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DragonKnight

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Video Games Can Never Be Art So Long As PR Bows To Pressure

I was going to write up a blog about the importance of characters like Princess Peach and Princess Zelda in their respective games, but I decided to table that in favour of a more pressing issue.

If you hadn't heard by now, Sony bowed to the pressure of White Knights all over the internet and changed the name of the God of War Ascension trophy from "Bros before Hos" to "Bros before Foes". Sony Santa Monica issued a typical PR statement about creating a patch that will change the name due to some complaints about the previous name hindering the enjoyment of the game for some players.

Before I get into the meat of my blog, allow me to pull out the world's smallest violin and begin playing. This is without a doubt the stupidest, most unnecessary "controversy" that forced a PR action in this gen yet.

I'm not going to talk about how wrong the White Knights are in claiming misogyny and thus implying that Sony Santa Monica are misogynists (which is a very damaging term) for a trophy that had no hate against women. I'm not even going to focus on more than this point that hundreds of people don't even realize that the context of the trophy **SPOILER ALERT** HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH KRATOS SMASHING THE FURY'S HEAD IN and is in fact about Orkos (sp?) choosing to help Kratos over his mother who happens to be the Fury that tried to kill Kratos. **END SPOILERS** No, this blog is going to be about the bowing to pressure and how that act and the fact that any publisher/developer can be forced into a position to do so as well will always compromise the "Games as Art" ideology.

The ideology of Games being viewed as Art originally came to life in an attempt to block politicians from passing any form of legislation that would heavily censor video games to the point where only family friendly games would exist. The reason why such legislation could even be conceived of is thanks to the concerted efforts of many parties to label video games as the cause of violence in youth that resulted in things like mass school shootings. Since then, the ideology has evolved to one that exists to help video games be seen by society as a legitimate art form that should be taken seriously and not be viewed as the hobby of children.

We all should know that Art is a form of expression, and as a form of expression its very existence hinges on the allowance of that expression to be free of censorship and outside influences to change its inherent intent and meaning. For video games to truly be considered as Art, they have to be able to tackle any subject that can be expressed for the world to see, hear, and otherwise ingest into their consciousness and do so without fear or worry of the ramifications that will be brought about by the philistines of the world who will take offense to even the smallest thing.

Any who contribute to the censorship, or violation, of the inherent right to freedom of expression that legitimate Art is granted also contributes to the devaluing of that Art and makes the implication that the subject is NOT Art but a publicly owned commodity that can be changed at the whim of any individual looking for something to be offended by.

Sony Santa Monica changing the name of the trophy implies that they were wrong, and misogynistic, to allow their female producer to name the trophy as she did. Despite the fact that there is no hate in the name, that the most vocal opposition has been from men and not women, and that the woman who named the trophy herself isn't offended, the wrong party one against big bad Sony today. I feel terrible for that woman. You know she must be thinking that she did a bad job and was completely wrong when she wasn't.

How can games be considered Art if, whilst allegedly being "critiqued", the one doing the critiquing sparks unnecessary rage to the point where that Art has to be redone to please a minority? How can it be the expression of an individual (which in this case SSM can be considered an individual as all the employees work together towards the same singular vision) if one or a group of people besides the individual can dictate if that expression is right, or Politically Correct?

That is another problem with why games can never be Art. So long as the prevailing attitude is that one must consider the feelings of everyone in the creation of Art, we will never have games as Art because you can't please everyone. Someone will always find something offensive, and if they have a big enough mouth they can convince others that it's offensive too.

To think that SSM put 3 years of hard work into this game only to have people say they can't enjoy the game, that the entire experience is soured by the name of a trophy so much that they are forced to change it just to please people who have no right, or reason, to complain about it is very, very sad. People need to consider everything before opening their mouths to complain. Why is the brutal mutilation of everything in sight perfectly fine and within tonal context of the game, yet a trophy name is where the line is drawn? How then can we say that games are Art if we're going to force Art to be what WE want it to be rather than what the artist hoped it would be, and worked for it to be?

Of course the argument of, say, ME3's endings being a form of artistic expression that we all changed can be used against me, but to that I put forth the following. Art never makes promises, businesses do. Bioware promised that the ending to ME3 would be NOTHING like the ending that ended up in the game. That moved the ending from an extension of the artistic expression of the game to the arena of false advertisement of a product and thus different rules apply. Plus, seeing as how Bioware then ADDED to the ending, there was no censorship involved since the original ending was still there.

I guess we've come to an impasse of sorts. We, as gamers, need to decide if we want games to be seen as Art. If that is what we want, then we have to make certain allowances for the kind of subject matter that can be included in that Art. If we wish games to be considered on the same level as Movies or Literature, then games have to be allowed to freely tackle any and all subjects without fear of recrimination. We have to grow up, grow a sense of humour, and learn not to let fiction upset reality. Games are not meant to represent any aspect of reality, thus if games are to be considered Art they shouldn't be bound by the same restrictions as reality.

The alternative is to continue on with gaming being nothing more than a hobby run by corporations. Corporations that will ensure games adhere to strict regulations based on customer relations and profit, where no one takes the medium seriously and we all continue to get shafted in every possible way but at least no one's feelings will get hurt.

Which sounds better to you?

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HonestDragon1177d ago

I would rather have that games get the freedoms that movies and literature have. Let them speak. Let them show. Let them create. Art is and always has been freedom of expression. Video games are something I have always been passionate about and I always aim to prove that it is worthy of being art. Well done and well written!

DragonKnight1176d ago

Thank you, and I am in complete agreement with you. All censorship does is make life boring and the last thing a society needs is boredom. When a society is bored, B.S. like Political Correctness becomes a prevailing ideology.

DragonKnight1176d ago

Now, before this is even brought up because I've already seen it mentioned elsewhere, I am NOT suggesting that games be immune to criticism, existing in their own separate bubble. What I am suggesting is that criticism should be valid, it should be tempered with knowledge of who the intended audience is, the general tone of the game, and free of worrying about the hurt feelings of individuals. This is specifically targeted towards gaming journalism. Judge the game for what it is, not for how it will upset other people. As someone so eloquently put in the article about Sony changing GoW Ascension's trophy name, you don't have the right to sit in a movie theatre and yell fire if there isn't one.

Individual criticisms are one thing, they do nothing to alter the industry on their own. Influential criticism is another thing, and when you are in a position to start something you better be damn sure it is the RIGHT thing. Throwing around damaging terms and potentially tainting the image of a developer is not a way to criticize a game, it is a form of attack against the developer.

matgrowcott1176d ago (Edited 1176d ago )

I remember the vast majority of professional writers finding the Mass Effect 3 debacle disgusting, and a lot of them at least made their opinions public. It was only when the movement really boiled up that lesser writers started supporting it.

The guys that didn't then had their professionalism and even their ability to write called into doubt.

The vocal minority feels entitled to have everything aimed at them. Look at the amount of angry people who jumped on twitter and sent death threats over Bayonetta 2 being Wii U exclusive. Those are the people stopping video games being taken seriously at all, let alone as an art form, not the press.

ZombieNinjaPanda1176d ago

Video games being turned into nothing more than a product are what stopped the art form.

matgrowcott1176d ago

@ZombieNinjaPanda

Books and films are products as well, arguably with a bigger market. You don't see anybody claiming The Hangover will kill their children though.

ZombieNinjaPanda1176d ago

Except many times writers and directors still go for artistic merit. They attempt to portray messages and add in deep meaning into what they've made, yet can still appeal to a decent amount of people (Django Unchained?).

Meanwhile many video games, many of them are nothing but a product, meant to appeal to everyone, consists of no deeper meaning, designed to sell to the lowest common denominator and reap the most benefits.

matgrowcott1176d ago

@ZombieNinjaPanda

Many films are nothing but a product. I can name you fifty games with artistic merit, you can name fifty films, it's proves nothing, especially since artistic merit is subjective to start with.

Besides, anything that has been created has artistic merit. I don't give a damn what your opinion on Call of Duty or Mass Effect 3 is, both have artistic merit, both have artistic meaning.

You seem like one of the people who believe any attempt to actually make a profit off a game means the developer is being "anti-consumer." Even if that's true, it doesn't devalue that most games, if not all games, deal with deeper issues that deserve discussing.

+ Show (1) more replyLast reply 1176d ago
Ducky1176d ago

" If we wish games to be considered on the same level as Movies or Literature, then games have to be allowed to freely tackle any and all subjects without fear of recrimination."

Games are already allowed to do that.
The trophy didn't really tackle any subject of value. It just had an offbeat name.

While the people crying misogyny are over-blowing this subject, it just seems equally silly to turn this into a cause for 'games as art'.
...Unless if you believe that changing a trophy name is going to seriously impede SSM's artistic vision.

Now, cases like the new Cole, or new Dante, those are where fans might have limited or tried to limit the artistic desires of the developers.

---
"The alternative is to continue on with gaming being nothing more than a hobby run by corporations."

For the most part, that's what it'll be either ways. Movies and Music are run by corporations and are arguably just as soulless as any big game publisher.

Whether a trophy name as changed or not changed would not have affected things one bit.

DragonKnight1176d ago

"Games are already allowed to do that.
The trophy didn't really tackle any subject of value. It just had an offbeat name."

The thing is though that the trophy is an extension of the game. To create it, someone had to decide when it was put in the game, why, and what to call it in context to what was happening in the game. That, in and of itself, is a creative process and part of the art. To criticize the name of the trophy can be considered to be equal to criticizing the name of a painting, or the name of a supporting character in the movie. They may not necessarily be the main draw of the work, but they are part of it. The woman who named the trophy doubtlessly feels ashamed and feels like she did a bad job. That should not be happening in my opinion.

And in any case, don't mistake my example of the trophy as the only focus, it is just an example of how any aspect of gaming is subject to censorship and the violation of freedom of artistic expression. If it can happen with a trophy name, it can happen with anything. In fact the fact that it did happen with a trophy name, which is probably the most ridiculous thing to criticize, complain about, and lobby against, signifies a bigger problem with criticism and how far people are willing to go as well as what publishers are willing to do to avoid PR nightmares. Who's to say that this won't grow into something more that has a detrimental impact on the industry? I can't make that prediction, but I can say that this kind of thing should have never happened to begin with.

Ducky1176d ago (Edited 1176d ago )

"Who's to say that this won't grow into something more that has a detrimental impact on the industry?"

This has been going on for a long time though, which is what makes this current issue so negligible.

Some fold to the pressure, such as EA removing the taliban from MoH's multiplayer. Other's stick to their guns, like Dante's makeover in DmC.

Ultimately, it rests on the publisher/developer to decide how to handle things.
Even in more established media like film or music, the ones who go for provocative themes get criticized for it and it's up to them to handle it how they see fit.

As for Ascension, the trophy thing is so minor that I don't think changing it has any detrimental impact on the artistic integrity of the game. That's probably why SSM changed it at all.
If the demands were bigger, such as removing a graphic scene, then I think SSM wouldn't have changed anything.

SeraphimBlade1176d ago (Edited 1176d ago )

I share your stance but not your fervor over this issue. I always thought of trophies as existing outside the gamespace, just something you slap on after the product is all but ready to ship, especially with this being a story-advancement trophy. "Congratulations! You did the bare minimum of what was expected!" Now, if they had altered the content of the game itself, that would be completely different. But the situation has not gone anywhere near that, and gaming has faced enough controversy to show that we'll almost always stand our ground on the actual subject matter of our entertainment. The fact that you're still brutally murdering a woman in this game speaks to that. (Before you ask, no, I don't think the victim being a woman in the game makes the violence any worse. Equal representation means you ALSO get eviscerated by Kratos)

I'm interested to see if Santa Monica comments on this, as I find it difficult to believe writers and developers take great pride in their funny little achievement/trophy titles. If they don't make a fuss over it, then I don't either. I doubt that this was done without consent. I just can't help but feel like you're over-reacting to the over-reaction to an over-reaction to a bad joke.

And honestly? They're still making that joke. Everybody is going to see "Bros before foes" and think of "bros before hos." Hell, I think this is an improvement. Makes more sense in context and it's a cute little pun.

JohnApocalypse1176d ago

I bet if RE5 was announced now, the videogame journalists would think that the game is racist

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