ART vs. INDUSTRY

@“yeso”#p140084 I think the idea that 40 year olds are mature is more controversial

>

@“antillese”#p140086 And when I play them by myself, I enjoy them on a totally different level than with my kids

But what my book presupposes is….what if we didn’t?

Edit for context outside a dated reference—there’s a Nietzsche aphorism that says “A man's maturity: that is to have rediscovered the seriousness he possessed as a child at play.”

I always liked that one and it comes to mind in these discussions

I do not think it’s a “maturity” issue.

Getting back to the sports analogy I love cycling. But going for a bike ride with my family on the same bike that I use to go on a 50 mile ride with 3000+ feet of climbing does not scratch the same itch. I enjoy them on completely different levels, for completely different reasons.

My nine-year-olds are not physically capable of beating even some of the intermediate levels in a Mario game. Just like they are not physically capable of going on that kind of bike ride.

I, too, have my disagreements with Nietzsche.

I think an important distinction in your analogy is one of those experiences is communal and the other one is presumedly solitary. I wonder how that can be extended to video games.

I also remember going on bike rides with my dad when I was a kid. As I got older and (moderately) into bike riding, I went on longer and harder rides, but I think that scaffolding was in service of finding the same _feeling_ I had when I was a kid, where a small ride through the park with my dad felt like an adventure. Excuse the sentimentality haha.

@“yeso”#p140084 To speak directly, the problem, speaking just from my reading of your posts, arises from stating “who it’s really for” in the midst of people stating “I find value in this” implicitly is read as “Nintendo is for children, therefore I perceive your finding value in it as childish, and that is something you ought be ashamed of” and to some degree you came across as denigrating. That’s honestly how it read in the first instance I heard you state that elsewhere, particularly when followed by the monkey bars comment (I forget which thread). I was given the impression that you had contempt for people who found value in it.

In a separate discussion of “Who are Nintendo games for?” I believe the engagement with your claim would differ. I do think a discussion of “What is or is not okay to engage with as an adult?” is something somewhat interesting. The introduction of that topic in the midst of others’ positivity read to me as somewhat aggressive and gatekeep-y.

Really don’t mean to cast aspersions, but since you asked what the hangup was, I thought I might as well say it clearly. I really don’t think it is any issue with the “correctness” of your claim, but just the context it arose and how that made people feel about sharing their experiences.

Again, I am interested in considering what it means for something to be “for” a particular group, whether and in what situations it is okay or not to enjoy said thing while outside that group, and what would be the problems/benefits of doing so. That’s possibly another thread.

@“MDS-02”#p140093 ok gotcha. My aim is at the critical consensus about the “greatness” of self-evidently un-great games (imo) in part because they are limited by their childishness (imo), and I meant to highlight the absurdity of decades of critics and a mass adult audience upholding these games as exemplary and why this is limiting to the medium. I tried to state several times it wasn't directed at people here, although in the setting of my making fun of the notion in general I can see why those disclaimers may not have been accepted as genuine

Nintendo‘s own self-parody of the 35 year old zelda gamer:



I’m playing wind waker today and talking to this man, so I'm posting him.

@“yeso”#p140094 what are some examples of the child-friendly aspects greatly limiting a game from being an all time great?

~(I don‘t necessarily agree or disagree, I’m indifferent, just enjoying taking part in the discussion getting to the bottom of yeso‘s long standing situation. just kind of playing in this space y’know? but still in earnest and sincerely.)

@“yeso”#p140084 what‘s the takeaway meant to be from this though? Should I not play their games anymore because I’m too old? Should I feel shame while I play? Should I not talk about my experiences?

You made this point about aging out of Nintendo games in the other thread. Two of the first games I ever played were SMB and *Zelda* 1. The company's design sensibilities and designers have changed some between then and *Wonder*, which I haven't played yet, and TotK. There have been some weird, interesting, thoughtful games put out by them in between—some I think even you've found value in (*Zelda II*?)? The first Zelda came out the year I was born. I hold expectations for their games partly out of familiarity built over a lifetime playing the series mostly as a child and teen. Of course I'm going to follow the series to see where it's going.

I think the point that Nintendo carries out-sized importance in the mainstream is a point I agree with and if that affects your ability to enjoy their games, well, it affects mine too. I started the Zelda thread specifically to offer a space for IC Zelda-likers to get away from the unchallenging blanket praise the series is heaped with everywhere else, and in hindsight I should have been more explicit about my mission statement. If Nintendo's output were all T and M-rated, I'd still agree with you about the company.

Also this discourse reminded me of the “playing games for the story is like eating soup for the spoon” troll meme from about a decade ago. (Here's proof I'm not making that up.)

@“treefroggy”#p140097 ok sure with BoTW: you have an ultra-simplistic hack ass narrative (hero collects the magical objects to save the kingdom from evil, makes special friends along the way (the concession to older ages here is treacly piano music which = Tastefulness You Didn‘t Expect and princess Zelda behaving like she’s in a Terrance Malick cutscene?)) spread paper thin over mechanics that are designed to be repetitive and disposable and indeed are exactly that. The game gives you a fisher price toy ipad to play on the nintendo switch, which is itself somewhat fisher price ipad-esque. The fact that it‘s sanded-down Ghibli is another tell. Can’t go full-ghibli.

And all of these elements are carried forward from a sophisticated for the time but now quaint 8-bit game from 1985 because this is a Franchise that is Great and must be continued and innovated on, but not so radically as to shed a kid to adult audience. Leave tantalizing hints about it fits into Zelda Lore, which is itself juvenile busywork. This is all conservative and retrograde I would say!

@“connrrr”#p140098 my friend I do not mean to implicate you personally in my criticism. Again I‘m speaking generally about the wider uncritical acceptance of these games. Concerns about the audience for which games are made and how this limits the medium have been made plenty of times, although I don’t see it about this age-appropriateness angle, it‘s usually about the over-representation of the straight white call of duty dudes, right? That’s obviously a bad and harmful thing on a large scale, and it‘s a bigger problem than this one, but you see I’m not implicating individual people here when I bring that up

>

@“connrrr”#p140098 There have been some weird, interesting, thoughtful games

definitely think II and LA are great yeah

>

@“connrrr”#p140098 I started the Zelda thread specifically to offer a space for IC Zelda-likers to get away from the unchallenging blanket praise the series is heaped with everywhere else, and in hindsight I should have been more explicit about my mission statement.

No I understand you and the other people here are cool and thoughtful (not that anyone should care what I think), and I don't bring these complaints into that thread because they're not valid there!

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](https://radicaledward.substack.com/p/super-mario-rpg) 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"#1454 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.

Coming back for seconds as I just happened to have watched this Ursula K Le Guin acceptance speech, and she addresses this exact subject.

https://youtu.be/Et9Nf-rsALk?feature=shared

Not that I disagree with the Nintendo‘s games being elevated beyond their measure (it’s quite evident that lots of their games, including Marios and Zeldas in the late Gamecube to early Wii U era in particular are “good” games but deeply flawed or otherwise limp compared to other series entries) but I would argue that aside from rabid Nintendo Direct-like fascination that certain sections of the media and fan base have (I am not saying it‘s bad to look forward to them!), from my perspective the games that have mostly been elevated and praised beyond godly pedestals in the media and among the general populace are the likes of The Witcher 3, Souls games, Assassin’s Creed, Bethesda games, CoDs, God of Wars, and before then the likes of Mass Effect and such and such.

I don't begrudge anyone playing and enjoying these but I personally struggle to comprehend what makes these games so beloved beyond their constituent pieces (OK, I get why From Software games). Let's face it, these are fundamentally action games and most of them feel like shit to play, storytelling is as good as storytelling is going to be in a videogame yet individual games themselves are treated as untouchably good and are *the* standard for prestige action / Western Rpgs / FPS games when even their most devout fans think they're shit within a day of release.

Nintendo and their games are, as contributions to the medium "as guilty as" other major platform holders and publishers in producing art for profit but fuck, when the state of the industry is such that two of the three major platform holders have both essentially made the same console that is worse than a decent mid range PC, where one is hoovering up major multiplatform publishers in order to bolster its first party portfolio and remove ownership of games from customers when it has failed to invest inwards for 20 years, and the other has ditched its heritage to focus on cinematic prestige games (and re-remaking one!) and "see what shit sticks" live service games, the fact that Nintendo has a unique value proposition and is willing to try weird ideas, successful or not, is something that the AAA market needs to at least push the most commercially visible games away from homogenising into QTEs of bald men in medieval villages fighting bandits.

I realise I've made my point rather clumsily because frankly, I am mentally exhausted, that I formulate bullet points in my head as I write in real time and forget half of them, as well as acknowledging that I am a bit thick. I don't begrudge anyone for playing or enjoying the games that they like, but there are many more games being elevated beyond their actual goodness and contribution to the the medium than Nintendo games.

I think it‘s probably necessary to reckon with the fact that the medium is founded on juvenilia and it’s commercial imperatives are based on selling that, in a way that cinema was not.

@“yeso”#p140107

Yes, but I‘d say cinema was built as tech demonstration/spectacle. That’s what initially brought in the money and public interest.

It may be a stroke of luck that it got quickly connected to playwriting/acting or it could have become just hardware spec demonstrations.

@“edward”#p140108 yes but also documentary, newsreel, or simply novel portrayal and recording of human beings. It was probably destined to be a medium in which human communication and performance would be important. Sort of a unique cage video games would have to break out of in industrial/economic terms and in terms of public/audience perception. What‘s frustrating is that we should be well past the point of this being nascent and as thoroughly juvenile as it is. But as you point to a few posts back, maybe the software production tools need more refinement and accessibility before “good at computers” isn’t as limiting a pre-requisite for would be artists as it is

@“yeso”#p140109

Yes, I agree with that. Though it did take about 50 years until we got to Citizen Kane, and even that was very tied to technical innovation.

But I think what videogames lacked and still lack is connecting to an outside and established body of artistry. Film tied itself to literature very early on. Adapting novels and plays, getting established authors and playwrights to pen scripts, etc.

I have a theory why videogames never made such a leap and I think a decent part of it has to do with the general attitudes engineers have. But because videogames are still dominated by technical people (whereas cinema quickly filled with artists), the tech has been the driving feature for the industry.

yeah when your initial craftsmen were people who were good at computers and had access to them in 1980 then that's got to have an effect. Although one thing I did learn not long ago was how the proportion of women in involved in the early (iirc), early industry was somewhat high, so something changed there in a hurry

Another thing I learned not long ago as a point of contrast was that in the early decades of film there was this industry of people with film cameras sort of barnstorming rural communities kind of like The Music Man, but accepting payment from the townspeople to film them putting on some type of dramatic film. All amateur regular people putting on this film productions. Just much more accessible a medium that was capable of disseminating much faster even though there were technical barriers