Why Video Games Are Not An Inferior Art

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Author of the bestselling series The Witcher, Andrzej Sapkowski, has talked about the success of CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) and how it has harmed the accomplishments of his original source material. He has claimed the new fans of the novels that the video games have brought in are under the impression that Sapkowski’s books were written as an adaptation, and is often having to ‘explain to fans that [he] wrote the books 12 years before the game was made’.

He also argues that he is the one who made the games popular, as the English translations of the novels came out before. While this may be wildly inaccurate, it is also no secret that the games came second and this has been openly confirmed by CDPR. There are some deviations from the novels, but that is down to the creative team of CDPR, who have Sapkowski’s blessing to use the books as the basis of their games.

As someone who both loves and studied literature, I can understand to a degree Sapkowski’s frustrations. I hold literature in high esteem, and there have been many books that have been butchered by the entertainment industry. However, one of my qualms is that the author is rather open about only being in this partnership from a financial angle, in which case I wonder if he really has a leg to stand on when making complaints.

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CDPR’s depiction of Geralt of Rivia battling a Fiend

It comes with the territory of creating a world that is dear to you that people will interpret and twist it in ways that you may not necessarily agree with. Sapkowski does acknowledge that nothing will take away the fact that the original Witcher is his, but he then goes on to say that he does not know anyone who has played the video game adaptations as he keeps intelligent company.

Cue irritation.

Sapkowski did claim that these comments were made to create a ‘storm in a teacup’, but unfortunately this attitude towards video games is not uncommon amongst the masses. There are still those who blame games for acts of violence and for creating generations of lazy and socially inept people. To these people, I simply ask you to look beyond. Games are not always about pointing and shooting at something and/or someone. Believe it or not, there are skills that can be learned from playing them, and video games have always been a beautiful art form.

Problem solving, reactions and comprehension are all things that are required to progress in most games. Interacting with the game’s universe to complete objectives sounds easy in theory, but when you throw in additional features such as resource management, character interactions, timed quests, hidden items, secret areas, difficult boss battles and so on, the video game becomes much more of a challenge for the player.

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Evolution of Lara Croft, 1996 – present

The slideshow that I have included at the very beginning of this post is but a snapshot into the catalogue of games that have been released over the past few years. Each and every one of them are unique in their own wonderful ways, and each of them are beautiful for different reasons. With no context behind the pictures, they look like the work of talented artists with keen imaginations. In which case, it is baffling when video games as a whole are seen as inferior to traditional art.

The progression of video games is also astounding. Take Lara Croft, as pictured above, for instance. She is one of video gaming’s most iconic characters, and is a force to be reckoned with in her respective appearances in games. Her initial appearance is simplistic by today’s standards, and it is clear she was embellished to appeal to the male demographic, but if look at today’s Lara you will see significant changes.

Lara Croft, as she appears in Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015), now seems much more true to life than ever. Designers abandoned her anatomical exaggerations and breathed new life into her. Using motion capture, Lara now moves like a real person in-game, and in the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider, the new subsurface light scattering allows for light to pass through her skin before it is redirected. Each strand of her hair also moves realistically, and these are improvements that have been made within 20 years.

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Development of The Legend of Zelda‘s protagonist, Link, from Nintendo’s Hyrule Historia

Video games are an immersive experience, and it succeeds in this by doing things that books, television and film simply cannot. You can make seats move during a film in a cinema, but the novelty wears off and becomes comical after a while. Video games force you to become involved in its universe and you help along the story it has to tell. Many developers now opt for a game that has multiple endings so as to create as unique of an experience for their players as possible, which cannot be achieved in conventional entertainment.

The horror genre of video games in particular has thrived on this. You are able to passively watch an actor or read about a character walking into a dangerous situation, but to actually move that character yourself adds a new layer of terror that was previously unheard of.  Being stalked by something that can only be dreamt up in your worst nightmares is truly frightening, and when your only options are to run, hide, fight or die, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Everything about a video game is put down to hours of grueling work to create something incredible. From rendering a blade of grass to the awe-inspiring soundtracks to create the best possible environment and atmosphere for the player. On top of this, the player has free roam of the virtual universe and when you break this down, it feels almost inconceivable. Yet brilliant games keep coming at us, and I know I’ll be waiting with arms wide open.

There is a game out there for everyone, whether you like to challenge yourself with puzzles, tremble in fear with a horror game or just have a laugh with friends or family.

You’ll only find the right one for you by playing them.

 

 

 

 

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