Interactivity and Games as an Artform

17 March 2007 (games) (9 comments)

This Gamasutra piece discussing if computer games should be considered art bought to my mind a recent experience, one that I think offers a significant adage to this debate.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought Psychonauts for the PS2, conviced by NoobToob, and the fact that it's written by Tim Schäfer (man, did I love Day of the Tentacle) that it's going to be a great game with clever humour. So I started it up with great anticipation, and was soon disappointed. While it delivered on the humour front, as a game, it was a pain in the ass to play, due to unbearable loading times and frequent framedrops and slowdowns.

Now, what does this have to do with our subject? Well, it got me thinking about how I nearly always finish movies or books I start. No matter how boring and pompous, sitting through a movie is never really tedious. There are lots of movies where shitty execution covers an otherwise solid concept, and I'm sure everyone's read books that are poorly written yet have messages that are definitely worth absorbing.

But if it's a game, and even one that shows so much promise for its writing as does the first couple of levels in Psychonauts, if I have to waste 20-30 seconds each time I go from one place to another looking at a boring "loading..." screen, sooner rather than later I'm going to say "fuck that shit" and just not care what witty humour awaits in the next room.

And this is not the same as whining about superficial stuff like graphics. Take Shadow of the Colossus, for instance. After I've finished this truly marvelous game, I've read on a lot of sites how horrible its graphics and textures are by today's standards. But when I was playing it, I was so overwhelmed by the experience, as opposed to the sensation, that even at this point I still can't look at screenshots and not be awed.

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yuzo ( 2007-03-18 01:36:48

Which version of Psychonauts were you playing? I played the Xbox version and didn't see any framedrops or slowdowns, and the loading times were pretty short. Did you play the PC version? It'd be unfortunate if you couldn't enjoy the full genius of the game due to a platform problem..

cactus 2007-03-18 09:28:53

Hi Yuzo!

Wow, are you guys doing some heavy HTTP referer log digging? Or how did you find this? Thanks for the reply!

I don't have an XBox, and I don't play on my PC, because I don't use Windows. Eight or ten years ago I kept a Windows partition for gaming, but the hassle of rebooting just wasn't worth it.

I may have a look at Psychonauts again in the future if I have nothing else to play, and if there's really going to be a Wii version, I'll definitely buy that. But for the moment, I'll have to pass up on Psychonauts.

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