David Jaffe on Games and Art

16 03 2011

So David Jaffe’s at it again. The designer behind God of War and Twisted Metal, currently heading up the studio Eat Sleep Play, is known for being a little forthright in his opinions, to say the least, but a recent post on his blog gives plenty of food for thought if you can deal with his…err…’aggressive but powerful’ style. 

The post has been variously summed up on news sites as ‘Jaffe Hates on ‘Art’ Games’ and so on, which is understandable given its length and at-times rambling nature, but I’d only do him a disservice by trying to condense the argument here. I can only recommend reading the post itself. Instead of trying to break down the whole thing, I’ll talk about one section, where he turns on “the need/desire amongst some…to shout from the rooftops that games ‘have arrived’”, be they developers, journalists or gamers themselves.

The very fact that I’m blogging here suggests which side of this argument I fall. Certainly I want to laud and defend gaming as both an entertaining pastime as well as a medium that can and does offer powerful, compelling experiences (for want of a better word). In this case, however, I’m inclined to side with Jaffe when he stands in opposition to it. Perhaps I’m contradicting myself, but here’s my view: discourse on the topic is sensible, important and healthy for the industry and for culture in general, as it is in any recognised artistic mode. It’s when we become convinced that gaming has crossed some set obstacle into becoming ‘art’, when we generalise about the medium and become set in a conviction that games ‘have arrived’, that we move away from valid critical debate into pointless argument. I think we can all agree that games, individually, have the potential to be ‘artistic’ and that some have already showed these traits, but to comment on the industry in its entirety strikes me as foolish. Ultimately, no single person, argument or line of thought will convince others that games can stand alongside film, literature or any other form. Only time and the slow mutation of culture can manage that.

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