I have been pondering a question for the last few days, and while it may be a little irrelevant to gaming as a whole, it certainly slots nicely into my definition of a worthy pursuit, or perhaps even something I want to spend my time doing. Of course, I consider gaming entirely worthy of my time, otherwise I wouldn’t spend quite so startling an amount of time doing it, but then, of course, you already knew that. What I would like to know, however, is why I consider it so. What does gaming have to offer, really?
I think the primary function of gaming is escapism and realisation of dreams. So much is obvious; it’s why we read books, watch films, and relevantly, play games. The real crux of the matter, however, is the degree within they accomplish those goals. Do we play games for what they present, or what they could present in the future? Is all gaming merely a half measure, just an acceptance of something that we wish could be, but we can’t have just yet? Gaming could be, essentially, the same as eating a bowl of custard when what you really wanted was trifle. It’s a component, but it’s not the whole thing, not yet.
So could you really consider gaming a half measure? Is it merely the temporary fix until it finally reaches its apex and starts churning out classics left, right and center? To be quite honest, I think such a view is a bit blinkered, while still remaining somewhat justified. It supposes that all games before some inscrutable moment in the future are half formed ideas, abortions fresh from the womb that haven’t been able to grow and mature into fully fledged experiences. It’s essentially the same position as saying (and I know this comparison is so tired it’s not even usable anymore, but hey, I’m the one writing) that black and white films are entirely unwatchable because we’ve got the real deal in colour.
Eventually, you have to accept that all culture is in transition. It’s taking a rather removed and detached perspective from the whole thing, but it really does apply to almost anything. New people are developing and commenting all the time, drawing both criticism and contrast to any form of media that is available. Art, in general, for example, has become entirely abstract and so ambiguous that it’s difficult to discern any definitive meaning from a piece of work. Film, on the other hand, has slowly refined it’s technique to the stage where there is a certain way of filming and casting each genre. The beauty of gaming is that it can take both these tacts, becoming something far superior to either. We get our World of Goo’s and our Call of Duty’s; both opposite sides of the spectrum, but both equally interesting and enjoyable.
So, in the end, gaming is down to the individual. I’ve started playing through The Longest Journey recently (piece on it imminent), and what’s struck me about it is the fact that I’m thoroughly enjoying it despite the horrific graphics, clunky controls and down right mean puzzles. The story outshines all these negatives enough that I want to continue despite them, and this old game that isn’t even available in the shops any more is serving the same purpose as a classic movie; it’s hard to get into at first, due to the ease with which the suspension of disbelief is lost, but there is a moment, somewhere, when it ceases to matter, and a truly great experience starts to shine through.
It’s easy to argue that gaming isn’t anywhere near it’s full potential, but then it’s easy to argue that any burgeoning art form is nowhere near it’s full potential. A form doesn’t have potential; there is only those who express themselves through the form, and the potential of those individuals. There are those who thrive, and those who churn out utter dross. For ever Psychonauts or Moonlight Sonata there is a Pippa Funnel’s Riding or Umbrella. It’s not the form that’s to blame, but the creators. We have classic games, it’s just that the mainstream audience hasn’t recognised them. Really, that’s not their fault; they’re just a little bit slow on the uptake, easy to be manipulated and lead into badly made games and movie tie-ins. Oh well.
(Disclaimer: I’m rather drunk as I write this, so excuse all pretention, condescension and meandering arguments. Instead read it and try to discern the real meaning behind what I have written, because I seem to have lost it somewhere. If found, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!)