Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Of Art and Games
Okay, we've all heard the arguments saying that games can or can't be art for a myriad of reasons. The arguments all seem to stem from people's personal definitions of the word "art" and "game". Personally, I don't see what all the fuss is about since it's all an argument over pointless semantics.
No matter what your thoughts on the games as art argument, there is a title out there that is being advertised as both and for damn good reason. I'm talking about The Graveyard, a title by Tale of Tales that puts you in the shoes of a nearly expressionless old woman as she ventures through (you guessed it) a graveyard.
The gameplay itself is borderline non-existent, but what play there is is simply brilliant. You walk the woman down a long pathway surrounded by gravestones, each with its own distinct look and shape, and you are first confronted with a basic feature of her movement. She is obviously frail and incapable of moving quickly, beyond that, if you move in a straight line too long (three or four steps) she will develop a visibly uncomfortable hitch in her walk. Guiding this old woman down the path feels very much like walking with a grandparent or elderly friend in their last few months.
And in that long trek, you will feel a range of emotions. First, frustration at how slowly you are forced to travel, but that will give way to a kind of quiet pity. It is easy to recognize the truth behind this fictional character.
At the end of the path she sits on a bench and the player sees a close-up of her face for the first time as a song begins to play in the background. The song sounds like an old-world tune that is no doubt reminiscent of the songs this woman heard in her youth. As the song unfolds, you are treated to various pictures of the graveyard intermixed with the opaque image of the woman's face.
As the song finishes, you then have to pick the woman up and walk out of the graveyard. You are presented with the long walk again, but this time she is facing you directly. Again you are faced with her obviously painful gait and it is an entirely different experience.
As you walk out the graveyard gates, the screen fades to black and you get a kind of 'game over' screen. I only played the trial version, but the full title introduces a chance that the woman will actually die before your eyes.
Whether you call The Graveyard a game or not, you can't deny that it is, in fact, art. And like all good pieces of art, it is provocative and thought provoking.