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 411mania » Games » Columns

411 Games Top 5 08.03.13: Top 5 Video Games That Are Art
Posted by Sean Garmer on 08.03.2013

Hello everyone, I hope it has been a good week for all the readers out there, art is such a subjective thing, could it apply to video games?

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* This Week the 411 staff was asked to nominate five games they feel showcase why Video Games should be considered an art form.*

Stephen Randle (Games Zone Reviewer, Quizmaster of Four Player Co-op, Organizer of Cooperative Multiplayer 411 Games Podcast, Writer of Wrestling News Experience)

5. Final Fantasy (pick one) - Art can mean "visually appealing", and whatever deficiencies the Final Fantasy series and Square Enix have (and there are many), nobody can slight them on pure graphical splendour, as the FF series has pushed the boundaries of the heights of graphical presentation on every gaming platform on which they've been released.

4. Journey - Art can mean "beauty in simplicity", and for my money, no game reflects that more than Journey, the small indie game released exclusively on PSN. The graphics, the sound, the overall design of the game creates a breathtakingly beautiful atmosphere perfect for taking your character through an exciting adventure, perhaps accompanied by a friend...or maybe several.

3. BioShock Infinite - Art can mean "philosophical", and the incredibly powerful themes of Infinite will leave you pondering the great mysteries of existence for long periods of time. Does choice matter? Are there constants in the universe, or can one person really change everything? If you could re-make the most important decisions of your life, would you? Through works like this, which leave us searching for our own answers, we have the opportunity to expand our minds, and explore the possibilities of life.

2. The Last of Us - Art can mean "an examination of the human condition". What makes us "human"? Better yet, what makes us "civilized"? As the world crumbles, can humanity be preserved, or are we, at our basest level, no better than savage animals? Is being human simply surviving, or is there something more? The Last of Us forces you to explore these themes, set against the potential end of our existence, and ends up showing so many sides of the human condition, subjected to the most extreme of stresses, stripping it down to the elemental level, and making you decide just what it means to be "human".

1. Persona 4 - Art can also mean "subjective". What that means is that everyone has their own opinions on what can be considered "art". Roger Ebert made waves a while back when he said that video games could never be "art", and he's entitled to his opinion. However, I think that video games, now more than ever, can certainly be considered "art". I think that Persona 4 is a gripping mystery, a coming-of-age tale, a romance (actually, several romances), a slice-of-life biography, an imaginative fantasy, and even a touch of Lovecraftian horror, and to me, a well-told story is one of the highest forms of "art". But that's just my opinion. You're allowed to disagree.

Alex McLeod (Reader Voice 2)

Honorable mentions:

Paper Mario: Thousand-Year-Door: For holding itself to the paper theme so tightly, this game gets a thumbs-up. The game-makers put a lot of love into this one, and it shows in every extra that they didn't have to include; my favorite chapter in the game require you to become a pro-wrestler, and lays a pretty fun mystery subplot while you're at it.

Bioshock: Great setting, and I love the deconstruction of Objectivism. It's crazy to see an FPS mix crazy gunplay and socioeconomic critique, but damn if they didn't pull it off.

5) Dark Souls: This game's another atmospheric treat. I remember being comforted by seeing the image of other players who were currently also resting at bonfires. You know a game makes you feel alone when you get a scrap of comfort just by seeing a half-there ghost of someone else. I also have to give props for the environments: Anor Londo is an architectural gem. The cathedral and the castle are both incredibly beautiful. At the other end, there's Blighttown--the shantytown, built on the side of a cavern, inhabited and constructed by insane undead--and it shows in every creaking, shifting bridge and every cobbled-together shack. I have -never- felt so alone in a game as I did in the halfway point of Blighttown. It's also a game which makes the player go through a hero's journey clearer than most--you learn and grow and improve yourself and your equipment until you realize you just obliterated something which you used to fight only extremely cautiously.

4) Silent Hill 2: This game is art in the same way well-done architecture it's art--it's how everything was carefully considered and constructed for the support and benefit of the whole thing. I wish I could have gotten my psych professor at college to play it. If you know what you're looking for, you can spot the way the game trains you, lets you get comfortable, and then takes it away, using classic psychological techniques. Exhibit A: The first hour of the game is spent wandering the foggy streets of Silent Hill. You can only see about thirty feet in any direction, thanks to the fog, so you start depending on your ears rather than your eyes to tell you when an enemy's nearby. You learn that you're more mobile than the enemies, so you use the wide-open streets to lure them into attacking and then beat them down when they recover. So the what does the game do once that little intro is done? It throws you into a half-blacked-out ancient apartment building with tiny hallways that give you no room to run around, and it throws every freaky sound in the world at you to make you wonder what could be making that. It's an intense, immersive experience. No joke, I accidentally thumped a cardboard box with my foot during the apartment building part, and made myself jump and yell, "WHAT WAS THAT?!" I wanted to do a backflip when I saw it's on the Xbox 360 now.

3) Shadow of the Colossus: This game is an experience. I defy anyone to play it for the first time and NOT be moved by scale of the game. They make you ride across heaven and earth, but, by damn, they give you some nice stuff to look at along the way. All the ruins you pass by, all the ponds, all the landmarks and features just help add to the sense of the game: You're alone. You have a horse, a sword, and a bow, and that's the entirety of the help you have as you cross this beautiful, achingly desolate landscape to confront the colossi. The battles themselves make you go from introspective journeying to adrenalinefest; I remember thinking 'Oh god it's COMING TOWARDS ME' when I plinked the first Colossus with an arrow.

2) Red Dead Redemption: A hell of a case of narrative structure. Each of the game's four acts is about what John Marston's willing to do to save his family. He'll kill and cheat people for them, he'll swap sides and torture men for their sake. I give it the 'art' nod just for the narrative being as well-done as it is. This is also pretty much my favorite open-world environment. I've spent so much time in both singleplayer and multiplayer just wandering the earth for the pleasure of exploring.

1) Okami gorgeous, fluid animation. Makes the PS2's hardware crank out art instead of graphics. Okami is also almost entirely a culturally Japanese game, and I mean that in a good way: The architecture, the landscape, the customs of the NPCs, the monsters--they're all pretty much feudal Japanese, and it makes the game truly like wandering another time, another place.

Sean Garmer (Games Zone Reviewer, Games Top 5 Organizer, Regular Contributor to Cooperative Multiplayer 411 Games Podcast)

5. Rock Band 3/Rocksmith: I'm not going to sit here and use Randle's definitions to justify my choices. But music is an art form and these two games teach you how to play guitar, which opens the door for many of those gamers to take that knowledge and create music of their own. So, essentially in a way these games can help you create your own musical art.

4. Final Fantasy Series: If there has been one series throughout time that has consistently brought graphical beauty to video games it has been Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VII's story was even used to create a feature length straight to DVD film continuing the story in the game. So, you could say that Final Fantasy over time has made both it's improvements in graphics and its memorable stories into art.

3. Walking Dead: Similar to what Randle had to say about Last of Us, I think it applies to this game as well. Walking Dead examines the survival instinct of humans and shows how far those people will go to continue living. Humans are so complex that no one can define them and art is the seen by many in the same way. Everything from the graphical design of the game to the choices you decide to make (whether you make choices based on real decisions or just because you want to see "a certain thing happen" ) is all about being human.

2. Journey This game is just beautiful and shows gaming at its simplest. It may not be something for everyone, but I will say that it can make you think about gaming in a whole different light after playing it.

1. Okami: I remember playing this game when it first came out and just being amazed at the definition that went into this game. You play as a water color wolf in this wonderful moving tapestry of a world that changes as you continue in the adventure. The game makes you feel like you are playing a game inside of a painting and I don't know that any other game has ever given me that feeling. Players essentially create art every time they move and that is a great testament to games being art.

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Fun Links To Checkout

Dirtsheets.com A website started by two of the Triple Threat Column writers. Not only is it the permanent home of that world famous column but it has my podcast "Wrestling 2 the MAX," recaps, and other columns.

Wrestling 2 the MAX Podcast. Go listen to episode 48 and tell us what you think at wrestling2themax@gmail.com New Episodes come out every Tuesday Morning over on dirtsheets.com, this week we discuss why WWE wants Kassius Ohno to workout so much, we review Episode 1 of Total Divas, review Monday's RAW, and we go on the search for WWE's next African American babyface.

Games Coming Out the Week of 08/04/13

Pikmin 3 (Wii U Only)

Tales of Xillia (PS3 Only)

Dragon's Crown (PS3 & PS VITA)

The Sims 3: Dragon Valley (PC Only)

Divinity: Dragon Commander (PC Only)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Xbox Live Arcade)

Ibb and Obb (PSN)

Super Frog HD (PS3 & PS VITA)


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