Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
10/2/22 12:15 p.m.

I just finished 'Journey' last night, and it is quite possibly the strongest argument I have seen in favor of Games as Art.

Journey (2012 video game) - Wikipedia

'Journey' succeeds in telling a unique and truly interactive story that could not be told in any other medium. It is very short and simple. It does very small, elegant things that actually give you choice as a player. It gives you an actual experience of connection, interaction, and choice that I've seen more pretentious games ('Nier: Automata' and 'Death Stranding') *tell* you are significant but aren't really.

The most amazing mechanic in the game is that it is online and multiplayer. You will come across other individuals playing the game, and have the opportunity to journey together. You are not able to use language though. No voice. No text. Just moving around and one button to "sing". Traveling provides small boons.

No spoilers (not really) but first time I met another person, it was kinda interesting. We sang at each other for a minute. He got distracted or was moving slowly and I left him behind.

The second time, I met someone and we sort of figured things out and spent the last 3/5's of the game together.

After traveling for a bit, we were nearing the end. I'd been planning to go to bed, but I stuck around, because I didn't want to abandon my companion when our goal was so close. The game put me in a position to make that choice.

Going online afterwards and reading different people's reactions to the game, it made it clear how - as simple as the "plot" of the game was - everyone had slightly different experiences because of that mechanic of traveling with another person. And the story affected them in different ways.

calteg SuperDork
10/2/22 3:36 p.m.

Journey is really good. The first Last of Us is probably the GOAT in that regard though. It's a masterclass in immersive storytelling.

If "your choices affect the endgame" is a make or break for you, Fallout: New Vegas is incredible, but the graphics are very dated at this point.

A few other really pretty, artsy type games off the top of my head: Gris, Oxenfree, Darq,  LIMBO, SOMA, Inside, Bendy and the ink machine, FAR: Lone Sails


Not neccessarily art, but West of Loathing is hands down the funniest game I've ever played, and it has some really good RPG-lite elements to it. Also strongly recommend Transistor, beautiful with one of the best soundtracks ever.

10/2/22 3:49 p.m.

Disco: Elysium gets high praise but I need to play it and see why.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
10/2/22 4:12 p.m.

In reply to calteg :

I think what Journey managed in its design that I haven't seen others do, is the social aspect. That the meaning didn't come from the creators telling you something, but the ways it led you to interact with other people and the world. Because my choices in Journey *didn't* effect the endgame, but they were meaningful in spite of - or perhaps *because* - of that.

New Vegas is still one of my favorite games.

Limbo is cool, but not the same sort of animal as Journey.

I'm thinking about this in terms of like... Roger Ebert's critique that "games aren't art", and that a game can't do what 'Citizen Kane' does. That games are entertainment, and can include art, but can not be art in and of themselves.

I don't buy into that argument, but I think 'Journey' is the strongest repudiation of it that I've ever played.

More than any other game I've played, I think Journey may present a unique experience that absolutely couldn't be translated to any other medium. Limbo could be translated to a movie. New Vegas has a lot of branching paths and offers a lot, but could arguably be compared to a choose-your-own-adventure book. Journey led me to create an interactive experience that elicited emotions and caused introspection in a way that is only possible because it is a video game.

ProDarwin MegaDork
10/2/22 5:12 p.m.

I need to check out Journey.

Also Limbo, and Inside, both of which have been on my Steam wishlist approximately forever.

I have a habit of buying games like this and never playing them, but when I finally get around to it, they are very rewarding.

NickD MegaDork
10/2/22 5:13 p.m.

Nier: Automata is my go-to answer when people ask if video games can be considered art. 

I also think that Cyberpunk 2077, now that it's been fixed, also qualifies. I expected a light-hearted hedonistic romp through Night City as a mercenary, but its actually much heavier. A lot of themes of suicide, death, mortality, what makes us who we are, and what we leave behind when we die. There has been a number of points where after a mission, I've had the just set my controller down and just think. I can't recall another game that's made me do that.

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
10/2/22 6:01 p.m.

I've been struggling with 2077, its the game i waited so long for. The controls are hard and its too complex. Going to give it another try this winter.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
10/2/22 6:09 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

I should probably reply Cyberpunk. I completed it and didn't have the frustrations many other people do. It didn't affect me in the same way that it did you.

Planescape: Torment gave me more of that experience you're describing. Gave me a lot of moments to pause and reflect, and completely floored me when I came to the end. It's an older game though, and not going to be for everyone.

I wasn't impressed by Nier: Automata. I didn't finish all the paths. I got partway through the second path and was done with it. I got tired of retreading the same ground. I *hated* the hacking mini game. Boring and repetitive but too effective. And I found the "insights" into the world... not particularly deep and insightful. I also was frustrated by too many characters on screen at once sharing identical design language so I couldn't tell one apart from the other during fights.

I also thought that the gameplay kind of ran counter to the themes of the game. Like... I got it early on. I figured out pretty quickly where all the humans were and what was going on with the robots. The game still forced me to fight the robots. I had no other choice. That undercut a lot of potential message.

Pretty much anything that Supergiant Games has released (Bastion, Transistor, Hades...) I'd say are art.

For unique art that only games can pull off, the tops on my list (of games I've played) would be:

Return of the Obra Din
Papers Please

There are obviously a lot more fantastic games out there that I would definitely qualify as art. I think one of the tough things for trying to persuade someone of the value of video games as art, is that the ones that I think manage best to be art for me, all take a while to suck you into the game before you realize the significance of the experience you're having. Much like your experience with Cyberpunk or my experience with Hades, you're playing a fun mindless game for a while before you realize you haven't just been playing a mindless game.

ProDarwin MegaDork
10/2/22 6:18 p.m.
I got tired of retreading the same ground.

Honestly this is where I got with Hades.  The game is really well done but it's just not my thing I guess.  I was at the point where I could comfortably hit the boss of the 3rd area (Theseus and Minotaur) and just lost all motivation to keep playing.

 It's the grind.  Same reason I don't play fallout and same reason I know I wouldn't like Cyberpunk.   

calteg SuperDork
10/2/22 6:37 p.m.

What qualifies as art? If it elicits a strong emotion, it's art. 


Look into This War of Mine. It's exceedingly grim, but it makes you confront personal choices in a way that no other medium really can.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
10/2/22 7:12 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

That is a legitimate critique of Hades.

I think the difference is that the repetitive grind is kind of the point of Hades. Whereas for other games we're talking about, the grind is something you have to do to get to the point.

Also berk Theseus and the Minotaur. They were worse than Hades, himself.

Sarah Young
Sarah Young Editorial/Art Assistant
10/5/22 5:01 p.m.
calteg said:

A few other really pretty, artsy type games off the top of my head: Gris, Oxenfree, Darq,  LIMBO, SOMA, Inside, Bendy and the ink machine, FAR: Lone Sails

I loved Oxenfree (I think video games are one of the most effective ways, beyond movies and TV shows and maybe even books, to deliver frights and create an immersive spooky experience with media) and Inside, and I'm currently playing Gris!

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
10/5/22 7:40 p.m.

Video games can 100% serve as art. Whether it's an epic RPG or a quirky indie game, I've played plenty of them over the years that have moved me just like any other art form. The recent indie gaming boom really has embraced this. Some of the best indie games I've played in the past few years have the "games as art" thing nailed down. Some examples:

A Short Hike: You play as a teenage bird on vacation with your aunt, and you go to a mountain resort. It's got a cool, isometric art style, and as you explore, you discover things about the mountain, the people visiting, and yourself. It's a relaxing, chill game that was a lot of fun. 

Gone Home: This one presents as a first person survival horror game, but with a twist that reveals itself at the very end. You come back from studying abroad to your family's house, and the house is in shambles. Also, everyone is missing. You have to figure out what happened to the house and to your family. The ending is something special that was completely unexpected. 

Hollow Knight: It's a Metroidvania game, but the setting, art, and mood are really unique. You play as a bug in a rich, but bleak, underground world filled with all sorts of other bugs. As you explore, you find out more about your surroundings, the culture of the inhabitants, and why things are the way they are. The feeling of hopelessness is sometimes overwhelming, but as you play, you can't help but want to soldier on and make things right in the world. 

There's a ton more of them out there too. 

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