Video game developer, Tale Of Tales has announced that it is no longer planning to work on video games, the decision made because of low sales by it's recently launched 'Sunset' title. Two of the most artistically minded developers have decided that “We did our very best. And we failed. So that's one thing we never need to do again.' It's worth reading the entire blog post that Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey put up: Http://tale-of-tales.com/Sunset/blog/index.php/and-the-sun-sets/
'Sunset' was met with generally positive reviews from critics and the press alike. So the question begs to be asked. What does it mean when an artistic, engaging game resonates with the press but can't find an audience?
It’s a difficult dilemma since it involves one thing that the world economy is having great issues with: Money. The video game industry certainly doesn’t exist in a void or “other space” separated from the global economy, and unfortunately, money is needed in some shape or form to make any work of art a reality.
The issue at hand here is How BIG of a work of art do you want to make and How MUCH will it cost? Is a developer making a game for themselves: a game that they want to make, or are they trying to make a game that they want to be enjoyed by as many people as possible.
Is the purpose of the game trying to spread a message out to other people (like be good to Earth)? Or is financial gain the developer’s motivation to make their game?
Does it matter to the developer if the game is fun or not?
Can the developer pull off what they want to pull off in their game with the budget they have available, or will it require a lot more money?
Is the game going to push technical envelopes or unique new means of game play? Or will it play like other games but have one thing or another to it that makes it unique?
Right now, I’m looking at Yu Suzuki. The man is a game creator who has been working in video games for decades. He was a HUGE name in SEGA and designed some of their best hits. His work allowed for immersive arcade experiences in the 80’s, helped create the 3D fighting game (Virtua Fighter), and Shenmue. When Shenmue first came out back in 2000, it helped push technical limits even further to show that video games could pull off blockbuster level production and art. It became a major influence into how stories could be told through video games.
He disappeared for a while but now...Yu Suzuki is essentially trying to do what is nearly impossible. Create a game that is an enjoyable work of art that ALSO costs a ton of money. If Yu Suzuki tried to make Shenmue 3 on a shoestring budget, it would more or less take away some of what makes Shenmue what it is. In the current market and economy, a game like Shenmue is highly unlikely to sell that well, no matter how much advertisement or hype it generates leading up to release day. Even though it’s a return to form for many game players who remember the days when single player games were the most important part of a game, today’s games seem more focused on the multiplayer aspects before they even consider factoring in a single player campaign. But still, Sony and SEGA are backing Yu Suzuki on this, and he’s already crossed the $3.5 million mark on Kickstarter which will help with funding more content that would have been left out. It’s clear that Sony and SEGA are willing to open up their coffers to let Yu Suzuki create what he wants to create, especially with such a successful Kickstarter that shows off how people felt.
You can make a game as a work of art if you want, but depending on what it is you are trying to accomplish through your art, you may be better off approaching a different medium. Discussing video games as an artistic medium is distinct from discussing them as a product. A discussion about Van Gogh’s artistry with oils, his incredible brushwork, is not the same discussion as how much an original Van Gogh’s pulls in at Sotheby’s.
If the merit of a work of art is solely based on its popularity (i.e. sales) then critical review of a game serves little purpose. Market forces are the sole determinant of artistic value, therefore Call of Duty: Pick your Poison is of greater value than Portal, Journey, Gone Home or virtually any other game you care to name. Posterity will remember Madden 2012, not Spec Ops: The Line or Papa and Yo.
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