Video games are not there yet. We are still largely apologists. The best could be better. The rest should be better.
Yes, I am coming out swinging this time, LusiGamers. I think that as a community, gamers love the medium so much that they lose their objectivity when discussing their favourite pastime.
I must point out that I am primarily talking about writing. From a visual, technical, and occasionally musical standpoint, games have always pushed the boundaries. But while games like Tetris and Peggle are lots of fun, they are more comparable to board games. Any game that tries to include a story of any kind must rely on its writing to be truly excellent, and that is the area that I feel like games are most notably dragging their feet.
I notice that many gamers get defensive when I bring up this point. They point to their favourite titles and mention how moved or impressed they were. I feel they are missing my point. I have also been moved and obviously have many games that are extremely close to my heart, but that is not relevant when talking about how games could be so much more. A perfect example for me is Final Fantasy IX. That is a game that I am impressed by and it is a game that has made me laugh and has brought me to tears. I think there is great character work and powerful themes at play, but I hardly think that the writing as a whole should be considered a great work. And I think it is important for me to make that distinction because I think that video games really can become transcendent works. And that is not to say that I feel that every game should become weepy and philosophical, but that right now games have an artistic ceiling placed there by sometimes competent, sometimes bad, usually mediocre, and occasionally good writing.
Because I do feel like there is some good writing in gaming. Many of the stories in Lost Odyssey were well-constructed and moving, Bioshock and Portal are able to talk about more complex ideas without either exceeding their limitations or dumbing the ideas down, and the Mass Effect and Uncharted games have finally started to competently tackle subtext and the complexity of human interaction without getting indulgent about it. But good writing is not great writing.
Of course, every game cannot and should not be Moby Dick or King Leer, but I think gamers are making intellectual concessions when they play games. They hear the music and get to know the characters, and so they can make the appropriate emotional connections and mistake their understanding of what the developers were trying to say as good writing. I think this is a disservice to the potential of the industry. It is why I make the distinction between good and great writing. I think it is incredibly naive to state that games are closing in on the apex of what they are capable of.
Of course, part of it may be that the games that are in the upper echelon will not get noticed by many non-gamers anyway and we just have to wait as a community before they are taken more seriously, but I believe the effort has to be on both sides. While games that deserve more notoriety may go a little under the radar, it is still up to the developers to push the envelope and for gamers to not be satisfied and even defend what is usually writing that is competent-at-best.
As a final point of clarification, when I speak of writing, of course I am referring to dialogue and tutorials and plot and voiceovers, but I am also talking about the deeper understanding of how all these elements tie together. The art of making every word and event have purpose and beauty without attaching the heaviness and indulgence that some people may believe that entails. Of course, I think a major hindrance of making this a reality is the lack of singular voices in an increasingly faceless industry, but that is another pretentious article for another pretentious day.
So yes, I know how pretentious this article is, but as not-even-the-most-intelligent staff member here at Lusipurr.com, I feel like gamer standards in general have lowered and that that is an ultimately bad thing for the direction and potential of the industry.
So take a hard look at the games you consider to have good or even great writing, LusiScholars. Remove your feelings and memories from the game and try to assess its literary merit. Am I just missing all the good games, or am I a pretentious dirtbag asshole prick who should remove his bulbous head from his own cavernous ass? Let me know in the comments below. And then tell your friends to also let me know! There could be a free game in it for you. I am not shitting you either. The reader who brings in the most new faces during the month of April will win a game of their choosing. Just tell your friends about Lusipurr.com and make sure they cite you as the referral and that is one point in your favour. I will even provide you with a sample sentence: “Hey, there this uppity lofty prick at this website I go to sometimes. Click his article and mention I brought you there and then rip him a fourth asshole.” Copy. Paste. (Have a chance to) win a game.