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When We Start Playing Oscar-Winning Movies

And the Academy Award for best MMORPG goes to...

by
Jon Bishop

Bio

April 30, 2012 - 2:15 pm

 

Pace, Kathy Shaidle. That a few large, hirsute, awkward men enjoy things like video games does not mean the medium can be dismissed. Video games continue to approach the artistic quality of films — and they should be taken seriously.

For example: L.A. Noire premiered one year ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it received “Official Selection” honors.

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Heavy Rain, released two years ago by French developer Quantic Dream, received rave reviews. Yet some hesitated to refer to the title as a game. They instead thought of it as a movie.

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Both Rockstar, which developed L.A. Noire, and Quantic Dream lead the industry in producing soaring, serious titles. And they  utilize the latest technology in order to give gamers the best possible experience. Rockstar’s latest release Max Payne 3 already received recognition for its expectation-twisting use of technology. Quantic is developing an innovative engine that utilizes motion-capture technology.

These companies and the work they produce push the boundaries as to what constitutes a mere “game.” Some in the film industry appear to be taking notice. BAFTA — the British Academy of Film and Television Arts — recognizes achievement in the video game industry, which they started to do in 1998.

The Smithsonian recently unveiled an exhibit that explores the growth of the industry. It was featured in the Washington Post.

But games still struggle to receive wider recognition from critics. Roger Ebert, in a piece that responded to a TED Talk by Kellee Santiago, noted that games “can never be art.” He said that art should properly imitate life and video games, as they have ends and objectives, do not. He wrote:

One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.

Is life not ordered? Do we, as men, not have ends? These are the questions one might raise in response to Ebert, and other, critics of video games — especially since most of today’s games begin as screenplays.

But the criticisms, though shaken, still stand. The game industry needs to grasp something revolutionary before designers can begin taking home awards like ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director.’ With the latest pushes in technological development, though, that might be soon enough.

Jon Bishop likes to write.
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