Games. UR Doin It Wrong

by Wardog

Wardog wanders at tangents in her non-review of The Path.
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There’s been a little bit of a buzz recently in the Indie gaming community (not that I hang out in it, just for the record) about The Path, a “short horror game” by Tale of Tales. The internet seems pretty much divided straight down the middle into those who believe “it’s art man art and if you don’t like it, you just don’t get it” and those who believe it’s completely worthless. Intrigued, I decided to take a look at it. Fool that I am.

The Path is a twisted, fragmentary re-interpretation / re-imagining / re-telling, or whatever other arty “re” word you want to use, of Little Red Riding Hood. At the beginning it invites you to choose one of six little Red Riding Hood figures, each in a different stage on the journey from girlhood to womanhood. The youngest, Robin, who looks most like the little Red Riding Hood we would recognise from the story, is 9. Voluptuous, flirtatious Carmen, near the other end of the spectrum, is 18. Having picked yer girl, the game places you at the end of a road on the edge of a forest. “Go to Grandmother’s house”, it tells you, “and stay on the path.”

And, uh, that it.

I instinctively and unerringly got my girl lost in the woods after about 3 seconds of play but, on later attempts, I discovered that if you do follow the instructions, you’re told in no uncertain terms that you’ve failed the game. Gameplay, and this is a generous term, takes place in two distinct but connected phases. In the first, you wander around the forest from a third person perspective, travelling excruciatingly slowly, exploring and finding things (including, usually, a wolf, literal or otherwise). Control is minimal and there’s no interface at all. You can walk forward, turn around, sprint in a way that obscures the screen, using your choice of either mouse or keyboard, but if you want to interact with anything you have to park the girl in front of the desired object and let go. In the second phase, if you should make it to Grandmother’s house, the game switches to first person and all you can do is walk forwards through the changing montage of creepy rooms and splintered images you find in there.

As with all (most?) self-consciously “unique” Indie games, there’s an air of the Emperor’s New Clothes about The Path in that nobody is quite willing to admit it might be naked. “This is a slow game” the developers warn you in the manual, implying, of course, that if you don’t like it, it’s your own fault because you just couldn’t appreciate what they was trying to achieve with the game. And there’s a fair degree of that filtering down into the reviews I’ve read as well: “it’s more of an experience, than a game” they say, “at first I was bewildered then I understood” and so on and so forth. Like a sort of Stockholm Syndrome for the bored.

Because, let’s face it here, The Path is as boring as fuck. I know it’s consciously designed to be counter-intuitive, a commentary on the nature of games: we give you one instruction, but in order to succeed, you have to disobey it, d’you see, d’you see. In order to interact you have to stop interacting, d’you see, d’you see. To get anything out of the game at all, you have to seek out the wolf, thus making you complicit in the destruction of these girls, d’you see, d’you see. But this doesn’t alter the fact that it’s still really fucking dull. And games who take as their central tenant “d’you see” are really fucking smug I apologise for the amount of emphasis in this paragraph.

The Path is meant to be an extended metaphor, for life, womanhood, growing up, gaming, you name it, but it’s expressed without subtlety and without taste, by people who could just have read some Angela Carter and saved us all a lot of time and effort. Also, given the fact the only thing to do in the game except wander endlessly round a massive forest is figure out the best way to get your girls “ravaged” and, later, murdered, I actually consider that slightly distasteful. Not, I hasten to add because it’s outside my comfort zone, but because the game expects you draw moral and aesthetic conclusions about the way you choose to interact with the only thing it lets you do.

Perhaps I’m getting bitter in my old age but I really hate explorations of “complicity” in interactive media. I mean, you’re complicit by default as it’s the only way to progress the game but there’s no depth or profundity to that because the games as a whole are structured around certain choices and juxtapositions. If you play a game in which you are presented with the option to a rape a girl or give her a cookie, and you decide to rape her, ultimately you also have to accept that somebody designed that choice in the first place. It doesn’t act as a metaphor for the way society makes us all complicit in the widespread raping of women. In fact, and this is a wild tangent, one of the few explorations of complicity and exploitation that I’ve witnessed in a long time was The Judgement of Paris which we saw in Edinburgh. It was visually gorgeous and, through the themes already present in the classical story and its own status as a burlesque show, it was able to engage the watching audience in an exploration of the uncomfortable intersection between eroticism and exploitation.

At no point, did it say “d’you see.”

Also, while I'm on tangential things that are irritating me in my old age (why won't those damn kids stay off my lawn?), how annoying is the central conceit that you have to leave the straight and narrow path in order to get on in life? Even it does mean you get ravaged by wolves. It's the only criteria for success or failure in the whole game. Robert Frost has a lot of answer for. What the hell is wrong with the road well travelled, that's what I want to know.

The problem (well, one of many problems) with games like The Path is that they’re very difficult to criticise, not because there’s nothing to criticise, but because playing it through (which, I have to confess, I haven’t in its entirety) is such a torturous process that you have to convince yourself you got something worthwhile out of it or face up to the fact that you’ve just wasted a not irrelevant chunk of your life. My favourite of all the brainwashed reviews is this one which includes the immortal line: “Even the slow pace of the game can be taken as a satirical commentary against the desire for instant gratification in today’s society.” Um, no. Resentment and frustration engendered by the slow pace of the game is not symptomatic of a deep issue with society, man, it means that people don’t enjoy being bored.

I occupy a much less extreme position on the “Are Games Art” spectrum than, say, Dan does but unfortunately games like The Path only serve to fortify his arguments, rather than bolster mine. It is absolutely a chore to play, partially due to some technical issues (bad collision detection, extreme slow-down, clipping etc.) but mainly due to the pretentious design choices that have carefully and systematically obliterated any traces of fun from it.

Interesting, isn’t it, the underlying notion that if something is fun, it cannot have artistic value so in order to make games artistic you have stop them being fun … and that’s the point at which they stop being games so what you eventually end up with a big pile of pointless.

The Path is trying very hard to be art and it’s certainly not a game (or, if it is, it’s a bad one), with the result that it is neither art, nor a game, and ultimately attempting to play it is an experience utterly devoid of any value whatsoever.
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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 16:34 on 2009-03-27
To borrow an analogy Dan has used in another context: it's like these games put you in a room with a button, and tell you that if you press the button a baby will be killed.

"Fine," you think, "I'll leave it alone." Then you explore the room the button is in. Nothing. You try to find the exits. There is no way out. You minutely explore the room and find no objects aside from the button. You use a cheat to remove the clipping and go outside the room only to find a blank, empty void. In the whole universe the game has presented you with, there is only you, a room with a button in it, and a rumour of a baby. If you want to make any progress at all - if, in fact, you want to actually experience the game in the first place - you have to push the button.

When you press the button there is a distant wail, the sound of a hammer hitting a sack full of jelly, and a sign drops from the ceiling reading YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO DO THAT.
Dan H at 16:55 on 2009-03-27
My passionate hatred of indie computer games has, by this stage, reached an almost unhealthy level. It gets to the point where I hear about a game like this and I *actually* want the guys who made it to die in a car crash.

Which is a shame becuse there are a lot of really nice indie games out there which *aren't* trying to critique the way that you, as a player, interact with the game as a medium and instead just try to be - y'know - good.

Part of the problem, I think, is that anybody who has anything to say about life, the human experience or whatever is probably *not* also going to be working in the video games industry and taking their gaming sufficiently seriously to want to produce an indie game with custom designed graphics, which means the only message you get from this sort of game is trite arsewank.
I've actually spent the majority of my time recently reading about, and thinking about, games and game design. I actually came across the speech given by Mr blow from an entirely different source. (text linked in the comments of Dan's not-art article)

Leaving out the art issue, this sounds like a bad game. As does the game Arthur describes. However, I don't think they have to be. One of the books I read highlighted the issue that any choice, even if it's not really a choice, should have something backing it.

In path, if you stay on the path, do you get suggestions and hints that you might want to stray off it? Do you glimpse other children having fun off to the side? Do you see money, or flowers for granny? Do you trip and drop your basket and have to retrieve the items?

All those things would actually make you consider the choice, and make it a task to stay on the path. At the end, instead of being "you fail" granny could talk to you and ask about your day. Instead of having a boring "i walked along the path" story to tell, you could then have all this other material... That can make the point in its own way.

In the button pushing "game", you could find plans for the button pusher and how it works, or information on the creep who set the whole thing up. There can be something to inform your decision and make it more than "this is my only choice". Perhaps a scoreboard showing all the other people who've played and their decisions. Perhaps set it up as one of the more interesting "ethical dilemma" situations from ethics 101. There can be other "gameplay" or interactive elements... you could scrawl on the wall and see the scrawls of previous players. You could dismantle the button and use parts of it to kill yourself instead of the child. You could leave instructions on how to work out how much oxygen is in this seal room, and do things to use it up faster. There can be more to the "game".

So, I don't think that they are inherently flawed concepts. I think they sound poorly implemented.

As for art... This is a topic that is just troll bait everywhere. Define "art". Define "game". Hell, define "can" and "be".
Dan H at 13:47 on 2009-03-28
So, I don't think that they are inherently flawed concepts. I think they sound poorly implemented.

Except that (in the case of The Path at least) they're fairly specifically implemented a particular way in order to support their concept. The whole "ignore the rules of the game to experience the game, stop interacting in order to interact" thing is part of what The Path is about. The tedious pace similarly.
http://rudecyrus.livejournal.com/ at 17:51 on 2009-03-28
So every scenario ends with the girl dying? What the fuck? Why would I want to play a game where the reward for my hard work is fucking death?

I've seen videos for the gameplay, and while the forest is quite beautiful and eerie, there's nothing else that would interest me. Oh look, you can sit on a swing. Oh look, you can spraypaint a wall. Whee.

According to the directors, this is about growing up and living life to the fullest. From the gameplay I've seen on YouTube, this is about pretentious nonsense.
http://roisindubh211.livejournal.com/ at 19:15 on 2009-03-28
I think they picked the wrong fairytale to turn into a game in the first place- one of the longer ones could have been much more interesting. Like that one where the queen 'dies' and when hubby is about to get married again, shows up at the wedding- can you figure out how to get him to recognize you? Do you fade into the background and let him get married? Do you fight? Poison the bride? Convince the other two that you should all live together as a married triple (This actually happens in one version of the fairytale, bizarrely enough.) There aren't any options for Red Riding Hood- she makes no decisions beyond "listen to mom/don't listen," and "how long does it take you to realize that that is not, in fact, grandma?"
Dan H at 21:43 on 2009-03-28
According to the directors, this is about growing up and living life to the fullest. From the gameplay I've seen on YouTube, this is about pretentious nonsense.

Pretentious nonsense *to the fullest*.

Perhaps it's because I've spent the past couple of days poking around feminist weblogs, but I also find it a bit iffy that the guys who wrote this (I'm assuming they're male, but that might be a gigantic stereotype, I'm also assuming their fat and have scrubby goatees) equate "living life to the fullest" with "being sexually assaulted".
Wardog at 21:45 on 2009-03-28
So every scenario ends with the girl dying? What the fuck? Why would I want to play a game where the reward for my hard work is fucking death?


It's because you're *hidebound*, man, like totally trapped in a conventional understanding about what gaming should be =P

According to the directors, this is about growing up and living life to the fullest. From the gameplay I've seen on YouTube, this is about pretentious nonsense.


Hmmm...from what I can see it was a game about holding down the "w" key until you got RSI.
http://rudecyrus.livejournal.com/ at 23:16 on 2009-03-28
Nope, one of the writers is a woman. Make of that what you will.

I think people are loving this game because they fall prey to the all-too-common delusion that "confusing = profound". It's a pet peeve of mine and I want to tear my eyeballs out everytime I hear someone say, "you just didn't get it" or "you weren't paying attention".

The more I dwell on it, the more frustrating it gets: who are these girls and why do they need to see their grandmother? Who are these "wolves" they meet in the woods and why do they end up dying from the encounter? How do they die? What do those montages in grandma's house mean? Why is it bad to actually see your grandma? What is with that epilogue?

Fuck this game.
Shim at 23:38 on 2009-03-28
You could so write a counter-game. "Visiting Nan". Each level, you've got to overcome a series of obstacles to visit your grandmother, varying from a classic 'locked room' puzzle (having locked yourself into your own house, fallen over and got concussion), through a difficult journey (plagued by roadworks, scallies and British public transport) to 'just not having time right now with all this work I have to do'. On getting there, you can navigate a rich world of options for spending quality time with your Nan. Picking up subtle verbal cues, you keep Nan happy or steer her for "her own good", or indeed yours. Decipher baffling conversations with the handy 'family network' guide to keep track of just who's daughter's boyfriend's uncle who goes to the flower show "Sophie" is, and test your reasoning skills as you try to explain just what exactly it is you do at work (compatible with stylus or tablet for real-time diagram sketching!).
http://fintinobrien.livejournal.com/ at 09:58 on 2009-03-29
Christ, what a load of pretentious wank. I wish people would stop trying to create art and just try to make good games (or movies, or books, or what-have-you). Let people be the judge of its artistic merit.

I'm sick of media that tries to be MEANINGFUL! and IMPORTANT! It usually ends up trite, and not really worth my respect. Oh, and boring of course. Because art > fun. Totally.
Dan H at 16:04 on 2009-03-30
I wish people would stop trying to create art and just try to make good games

Word.
Rami at 21:50 on 2009-04-07
I'm sick of media that tries to be MEANINGFUL! and IMPORTANT! It usually ends up trite, and not really worth my respect. Oh, and boring of course. Because art > fun. Totally.

Well, being meaningful and important isn't in itself a bad thing, so long as people realize that the point of media is that it be accessed (whether read, watched, gazed at or listened to) and for *that* it needs to be half-decently enjoyable!
http://fintinobrien.livejournal.com/ at 22:20 on 2009-04-07
Oh, I certainly agree with that. My problem is more towards the stuff that's so pretentious it doesn't feel like they think it's important to put much effort into making it enjoyable.
Wardog at 15:12 on 2009-04-08
The axis between worthy and enjoyable is certainly ... complex, I think. There are plenty of things I have found worthwhile and genuinely thought-provoking or stirring or whatever they were trying to be ... but not especially *enjoyable* per se. I mean, Ulysses ... Schindler's List ... The problem is that games cease to be anything if the act of playing of them ceases to motivate you.
http://arkan2.livejournal.com/ at 20:30 on 2009-04-15
God damn, Kyra. I just got to this the other day, and buggered if you didn't come along and distill the main argument of an essay I've been working on since late December/early January. And were a lot less uptight and pretentious about it, too.

I've really gotten sick of artists of whatever medium and their apologists trying to excuse essentially bad/dull/tasteless/prejudiced/offensive art* by invoking the 'But it's all about [insert suitably profound/progressive concept here], y'see.'

My response: 'First, make it good in its own right, then we'll talk about the “Deeper Meaning”.'

I'm not unfavorable to critiques of our overly fast-paced culture, mainly because I think they're completely right, but just like everything else, there are good critiques and not-so-good critiques. Embedding the critique within a game in such a way that it interferes with the essential qualities of what makes for a good game makes for neither a good game nor a good critique. It makes, as you say, for a big pile of pointless.

Good discourse draws from the strengths of its medium: it doesn't stifle them. (This is one of the places Michael Crichton went wrong in State of Fear.)

As for worthwhile/enjoyable, maybe it's true that the stuff you find most appreciable is somewhat lacking when it comes to entertainment value (e.g. Shakespeare). Still, I don't think it necessarily has to be a question of either/or. That may just be my own desperately wishful thinking, though.

*Unlike Dan, I refer to any entertainment media as art. This doesn't mean that it can't be horribly bad art, and certainly not that it's necessarily High Art (my own expression for what Dan means when he talks about “art”).
Wardog at 10:00 on 2009-04-16
Many thanks for the kind word and the comment.

Unlike Dan, I refer to any entertainment media as art. This doesn't mean that it can't be horribly bad art, and certainly not that it's necessarily High Art (my own expression for what Dan means when he talks about “art”).


I suppose the problem with this is where do you draw the line between what is High Art and what is Low Art, and who gets to draw it?
Dan H at 12:51 on 2009-04-16
I suppose the problem with this is where do you draw the line between what is High Art and what is Low Art, and who gets to draw it?


I just thought I'd add that my whole "Games Aren't Art" thesis is very much not about High Art versus Low Art. In fact, I'd say my position is essentially "games are not an entertainment medium" any more than, say, beds or chairs or tins of soup are entertainment media.
http://arkan2.livejournal.com/ at 15:06 on 2009-04-18
I don't think of it in terms of High Art versus Low Art so much as there being “art,” some of which is so well-constructed that it qualifies as Special Art or High Art. I've abandoned the metaphor of drawing a sharp line between two states in any case, but how do you tell the difference between High Art and just “art”? I'll know it when I see it.

In fact, I'd say my position is essentially "games are not an entertainment medium" any more than, say, beds or chairs or tins of soup are entertainment media.
That's a very interesting position, Dan, and I hope you will elaborate on it, as I so far fail to see the logical progression. Games are made primarily to entertain, it's their raison d'etre. Furniture and food do not exist primarily for entertainment, so how does that comparison work?

I'll admit I'm struggling with whether or not that definition includes non-electronic, non-tabletop games. They're certainly cultural artifacts (not necessarily good cultural artifacts, of course), so I suppose they are. And you could make a pretty strong argument for games like chess, for instance, being not just art but High Art, so why not them too?
Shim at 17:06 on 2009-04-18
In fact, I'd say my position is essentially "games are not an entertainment medium" any more than, say, beds or chairs or tins of soup are entertainment media.


I'm also not really getting you. In fact I can't think of anything that's more an entertainment medium than games (of all kinds), as Arkan says.

I could argue that games aren't an aesthetic medium fairly cheerfully. Of course, they do include things that relate to "art", like music and images and stories, but you don't necessarily have to accept them as "art" any more than an animation demonstrating how to install a printer cartridge is "art". But the whole "what is art anyway" bit is a pain at the best of times. Damien cowing Hirst...
Rude Cyrus at 06:32 on 2009-08-18
Looks like someone disagrees with you, Kyra.

Incidentally, I've learned that Tale of Tales made another game called The Graveyard, where you pretty much sit around and wait to die. Deep!
Dan H at 14:16 on 2009-08-19
Shamus Young is an unabashed member of the "games are art" lobby so it doesn't surprise me that he's pro-Path.

Also, a bunch of people replied to me above and I somehow missed it, so four months late I'll add:

I'm also not really getting you. In fact I can't think of anything that's more an entertainment medium than games (of all kinds), as Arkan says.


Mostly I'm being a gigantic pedant, but I view a *game* as consisting entirely of gameplay, and being independent of the medium through which you play it.

Computer programs are a medium. Games are systems of rules and decisions.
Arthur B at 19:47 on 2009-08-19
Anything that inspires such completely fucking awful poetry can't be all that good.
Robinson L at 22:00 on 2009-08-24
Mostly I'm being a gigantic pedant, but I view a *game* as consisting entirely of gameplay, and being independent of the medium through which you play it.

Computer programs are a medium. Games are systems of rules and decisions.

This looks like another case of Dan Offering a Definition of Something Relatively Commonplace Which Requires Us to Create a Completely New Linguistic Distinction in Order to Make Sense.

True, systems of rules and decisions are integral to what makes a game, and by themselves they are not very entertaining, but I doubt there's anyone else in the world who would agree that they compose the entirety of what makes a game.

Heck, you could probably argue that at its heart, a painting or a symphony or a play is just a system of rules (concerning colour and style etc., or pitch, timbre, vocality, and instrumentality etc., or character, dialogue, props, and scenes etc.) and decisions (how to use colours and brushstrokes and length and tone and which instruments and et cetera, et cetera), but if you want to claim that that's all they are, then in that case nothing is an entertainment medium, let alone art.

Okay, I feel like there may be a flaw in that argument, and if you can pick it up I'll retract it. However, you'll have a harder time convincing me that the concept of “game” can be reduced to just the systems of the system of rules and decisions it's based on without losing anything integral to the ... thing under discussion.
Shim at 10:34 on 2009-08-25
No, I think I get it. I read that as suggesting that the core of games is the actual play, based around the rules and decisions. Any entertainment derived from it is kind of secondary. It's certainly true you can use games or game-like things for non-entertainment purposes; a lot of training simulators are effectively games, and you can use them in research and in teaching. Language-learning board games aren't usually much fun, but they are games.

For the most part we do use games for fun, so the most common understanding is that games are entertaining, or at least "good games" are entertaining. But you can have shiny, well-executed games that just aren't fun somehow, just like the reverse.
Jamie Johnston at 18:11 on 2009-08-25
This looks like another case of Dan Offering a Definition of Something Relatively Commonplace Which Requires Us to Create a Completely New Linguistic Distinction in Order to Make Sense.

To be fair, trying to tease out the distinctions among medium, genre, content, form, &c. can involve some rather tricksy mental and terminological gymnastics.

I haven't thought much about how this works with games because I don't play games much, but my initial suggestion would be that game is analogous to story; that computer game, board game, and team sport are media for delivering game in roughly the same way that novel, film, and comic are media for delivering story; and that both games and stories can be used for entertainment, education, and other things.

Immediately, of course, there are umpteen objections to that, one of which is that it seems unarguable that computer game, board game, and team sport, whether they can accurately be called media or not, are in fact types of games, whereas novel &c. are not types of stories. That may be a fatal objection, or it may be that there are indeed two different things that can both legitimately be called 'game' in English and that in order to come up with a clear and helpful theory of medium, form, &c. it will be necessary to invent a new word or stretch an old one to avoid having to use the word 'game' to mean two different things between which we need to distinguish.

As an Aristotelian I do agree that it's generally a good idea to work with words as they are ordinarily used, at least as a starting-point, and that if one finds oneself straying too far from ordinary usage and common understanding of the world (as Plato did, for instance, when suggesting that the things we perceive are less real than 'ideas') then it may be a sign that one's gone horribly wrong. On the other hand I do bear in mind that human language is an imperfect tool and that, for example, the fact that Welsh uses the same word for 'green' and 'blue' does not mean that there's no meaningful difference between those two colours.
Arthur B at 19:52 on 2009-08-25
Immediately, of course, there are umpteen objections to that, one of which is that it seems unarguable that computer game, board game, and team sport, whether they can accurately be called media or not, are in fact types of games, whereas novel &c. are not types of stories.

I think the crucial point here is that pretty much the only thing which ties together the various activities we call "games" is the presence of rules; rules don't just govern the behaviour of games, the presence of the rules actually define them.

Robinson objected that:

Heck, you could probably argue that at its heart, a painting or a symphony or a play is just a system of rules (concerning colour and style etc., or pitch, timbre, vocality, and instrumentality etc., or character, dialogue, props, and scenes etc.) and decisions (how to use colours and brushstrokes and length and tone and which instruments and et cetera, et cetera), but if you want to claim that that's all they are, then in that case nothing is an entertainment medium, let alone art.

But this kind of misses the point. Yes, there are rules for constructing certain types of music (for example) - jazz and classical music both have a set of conventions they operate on which define them as genres. But you can take away the rules and still have music - you end up with free jazz and John Cage. Likewise, you can construct a sonnet or limerick, or just spin out some free verse, and either way you still have poetry.

On the other hand, take away the rules of a game and you don't have a game left. There's no such thing as freeform football or improvisational Monopoly. I can't think of anything we'd recognise as a "game" which lacks rules, with the possible exception of "let's pretend" - and that's not really a game so much as unstructured play.

You could make quite a good case that a "game" is a particular, recognised structure for the purposes of structured play; if there is no playful purpose to the activity in question - say, if it's one of the training simulators that Shimmin mentions - then it's probably more accurate to call it an "exercise".
Andy G at 21:06 on 2009-08-25
Interestingly, "game" was famously the very example used by Wittgenstein to suggest the need for definitions of concepts NOT in terms of a common property such as having rules. I can't pretend to know more than the hazy outline of his argument (though I am meant to be reading it for my summer reading list :s), but I guess that you firstly have the problem that things other than games have rules, and secondly that there ARE games without formal rules - the kind of football played on a school playground will involve more improvisation and rules of thumb than official games, while still being a game.

I think that also applies to poetry/art - free jazz and free verse do have rules, they are just not explicit prescriptions. It's not a case of "anything goes".
Arthur B at 22:22 on 2009-08-25
I can't pretend to know more than the hazy outline of his argument (though I am meant to be reading it for my summer reading list :s), but I guess that you firstly have the problem that things other than games have rules, and secondly that there ARE games without formal rules

Yes, this I allowed for with the "structured play" comment...

- the kind of football played on a school playground will involve more improvisation and rules of thumb than official games, while still being a game.

Yes, but it's still recognisably football because it still has rules. Look at the rules it retains, not the rules it jettisons:

- Players are still divided between sides.
- Players still score by kick the ball through a goal.
- Players still have to control the ball without using their hands.

Lose these and you're just punting a ball about aimlessly.
Andy G at 23:05 on 2009-08-25
@ Arthur: There does seem to be a danger of redefining the way that "game" is used to fit a definition - things you call "structured play" are still usually called games. I think there's also a possibility of double standards if you focus on the rules retained in casual football but not those retained in free jazz.

I should probably stop procrastinating and read Wittgenstein. I'm sure he has better examples. If I can understood a word of it.
Shim at 13:50 on 2009-08-26
I should probably stop procrastinating and read Wittgenstein.

I strongly advise against it. In my job, I work with many Wittgenstein-readers, providing community-based care and support. Despite our best efforts, some will never be able to return to mainstream society.
Robinson L at 15:00 on 2009-08-28
Crap, I was forgetting about team sports entirely. I'm probably undermining one of my arguments here, but can we accept that for the purposes of this discussion by “games” I refer mostly to video games, and maybe a little to non-tabletop RPGs. That's the sense I've understood us to be using the term “games,” mostly, both in this discussion and in Games Are Not Art, which is related.

With that in mind:

It's certainly true you can use games or game-like things for non-entertainment purposes; a lot of training simulators are effectively games, and you can use them in research and in teaching.

For the most part we do use games for fun, so the most common understanding is that games are entertaining, or at least "good games" are entertaining. But you can have shiny, well-executed games that just aren't fun somehow, just like the reverse.

Very good points. But notice that you can substitute “book” or “movie” or in for “game” in all those examples. It is true that not all video games are made for entertainment purposes—yet neither are all books or movies. Books and movies are not strictly an entertainment medium either—we just refer to them as such because that's their most common use, and the one we're most interested in on this site. So if video games are not “entertainment” because they can be and are used for other things, than neither are books, movies, or anything else “entertainment.”

Arthur, I'm not familiar with free jazz, but thanks for bringing up John Cage—that's a good point. However, even with Cage's work, it seem to me that while he was pushing the envelope as far as it would go, there were still some vital rules and decisions that he kept. His whole point may have been that everything is music, but in making that point, didn't he have to retain some musical conventions to cue his audience that what he was doing was, in fact, music?
Dan H at 17:40 on 2009-08-30
So if video games are not “entertainment” because they can be and are used for other things, than neither are books, movies, or anything else “entertainment.”


Which is - well - entirely correct, and sort of the crux of what I'm saying. Saying "Games are Art" is a lot like saying "Books are Art" - it's meaningless.
Robinson L at 03:02 on 2009-09-01
Which is - well - entirely correct, and sort of the crux of what I'm saying. Saying "Games are Art" is a lot like saying "Books are Art" - it's meaningless.

Ah-ha, now we're getting somewhere. So basically, you're saying that because games do not function solely as entertainment, you refuse to refer to video gaming as an entertainment medium. I guess what I find odd is that I haven't noticed you insist on drawing such a distinction when somebody refers to books/movies/music as "entertainment media" when technically speaking, none of those genres is restricted to entertainment purposes, either.

I suppose the moral of this story is that we need a word which provides the same function in the realm of video games that the word "novel" serves in the realm of books and written words.

Also, it must be longer than I thought since I read "Games Are Not Art," as I thought your argument in that essay was more that "No Game Can Be Art" than "Not All Games Are Art." (I'm assuming that we are, after all, using "art" to mean approximately "any example of the entertainment portion of a medium of which entertainment is a major aspect.")
Andy G at 09:54 on 2009-09-01
@ Dan:

Saying "Games are Art" is a lot like saying "Books are Art" - it's meaningless.


What do you mean by this exactly? I don't quite see the connection with your earlier argument.

@ Robinson L:

I'm assuming that we are, after all, using "art" to mean approximately "any example of the entertainment portion of a medium of which entertainment is a major aspect."


I don't see where this definition has come from - did you mean to put entertainment twice? I'm not sure how it makes sense otherwise.
Robinson L at 22:02 on 2009-09-01
@ Andy G:

I don't see where this definition has come from - did you mean to put entertainment twice? I'm not sure how it makes sense otherwise.

As I understand it, this is basically a semantic discussion reaching back four and a half months to my original post on the topic, back before I had my user account. In that comment I said: Unlike Dan, I refer to any entertainment media as art.

In my latest post, I substituted "any example of the entertainment portion of a medium of which entertainment is a major aspect" for "entertainment" in that definition (yes, the repetition was intentional). I did this in deference to Dan's point that nothing is an entertainment medium because the media I referred to when I said "entertainment media" all have non-entertainment aspects (training games for video games, technical manuals for books, documentaries for movies, et cetera).

Thus, "media of which entertainment is a major aspect" to acknowledge the fact that there are other aspects, and "the entertainment portion" to denote that I am, in fact, referring to the aspect of said media concerned primarily with entertainment.
Rami at 23:38 on 2009-09-01
Thus, "media of which entertainment is a major aspect" to acknowledge the fact that there are other aspects, and "the entertainment portion" to denote that I am, in fact, referring to the aspect of said media concerned primarily with entertainment.

I'm not sure those are necessarily separable. For instance, a wittily and hilariously written programming tutorial isn't entertainment, although it may be entertaining, and it's not comedy, although it may in places be comedic.
Robinson L at 03:30 on 2009-09-02
Perhaps I didn't make myself clear.

The medium "books" is not strictly speaking an entertainment medium, because it can also include technical or legal manuals and the like. So "the entertainment portion of a medium" (in this case, books) is meant to signify the set of all books which are created for entertainment purposes, as in novels. Or the set of all movies made primarily for entertainment rather than education or mind control or whatever.

Under that definition, I contend, books/movies/games are art/entertainment (because for the moment we've excluded all examples of those media which are not entertainment).
Guy at 05:35 on 2009-09-02
Saying "Games are Art" is a lot like saying "Books are Art" - it's meaningless.


Doesn't your objection to games as art go further than this, though? From my understanding of your position, you wouldn't question the validity of a statement like "'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' is a work of art" - although you may disagree with the judgement of the value of the work, you wouldn't dismiss the possibility that it could be a work of art because, as a book, it may be such. Whereas, the statement "'X-Com: UFO Defence' is a work of art", you would disagree with, without needing to know the particular game, because as a game it definitionally cannot be a work of art (in your view).

Is that right?
Andy G at 16:29 on 2009-09-02
As I understand it, this is basically a semantic discussion reaching back four and a half months to my original post on the topic, back before I had my user account. In that comment I said: Unlike Dan, I refer to any entertainment media as art.


If you refer to any entertainment media as art, then video games are art. Why would you refer to any entertainment media as art though? You can point me in the direction of earlier posts if you don't want to repeat yourself.
Robinson L at 20:00 on 2009-09-02
@ Andy G: Unfortunately, I don't know how to link comments from OpenID users other than wading through hundreds of pages in the "Comments section." I made it on this article, 15 April, under my liverjournal username, Arkan2. In it, I said:

I've really gotten sick of artists of whatever medium and their apologists trying to excuse essentially bad/dull/tasteless/prejudiced/offensive art by invoking the 'But it's all about [insert suitably profound/progressive concept here], y'see.'

With a footnote to the effect that

Unlike Dan, I refer to any entertainment media as art. This doesn't mean that it can't be horribly bad art, and certainly not that it's necessarily High Art (my own expression for what Dan means when he talks about “art”).

Dan subsequently if cryptically pointed out that video games qua video games are not an entertainment medium because they can be used for other (e.g. educational purposes.) So video games are not art/entertainment and neither are books or music or paintings or anything else. There is a subset to each of these categories which is entertainment (I contest) but in themselves they are not entertainment media. Thus:

Dan: Saying "Games are Art" is a lot like saying "Books are Art" - it's meaningless.

@ Guy: That's what I thought (and thank you for articulating it so much better than I could).

Although by my definition, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is art, whether it is or isn't High Art like Beethoven or the Mona Lisa (having never read it, I wouldn't know).
Jamie Johnston at 22:48 on 2009-09-02
I hesitate to derail this conversation further, but I comfort myself with the thought that once something is off its rails it can't really get any more derailed. So I'm going to ask (and I assure you this is not a rhetorical question to make a point - I genuinely cannot think of an answer and would love to know what it might be):

Why does it matter what art is and whether a given thing is or isn't an example of it?
Guy at 01:44 on 2009-09-03
@Jamie: It probably doesn't actually matter, which is why for the most part this debate is regarded as a bit of a tarpit. But... I can think of two reasons why it might matter. One is that... the desire to make "art games" inspires the creation of clunkers like The Path and less-clunky experiments like Passage. If you're interested in what's going on with this emerging "genre", then the relationship between art and games is likely to interest you, too.

The other reason is that... lots of people, including me, believe that art matters in some... large sense of the word. There's a bit in Gaita's book "A Common Humanity" where he talks about how people in absolutely dire circumstances can draw comfort or strength, or find meaning, in memories of great works of art. And he says, most works of art aren't great enough to reach so far into human suffering, but the fact that some are tells us something about art in general; even the mediocre stuff is on a continuum with the stuff that has extraordinary power and depth. So... in a way, the question about "can a game be art?" is a question about whether games could "matter" in the way that great music or great poetry does. To which my own answer would be "there aren't any yet; but in theory it seems possible that there could be".
Arthur B at 02:04 on 2009-09-03
Why does it matter what art is and whether a given thing is or isn't an example of it?

It's quite simple, really. People have this idea that art is Worthy. Because art is Worthy, people who make it are doing a noble and wonderful thing, and people who experience it are enriching themselves by doing so.

Things which are not art, however, are Unworthy. They are crass entertainments, bread and circuses, demeaning to creator and consumer alike. If games are Unworthy then the people who design them aren't doing anything special and the people who consume them are wasting their lives by doing so.

Of course, even if some games do qualify as high art, there'd still be lowbrow dross out there, but at least we'd all be able to delude ourselves that our games are art whilst their games are hollow, worthless husks.

Please note that I don't actually think everyone who espouses the idea that games are art is the sort of person who looks down on others on the basis of what videogames they play. But I do think the "games are art" idea gives aid and comfort to that sort of person, so I'm inclined to oppose it simply on that basis. And also because people squeal so delightfully when you imply that their favoured pursuits are mere distractions on the road to the grave. (Spoiler: just about everything we do is a distraction on the road to the grave, especially when it comes to art and entertainment.)
Shim at 12:16 on 2009-09-03
I'm also not really getting you. In fact I can't think of anything that's more an entertainment medium than games (of all kinds), as Arkan says.

Mostly I'm being a gigantic pedant, but I view a *game* as consisting entirely of gameplay, and being independent of the medium through which you play it.

Computer programs are a medium. Games are systems of rules and decisions.

I've just now spotted that I'm concentrating on the wrong bit, because I think you were actually saying that "game" is not a medium, whereas "computer program" is. I agree. So my previous link missed the point a bit, or at least one point. I think this also applies to Robinson L's comment above.

I'll also point out that Shamus has a new article on Games/Art (yes, another one) and that Arthur seems to be right about the judgement process.

Also see comment 83 for someone, at least, who likes that Dogs game.
Arthur B at 13:55 on 2009-09-03
Shamus raises a good point with the "high art"/"low art" distinction. If we take Robinson's definition of "art" as "any form of entertainment presented through a suitable medium", then obviously games are art. I don't buy that definition, though, because it's extremely broad and ends up becoming a synonym for "entertainment"; it seems silly to use a contentious and oft-disputed word like "art" in that context when you can just say "entertainment" and avoid all confusion.

The distinction between "high art" and "low art" is useful because I think most of the time when people say "games are art", what they really mean is "It is possible for some games to qualify as high art".

Of course, as you point out Shimmin, the criteria Shamus seems to use to determine whether or not a game is high art consists of two questions: "Does it try to be clever?" and "Do I enjoy it?"
Dan H at 15:49 on 2009-09-03
Whole bunch of posts here, haven't looked at FB in a bit due to illness and writing the epic Edinburgh article of death.

Where to begin:

Andy G asks:

What do you mean by this exactly? I don't quite see the connection with your earlier argument.


Roughly this.

A book is not a work of art, it's a physical object, which may contain text, which may or may not be art. They may also, in fact, be a "game".

A video game is a computer program that, when launched, will cause a series of images to be played on a screen along with - potentially - sounds, text, and so on. These images, sounds and text may constitute "art". They may also allow you to play a "game".

Both could do either, and in both cases the "game" function and the "art" function are unrelated.

This is also why I don't consider video games to be an "entertainment medium" any more than I would consider - say - a football or a cardboard box to be an entertainment medium. A video game gives you a set of resources with which you can entertain yourself by playing games, that's very different to something like reading a book or watching a film.

Guy adds:

Whereas, the statement "'X-Com: UFO Defence' is a work of art", you would disagree with, without needing to know the particular game, because as a game it definitionally cannot be a work of art (in your view).


For a start I'd object to the term "work of art" since it's so often used figuratively. "Work of art" in common usage roughly means "extremely well executed".

As I think I outlined in my previous article on the subject I don't believe that a game, by definition, cannot be art. As Roger Ebert wryly observed, Andy Warhol would have absolutely believed that video games could be art - he would have taken a copy of X-Com, shrink-wrapped the box, and put it on a plinth labeled "video game".

Is it theoretically possible for something to be both a tremendous, moving, meaningful work of art, and an excellent video game? Of course it is. It's also possible for somebody to be both a Nobel-Prize winner and an Olympic Gold medalist. The fact that one entity can possess these two qualities should not be taken as evidence that they are the same thing. There is no Nobel Prize for the hundred meter hurdles, the Olympics do not include a 500 meter freestyle for Nobel Laureates.

Broadly I feel that the qualities that make a video game succeed *as a video game* and the qualities that could, in theory, make a video game succeed *as art* are wholly orthogonal to each other.

Following Shimmin's link above, there's not one game on Shamus' list that would not function better *as art* if it had its gameplay elements removed.

Finally, Jamie asks:

Why does it matter what art is and whether a given thing is or isn't an example of it?


Good question.

It matters to me because I play and enjoy video games, and I find - almost universally - that I enjoy them less when they try to be "artistic". In the few situations in which I have actually enjoyed a game as "art" it has been because said game made no actual attempt at having meaningful gameplay (this one exception being "Passage").

It matters to me because by insisting that games are art, people foster the notion that games can get *better* by pursuing this nebulous, meaningless goal of being "art". This results in a lot of games which suck, and I have a vested interest in there being fewer games in the world which suck.

And on the flip side it matters to people like Shamus Young because they are so insecure that they need the "art" label to validate their life choices. As Arthur points out in the comments section, Shamus' (and everybody else's) list of "High Art" games is basically just a list of games that they like.

Which is kind of why this matters to me - as somebody who enjoys both art and video games I don't understand the need to reduce games (which are something unique and important) to yet another redundant artistic medium.
Robinson L at 00:00 on 2009-09-15
Broadly I feel that the qualities that make a video game succeed *as a video game* and the qualities that could, in theory, make a video game succeed *as art* are wholly orthogonal to each other.
Ah, okay, now that makes a lot more sense to me, and sounds more in line with what I remember of the previous article.

Now we can ask the question: is it possible for gameplay itself some how to qualify as “Art” (by Dan's definition)? For it to be intelligent, inspirational, and emotionally moving? And, if not, is it possible for the fusion of gameplay and storyline and graphics and music to qualify as “Art” (since most if not all great art is a mix of various elements—think of novels)? In other words, is it possible to have a situation where subtracting gameplay lessons the artistic merits of a work of entertainment? A final question: if you do have something which would make better “Art” if it were not also a video game, doesn't that mean it's still “Art,” just not as good as it might've been (and there are many, many works of art that could've been better “if only”)?

I'm sure Dan could make some excellent arguments to the effect that the answer to each of these questions is “No.” I might or might not find these arguments convincing, but even if I didn't, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to muster a coherent counterargument.

A video game gives you a set of resources with which you can entertain yourself by playing games, that's very different to something like reading a book or watching a film.

Here, however, I'm going to draw a line in the sand, because now we're venturing into “video games as entertainment” territory. Because video games are, in fact, a lot more restricted than you seem to be suggesting. There's usually a single primary mode of gameplay, or half a dozen in more free-style games, and a maybe a couple secondary modes (e.g. two-player, mêlée, capture-the-flag, etc.).

The point being that there is a way you're supposed to play a video game, or two or three ways at most, and that's it. The only way you can do something else with it is either by messing with its coding or by not engaging with it as a game (e.g., wrap it in cray paper, put it on a pedestal, and call it “art”).

Similarly, there are an infinite number of things which you can do with a book or a play script or a movie reel, but only one or two which involve engaging with them as a book/play/movie ... in other words, as entertainment, or, as I define the word for these purposes, “art.”

I suppose part of my insistence on labeling video games as entertainment/art is that I adhere to the Orson Scott Card maxim, which he put forth as a practical method for distinguishing science fiction from fantasy. According to Card, a work will be classified as science fiction or fantasy not based upon its credentials as one or the other, but on how it presents itself. If, after the first 2-3 minutes it evokes a science fiction feel, then it is science fiction even if you get a bunch of wizards mumbling about destiny and the Force and other unscientific things later on. Similarly, even if all shape-shifting and other apparent “magic” turns out to have a scientific explanation at the end, if it starts out looking like fantasy, it's fantasy.

Video games present themselves as entertainment, and that's doubtlessly part of the reason I classify them as such.

Arthur: If we take Robinson's definition of "art" as "any form of entertainment presented through a suitable medium", then obviously games are art. I don't buy that definition, though, because it's extremely broad and ends up becoming a synonym for "entertainment"; it seems silly to use a contentious and oft-disputed word like "art" in that context when you can just say "entertainment" and avoid all confusion.

Mostly, I'm just being a gigantic pedant, but I prefer “art” because it does not, to me, imply a value judgment. I refer to, say, the second episode of Dollhouse as entertainment, that would imply that I was entertained by it, which would be misleading. Similarly, while I greatly appreciate art such as Schindler's List, I'd be uncomfortable categorizing it as “entertainment.” Then there's the fact that “entertainment” can involve kicking a football at at tree so that it will roll back, which does not fit under my definition of "art," either.

... The above not withstanding, my argument with Dan is mostly theoretical, rather than practical. While I'm less sure that video games as High Art are impossible, I doubt there are many out there now, possibly none. Certainly none of those I've played. So I'm not looking for any sort of validation here.

Dan: It matters to me because by insisting that games are art, people foster the notion that games can get *better* by pursuing this nebulous, meaningless goal of being "art".

I agree this is problematic, but isn't that a problem of artistic mediums, too? It seems to me that all creators of art and their fans (not just video game creators and fans) need to realize that you don't make your artistic venture better by pursuing High Art. You make it better by playing to the strengths of whatever medium you're working with, and if you get that well, you might, might, get High Art out of the deal as well.
Arthur B at 16:31 on 2010-06-17
So, I poked about Tale of Tales' site recently because the discussion of Robot Unicorn Attack and games-as-art reminded me they existed, and it seems they recently published an extensive postmortem of The Path and its reception.

I was skimming it and this part, when they were discussing the game's reception, jumped out at me:

The audience, however, was a lot less united. There were many blog posts that celebrated the experience of our work. But at some point it seemed like it had become fashionable to hate not only The Path but Tale of Tales and everything it stood for. When The Graveyard was released, it confused a lot of people but that didn’t lead to public outrage. The Path on the other hand got a lot of press, and a lot of positive press at that. This may have been too much for the hardcore gamers on the internet. Not only did our design insult their sensibilities, it was also celebrated by people in ways they failed to comprehend.

I leave it here without comment.
Arthur B at 16:38 on 2010-06-17
Oh, and here's another thing:

It’s a bit of a cliché by now to discuss female gamers because the success of casual games and social games with women and the explicit acceptance of hardcore gaming by some girl-oriented blogs and websites has diluted the point somewhat. But that doesn’t diminish the pride we take in having created a videogame that women can really feel is about them. The Path doesn’t just give girls a female avatar to play boy games with and it doesn’t paint everything pink with smiling faces and hearts. The Path is a game that is about things that can be deeply important to women and it is played in a feminine way.

Are... are they trying to say that girls can't run?
Dan H at 12:27 on 2010-06-18
The Path is a game that is about things that can be deeply important to women and it is played in a feminine way.


Wow. That is *actually* a world of *not okay*.
Wardog at 12:43 on 2010-06-18
HOLY FUCK I HATE THEM EVEN MORE NOW.

I presume it means "played in a feminine way" as ... "played boringly?"
Arthur B at 13:03 on 2010-06-18
Well. You know what women are like. They walk around and look at stuff. And they tend to look at themselves in the third person unless they're at their grandma's.

You would never catch a man walking around and looking at stuff.
Dan H at 14:01 on 2010-06-18
No no no, don't you see, it's because women are so much more *mature* than men. It's only us silly, silly boys who like guns and explosions and swordfights, and getting paid high salaries and being properly represented in the mainstream media. Women are much more sensitive and serious and mature, they're so much *better* than men really, that's why they need men to tell them how to behave and what to enjoy.

Of course, Tale of Tales can't be sexist, because one of them's a woman...
http://furare.livejournal.com/ at 14:50 on 2010-06-18
Yeah... they're kind of completely missing the point there, aren't they. I don't want patronising fuckers to give me something *more* than "a female avatar to play boy games", I want people to stop fucking seeing the games I like to play as "boy games". Reading things like this reminds me of why I like to play games where I can shoot things in the head.

Personally, I feel that a game where I can play a pyromaniac sorcerer is far more "really about me" than one about visiting grandma and getting ravaged by wolves. I may be a boring person, but in a scary wood I would *stay on the fucking path*. I mean, seriously. Implying that a game where the whole point is to be an idiot who wanders blithely off to get eaten/raped/whatever is somehow representative of the female experience is somewhat insulting. And, you know, sexist.

(Finally decided to get a LJ so I could OpenID comment at ferretbrain. About time, I guess...)
Wardog at 00:42 on 2010-06-20
Hello there and Furare, and welcome :) You know you could have a Fb account, right?

And, yes, I agree with you entirely - what would make me completely happy right now would be a Rockstar game with a female protagonist.

And don't get me started again on how much I hate The Path. Female experience? Bullshit.
http://furare.livejournal.com/ at 12:49 on 2010-06-20
You know you could have a Fb account, right?


I figured those were for actual contributors...

Though it would be great to have one right now, then I could just post "THE FUCK" in the Playpen about that story on gendered science exams. That really pisses me off, what with being a female NatSci graduate - who, for the record, *hated* coursework at school. Added to that, with the exams that were completely not tailored to my gender, I still outperformed every. single. boy at my school at GCSE and A Level. It's just fucking insulting to insinuate that girls need special exams to do well in science, because some of us, you know, don't. And some boys probably *do* need special help; men aren't born knowing about "sciency stuff".

And though they *say* that nothing will stop a girl doing the "boy course" or a boy doing the "girl course", do they seriously believe that? If the fucking syllabus says that one course is for boys and the other for girls, the schools will MAKE it that way. And the other kids will laugh at anyone who does the "wrong course". Why does everything have to be fucking gendered anyway? Why does a scientific-analytical brain type have to be referred to as a "male brain"? That one is a real personal bugbear, sorry for the rant...

It's worth noting that the same sort of thing has been happening for a while, to be honest; my school separated girls and boys for English Language/Literature, because studies had shown that both sexes perform better when segregated. I've got no problem with the separation per se, but they used it as an excuse to have gendered reading material - girls read Pride & Prejudice (I have no problem with this; it's a really good book, which assessment I know Kyra will agree with) and boys read Lord of the Flies. Because, you know, P&P is a *girl book* and has nothing whatsoever to offer boys.

Having rambled away from my original point, I seem to have got back to The Path, somehow - in that anything where the protagonist is a girl is seen as a "girl thing". Your hypothetical "Rockstar game with a female protagonist" would, sadly, be a very different affair from the usual Rockstar game. A female protagonist requires some sort of comment or justification - your hero-with-dubious-morals can't *just happen* to be a girl; the point of the game would somehow have to be about "girlness" and the "female experience". (It would also probably involve a rapey backstory.)

You guys have been over the thing with "male = default" in comment threads before, but it's something that really drives me up the wall, so I thought I'd say something about it. I like saying these things to people who are likely to agree with me; for some reason it's generally considered a stupid response to "but men and women are equal now!" (Which I consider a stupid statement, so I guess that's even...)
Jamie Johnston at 14:10 on 2010-06-20
You guys have been over the thing with "male = default" in comment threads before...

Each person understands and expresses an idea slightly differently, and those differences can be illuminating, so I don't think you need feel at all bashful about making points that other people have made before on this site. I mean, crikey, not only do I routinely make points other people have made before, I quite frequently make points I've made before, and I haven't been lynched yet. :)
Furare at 18:21 on 2010-07-26
So, I think I've found a game about "the female experience". Or something.

What do y'all think?
Arthur B at 18:29 on 2010-07-26
It's an atrocity! The mid-1990s standard of 3D graphics, the mouse cursor hovering in the middle of the screen, the dead bodies vanishing within a second of them appearing and being replaced with badly rendered gravestones, the really badly-recorded audio files - they're charging money for this crap?

I mean, it's making a good and valid point. But it's one which could have been made with a free flash game, or even a Half-Life mod or something. Charging money for a FPS with production qualities that bad, in this day and age, is just silly.
Furare at 18:43 on 2010-07-26
Yeah, I gathered it was a rubbish game.

I kinda wish people would say stuff that needs to be said with even the same level of care and attention that got put into crap like The Path. Or, as you say, just make a free flash game.

I linked it here because of the phrase "It's more of a conversation catalyst than a game", which reminded me of the comment that The Path is "more of an experience than a game". Personally, even when the point is one I agree with and think is important to discuss, I would still prefer the game itself to be actually, well, good. I sense I'm not alone in this. :P
Arthur B at 18:48 on 2010-07-26
Yeah, unfortunately I suspect an awful lot of conversations about Hey Baby are along the lines of "aren't the graphics terrible"? ;)

Welcome to FB, by the way.
Furare at 18:57 on 2010-07-26
Welcome to FB, by the way.


Thanks! :)

And I'm afraid you're wrong about that, Arthur. The few conversations I've seen about it have always included someone mentioning how *sexist* it is to make a game where a woman shoots loads of men in the face when you couldn't do the reverse without being seen as a misogynist monster. I prefer "FPS fan complains about shitty graphics" to "clueless man reacts badly to having his male privilege pointed out to him", personally.

This is an interesting commentary on the game - but at the same time, I can't see past the fact that this is a shitty game to any of the "good stuff" underneath. I wouldn't do it for The Path, so I can't do it for this game without being a hypocrite, heh.

(Also this.)
Arthur B at 19:23 on 2010-07-26
And I'm afraid you're wrong about that, Arthur. The few conversations I've seen about it have always included someone mentioning how *sexist* it is to make a game where a woman shoots loads of men in the face when you couldn't do the reverse without being seen as a misogynist monster.

I should have guessed. :(

Though arguably, you don't need to have actually made a game at all to kick off that sort of a reaction, just mock up a video on YouTube and throw the website out there. It's not as though more than a tiny fraction of the people involved in those debates actually bought the thing. So really the conversation starter isn't the game itself, it's just the premise.
Dan H at 00:03 on 2010-07-27
at the same time, I can't see past the fact that this is a shitty game to any of the "good stuff" underneath


I think the difference between "Hey Baby" and The Path is that Hey Baby isn't actually trying to be a video game at all, it's certainly not trying to be an FPS. It's essentially a satire, and quite a good one. Nobody seriously expects you to sit down and play it for the reasons you'd play a game.

The Path, on the other hand, - for all Tale of Tales' protests to the contrary - *is* a video game and needs to be judged accordingly.
Furare at 11:48 on 2010-07-27
It's more the fact that it's apparently really glitchy that I object to, rather than the graphics - though I dislike those because they give people something to talk about that isn't the main point. (Graphics don't have to be good, but they shouldn't be so bad that they function as a distraction.) So, no, it's not trying to be a video game, but it should at least function smoothly, especially if they're actually *selling* it - which it doesn't.

I agree that a free in-browser game would be a good idea, but I don't think a YouTube video would really have the same effect. I think this is something that benefits from the interactivity of the medium - in that no matter whether you're nice to the guys who approach you, or shoot them in the face (which I guess is a metaphor for telling them to go the fuck away and leave you alone), nothing ever changes. Whatever you do, they keep coming. The feeling of powerlessness and frustration that eventually sets in is the whole point - and I think it kind of loses its impact if the player has already got frustrated with the "game" because of the graphics or the glitches.
Dan H at 11:54 on 2010-07-27
I'd thought it was originally free-in-browser, but could be entirely wrong on that.
Furare at 19:27 on 2010-07-27
Yeah, there's a free version, and you pay to upgrade it. The free version is definitely pretty glitchy - the voices sometimes echo in a weird way, or turn into juddering robot-with-malfunction impressions.

But, having played it, I can say that it is very definitely creepy and succeeds at making a point about the intrusiveness of street harrassment. (The guys appear to follow you if you don't either say "Thank you" or shoot them.) And it's quite amazing how *unpleasant* the words "You're so beautiful" can sound, really.

I do wonder how many of the people who defended The Path for its clunkiness/ugly graphics etc. on the grounds that it "has something to say" would do the same for Hey Baby. I'd imagine that the value of an ugly game depends less on whether it's got something to say, and more on whether what it's got to say is something you want to hear. I'd be willing to have someone prove me wrong, though. :)
Wardog at 11:45 on 2010-07-28
Speaking of Hey Baby, there's an unspeakably awful piece of criticism about it here. Apparently sexually harrassing women in the street is "social normalcy" and people who are upset or offended by it should get over themselves. I probably shouldn't link to this, actually, as it's infuriating but I really wanted to share my fury.
Shim at 14:01 on 2010-07-28
Gosh, that is awful. The poor quality of the writing doesn't help at all, either. I still can't work out whether the various women named are supposed to be hypothetical "archetypes", characters in the game or something else. Whatever it is, I can't see where Amanda gets this idea about "Sally" thinking being "hit on" is a put down? I mean, from my point of more-or-less ignorance, I'd say that really it isn't even about her, it's about the guy. And... no, I'll shut up.
Arthur B at 14:50 on 2010-07-28
I think they're different facets of the author's personality or something.

The radio said "No, Amanda. You are the Betty"
And then Amanda was a Betty.
Furare at 15:59 on 2010-07-28
When it comes to drive-by compliments, nothing beats Morte hitting on the female zombies in PS:T.

RE: That article... wut. Jesus, but that's bad writing. I had serious trouble following it, and I'm kind of sorry I even tried, heh.

You are not the victim. He is. He is and he knows it. He’s waiting for you to accept his “foot in the door.” When a man “flirts” with you, hes giving you the power to accept or reject him. You’re just complaining you have this power.

Seriously? Guys catcalling women in the streets is a sign of *female power*? That argument maybe applies if a guy is asking you out on a date - though not really even then, given how difficult it can be sometimes to say "no" and have that answer accepted as final - but with street harrassment? The men who do that aren't hoping for a "foot in the door"; it's not about attraction. It's about power, yes, but it's about *their power* - to make you feel uncomfortable, knowing that you can't do anything without looking like a crazy bitch.

And "inconvenience of social normalcy"? Because feeling scared and hounded and, well, harrassed is just an inconvenience, something we need to put up with as a occupational hazard of venturing outside while female? But then, I forgot: women's bodies are public property, aren't they?
Dan H at 16:34 on 2010-07-28
Seriously? Guys catcalling women in the streets is a sign of *female power*?


It's a depressingly common mentality, unfortunately. It's all part of the whole "if a woman tries to look nice it's because she wants you to notice" thing.

But yeah, I'm really not sure where "you have the power" comes from. I mean it's not like women regularly get people on building sites yelling things like "Hey! Do you think this beard suits me? I'm a bit worried that these jeans make me look like I've got a beer gut!"
Bookwyrm at 03:40 on 2013-04-19
I'm necroing this (that is the right term for it right?)because I used this game as the subject of a Folklore paper I wrote a few weeks ago. I didn't play it I just watched the Let's Plays. And from the looks of it I didn't miss anything.
So two things:
1) It was kind of interesting comparing this to the fairy tale and how changing mediums affected the story.
2)I read some of the Youtube comments from people trying to interpret the symbolism and they apparently got something out of it. I just couldn't get into it. I know this is a world of metaphor and its not supposed to make sense. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking "Why is there a playground in the middle of the creepy forest?", "Do children actually talk like this?", and "What nine-year old would think " this thing is big and cuddly I should go up to it" :)?

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