Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Final Project Proposal


·         The Chinese Room. Dear Esther. Steam (Independent), 14 Feb. 2012. PC.
o   This game is a unique example of what games can be in reference to art. The game is so unique that many ponder whether or not it is even a game at all due to the lack of apparent mechanics and gameplay. Controversy surrounding both of these facets of the game serve as the basis for my argument for games as art, as well as qualifications as to what qualifies as a “video game”.

·         Galactic Café. The Stanley Parable. Steam (Independent), 17 Oct. 2013. PC.
o   This game has come under criticisms very similar to that which Dear Esther has, in that it doesn’t include much in the way of “gameplay”, but is instead focused upon revealing narrative. However, unlike Dear Esther, this game reveals story points based upon (usually) mundane choices that the player makes, rather than have them be randomly generated. The narrative as well differs in general content to Dear Esther, with The Stanley Parable providing a satirical, comedic, and “meta” story that is meant to critically examine the relationship between the player, narrator, and a game’s narrative in general. By both contrasting and being similar to Dear Esther in different ways allows greater support of my argument. I intend to record a few play-throughs of the game to include in my sources, as it is not a game the entire class has played.

·         Allistair, Pinsof. "Review: Dear Esther." Rev. of Dear Esther. Web log post. Destructoid. N.p., 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
o   This is one of the original sources that were outlined by the “Reviewing the Reviewers” prompt. Although reviews (and especially video game ones) are subject to a great degree of publisher lobbying, those for independent games are generally honest and provide a great deal of insight on a game, especially one as controversial as Dear Esther. This will be used in order examine and qualify specifics when referring to the game is terms of both a game and an art form.

·         MacDonald, Keza. "Dear Esther Review." Rev. of Dear Esther. Web log post. IGN. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
o   Another review that will provide commentary specific to Dear Esther that will be used to support my argument. It will be used in an identical fashion to the review outlined above.

·         Raze, Ashton. "The Stanley Parable Review." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
o   This is a review from a UK based news site that covers a wide range of topics, including technology and video games. Just like the reviews for Dear Esther, this will be used to provide qualification and commentary towards specifics regarding The Stanley Parable when examining as a video game and as a form of art.

·         MacDonald, Keza. "The Stanley Parable Review." IGN. N.p., 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
o   How fitting that the MacDonald reviews both Dear Esther and The Stanley Parable. Again, this will be used in an identical fashion as previous reviews.

·         Ebert, Roger. "Video Games Can Never Be Art." Ebert Digital LLC, 16 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
·         Ebert, Roger. "Okay, Kids, Play On My Lawn." Ebert Digital LLC, 1 July. 2010. Web. 2 Nov. 2013.
o   These two entries to Ebert’s digital journal make up perhaps the most infamous argument against video games being considered art. A critical analysis of Ebert’s arguments ironically provide a great amount of evidence to contrary, and are particularly applicable to both Dear Esther and The Stanley Parable.

·         Smuts, Aaron. "Are Video Games Art?" Contemporary Aesthetics. University of Wisconsin, 2 Nov. 2005. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
o   This is an academic paper that argues for video games as a form of art. Although his argument is obviously in line with mine, he provides direct and specific counters to Ebert’s points, notably his constant references and comparisons concerning chess. The paper is well documented and makes incredible use of more “general” video games to support its argument, such as Max Payne, Halo, and Splinter Cell.


            My argument for my final project is very similar to that of my past revision; Dear Esther can be considered a video game, and that the medium can be considered a form of art. Unlike my previous essays on the topic, I will this time be including an additional game, The Stanley Parable. The game comes under similar criticism and praise that Dear Esther has, while also being different enough in terms of style and narrative to provide an additional example of how a game can be unconventional, but still meet all the requirements to be classified as both a video game and art. I plan to elaborate in a similar manner on The Stanley Parable as I did with Dear Esther, and examine how game mechanics and narrative serve to support my proposed classifications. Since I have revised this argument in the past, I will also be refining my analysis of Dear Esther as well. The counter-argument to my position is that Dear Esther and The Stanley Parable are not games, and that video games cannot be considered art. The first part of this counter is supported by the lamentations of reviewers of each game, stating and either challenging or agreeing with the generalized criticism that each has been subject to. The second, although fairly straightforward, is supported by Ebert’s infamous journal writings on the subject, which will examined and challenged by myself.

          Video games are an ever-growing part of the enormous array of entertainment that is presented to us every single day. However, unlike film, television, and music, they are constantly down-played in their cultural and artistic significance. It is because of this that the reader should care about the argument, as a medium that is now commonplace in today’s culture may very well be ignored in its significance when it should rather be held to the same value as a medium such as film. Of course, this is then supported by research and examples, as well as an acknowledgement and disproval of the counterargument. Interest comes from not only the argument itself, but also the implications of considering video games art that arise from that conclusion.

          Inclusion of Marcuse in this final project essay is not something that I feel will be overtly beneficial, but I am considering using his philosophy to assist in forming a concrete definition of art and how it affects our culture.

          My previous revisions of this argument are by no means poorly formed I feel, but are rather generalized or otherwise vague when they need be more concrete and specific. I hope to improve on both that aspect as well as solidly define what qualifications are required for a digital experience to be considered a game, and then further pin down exactly what is considered art. This causes my discussion of Ebert’s counter-argument, which is also in need of some additional explication, to appear far frailer than it should. Specifically, in the area where I refer to the random nature of Dear Esther’s story and how understanding grows over multiple play-throughs, the summary could be toned down, although the main issue is that a concrete stance needs to be stated as to why and how they are important, and how the mechanic works towards classifying Dear Esther as a video game. However, I feel there is quite a bit of potential in this previous revision to use a basis for a more in depth discussion, so opting for more intense revision as well as addition of more content as opposed to scrapping everything and attempting to form the argument again would not be beneficial.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Both the bibliography and the proposal are fundamentally good. I only have a couple comments.

First, I think you want to be very clear - at least to yourself, and likely in the essay - about what is at stake when we ask whether certain video games are, or video games in general, can be art. Why does it matter? Clearly it matters to you, and that takes us part of the distance. But why should it matter to all of us?

That relates to the second question. I see Marcuse as being potentially more relevant to this project than you think. After all, Marcuse has a very clear agenda for the purpose of art, and a very clear sense that making *real* art in a modern world filled with mass entertainment is somewhere between challenging or impossible. What I'm suggesting is that Marcuse could help you formulate a more theoretical argument (for instance, that video games can present a true challenge to the mass culture from which they emerge) or counterargument (Marcuse, although writing in the prehistory of video games, is potentially a stronger critic of them than Ebert could ever be).

I hope all of that makes sense, and it's not that I think you absolutely must use Marcuse. But nor am I convinced that using Ebert as your main theorist will really help you achieve your full potential, either.