[Following Jim Preston's controversial Gamasutra feature on games as art, Crash Bandicoot, Gex and Uncharted designer E. Daniel Arey responds with a fired-up, in-depth piece on why the art inherent in gaming matters.]
I am not in the regular habit
of writing wordy rebuttals to developer opinions on game forums about
our industry’s place in the world. Let’s face it, there are ten
thousand myriad points of view on any one subject in this biz, and many
are mostly right (to varying degrees) at least some of the time. But
I was deeply moved to respond to a recent Gamasutra installment from
EA producer Jim Preston’s essay “The Arty Party."
It wasn’t the overall philosophy of Mr. Preston’s essay per se that upset me, and I’m sure he is an outstanding producer and game developer. In fact, his final assertion that we are moving toward a promising future is correct.
What did concern me was his overall seemingly static vision for our industry, and the almost jaded approach to the current value of what we call art. You can add to this the Gamasutra editors' choice of title for the related news story, 'Forget Art, Let's Game', which - while serving its purpose as a provocative siren’s call - seemed to once again proudly proclaim games as nothing more than they are, or ever will be, as an entertainment pastime that is limited and unable to evolve or adapt.
Before I continue, let me make it clear that I do not intend for this to be a semantic debate about what is art and what isn’t? Nor do I care where the line between art and entertainment is drawn, or by whom.
Shakespeare certainly walked
that line well. Books and films trip over themselves often to become
something like art. Theater will gladly tell you they are art. What
I do know is that every entertainment medium must push its boundaries
to evolve and survive, otherwise they become static and irrelevant.
Is that too bold of a statement? I think not, when you pull back and look at the wide evolutionary timeline of entertainment as a continuum. One simple example of this Darwinian struggle was the new discovery of the photo camera - which challenged the artists of that time in their ability to recreate a landscape in perfect fidelity.
It took bold action from the Impressionists to respond and evolve painting to a new and wonderful form by saying - “we are not simply trying to represent a thing, we are trying to capture its light and the feeling of the moment.”
That was art responding in a powerful way to a simple and mundane circumstance, and this response, however misguided some thought of it at the time, created a thing wholly new and beautiful.