Would Michelangelo Have Created The Next Grand Theft Auto?

I hear video games referred to as art, but I’ve wondered aloud, “Does Halo deserve as much appreciation as the sculpted David? Should we speak of GTA in hushed, revering awe–like we might do while standing inside the Sistine Chapel?” Perhaps, the answers depends on how art is defined and how you appreciate it.

If you break down art into it’s more mechanical elements, art is technique and form appropriate to that type of art. Because I like to write, a plot–conflict, crisis, and resolution–is the form of choice to start a character on an adventure (and, maybe, a satisfying end for said adventurer .) But if that was all there was to the effort, I could follow a formula and write best sellers all day long. You would consider me to be a hack. No, the art has to be more than form.

When you look at a work of art that you like, you might yell out, “Wow!” That thing of beauty evokes emotions. You see it for it’s entirety, as if standing from a distance; you are removed from the technique and form. Form only becomes considered when you further study that art, hoping to better understand what made you yell exclamations inside the museum and annoy the other visitors. Paintings, sculptures, stories, and–even–video games may have that wow-effect on you.

But not all art is the same. (I’m speaking of art at the higher level, standing away from its form.) I’ve visited galleries in Europe, and it was common for artists to copy each other– including Michelangelo’s works. But those other works didn’t have that “Wow!” because they were imitating form and lacking something the original piece had already impressed me with. The same happens in video games.

Some video games are released that gamers consider groundbreaking and redefining. That’s because these games evoke emotions when we see them and play them. As a gamer, you are not thinking only about the game’s coding, the illustrations, or the controls; instead, you are probably wondering where can you buy this sweet title, indulge in hours of play time, and on what forum should you post raving exclamations of joy.

Not many games can do this, but when they do, they’re imitated: Super Mario Brothers, Zelda, Halo, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and other titles have set themselves apart from the discount bins. Demon’s Souls did that too. Hidetaka Miyazaki had a vision for the title and the end result was video game art. He knew the story’s plot, and developed a world that characterized how we should feel–tense, hopeful, anguish, and pity–for both the protagonist and the sad denizens that populate the world. The gameplay is difficult, but only because it characterizes Miyazaki’s vision–the game is not difficult for the sake of being difficult.

Some video games forget form and make a beeline straight toward art. This doesn’t work, either. I wrote this review months ago:

This game is a disappointment. The developers have forgotten that they were creating a game for their customers; a game is more interactive than this walk-through, which only has a few boring puzzles. Instead, what they have dumped on the customer is their attempt at writing a poorly told short story, and expecting you to pay for something they consider ‘art’.

This is not art, and it’s not a good story. If a book editor were to review the text, so much of the material would have been deleted because it doesn’t add anything to this amateurish effort. Certainly, no editor would have published this as a novel or novella, so the game publishers would have to resort to self-publishing. And the game developers did just that. They have self-published some bad fiction, and disregarded good game development.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this story is bad. It can be summed up in a few sentences: “Oh God, I’m so tormented,” “Oh God, I’m so tormented,” restate background information with different prose, throw in enigmatic monologue and information, and have the main character think about the same information, again and again. Most of this story is just static word pictures and it’s often told in flashback (zzzzzzzzz). You, the gamer, and Mandus, the main character, never really do anything.

So now, I’m having a bad flashback, recalling the moment when I had purchased and played this boring game. I wail, gnash my teeth, and pull my hair. Falling to my knees, I pray this bad game might get better. With tears and hope in my eyes, I look at the monitor but there is no change; Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is still a terrible game and a boring story. Oh God, I’m so tormented!

While this game has a particular style that initially marketed well, the title bored the bejezus out of me and many other gamers; playing it made me think the developers were trying too hard, and the director did not really understand what he or she was trying to accomplish–Was this supposed to be a story?; A visual piece of art?

I’ve still not answered this post’s title question. I can’t speak for Michelangelo, but he did have a low opinion of painting. In today’s world, he probably would have quit his job as an illustrator while working on Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, and gone on to do his own thing. Maybe, he would put additional touches on Saint Peter’s Basilica.

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