Indie Experience Points: Games As Art
From watching Indie Game: The Movie, one of the most striking features I came to notice about many of the indie developers creating their own content and games, is that their development process for a game was personal, financially unstable and creatively straining. A process which is similar to that of an artist. The documentary clearly expresses that association of an artist producing art for the sake of art, and in Indie Game: The Movie the indie developers are developing games for the sake of ‘games’, and an emotional involvement which supercedes monetary gains and sales numbers.
This, of course brings to point the ‘games as art’ argument which is one of the many debates that consumes internet trolling among many forums with Roger Ebert, a famous film critic, being the biggest proponent against the whole argument’s validity. Oddly enough, it was from Ebert’s Facebook page that the whole argument reared its ugly head once more, and the haters and supporters debated heavily the implications of considering games as art. This all arose from a single thread involving a review of Indie Game: The Movie. So it’s clear to see that tensions are still high across the flame-inducing battleground that is the internet. According to US law, games are technically considered ‘art’. Any foibles with technicalities inside the US are limited.
But when it comes to games, and indie games as in this column, why many people want games to be considered art is for the recognition the label brings with it. The validation that the work of an indie developer, as shown in the film, is not some form of ‘low’ culture which games are consistently thought of as, but something far deeper.
That games can be above commercialism and become a testament to important messages that developers and indie developers alike wish to convey. These messages aren’t necessarily life-changing pieces of artwork in the traditional sense but engage people on a ‘human’ level playing with vulnerabilities, fears and feelings. Many indie developers as part of the process end up imparting personal reflections of themselves into their own games; the game becomes a reflection of the creator.
Paraphrasing Phil Fish, from the Indie Game: The Movie, the beauty of games are that they are every single medium combined and made ‘interactive’. If everyone had realisations like this games could move beyond the capacity of simple entertainment. However, this comes down to acceptance of videogames as culturally important as any piece of art is. Contrary to this, many still relegate games and even indie ‘art’ games as nothing more than entertainment and just don’t get the point of a game.
This was made apparent in the film when Jonanthan Blow, the creator of Braid, talked about his responses and feelings towards people’s understanding of Braid which he felt were ‘limited’. He focussed on people misinterpreting the game and seeing the surface depth of the game, the gameplay and visuals, and not the ‘message’ of the game. That’s the problem, a great portion of people engage games on the level of visuals and appearance. In order for games to be considered ‘art’ we need to move past that. But do we really need to move past that, and should we consider games as art? Even indie games?