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by Tomm Hulett
I read Mr. King's editorial and considered his points about what makes 'fine' art and what is mere 'art'; his bizarre disdain for Namco and Tecmo, however, destroyed the validity of his point.
The first thing which caught my attention was the Biblical 'family tree' of fighting games he created. He says:
'Tobal No. 1 begat Tobal 2, Tobal 2 begat Dead or Alive. Dead or Alive begat Dead or Alive 2 and Soul Calibur'
This is humorous to me partly because Tobal 2 is still looked upon by some as the most technical fighter ever. However, Tobal 2 begat Ehrgeiz. Dead or Alive claims heritage from Virtua Fighter, and Soul Calibur is a sequel to Soul Edge which was a spinoff of the Tekken engine. As to his claim that nobody could reasonably argue that DoA and DoA2 are different games, I would welcome the challenge. I have two friends, one of whom plays fighting games religiously, and the other who has played both DoA games for about an hour each. Both of these people could write theses on how different the two games are. I will spare you and sum up the two points:
DoA was about breasts.
In addition, both DoA2 and Soul Calibur enhance the game engine of their previous games. Both were seen as lightyears ahead of their roots. I'll argue that in my opinion, Soul Calibur is not the 'button masher' that Soul Edge was--simply because if you're skilled, no button masher could topple you by luck. The same goes for DoA2, there are tiers and tiers of brilliant design behind that engine, and if you take the time to learn it, you'll be unstoppable. Neither of these games uses the same engine as its predecessor. DoA and Soul Edge were both seen as "just another fighter"...while DoA2 and Soul Calibur are defining moments of realistic hand-to-hand and weapon fighters, respectively.
I also felt his brief mention of MGS was unfounded. The message in Metal Gear Solid was not "nukes are bad", but "war is bad". The entire point of Kojima's storyline was that we all KNOW nuclear weapons are bad--but nothing is being done about it. Thus, the entire concept of war and weapons is bad. It was a call to action, a desperate plea for help. Yes, "war is bad" is almost as trite as denouncing nukes--but if nobody heeds the message, perhaps it still needs to be heard.
In conclusion, I think this whole 'fine art' argument is ridiculous. Square is coming out with many 'original' games in the near future. Front Mission (just released), Vagrant Story, Legend of Mana (land build system), Bouncer, Chrono Cross (100+ characters, battle system) etc...but what do we ask for? Final Fantasy 9--just a game descended from a long line of games which weren't 'fine art' (by King's definition). We then complain about Square's unoriginal games? Maybe we all need to pay a bit more attention.
My take on fine art is simple. Fine art enriches those who partake in it. Many creators of classical fine art, painters specifically, were failures in their time. Nobody liked their art. However, once the world had time to examine their work more closely (most often after they died), they were at last seen for their brilliance. However, everything Van Gogh ever did was bizarre looking. Does this mean only his first painting was fine art? In the same vein, video games with similar themes/engines can all be fine art (provided they achieve that level) because what touches us once can touch us again...it doesn't cease to enrich us just because we've seen it before. Xenogears and Evangelion were both fine art to me...and they're both the same exact thing (don't argue the small differences--thematically they're identical).
Super Mario Brothers revolutionized the video game industry and revived it from the 'great crash' in 1984. Do you consider it fine art?
Original Editorial: Re: Art: Wanna Get Technical
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