Since children v adult keeps coming up, I’d be curious to see how many people making this argument have children or spend a lot of time with children.
Because art does transform as it becomes a cross-generational conversation. I’m a Big Boy so I don’t get the same thrill out of, like, The Hobbit, that I did when I was 10, but I literally cannot wait for my son (human) to become old enough for me to read it to him or for him to read it himself. And I think this is one of the most powerful aspects of art.
Yes, there’s great beauty and meaning and power to be found in sitting in a room by yourself and watching a lifechanging movie or book or whathaveyou, but there’s an enormous amount of power in sharing art/experience across generations.
Like, playing Mario Kart with my son may not sound like fun because the computer (I will always use this term!) and my son literally can do nothing to even come close to beating me, but I would also rather play Mario Kart with my son than with most people. Or, like, playing Mario RPG or Chrono Trigger with my son were tremendously enjoyable and powerful experiences, completely different than when I played those games as a child (I wrote a bit about Mario RPG here which further links to my experience playing every 2D Mario game with my son).
And if I want to get all mythohistorical - art is meant to be a conversation between generations.
But setting all that aside!
about grinding in jrpgs generally: I’ve thought a little about this too and to me what they offer is a sense of space and duration, which give the player room just kind of inhabit the game. This is also why I can’t play a jrpg that’s not menu and preferably turn based; you lose the abstraction so you’re forced to engage with the nonsense. Chasing “realism” rather than abstraction isn’t often a good move. Like some of these HP and damage numbers: they stop meaning anything once they’re routinely into 4 figures
I think this is the best description of what makes JRPGs work and then not work.
I think games, more than any other medium, are tightly tied to capital because of the enormous cost associated with making 3D realistic games (I believe @MoH mentioned the difference in price between Activision’s sale and Simon Schuster’s sale, which is a good illustrative point). I think this is pretty unsustainable and I think this is also sort of obvious to everyone, especially those who make games. There’s always been an assumption that graphics will keep getting better and hardware will keep getting more powerful, but I imagine this model is already on its last legs. The hyper-consolidation in gaming is because of the immense amounts of money required to make these games and the absurd number of copies sold required to just break even. And if antitrust comes for gaming (I was very hopeful about Microsoft/Activision getting blocked and potentially leading to a firmer regulatory look at the industry), which I do think it eventually must, games like Call of Duty will become nearly impossible to make, which will, ideally, lead to a videogame industry that has a whole lot more players making midsized games that don’t require selling tens of millions of copies or microtransactions to keep a company afloat.
The more money on the line, the more people involved in making the game. A game that’s made by a team of hundreds or thousands is very unlikely and may even be unable to say anything meaningful. Like, even if you have an auteur (lol) style director like Kojima. If his vision must be filtered through a thousand people working on two different continents, how much of that vision gets lost simply by necessity and diffusion? Compare that to a game made by 30 people and the creative vision can remain more solid and clear throughout development.
Jason Schreier’s two books are very useful when thinking about this, I think. I forget which book it was, but one of them showed a clear process that tended to happen at larger studios. Someone would write the game upfront. Then, over the 3-5 years of development, some of that story became impossible or just completely lost. So they would often bring a writer back on at the end (maybe even a completely different one) to try to duct tape the story back together. Reading this lit my brain on fire because of how many games I’d played where I felt like the first half or even 2/3rds of a game’s story were great but then the story sort of collapsed into nonsense for the finale. To me, these things seem to be the same problem.
Having gigantic teams is great for mechanics, I think, but terrible for artistic vision. Like, there’s a reason why a thousand people working together can make Call of Duty or Fifa or whatever feel great and make it fun. It’s also clear why a team of that size literally cannot tell an interesting story or present an interesting aesthetic, let alone say anything about the world we live in or even games specifically.
Too many cooks, if you get me.
But I also think it’s worth considering videogames as a medium with a pretty wide spectrum, which is how we think of just about every other medium.
Comparing Frog and Toad to Moby Dick isn’t an especially useful discussion, and I’d say the same is true when comparing something like Mario Odyssey to Baldur’s Gate. Like, yeah, they’re both games, but their stated goals and expectations are so vastly different that it’s weird to even put them into the same sentence unless you’re jsut trying to describe the breadth on offer.
I think the ire around Nintendo is honestly kind of odd, especially when the other major players are essentially buying up the entire industry and grinding employees into bonemeal in the process. I do think it’s embarrassing when people make a huge company their entire personality or when they’re out there doing free PR for the most recognizable characters on the planet, but the IC podcast has even had these types of people on as guests in the past (I think social media/youtube incentivize this “turning your personality into a PR machine for a gigantic corporation” for content creators to stand out and so the effects of capital make it turtles all the way down, in a sense).
Anyway, I would love for a game to do something as interesting as House of Leaves or Synechdoche, New York with the medium, but I think videogames are sort of in an odd pickle of a situation because most of the people with the skills required to code a game do not necessarily have the skills required to write literature or direct world class cinema. Which is normal. But I think the John Carmack types sort of won the day thirty years ago and there just aren’t many people who can innovate code and innovate narrative/aesthetics.