Develop 2009: Gameplay Not Everything, Says Dyack
"Gameplay is not everything," said Silicon Knights (Eternal Darkness) founder and president Denis Dyack. "If you look at the most popular games today, they are far more narrative-focused."
"If games are to follow the trajectory of films, then the dominance of gameplay will diminish in place of an increased focus and importance on gaming’s stories and the ways in which they are told," he added.
Dyack’s controversial message was delivered during a talk at Brighton, UK's Develop Conference calling for games to be considered as "the Eighth Art." He highlighted the writings of Ricciotto Canudo, an Italian author and one of the first theorists of film who considered cinema to be the Seventh Art.
"Canudo argued that cinema incorporated the distinctive elements of both the spatial arts (architecture painting) with the temporal arts (music and dance)," he explained.
"In a similar way video games synthesize architecture, sculpture and painting with music, dancing and painting, utilizing elements of each but adding interactivity to move art on to its eighth form."
"That video games are art is quite obvious to me," he continued. "The new synthesis is interactivity and gameplay. Instead of moving pictures, that which movies brought to art, we now have interactivity as the glue that brings together all the previous artistic elements."
Dyack drew attention to various elements of Silicon Knights’ most recent game, Too Human, to illustrate his point. He highlighted its architecture, music and poetry, and said each was as important as the next in creating a full experience for the player.
Rather than shrinking from drawing comparisons between film and video games, Dyack urged developers to pursue and embrace the connections between the media. "It’s ridiculous to claim that video games aren’t art because they speak the language of film," he said. "I would encourage us to apply filmic technique to our creations. If you can replicate these techniques extraordinarily well, the your game will resonate with people on a deep level."
"It’s an unpopular viewpoint," he said. "But I don’t believe that gameplay is the most important aspect to games. I have a theory: that engagement is greater than or equal to art plus story plus gameplay plus audio plus technology. It’s all of these things combined, and one is not more important than another."
"While I think that narrative is going to become more and more dominant, possibly superseding gameplay, narrative is not the be all and end all," he added.
"You can have 100-year-old films where narrative is very light and they are still enjoyable. However, I think we will move towards a place where games can be a success because of more than just their gameplay, because of their music, their internal architecture and so on."
When asked why we should care whether games are an art form or not, Dyack admitted that in part his argument is fueled by a desire for validation from the academic and wider critical community.