ancient times people strive for expressing themselves via art, inventing more and more tools for this. Literature, fine arts, statuary, architecture, music, photography, cinema – all of these are media created in a result of technological progress and a drive for sharing new ideas.

Video games is a form of creativity as well, however, they are not construed as a real art yet. Although, a couple of examples can make people doubt in this statement.

Journey

Speaking of aesthetic qualities and audiovisual sequence of video games, we should look a little closer at Journey by thatgamecompany.

"Захватывающее и медитативное приключение" - так часто описывают Journey
An exciting and meditative adventure is a common description for Journey

Journey tells us a story about a nameless figure in a vast desert, traveling towards a mountain in the distance where he expects to find something that he needs for some reason. The game lacks any kind of speech or dialogue what creates space for  personal interpretation of the story. The game never tells anything directly, but the surrounding world gradually reveals the veil of secrecy around the place and our main character. All of these creates a unique magic atmosphere of journey where adventures await at every turn.

At the same time a meditative and exciting game Journey has conquered the hearts of most people and earned the recognition of critics.

Cuphead

Another example of a video game as an audiovisual piece of art is Cuphead by Studio MDHR Corp.

Even a promo cover sends us to the 1930s

A visual style of Max Fleischer’s animation of the 1930s, hand-drawn characters and backgrounds, and an unpretentious story about a cupheaded boy attach the feeling of an interactive cartoon to this game.

Cuphead is a synthesis of old-school creative techniques and up-to-date technologies. The game has been fully appreciated by players as well as by critics.

Stanley Parable

Not all of the games can boast a vivid and memorable visual image like previous ones. But the main distinctive feature of Stanley Parable game is its story, or, to be more precise, the absence of it.  

На мониторе больше нет указаний, и Стенли отправляется в путь
The main screen of Stanley Parable

This game can be colloquially called a walking simulator. At first sight, the game is pretty obvious: nothing interesting is happening and the character can only wander around and interact with a short amount of objects. Nevertheless, this kind of games can be very surprising when it comes to a unique way of storytelling.

Stanley Parable’s main character is clearly Stanley, an ordinary office worker who does not have anything to do but pushing the buttons on his monitor. However, one day all his colleagues disappear and the flox of commands on his screen stops.

During the course of the game, speechless Stanley is being guided by a storyteller who voices over all character’s moves and gives him hints of what to do next. The player can either listen to the invisible narrator or disobey his suggestions, on which the guide will immediately react. The game encourages the players initiative to make their own decisions, giving them a control over situations and total freedom. To be completely honest, the reality is that every single step is already planned by creators of the game, but it only means the games plays chicken with people pretty well.

This is the Adventure Line at the beginning of the game. Although, you don’t have to follow it

Stanley Parable is hardly a first experiment with an interactive form of narrative, but it is one of the most successful and highly rated ones in this peculiar genre.

Papers, Please

Even the most seemingly boring professions turn inside out in video games. For instance, the Papers, Please game tells the story of a typical border crossing immigration officer.

Even by looking at logo of the game, we can find a lot of common features

The main character is an immigration officer in the fictional dystopian country of Arstotzka. His motivation is pretty simple: the more people he checks the higher his salary is. Every day the government introduces new rules and changes the list of necessary documents for which you have to closely monitor. If you make too many mistakes during checking you will get a fine.

Very soon there is going to be too many documents that it will be impossible not to miss something

Looking through the documents, the player gradually finds out more and more about Arstotzka and the surrounding world. Although, the work at border crossing post is not that easy as it might seem at first. One character forgets his or her documents at home, or has an important operation, but does not have a necessary pass, another might have all required documents, but he is a suspect in following people he wants to kill. These and many other moral dilemmas give Papers, Please a new depth.   

What can be more lame that checking documents the whole day? But this dark, Kafkaian game immerses players into the story and does not let go until the very end.

There should be mentioned much more fascinating projects which go beyond these usual “shooters” and  “puzzles”.  But, as with any work of art, you better play these games once instead of hearing about them a hundred times.

 

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