McMillan’s Codex #1 by C.T. McMillan
Videogames today are going through a renaissance—kind of. Among the avalanches of annual shovel-ware titles are a few gems. Why, in this time of advanced development technologies are games suffering the same fate of the film industry? Why are there less art and more product?
The years before the 1980s were the decades of the auteur in Hollywood. Directors had near absolute control over their projects, free to do as they wished as long as they remained within the reasonable limits of budget.
The results were uncanny, giving way to such classics as The Godfather, Jaws, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars. It was not until director-controlled titles began to flounder and cost millions in losses that the entire system was rebuilt. No longer could directors do what they wanted without constant oversight from the producers. Gradually the quality of movies waned into degradation, reduced to soulless product.
While the decay of videogames did not happen in the same fashion, both instances are similar. I remember when games had a quality next to none in entertainment. Call of Duty was one such title, its gameplay and cinematic moments awe inspiring before everything changed.
With popularity comes a ferocious demand many developers are often too eager to supply. Less time was devoted to making something memorable in exchange for quick moments of entertainment like multiplayer gaming. Content was intentionally extracted from games and sold separately, compounding the burden on customers who already paid the full price.
But a few games are transcendent. Developers take their time making the experience worth more than a couple hours of single player fun and a vehicle for multiplayer. Every aspect of those games contains a depth not often seen in contemporary titles.
In “Games, stay away from art. Please,” Eric Zimmerman argues that video games are not worthy of being called art because they are not aesthetically compelling enough to be regarded as art museum masterpieces. Using art does not mean that a product, such as a video game, is itself art, just like art on the walls do not make a home or the life lived between those walls a work of art. Oddly, Zimmerman sees art as a dead thing.
I disagree with him about art, and more importantly I disagree with him about video games and their potential as fine art. Yes, video games are new, hybrid forms that take on qualities from a variety of sources. There is an emphasis on craft in video game creation that often seems at the expense of story, of vision. Craft allows for an assembly line of semi-fun titles.
But there are also games out there that are transformative. Such, along with some interesting detours, will be explored in in McMillan’s Codex.
C.T. McMillan is a film critic and a devout gamer. He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.