Opinion: Girls Fart - Gaming At The Anatomical Level

In his latest opinion piece, feisty Reset Generation/Pocket Kingdom co-creator Scott Foe explains, via circuitous means, why saying 'games aren't art' is like saying 'girls don't fart.'
[In his new Gamasutra opinion piece, following his ruminations on resumes and his advice on 'being a Wiener', Reset Generation/Pocket Kingdom co-creator Scott Foe explains why saying 'games aren't art' is like saying 'girls don't fart.'] Looking back, I was either single-minded or just plain unthinking, but, by the age of twenty-one, I had accomplished the one goal to which I had ever set myself: That first year of legal drinking encapsulated my first day of gainful employment in the games industry. (To be fair, legal drinking doesn't mean very much to someone who has lived in Japan.) That first day at Sega was even better than the Christmas when Santa forgot that I had handcuffed my baby brother to the towel rack in the bathroom. I had, count'em, not-one-but-two Dreamcast development kits on my desk - my desk, in my cube, at Sega, where I was going to be making videogames, for profit, and would soon be on a first-name basis with Sonic the Hedgehog. ("Yo! Sonic! What's up hawg?") And, even better, my co-workers were going to leave me alone for a whole week - leave for some event in Los Angeles called "E3." Crazy people! Who would want to leave one's very own cube, leave one's very own Dreamcast development kits for sweaty, smoggy Los Angeles? (Little did I know that only there, at E3, could one actually pose for pictures with a real, living, breathing female!) I was to myself in candy land, the most curious candy being the stack of "Fishing Controllers" sitting right outside of my cubicle wall. It was time to get to work... A bobble-headed figure spun slowly on the display. When you took the fishing controller in your hand and gave a flick of your wrist, the figure's head bounced dreamily as it squealed - the figure and I had oddly similar voices. It was "Creamcast: The Sadomasochism Simulator," and it was more than the yield from my hurried study of 3D Studio MAX, affine transformations, and audio buffering sample code. It was more than my one-and-only stint as a voice-actor. Creamcast was the product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses and emotions. It was the use of (frighteningly limited) skills to produce an aesthetic result. Creamcast was the application of (somewhat off-center) imagination in the creation of an experience that could be shared with others. In a word, it was a work of art. Status Anxiety Alain de Botton is, in this writer's opinion, not only the greatest philosopher of the information age, but also the only philosopher of the information age who is deserving of being remembered by posterity as having a gravity the likes of Plato. de Botton puts forth in his to-now masterpiece, Status Anxiety, that human anxiety born of one's societal status is almost wholly a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. Put simply, when we were serfs and royalty, the serfs might have been envious of the royalty, but most all serfs lived the same meager lives, eating the same meager bread - serfs were together in their misery. Fast forward to today, and we need not look very far to find next-door neighbors living wildly different (disparate) levels of opulence. How can my next-door neighbor afford to drive a Beamer? Wow: My co-worker has a completely flash watch. (I'll bet she makes more than I do.) These uncomfortable (and often, distracting) feelings weren't feelings at all in the days when a great night out meant burning a witch on top of a pile of hay and a bad night's sleep meant having used all of the hay from our beds to burn a witch. The Industrial Revolution was a revolution in stress. The Industrial Revolution might not have created industries, but it sure did revolutionize them, or at least, that's probably when we started anthropomorphizing them. I hear all the time that the games industry is the "red-headed stepchild" of Hollywood. (Which, of course, makes the mobile games industry the dog under the porch.) A few years back, the games industry became more upset than a tropical penguin when luminary film critic Roger Ebert conceded that, while games are art, we as an industry will never produce a work of, "high art." Two words for you: Industry Anxiety. An Equilateral Triangle Games cannot be "high art," so said Ebert, because the attributes of games have "more in common with sports." Well, Ebert was slightly right (or should I say, slightly "Wright"), only in that games are also "sports." Will Wright, the creative masthead of the games industry today, years ago identified and communicated the anatomy of games, an observation that has since shown up more often than a main character with a crew cut, but an observation worth repeating, none the less. (Side note: They say we have so many crew cut heroes because "hair is hard to render," but that's Pikachu pucky: We thinning, aging game designers want to project the idea that we're still hard.) Games are Story: A chronology of events. That happened, then that happened, then that happened. Games are Hobby: Experimentation and outcome. If I do this, then this happens; if I do that, then that happens. Games are Sport: Win, lose, or tie. I did that, and I failed; I did that, and I succeeded. Hobby
 /  \ 
/    \ 
Story--Sport Note: Should be an equilateral triangle, but my ascii-art sucks.) That's gaming at the anatomical level: Any game falls somewhere on the Hobby/Story/Sport Graph. At the molecular level, games are a tapestry of visual artistry, audio artistry, narrative artistry, thespianism, as well as design and technological ingenuity, the final composition of which (or pieces in part) can rival any other experience known (or unknown) to man. (Even divorce court!) I, for one, grow so weary of the pretense of question that games are or can someday be "high art." Saying, "Games aren't art," is like saying, "Girls don't fart." It's pointless to argue with that sentiment. Both movies and games are the product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses and emotions. In a movie, anything can happen; in a game, everything can happen. [About the Author: Scott Foe was creator/producer of Nokia’s critically acclaimed cross-platform game Reset Generation, and has worked on titles including Sega’s Pocket Kingdom: Own the World, the first global, massively multiplayer mobile game. Foe began his decade-long industry career as a member of the Dreamcast product development team at Sega. A game made him cry, once: He found one of the missions in Jak II so difficult that he threw his controller and burst into tears.]

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