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The Wheel : Reinvention Not Required


I don’t normally care a great deal about E3, but this year has been especially intriguing.

With the news of both Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen beasts finally out of the stable, the focus has been squarely on hardware this year, much to the dissatisfaction of some commentators.

Simon Parkin, writing for The Guardian: “Unlike the novel or cinema, video games are fundamentally task-based and, in completing their missions, we feel an honest sense of accomplishment. But it’s the illusion of progress for players. In Los Angeles last week, it seemed as though the entire industry may also have been tricked.”

Now, on a level, I completely get where Simon’s coming from. All the talk, bluster and hype can’t hide the fact that what we saw was the same old franchises, the same old genres and the same old players. But on so many more levels, I feel like we’re looking in the wrong places for the wrong things if we expect anything more than that.

I’ve argued for some time that games are – or at the very least, can be – an art form, so you could say that Simon’s craving for something beyond the presently accepted illusion of games is well-grounded. But Simon’s a smart chap – one with a real creative thirst. And therein lay the rub. We who appreciate the arts and we who have the time and inclination to waste our lives waxing lyrical about them are often the kinds of people who struggle to be ever truly satisfied by them. The irony. It’s in many respects like a drug addiction – but one for the part of our minds that’s stimulated by creative mediums. You only need to read the columns of ‘proper’ publications to realise how jaded the average critic has become.

Peter O'Toole played the jaded critic, Anton Ego, to perfection in Ratatouille. Now there's a statement laden with irony ...

Peter O’Toole played the jaded critic, Anton Ego, to perfection in Pixar’s Ratatouille. Now there’s a statement laden with irony …

Now, I don’t read the press in other creative mediums much at all if I’m to be honest. Which is strange given how passionate I am about all mediums, but films and music in particular. So you could say that I’m a little more sensitive to the criticisms of games than any other – but I also think it’s fair to say that games come in for more criticism than any other medium.

Why?

The pace of technological change is hard to dismiss and brings with it, naturally, a sense that the medium should move at an equally break-neck pace. Which is just plain ludicrous. Yes, new technology affords us new opportunities – but it doesn’t make us new humans, and humans, after all, are the ones responsible for using the technology creatively. Accepting that we’ve run out of creative juice is, in my book, no great shame.

It’s a status-quo that we’ve largely reached in every other creative medium going from film to television, music, art, fashion and architecture and one that we seem to be quite comfortable with elsewhere. So why does the gaming community seem so uncomfortable in its own skin? Why the near constant expectation to become something so much more than we presently are?

Is it to appease the ageing critics that refuse to acknowledge it as an art form whilst they become increasingly jaded about those that are ‘worthy’? Is it to silence the angry parents that bemoan the violence in games whilst they turn a blind-eye to the age-ratings on the very products that they buy their young? Is it to sate the thirsts of the forums full of teenagers who have little appreciation of how far the medium has actually come since they were born? Or maybe it’s just the natural human desire to constantly want and to strive for more?

Picasso's Guernica was a shocking sensation at the time, depicting the horror of war and the struggle for freedom. Does its age and lack of change diminish the message?

Picasso’s Guernica, painted in 1937, was a shocking sensation for its time, depicting the horrors of war and the struggle for freedom. Does its age and lack of change diminish the message?

I’m not sure to be honest – all I know is that I’ve always tended to be a bit more zen in my outlook on things.

Yes, it’s healthy to question, probe and push the medium forwards – and expecting that to change is as big a folly as expecting technology to stand still would be. But we also need to maintain a healthy dose of realism and a healthy amount of passion and respect for what we have, lest we lose sight of what we loved about gaming to begin with.

When I started gaming, it was with Pac-Man and Asteroids. In my lifetime, the medium has re-invented itself many times over and spawned markets and genres in every crevice imaginable.¬†Just because those crevices are now largely full, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be happy and content to just stand-back and marvel at the wonder of it all – even if all that’s new for the time being is a higher polygon-count.

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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.

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One Comment

  1. It will probably not be until the generation after us, when all the critics that don’t ‘get’ it are long gone, that games will get the appreciation from a wider audience.
    I take the stance that, who cares if they are missing the point- let them miss all the goodness. 
    I have also been looking back at some of the videos of all the games shown at e3, now that the craziness and ego’s of the event have gone, and I feel excited for a lot of what is to come. Yes, a lot of the games are offering better graphics and little else, but Watch Dogs, Titanfall and really, really strangely, the open world Metal Gear, have got me all tingly. I’m not going to talk about Nintendo.

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