Snakes On A Plain Biscuit

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’d like to remind our readers that Tarquin’s opinions do not necessarily coincide with those of anybody else at Critical Gamer. Tarquin’s views are only guaranteed to represent the views of Tarquin.

You’ve seen the movie Snakes On A Plane, right? No, me neither. It is by all accounts a terrible film however, that only got made due to internet hype that never translated into ticket sales. A shoddy unprofessional effort, that somehow snagged Samuel L. Jackson so it had a professional, talented face to show to the world. This reminds me of the games industry, and its laughable attempts to convince governments and mainstream media that it mass produces valid art.

I’m passionate about videogames, but that doesn’t mean that I have to consider them an art form. I love my nan, but that doesn’t change the fact that she stinks of piss. Sure, conceptually you could convincingly argue that games such as Flower, Limbo, Bioshock and Everyday Shooter are art. Aesthetically you could waffle on about games like Okami, Valkyria Chronicles, LittleBigPlanet, Wind Waker, and MadWorld. Nonetheless, the vast majority of videogames are uninspired and uninspiring – 99% of games are to art what shit is to haute cuisine.

Let’s look at what you might first think of when you hear the word ‘art’; paintings, statues, fuzzy felt, that kind of thing. Traditional art is primarily about manipulating emotions, and innovation. This is often (though admittedly not always) why great artists prosper and piss poor ones dissolve into obscurity. Innovation is an unexploded bomb waiting to go off at any second, unfortunately, and is not always a good thing. That’s why modern art has evolved into something that could reward you with the Turner prize for recording a wet fart in a darkened room.

All publishers want to manipulate is your bank account, and innovation? Innovation in the games industry? Hah! I’ll gladly admit that things are slowly getting better, but not by much. Just look at Sony and Microsoft copying Nintendo with their latest motion sensing input devices (kudos to Microsoft for simultaneously copying Sony). Games themselves fare no better at all. The industry is constantly recycling the same five games:

  • Run and gun shooter with musclebound oiks and dynamic cover (Gears of War)
  • Open – world platformer/shooter, with vehicles to steal or free running to indulge in (GTA/Assassins Creed)
  • FPS with regenerating health, black and white simple good guys/bad guys, heavily scripted set pieces, lots of foreigners/aliens to shoot, and/or instant melee kills (XP obsessed online multiplayer compulsory) (Call of Duty/Halo)
  • Racer that combines real world cars with arcade elements (MSR [AKA Project Gotham])
  • Dull minigame compilation (for the sake of argument, Mario Party)

In addition, true art now and again makes a real effort to make an important point or achieve an ambitious goal. Surrealism was about more than painting badgers shitting pianos; it was a concerted effort by a group of artists, encompassing several different mediums, to undermine society through the power of their art. Leader of the movement, André Breton, even wrote a manifesto.

The Persistence Of Memory. Salvador Dali, 1931.

Another important thing to remember is that art lasts. Many classic movies from the first half of the 20th century can be easily found and purchased for home viewing, and are often shown on television. Some highly revered pieces of music and traditional art have been preserved and appreciated for centuries. If the games industry is serious about presenting its output as art, it needs to stop relying so heavily on the advancement of technology and discontinuation of formats. For example, Super Mario Land on the Gameboy was released in 1989, and went on to sell 14 million units worldwide. Today however – just over 20 years later – both it and its host console are out of production, with no way of easily and legally playing it.

If the industry can’t show any respect for itself, how does it expect anybody else to show any?

The industry and the games it pumps out do not, as a rule, have any ideals higher than making a quick buck. Derivative and unimaginative shit make up the bulk of what sits on shop shelves – even the games that are fun to play. The videogames market today is a whirlpool of short – lived extremes; depressingly shallow family – friendly mini games jostle for sales alongside games that throw misguided street talk, pixellated gore, and blocky tits in your face. There are still of course intelligent games in there – somewhere.

Publishers and console manufacturers are trying to force feed the world at large Snakes On A Plain Biscuit (see, the title wasn’t just a half arsed play on words). A harmless luxury enjoyed by millions completely hidden by poisonous, homogeneous, sinister looking things that make people keep their distance. And this is supposed to be art? The worst thing is, many people believe that it is.

It’s an emotionally disturbing tragedy, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Oedipus first attempted re – entry.

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Written by Tarquin X

He hates you and everything you stand for.

3 comments

  1. half_empty80 /

    I don’t have anything to add on the games/art thing, but I do agree the long term lastability of games are a concern. When the current gen is long replaced for example, the online features aren’t going to be around. You can play old games on Nintendo’s virtual console, but the original hardware is scarce. I’d disagree with you on Snakes on a Plane though, it’s a perfectly acceptable way to waste an hour and a half on an enjoyable, trashy action film.

  2. Michael J /

    I thought we were barred from straying into the ‘are games art’ territory!

    Joking aside, the people who are attempting to make a case for games as art are often not the same people who are actually making the games, but more people who feel they have a responsbility to represent their hobby/career in the best light possible – So intelligent discerning consumers and a handful of journalists.

    For me gaming is still very young and these debates are premature. For many years film was not credited as an art-form, at least not high-art. It was seen as popular or low art, which basically means it’s shit gobbled up by the masses, but the elitist cultural guardians didn’t accept it’s artistic value.

    Games can fall fairly easily into a pop-art category, but I think gaming still has a way to go before people will see it as an accepted art-form and y’know fifa is never going to be art.

    • Michael J /

      Also – mainstream film, photography etc don’t need to represent themselves as art, they are sold as entertainment. The arguement is not are all games art, it’s are some games art. Indie games like machinarium with it’s beautiful hand drawn worlds stake a beter claim to being artistic than Super Mario Land

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