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Written by Joseph Dionisio   
Friday, 06 July 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
Video Games as a Legitimate Art Form
Beauty in the Details
That's My Story

Video Games as a Legitimate Art Form

The Question

A few months ago my baby sister and I were talking about video games in general. She and our other sister (I am the eldest of three siblings) had just finished L.A. Noire on the PS3, and I had just started the same game on the PC. For a few weeks before I purchased the game on Steam, I watched my sisters play through the game at my parents' house once my young nephews had gone to bed.

Gradually, the conversation between my sister and me gravitated towards L.A. Noire's virtues. Obviously, we liked the game; it wouldn't even be a stretch to say that we both loved it. For one thing, we were both enthralled in how the game looked. It didn't matter which version of the game - PS3 or PC - we were talking about. We both thought it looked great. Then there's all the period-specific music and sound effects. The game had superb voice acting, and it told a great story. Between my sister and me, there was simply no denying it: L.A. Noire is one beautiful game.

So I asked my sister this question: Can video games be considered a legitimate art form?

Beauty in the Details

If you've ever seen or played L.A. Noire, no doubt you'd know precisely why my sister and I were pondering that question. Borrowing very heavily from the “film noir” cinematic genre in visual style and presentation as well as story elements, L.A. Noire captures the player's attention and transports him to a stylized portrayal of post-World War II Los Angeles.

The game's graphics are a visual treat. For one thing, the characters are rendered with an uncanny realism. The characters' facial expressions are lifelike, nuanced; the characters' movements, including the subtleties of body language, have the same quality of verisimilitude. This is no surprise given the fact that they were not animated from scratch as is typical with video games; rather, they were created using a proprietary motion capture technique involving thirty two high definition cameras capturing each actor as he or she performs. Given the game's central gameplay mechanic – the player must be able to interpret non-player characters' facial expressions and body language correctly – it is critical for the rendering of all the characters' faces to be as realistic as possible. If the game fails at rendering facial expressions and body language, the whole thing collapses in a heap and becomes unplayable.

Gaming_as_Legitimate_Art_LA_Noire_SC001.jpg

But the rendering of characters isn't the only reason whymy sister and I say L.A. Noire is visually beautiful. The game takes place in the city of Los Angeles in 1947, and its re-creation of the city is stunning. I live in a Los Angeles suburb, and twice a week I travel to downtown L.A. as part of my job duties. While I cannot vouch for the absolute accuracy of L.A. Noire's depiction of the City of Angels from the immediate post-World War II period (I was born nearly three decades later, after all), I am fairly familiar with the real-life city and some of its more famous landmarks referred to in the game. Famous streets such as Temple, Hill, Vermont, Wilshire, Spring, and Main are where they should be; well-known landmarks such as City Hall, the Public Library (my dad used to work there before he retired, in fact), Pershing Square, the La Brea Tar Pits and the L.A. River – spots familiar to anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles – all look familiar and faithful to their real-world counterparts. It is a testament to the artistic skills and sensibilities of Team Biondi's animators that they can make a player feel that he or she is indeed walking and driving around the streets of Los Angeles as it was in 1947.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: Video Games as a Legitimate Art FormBen 2012-07-07 12:23
L.A Noire is far from amazing, its overrated, and all the praise its been getting is a shame. L.A Noire gets very, very repetitive fast, every single investigation follows the same format but the theme of the crime is different. Also the story was very underwhelming, the plot jumped from one case to the other with nothing in between, *SPOILERS AHEAD* Later on in the story, Cole cheats on his wife that you only get a glimpse of, and your supposed to give a #? The story also seems to feel very coincidental to the end, its just a coincidence that Elsa had the hole insurance issue, and that Cole's old army buddy's happened to be screwing around with the drugs on the boat, and Elsa just happened to be seeing the same doctor that Cole's old army friend(forget his name) had been seeing.

The game play was BORING, My God, it was so repetitive, the same God damn thing every single time! your hand was also being held throughout the investigation, apparently Cole has some sort of spidey sense that tingles when he walks close to a clue, and didn't you find it weird that every match box, and lighter had the address of a bar in L.A? The interrogation system was broken as well, when you tell actors to lie on purpose, and make it obvious, ITS OBVIOUS! Instead of some stupid truth, lie system, a conversation tree would have been more engaging, while throwing in evidence that they're lying.

Are video games art, well that's highly subjective, some people think modern art isn't art, and dub step isn't real music. But, what we have to consider is the music and well made artistic features of a game like L.A Noire, that's all L.A Noire had, it was pretty, and it sounded great, that's all it had.

In my ASSERTION, an amazing game can both keep you interacted with engaging game play, and well built levels, and a well thought out story that doesn't seem so coincidental, stretched out, convoluted, boring, and senseless.

L.A Noire did look pretty tho.
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# RE: RE: Video Games as a Legitimate Art FormJoseph Dionisio 2012-07-07 14:04
I guess L.A. Noire ISN'T your favorite game... if that's all you took away from the op-ed piece. :)

That's OK. What's not good for some is really good for others. While the piece really wasn't a review of L.A. Noire per se, it clearly was the launch point for the whole discussion. Many other games - games that I liked, for the reasons I cited - were discussed. L.A. Noire is hardly the only game that would fit anyone's standards of a good game, just as it is not the only game that would fit anyone's standards of a bad game.

As you alluded to yourself, the same is true for art as well. Some people adore Picasso and Dali; sometimes, a friend's doodles are just as aesthetically pleasing.

The point is, art can inspire strong reactions, both positive and negative. Whether the art is visual or aural or literary in form, or maybe if it has all these elements and more, hardly matters; if it stimulates that part of you that appreciates beauty, well, that's art enough for me.

Thanks for the comment. :)
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# Art, Products and (ugh) servicesMORINGA 2012-07-17 08:50
There are 3 things I'd pay for, in our economic system:
1) Art: it feels like when I'm in Heaven: the results of what I - gladly - paid for, at least, match my expectations;
2) Products: without them, one can't live (unless, like, a hermit? No, thanks); at least, I can normally choose between high-quality ones, and cheaper ones;
3) Services: and only if I can't stand living without them; i.e: electricity (and I have to be prepared for massive headaches. Feels like I'm in Hell on this one).

That said so, which games can be considered a form of art? Those I gladly paid for, and enjoyed as much as expected, IMO.
Quality games, then, can be considered, at the very least, products (makes sense ^^).
But, unfortunately (for me), most games nowadays are just...services. Unnecessary ones.
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