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Just One Piece of the Artistic Puzzle

by Michael Jens Harnest 

Submitted by: mjharnest@hotmail.com (Michael Jens Harnest)
Spelling 2
Grammar 2
Coherency 3.5
Strength of Arguments 4
Presentation 4
Originality 3
Penalties 0
Total 18.5
Grade

Video gaming is one of the newest mediums in which to tell a story. Assuming this train of thought, video games can perhaps then be called an art form; if they have the ability to construct a narrative, they can, if the ambition is to do so, also contain the themes, imagery, and artistic structures of the narratives found in other, more traditional forms of art. This is the realization that non-gamers are to come to terms with. Conversely, however, is the gaming world's general perspective on the remainder of the art world. Regardless of the non-gamers' response to the video game as art theorem, is the audacity in the majority of the gaming audience's disregard for other art forms. Perhaps, even, that is one of the final steps in the attempt to allot video games their artistic credit. It makes sense that the gaming world must acknowledge, respect, and ultimately participate in all the art world has to offer before the art world can acknowledge games as an active member of it. Far too often have gamers restricted themselves to games as their lone link to artistry.

Statements denouncing other art forms' ability to create character closeness as well as the gaming medium, specifically role-playing and other story-based genres, appear almost regularly. Some even argue that particular mediums often seen as rudimentary to the arts, such as film, should not be considered examples of art themselves. These rash statements are often supported indirectly by some role-playing gamers claiming they "tend not to read or watch movies very often." The lack of respect and profound ignorance associated with the first two attitudes is mind numbing. Not only are they misguided and untruthful, but the hunt for an example to discredit them is not a long or difficult one. 1994 saw the release of Forrest Gump, an epic tale chronicling the life of its protagonist in far greater detail and magnitude of scope than that of, say, Serge in Chrono Cross (2000); and despite the extraordinary power of witnessing Aeris' death in Final Fantasy VII (1997), the level of grief transmitted through Jenny's passing, as we have come to know and understand Forrest and his utter dependency upon her throughout the film, is at the very least comparable to it. In no way is this to undermine the power and artistic prowess of video games, the ones mentioned or otherwise, but the general disregard among gamers for other forms of art is something to be reacted to. This mind set should unmistakably be abolished and the world of art fully explored. If anyone proceeds to look further, while even still limiting the search to the realm of film, the name Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane, 1941), his dying word, "Rosebud," and its explanation speak considerably louder to character depiction and understanding than the lives of Locke Cole and Cyan Garamonde as exhibited in Final Fantasy VI (1994). All of this while steering full clear of theater and William Shakespeare, whose plays have been argued to be the deepest looks and most intricate observations into the human psyche ever recorded; never mind modern masterpieces of literature like The Great Gatsby, credited with defining an entire decade, and Fifth Business, simultaneously an ode to small-town Canadian life and a definitive illustration of Carl Jung's theories on the nature of man. Personal preferences aside, these books are high school staples of learning for a reason: they are meticulously crafted spells, very particular to the needs, wants, and lives of their characters. These, alongside the many great examples of literature and plays like them, should not be left unread or inexperienced by any member of the art community, gamers included.

The opinions of distaste, or perhaps more correctly disregard, for the other arts by many gamers have been exemplified through statements of ignorance and disrespect. Many have claimed that film's focus is too readily made toward aesthetics, and that the advent of colour into the medium, and the supposed resulting change of focus, has stripped the medium of its artistic integrity. Perhaps inconsequential at first glance, the statement, when taken literally, explicitly denotes more than the last 45 years of film making, years that saw the releases of 2001: Space Odyssey, The Deer Hunter, E.T., and Star Wars. Granted, these may very well not be personal favourites, but nonetheless, they are all clear leaps in creativity and examples of both technical and artistic ingenuity. To add a degree of credibility to the statement, the aforementioned Citizen Kane is often hailed by critics as the greatest movie of all time, and is black and white; but there is rarely a said list which does not place The Godfather, a colour film, second. This is not to argue the merits of each individual film or to press upon anyone what constitutes a good cinematic experience; nor for that matter, is it trying denounce the artistic capabilities of the potentialized gaming industry. It is to merely illustrate the apparent ignorance and lack of enthusiasm toward the art world exhibited by members of the gaming community, and to stress how inhibiting this attitude can be.

Many console role-playing gamers purchase game soundtracks, a practice often stemming from the enjoyment of the games themselves. There is absolutely no error in this in and of itself, but many gamers restrict themselves to this as their lone form of audio entertainment. Revolutionary composers like Bach and Beethoven cannot be ignored, nor should more recent boundary breakers such as Moby, Radiohead, and to some extent, Dr. Dre. Many would argue that music is highly subjective; this may be true, but with all due respect to those involved in video game composition, the world's greatest music is not exclusive to video game accompaniment. It is true that there are many people making fantastic leaps in the electronic medium, but to think musically creative minds, and their subsequent great melodies, are limited to it, is a large oversight. Music, as an artistic medium, deserves to be explored to a fuller extent, its multitude of genres experienced with a certain degree of artistic enthusiasm.

Anime fans, who constitute a large portion of the role-playing gamer market, may argue that they are film fans, and for the most part, they are correct. Perhaps, for them, it is a genre ordeal, where it is not the attraction of role-playing games, but rather traditional science-fiction fantasy that is the loved variable. If this is the case, then evident is another unnecessary limitation that must be addressed. If it is unclear why someone, as a fan of video games, particularly story-based ones, would not be attracted to other forms of narration, then so to is the motivation behind someone limiting themselves to specific content found in a narrative. The positive human response to film, and anime inclusively, is rooted in the use of visuals, often aided by sound, to tell a story. If so, then how can someone become so genre specific? Do science-fiction fantasy anime fans not enjoy Grave of the Fireflies, unquestionably an example of anime, because it is non-fantasy-based and constructs its plot around the real-life events of World War II? And that is staying within the realm of anime, not straying aesthetically far from the genre they are drawn to. What is to be said, then, about credible live-action works like Fargo or Magnolia? Sure, many science-fiction fantasy anime are well made, and serve as great (as well as underrated) examples of film literature, but why the limitation and disregard toward other forms of cinema? Whether it is a medium bias toward video gaming, or a genre bias towards science-fiction fantasy, the trend is unnecessary and only limits the enjoyment of a wider scope of the arts.

Literature, theater, film, sculpture, painting, photography, dance, etcetera; in no way is the integrity of video games as an art form threatened by the existence of these, yet this seems to the general gaming reaction, and it is a very distressing one. There should be no limitation on the forms of art experienced, particularly if the justification is rooted in a strong passion toward an individual medium. Ideally, there should be no singular love for a singular form of art, but rather an unrestricted appreciation and love for all of them. Each has its time and place, sometimes determined by the illusionary rules of appropriateness, sometimes made evident by the inevitable passage of time; but at no point is a singular medium ever the greater. History has suggested that the example of music is the best way to illustrate the lives in the jazzy world of 1920s America; Butoh dance best expresses the emotional turmoil experienced in Japan after the nation-shattering, catastrophic conclusion of the Second World War; and with the pollution crisis threatening the world in which we live, perhaps questioning the effect we have on our surroundings was best displayed in the form of a video game, thus catapulting the medium into the artistic forefront of gamers' minds, and as a result, diminishing the extent of their participation in other artistic mediums. This may well all be true, but the honesty of the situation is that Jazz music still needs the context of The Great Gatsby to better paint the picture; Jackson Pollock's contributions to abstract expressionism are essential in exhibiting America's conflicting free-spirited reaction to the witnessing of the same events as the Japanese in World War II; and Final Fantasy VII does not alone suffice in fully awakening the world to its self-imposed environmental predicament. The term culture refers to our lives and the way we live them. Loosely defined, art becomes the tangible representation of this, or at least the various aspirations to become so. In this sense, culture can also be defined as a collective effort of the arts; that is to say, all of them. Why be limited by artificial borders inspired obscurely by differing mediums and genres? Open your mind; broaden your horizons. There is an entire world of art out there.




Notes:
Well... wow, really. An extremely mature, well-written and near-flawless editorial. Beautifully presented and flowing nicely down the page, this editorial makes plenty of perfectly valid and very good points about the different forms of art and gaming's place within them.

Certainly original; who'd think of putting up an editorial telling people to stop playing games? The one niggly point I could come up with against his arguments is that gaming can be and has been presented as a form of anti-art, encouraging people to remain away from the other types.

This small little point, however, does nothing to diminish this editorial's standing. Very, very good indeed.

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