Games as a form of art

Marzuque Mashrur Fariz

The history of me and games is extensive. Starting from when I was about 6-7ish I got egged on to play games. In the realm of consoles, there was Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Final Fantasy, Okami and Viewtiful Joe and in the limited world of pc games, there was GTA: Vice City, Road Rash, The Age of Empire and so many more I can’t remember right now. I lost countless school days due to my lack of attention because all I could think about was getting home to start playing games again. Suffice it to say, games were, and still are, an extremely large part of my life.

That said, the 8-year-old brain often lacks the ability to discern the beauty in art and as such, for the longest time, games were just a pastime with no value other than its entertainment. Though, all that changed when I discovered 

The Stanley Parable:

A game about an office worker in an (unexpectedly) deserted office with no one but the narrator accompanying the player. It is an absolutely surreal experience with winding narratives, eerie silences, the narrator who becomes his own person with grudges and things to say. It is a game that is extremely hard to describe but with this game, my mind started opening up to the possibilities of stories that could be told by this medium, which was again encompassed by 

Undertale:

A game about a little human who falls down into a hole full of monsters and tries to get out. Simple as the premise may be, each of the monsters in the game can be shown mercy instead of fighting. Each monster thinks of you, the player, as the actual monster and as you make your way through their world, you either confirm or challenge that assumption. The art is rudimentary and the music is just chiptunes but the story told in that little game would make anyone’s heart warm up and all of it made by a one-man team. 

That made me wonder what stories I missed in the games I played previously and I found a few more amazing stories in the catalog of games I’d finished in 

Blood will tell (Tezuka Osamu’s Dororo):

A game about a child who got his body torn apart by demons due to circumstances and who was given a new mechanical body by a craftsman who just happened to find him and the story revolves around him finding the demons and exacting revenge. (This game was later adapted into an anime last year named Dororo) 

Okami:

A game about how a wolf served the Shinto Sun Deity Amaterasu, to bring light into the world filled with characters from Japanese myths and folklore presented in an art style that still looks amazing 20 years later. 

I Then discovered an assortment of games that had an extremely heavy narrative influence. 

Presentable Liberty:

A Game about a man in what seems to be a prison who makes a few pen friends and spends his days with his pet spider. Through the game, you start to truly care for the characters in the game even though all you see are their names in the letters. They tell you stories, send you little trinkets and you begin to wonder why you’re even trapped, to begin with. Your heart pounds whenever there isn’t a letter but even the letters you get somedays are surreal. You do not get to reply, just observe, so everyone who writes to you is essentially writing to someone that may or may not even exist. After a series of events, when you get out, you make your way to the seemingly only building near the prison. A bakery that is owned by a woman who becomes one of your best friends yet when you enter the store, there is nothing there, nothing has been there in a while, and then the game ends. 

The very next day, I discovered a game called

That Dragon Cancer: 

A Game about a man and a woman and their two children. It is a game made by the couple and is about the journey and their feelings when their littlest was diagnosed with cancer. He was so young, he couldn’t even talk, couldn’t even express how he felt except with laughter and screams of agony. He’d done nothing wrong and yet, he suffered. The adventure deals with the little glimpses of hope as new treatments started, the prayers to God, doing everything they could to try to help their child. 

As well as a game called

The Beginner’s Guide:

Made by the same developer as the Stanley parable who guides you through a series of events through 2008-2011 about him and a friend by putting you in the games his friend made. These games are bizarre and the developer who is the narrator in this game tries to analyze these games to their fullest giving context as much as he could about his friend at the times he was making the games. Yet, in the end, we find out that the developer doesn’t know where his friend is anymore. They haven’t had contact in years and he just wants to find the person who helped him through some tough times in his life. So he published his friend’s games in a last desperate effort to find him, to find someone who could find him.

Games like these aren’t as fun to play for most people. But I choose to think about them more like movies, where the narrative takes the leading role to be it through narration, or through gameplay. Games are every bit as expressive as any other art form. You can play entire games without even knowing or paying attention to the story but just beneath the surface lies a world of amazing lore as seen in the Dark Souls Series. Dark Souls have some of the most complex, dark, gritty, intertwined narratives of any story I’ve ever seen yet all of it is optional for the player to find out if they are so inclined. And that is one of the beauties of games as a medium. Most games make the story optional or even hide the story in some cases in favor of tight gameplay and leave the story to be discovered by players that have the time or are just genuinely interested. And even without the story, they’re just amazing experiences in general. Examples of that would have to be the relatively new

Gris: 

A simple game where a magical girl tries to find her voice in a strange world. 

Or,

Celeste: 

A difficult platforming game about a girl climbing a mountain while she is shadowed by a dark version of herself. The mountain being climbed is different for everyone though the dark inner self trying to stop them is the same. 

Games are, in closing, an extremely interactive, multi-faceted way to tell a story that can lead to profound understandings about life. Like any other medium, games as a genre are evolving and the many tools in the arsenal of a game developer from art, to sound the characters or dialogues, the impossible circumstances could make any other form of art envious. In essence, games are as artistic as song, prose, film, or paper and the more people open up to games as an art form, the more amazingly beautiful games can be made. Though like any art form, this isn’t for everyone, so I won’t try to force you into liking games, but yes I do urge you to look at the games outside the mainstream to find the creative jumps they are making every day. 

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