Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually

Ludology: Best Job Ever? (Hint: The answer is “yes!”)

with 4 comments

Hello again! I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m sorry for the embarrassingly long delay. After a hectic month, we’re back on track! And on with the blog!

I discussed in my last post my most dearly held work of literature as well as the video game to which I owe most of my nightmares. Strange mix, no?

I can’t really speak to why those happen to be close to my heart, but I know they’ve influenced how I view many forms of media and art today. I’d like to think they set my standards for what I enjoyed. This might indicate that I enjoy strange things or at least that I expect a different kind of enlightenment from the separate medium.

Sounds fairly reasonable. What we expect from the myriad forms of art varies considerably, and rightfully so. When the potential knowledge or entertainment or artistic enlightenment one expects to gain doesn’t meet our expectations, we may write that work off as a “bad” one.

Being a student of the humanities, I couldn’t say exactly what sort of sociological trait this is. Our perceived expectations dictate how popular art and media are advertised to us and limit the “avant-garde” creative expression to an indie fringe – never challenging the mainstream ideologies of said media.

What I’m very wordily trying to say is that our world at large has very specific parameters for different types of art and media. Those expectations are used to produce and market entertainment to us, often recycling conventions from formulaic genres and sub-categories instead of trying for true innovation. And so we see a cycle…

But where does this leave video games? Socially, certainly not on the same tier with traditional art and literature. No, video games are delegated somewhere below that – often seen as “base” entertainment. Because of this divide, video games may never be seen as a comparable “alternative literature,” limiting gaming to (from some non-gamers’ perspectives) a childish, inadequate form of media.

I suppose the question at hand is “Why?” Why have we subjugated forms of media to be accessible to one group, excluding others? Why did video games become the preferred whipping boy for the societal problems of the youth?

I can’t pretend to even know where to start with those questions, but if you have any ideas, feel free to comment away. A comment by “D” last post inspired this tangent and I hope that people keep discussing their ideas. I promise to reply in a timely fashion next time : )

Thanks for reading through the rambles. Next time, I’d like to discuss the importance of perspective in video games and how that relates to classic literature. Hope to see you there!

Happy Geekery!

P.S. Ludology is the study of games, play, toys, and video games. It also sounds like one of the best. disciplines. ever. Check out this awesome blog as well as this one.


Written by highbrowhighscore

October 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm

4 Responses

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  1. In response I will refer you to two pieces that hit on key issues of why the videogame industry is mostly to blame for games not being considered “art”
    The first is called Burn Down the House
    Particularly Spector and Costikyan because they are pretty spot on about what the issue is.
    Second is the Gamer’s Manifesto
    which does hit on a few development flaws that create less than optimal games.
    The game industry has become a miniHollywood. Too much focus on effects and loss of touch with what a regular person is interested in. What’s in theaters now? Saw 3D, Jackass 3D, Piranha 3D, Step Up 3D, Resident Evil 3D, Last Airbender 3D, Cats and Dogs 3D, Shrek 3D, and My Soul to Take 3D. And every single one is utter shit. PS3 and Xbox are both about to push 3D and TVs are being built 3D capable. This isn’t inherently negative, but it’s a focus on showing off hardware capabilities and that tends to overshadow the potential uses of the emerging technology to tell a story. Besides, what was the last movie to come from Hollywood that you would call “art”? If you want artistic movies you go to Sundance and I don’t think they are making a real 3D push.
    Videogame companies are making that push. That focus in a videogame is like a writer spending years designing the cover art for his book and only spending a few weeks actually writing it.

    I can’t wait to read your thoughts on game perspective. I did a research project on the topic a few years ago and find it incredibly interesting. It’s a single design choice that influences almost every other design aspect made in game development.


    October 28, 2010 at 6:16 am

    • Best comment a blogger could hope for!
      I can definitely agree with you with the fact that gaming is quickly becoming an excuse for pretty graphics without much storyline. I would argue that, while optimizing your graphics is not a bad thing, when it comes at the cost of a decent storyline or worthwhile game-play. BUT! I will say, I think the biggest thing holding gaming back from being considered an art form is the “franchising” (how many more “Madden” games do we really need?) Games that once held some weight in the area of creative merit get sequels, prequels, re-quels, and so on – effectively killing any claim at art the original game may have had.

      I’d be extremely interested to see some of your sources from your project, if you still have them. I’m reading some articles that (of course) equate the first person perspective with “hegemonic masculinist aggression.” Am I the only one fed up with the gendering of video games!?


      October 29, 2010 at 1:54 am

      • Madden gets a new game every season as updates to player rosters. Because EA has a contract with the NFL it’s going to happen until people stop dropping $60 on the exact same content with different names on the jerseys. Can you really blame EA for collecting money on it? It’s not as if they have any other powerhouse games to work with.
        There is a lot of copying of concepts. Think every racing game ever made. The original Need for Speed may have some legitimate claim at creativity, but how much can a company work within driving and keep it original? It’s not unexpected either. A game that makes money is going to be repeated. Your own favorite game was a sequel and while it wasn’t directly related to the first, would it have been made if Silent Hill had bombed?
        I don’t really see how first person perspective is equatable with masculine aggression, but it is a tool most often used with games that require aiming a gun/bow/magic/etc. so I think the aspects will blend in and skew the data. Shooting games are going to be aggressive and will generally have a male dominated audience, but every game, with the exception of DS titles like Cooking Mama, is designed for males 13-25 so I’d expect it would be impossible to collect legitimate data on perspective alone being the masculine element in a game.
        The gendering of games is going to be male dominated as long as men dominate the design side of the market. Research is pretty clear on women being open to playing videogames, but how many women want to play a game like Dead or Alive or GTA? I’m currently playing Fable III and it’s marketing towards women is hairstyles, makeup, and dying your clothes to match. It’s cyclical; women don’t buy games because they are objectified by them, so companies see males as their target audience and market more objectification and violence in games. As a result women still don’t buy games.
        Do you play games that could be classified FPS? Do you feel as though they are less connected to your gender because of their perspective? A lot of games now let you pick male/female to start, but how much does that effect gendering of a game? The game is identical other than the model of your character.


        November 1, 2010 at 3:14 am

      • I guess what I’m thinking about with the Madden games is the fact that other sports games (NHL, mainly) have had a lot of success in innovating their brand and I don’t see much of that from other sports franchises. And you are right: money is the bottom line. I suppose the idea of copying concepts isn’t one exclusive to video gaming, but innovation – some step forward in storyline or gameplay – is what sets good sequels apart (Fable is definitely included in that category). And although Silent Hill was enough of a success to spawn Silent Hill 2, the latter games in that series fall victim to lack of innovation.

        I’ll have to have at least one post relating to the gender dynamics of video games – it’s an interesting topic for me as a woman who really REALLY hates the way video games have been marketed to my sex. But, oh well… I like that most games don’t change in storyline based on the sex of your character. I play a lot of FPS games and have come to terms with the fact that, yes, they are marketed and designed more towards men. But, I like GTA, God of War, Call of Duty, etc… I think the real question is, why do companies feel the need to reinforce gender stereotypes in video games? It is cyclical, but why? Those questions have huge social implications I’m sure and it really boils down to are “gender differences/stereotypes” socially constructed or genetically innate?


        November 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm

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