Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Prompt 1

Prompt 1: Dear Esther Review
Image 1
Imagine that you are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. You stumble upon an exhibit which displays three paintings, each with a long caption underneath. The first is a painting of mountain, covered with a mist. You can see the red light of a radio tower in the distance. The second painting is a beautifully crafted cave. The cave is so vivid that you can almost feel the water around your ankles. The third picture is of the sea. On the sea there are twenty-one tiny paper boats which appear to have writing on them. Each caption is an excerpt from a letter to a woman named Esther. You don’t know exactly what to think of the exhibit, but you can’t help being interested by it. In this context, this exhibit would obviously be considered art. What if instead of viewing the paintings, a machine allowed you to temporarily live in the world of the three paintings. Would this still be considered art? To me, this form of art (video games) is no different than the paintings.
Many people in our culture today are extremely reluctant to accept video games as an art form. Few would argue that storytelling, music, and drawing are art forms. However, when these three art forms are combined into a well-designed video game, the video game is not considered to be art. This argument is especially troubling to me because many role playing video games are no different than movies which are widely accepted to be an art form. The video game critic from Destructoid argues with good cause that the game probably should have been made into a film. With that being said, the interactive experience these games provide is fresh and should be embraced and expanded as an art form.
Image 2
While it does have many flaws, Valve’s video game Dear Esther is an art form. It is an art form because it is a manmade medium of conveying ideas or emotions to the player. IGN’s Keza MacDonald sums it up well as “a piece of visualized fiction.” Just like many of my favorite art works, the obscurity of the game is what makes it so interesting. Even with the help of the narrator and the visuals of the island, it is extremely difficult to sum up exactly what the game is about. However this obscurity does not stop the player from feeling the damp, coldness of the island and the caves. (Image 2) It does not stop a chill from running down your spine as a haunting piano piece starts to play as you approach the paper boats. (Image 3) Another element of art we see in the game is acting. Acting is considered to be one of the oldest forms of art. The narrator of this story does a nice job of conveying the desperation and hopelessness of the tormented protagonist. His voice guides you through the game by being a check point in your progress of the game and in your understanding of his story.
Image 3
Although I consider this game to be a piece of art, I do not consider the terms video games and art to be mutually exclusive. Think of it this way, if you place a crayon in a three year old’s hand will their scribbles be considered art. Not to most people. Just as a mindless sports game is most likely not considered art by most people. To me video game becomes an art when it ceases to be merely a form of entertainment. In fact, I didn’t find Dear Esther to be entertaining, or fun. As both the reviews read, the game isn’t much more than holding down the “w” key and walking through the landscape. Often times I became lost or confused along the way. Not to mention the fact that the interaction between the player and environment was minimal and misused. However, the several artistic aspects of this game force the game to be taken seriously as an art form.
If video games are an art, is Dear Esther a masterpiece? To most people, it is not. With that being said, most pieces of art that are created are not hung in a museum or played on the radio. Dear Esther is ambitious and makes us think and feel for two hours, much like a movie. In conclusion, if storytelling, music, and visual art are all different forms of art, it is extremely difficult to say that video games are not.

Works Cited:
MacDonald, Keza. "Dear Esther Review." IGN. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.

Pinsof, Allistair. "Review: Dear Esther." Destructoid. N.p., 2 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.


Nikki Moriello said...

Hey Jared,
I totally agree with your argument that Dear Esther is art, and your essay clearly states and proves this, but I think it could use a little work. Everything you say is valid, but I find the whole essay to be a bit vague and generalized. You directly mention the narrator's acting in his lines and this is a great opportunity to include a quote from one of the articles that discusses his voice and how it haunts the players.
You talk about how the game could be depicted as a movie, but you don't really go into why this is true.
I really like when you describe the effect that the game has on you when you say that even though you know it's an obscure game, you still feel the damp coldness and the chill running through your spine. I think this has potential to go into the discussion of the emotions the game elicits from the player, which is an important thing to note if you want to compare the game to art, I think, at least, because art usually elicits some emotional response.
So overall, I think your essay is a really good more-than outline for a revision essay. I think you just need to go through and elaborate more on your points and add some key details and examples from the reviews and the game.

Adam said...

I love the first paragraph. It's specifically engaged with the game, but from a highly personal and focused angle. Also, it is well and clearly written. This is surely one of the best beginnings to an essay from anyone in the class this semester.

After that, you stumble a little. It's not that anything thereafter is absurd or useless - it's that it lacks the close connection to the details of the game itself that you had in the first paragraph. You stay on the level of generalization, saying things about video games as a whole, or art as a whole, rather than drawing those conclusions from (or in relationship to) the details of the game. It's curious that you find Dear Esther to be a work of art, but abandon any attempts to discuss or interpret that art, in favor of a bunch of generalizations.

You might, for instance, have engaged in a more extended analysis of your chosen images (good ones), rather than using them, effectively, as illustrations for the essay.