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Spore Dev Down On the Wii
What was disturbing to me about his rant was not what he said, but how ill-defined his terms were. He professed that Nintendo does not take gaming seriously as an art form. What is this "art" he speaks of? As someone who studies philosophy, it's very important to me that such an objective argument as "Nintendo hurts art" is defined properly.
When one speaks of art, they speak of aesthetics. What he argues is that function possesses the highest form of aesthetics. This is an extremely shaky ground for argument. One could easily weigh other factors of a game in with beauty... graphics, challenge, and enjoyment seem to be the pervasive accounts of beauty in gaming. Let's focus on these three and see if we can try to understand why Nintendo chose to focus on enjoyable rather than pretty and smarter games.
Graphics: Since the PS1, graphics seems to be the focus of most games. Higher texture density, more polygons, faster processing. These were what made a game "good" for a very very very long time. And while game sales were still increasing, more and more gamers were complaining that games seemed too much like their predecesors. Racing games were prettier, but they were still racing games. Fighting games had more characters with greater detail, but they were still fighting games. Sandbox games like GTA were getting sharper graphics and interfaces, but they were still GTA. Gamers were catching on that the industry is merely eating glitter to make the same old crap sparkle more.
Smarter: With the same old games comes the same old play. The only way to improve this is through design changes, which serves for temporary "newness" but quickly becomes associative in a near one-to-one nature from previous games in the genre. Final Fantasy games, for example, had a completely different play style from game to game, but functioned on the same basic prinicples as the last game (until 12). Fighting games may have different dynamics of button mashing and combo systems, but they were still button mashers. And racing games? Pfft. So in lieu of breaking the mold and trying to make games that challenge the mind in new ways, developers ... dare I say "in the box" developers... improve AI so that the same old game is harder to the same old player. While this may be nice when playing a genre game, I fail to see the argument that it has been applied artfully from system to system. Granted, it can be. It just has not thus far and I do not see a majority of developers as taking full advantage of it any time soon.
Enjoyability: Remember the first time you played a side fighter? Remember the first time you played a virtual fighter? Remember the first time you played an RPG? Remember the first time you played GTA? Wow, wasn't that fun? And so much so, it's had many gamers chasing the carrot on the stick for the companies that put out those games ever since. Remember the first time you played a 3D game with an analog stick? Do you remember all the other games you played using the same analog stick? That was enjoyment you got out of EVERY SINGLE GAME from a simple interface change. Nintendo has been the pioneer in that market since the Super Nintendo (and arguably sooner). Sure, they made a lot of sacrifices to graphics and processing power. But let's face it, the Wii is enjoyable. They chose a different definition of "art". To Nintendo, making games a social experience, making them widely available, and making them "fun" was what "art" is. To Nintendo, their system is THE system to progress video games as an "art form".
To say that Nintendo does not do for gaming as an art form as much as the other two major systems does is rather blind, I think. No other company has been as influential on the other two systems as Nintendo. Top buttons on the d-pad? Sony used it. Trigger buttons? XBox. Analog sticks? Sony and XBox. Force feedback through controller rumble? Sony took it again.. this time illegally. And now, full motion sensing capabilities... SONY TRIED TO COPY IT. So my question to this man would be, if a game is supposed to be art, and Nintendo is not art... then where does fun fit into the equation? I'd much rather have a peice of artless trash that was fun to play than a game that felt like an interactive screen saver.
In all fairness, the system has nothing to do with the art of a game. Shadows of the Colossus is a great example of a fun game, that was pretty, and used a system that was not Nintendo. If you think your art is hindered by what paint you use... you sir, are no artist.
All that aside, Spore looks fun.