Whether or not Roger Ebert wants to be an ass about it or not, video games ARE art. There is no question there. They are. I will not engage anyone in debate about it, because it is not a discussion open to debate to me. And not only are video games art, in them, you will find some of the most staggering artwork and art direction that you will ever see anywhere outside of a Tara McPherson gallery or the newest Bond film (come on, the visuals in that movie are stunning).
And certain games have truly pushed just how artistic games can truly be. The following games on this list are games that, to me, made it feel like not only an evolution for the medium of games, but an evolution for the medium of art itself. I know Paul talks about a few of these here, but please allow me to delve a little deeper, if I may?
I will be completely honest when I say I prefer Rapture, splicers and all, to my neighborhood.
I find myself wondering why no video game world has EVER elicited the response in me that Rapture, the art-deco utopia from the game Bioshock, did. From sound design to character design, to the actual awe that rapture filled you with, Bioshock is what happens when everything in a game’s creation goes perfectly. And the real resounding impact is still felt, five years later, as I comb through my game library and realize no game world has immersed me or pulled me in as swiftly as the world of Rapture did. And there was no single element that rises above any other in regards to Rapture. You can COMPLETELY understand why it drew so many people, in a story sense. A world set aside for artists and free-thinkers. And visually, I STILL play that game when I need to leave my world, and actually FEEL like I left my world.
The funniest part is, Bioshock makes Rapture feel SO believable a place, you forget from time to time that it’s not actually a place. You are playing artwork, people. Amazing, old-school, art deco artwork, in a world perfectly gone to Hell, yet still more appealing then our own.
Knowing that spider was following me filled me with a dread that most non-water levels in platformers don’t fill me with.
And on the other extreme from Bioshock, you have a world that is, once again, one dimensional. Not only that, but it exists in hues of only blacks and muted grays. Add to that the PERFECT, minimal sound design, of you have the other end of the ‘games as artwork’ spectrum. A game much simpler than a game like Bioshock, yet just as impacting. Limbo, for me, took the left to right gameplay that I had known for so long, and spun it around. It was Mario, yet it was SO not Mario. The game was dark, literally and otherwise, and the odd, atmospheric tone of the game pushes the gamer further and further, curious as to what they will experience next.
I liked Limbo’s visuals (and the game, overall) so much, that I would summon friends to come play it so I could just sit and watch it. Like some cryptic cartoon made by Edward Gorey.
I am still convinced I live in a world that was not ready for Okami.
The Japanese brush-stroke-heavy style, and water color look of Okami is something that still generates a response in me, every time I see the game in motion. Getting serious points for just having the balls to look how it looks, and then using that very look as a core element of the gameplay (painting brush strokes on screen is what I speak of, for those who don’t know) just drive it that much further as a game that IS a work of art. And again, it all works together on so many levels.
The art design is obviously a huge inspiration for the setting and story, which in turn, are a huge inspiration for the soundtrack. And every single one of these elements works so well together, and game is so perfectly engrossing, that you sometimes forget to stop playing for a second and just admire the pure beauty of this world, created solely for us. A HD version of the game, as well as a sequel (prequel) have been released since the game’s inception, and that just tells me I am not the only person truly moved by the beauty (and stellar gameplay) of this game.