Archive for the General Category

The Death of Single-Player

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2011 by pixeltheater

Back in August, game consultant Mark Cerny made waves in the gaming community when he predicted the death of single-player within the next couple years.

Pictured: Game Consultant Mark Cerny

I hate to say it, but he may be right. Even a lot of series that began as single-player-only have added or will add multiplayer in later iterations. Dead Space, Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, Dead Rising, Resident Evil… hell, even Mass Effect 3 will have a multiplayer component.

Whether it’s co-op or multiplayer, or something in between like in Demon’s Souls, inserting multiplayer anywhere and everywhere is the trend.

And it needs to stop.

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Games without gaming?

Posted in General on November 10, 2011 by pixeltheater

In regards to the Smithsonian video game exhibit I referenced in my first post, reading about it makes me wonder if there isn’t a fatal flaw in the idea of presenting games in such a way. As the curators themselves explain:

Video games use images, actions, and player participation to tell stories and engage their audiences. In the same way as film, animation, and performance, they can be considered a compelling and influential form of narrative art. New technologies have allowed designers to create increasingly interactive and sophisticated game environments while staying grounded in traditional game types.

Clearly, they understand that the interactivity is a crucial component to what makes games a unique artistic medium. However, in an interview in the July 2011 issue of OXM, they noted that they couldn’t logistically have visitors playing through all of the featured games. (Unfortunately, I can’t find a link online to that article – curse you, print media!)

So they settled on this:

The exhibition will feature eighty games through still images and video footage. Five games will be available for visitors to play for a few minutes, to gain some feel for the interactivity—Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower. In addition, the galleries will include video interviews with developers and artists, large prints of in-game screen shots, and historic game consoles.

Which begs the question: is that experience analogous to actually playing the game? Do game clips and images still hold the same meaning out of context? If you haven’t played through a game’s (often lengthy) quest, would viewing a late-game scene still hold the same resonance? I hope so, for the sake of this blog if nothing else.

Paintings in a museum are displayed as the artist painted them, and music, novels, plays, etc. are all experienced as written (generally speaking). So while the audiences’ interpretations may differ, the medium itself is not distorted in the act of presenting it, unlike with video games.

It’s an intriguing dilemma, and I admit that while the Smithsonian’s solution may not be perfect, it’s the best we’ve got. A brief snippet of a fifty-hour RPG may not encapsulate the entire piece, and maybe the “Would you kindly?” reveal in Bioshock isn’t the same if you haven’t ventured through the ruins of Rapture. But for non-gamers to be able to view the arts of games, I guess it’s all we can do, and it’s certainly better than nothing.

Press Start

Posted in General on November 10, 2011 by pixeltheater

I’ll be honest: “Pixel Theater” was not my first choice for a blog name, but it was the only one I could think of that wasn’t already taken. (It turns out I’m not the first gaming nerd to start a blog – who knew?) That said, I think it fits what I plan to do here: to present and discuss games as narratives.

Too often, I feel like games are dismissed as kids’ toys, or pointless time-wasters with no artistic value (Angry Birds, I’m looking in your direction). My intent is not to convert non-gamers into gamers or anything like that, but merely to show that games can have a lot more going on than just shootin’ stuff.

Although there’s that, too.

Like all forms of entertainment, video games can be a lot of things. Sure, they can be mindless fun, but they can also be thought-provoking. Melding audio and visual components with interactive technology creates a medium that engages the audience in ways that others can’t. At the same time, they can deliver carefully-crafted stories on par with any film, TV show, novel, etc.

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