It sounds like a bad joke (and thanks to me, a bad title of a blog post), but it’s the truth about the evolving state of MMO development. With today’s hullaballoo about Guild Wars 2’s fashion design (which looks absolutely enticing from an artistic perspective), it’s become clearer and clearer just how diverse and involved the development of an MMO has become. Studios hire economists to help develop functioning economies in a game, linguists to create a tongue for some of their game’s races to use, and of course fashion designers to get the looks of their character’s just right. Well that’s a bit of a misnomer. Kristen Perry’s not a fashion designer, she’s a character artist for ArenaNet. But hot damn, looking at the characters highlighted in the blog, she (and the rest of the team working alongside her) could likely get a job on any number of film and television sets making sure the actors look appropriate.
So that title’s a bit off given the fact that Kristen is not a fashion designer. But what I’m really trying to convey is the increasing compartmentalizing of game design. More and more game development is becoming something akin to Hollywood. Budgets are inflating, the credits which run after you beat the title are longer and longer, and the launch of hotly anticipated titles are surpassing the earnings of some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters… a fact that is certainly partially owed to the high cost of our hobby, but still. It’s worth mentioning.
Roger Ebert famously defies the growing opinion that games are indeed art. And to that I must simply remind the man that he knows film. He does not know games. For that reason alone he may never understand why Ico and Shadow of the Collossus are such a big deal to so many enthusiasts. He is a film critic, and he knows a great deal about that medium, but unless he's got some insane jonesing for Pac-Man or God of War tucked under his belt somewhere I doubt he has much authority to determine whether or not videogames qualify as an artform.
When I sit down to play Alan Wake later, I'm no doubt going to be moved by the narrative as I have been by so many thousands of movies I've seen over the years. The developer had a slew of artists and writers, a director, and so many people working on the actual systems. And any programmer will likely tell you that writing code is not so much a science as it is an artform. So how is Remedy's new Xbox game any different than the next film you go see, outside of the fact that it's interactive and not a passive experience?
I'm not really sure where I'm going with all this. Ms. Perry's costume work for Guild Wars 2 just strikes me as yet another step of videogame development being closer to film production and I felt the need to prattle on about it.
What do you think? Are games art, have they always been, or will they never be?