spacer image
spacer image

Welcome! You're looking at an archived Snarkmarket entry. We've got a fresh look—and more new ideas every day—on the front page.

January 4, 2009

<< Zen Bound | Kevin on Rex >>

Games, Art, the Usual

John Lanchester in the LRB does what I thought was impossible: advances the state of the conversation about games and art a bit. He’s quite tough on video games, but reading his piece, you also get the sense that he actually plays lots of them. He knows his Fallout 3 from his LittleBigPlanet.

I like this line:

Miyamoto has, throughout his career, engaged with the question of arbitrariness by making his games more arbitrary, more silly — by making that silliness part of the fun.

And this seems like a fair verdict, for the time being at least:

Not all games are cynically, affectlessly violent, but a lot of them are, and this trend is holding video games back. It’s keeping them at the level of Hollywood blockbusters, when they could go on to be something else and something more.

I’ve gotten a bit bored with video games and meta-video-game commentary alike lately. I think my problem is so much of the innovation and excitement at the moment is around clever mechanics: the Wii, the iPhone’s touch controls, games like World of Goo and (see below) Zen Bound. And I am bored with that stuff. I want to see games with different content — and that’s why I like Lanchester’s piece.

(Via Matt P. and Rachel.)

Posted January 4, 2009 at 11:13 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Video Games


Huh. I read this and had the opposite reaction - i.e. I felt that it was a neat mainstream summation for people not in the know, but it didn't really provide any new insight. I know that sounds like I'm being snarky, but I'm not: I thought "wow, something on games in the LRB, this should be cool". But I think I was just disappointed with what felt like a dismissive attitude toward 'play' - as if it's something for children and not, as I believe, something we engage in every day. That may, however, be indicative of my own bias: I think gaming's most powerful moments are when the line between player and avatar becomes blurred, eliciting empathy in a manner I don't think is possible in film and literature.

Anyway, also wanted to say this: I'm not sure what's been going on the Snarkmatrix lately, but whatever it is, it's really really good. The posts recently have had my brain buzzing. Thank you!

Yeah, that's fair; I think what I responded to was the fact that the writer is neither clearly a gamer (i.e. lost in the matrix) or a non-gamer (i.e. "these kids and their games!") -- but somewhere in between. Which is kinda where I think I am these days, too.

In particular, I really liked his notes on difficulty. I think this is a really interesting observation:

Older media have largely abandoned the idea that difficulty is a virtue; if I had to name one high-cultural notion that had died in my adult lifetime, it would be the idea that difficulty is artistically desirable. It's a bit of an irony that difficulty thrives in the newest medium of all -- and it's not by accident, either. One of the most common complaints regular gamers make in reviewing new offerings is that they are too easy.

And hey, glad you are enjoying it! Thanks for hanging out here w/ us.

spacer image
spacer image