Digital art and games

games not art

With the recent sorta release of the PlayStation 4, the issue of graphics and gaming seems to have been arrived at once again. Leaving aside the whole are games art ‘debate’  (as I would hope that by this time the discussion was moot. Games are capable of being aesthetic, lets get on with it)  the average reaction seems to be this:

The image of the ‘old man with nice eyes’ and his expressive wrinkles seems to have drawn a line for people. Beyond this line, they do not want to bother paying more money to go. Have game graphics reached the limit  of ‘real enough’? The video below outlines graphical progression from 1993 to 2011 in first person shooters.

How much more visual fidelity can the average gamer afford to pay for, and do we need it? Surely the law of diminishing returns must be kicking in about now. Are graphics the central point to gaming enjoyment, or is narrative and character construction a better place to focus your creative efforts. Is this a question of harmony between graphics (form) and content? Can you tell that I have recently been reading Kant and Hegel, and lord love me, Clement Greenberg?

Well that, and the issue of cost point is currently not up for debate, as Sony have yet to give an indication of cost.

Which is worrying. Especially since they just sold their Tokyo headquarters, as they need the money more than ownership of the building, having posted a deficit yet again. Sony needs to get its PlayStation strategy right. After eight years of losses in the TV business, it projects a $215 million profit this year—only after selling its New York headquarters for $1.1 billion. So there is that, and I would have imagined that the response to their company being in such dire straits would be to undertake the best, most comprehensive and desirable release of their flagship intellectual property, the PlayStation.

But we have yet to see it, or its price. And this is annoying, so says Black Nerd Comedy. Amongst many others. Never mind the appalling choice of games on release. Diablo 3? That’s been on pc for a while now, hasn’t it? Yes, there is Bungie’s new release of Destiny (think halo by way of Mass Effect). But that will not be a PS 4 exclusive either. So not even a game title that my current pc couldn’t run, or the even PS 3, or current xbox. This is not even taking into account that researcher NPD Group says sales of packaged games shrank 21 percent last year, while games downloaded to PCs and mobile devices (not the PS Vita) rose 16 percent.

A senior vice president at Electronic Arts, Nick Earl,  says game developers still consider home consoles the best platform for cutting-edge games and entertainment. Though this focus is being supplemented by following the mobile platform money. “The core gamers that have traditionally been buying a packaged-goods game every week, they’re really starting to shift their buying and playing to games on iPads and other mobile devices,” Earl says. “We believe the future of gaming is so much tied to these devices.” This puts a further nail in the coffin of the 30K polygon development that we saw in ‘old man with nice eyes’ being pursued by the PS 4 team earlier. By the end of 2011, Angry Birds has been downloaded 500 million times.

Rovio have successfully proven that he casual gamer cannot be ignored any longer, and that catering to the hardcore gamer may not be as lucrative in the long run given the high expectations they have of  new releases. It becomes difficult to compare sales between mobile devices and consoles, as the low price of mobile games seem to result in more casual purchasing, versus high cost 50 -60 euro AAA games for consoles upon release. That being said in 2011 (the same year of the Angry Birds 500 million cumulative downloads), Modern Warfare 3 went on to gross $1 billion throughout the world in 16 days of availability, beating Avatar‘s record of 19 days, according to Activision. So at least the consoles know they are doing better than cinema.

So far the PS 4 seems to be pretty much a powerful pc with the usual peripherals. And shoving social media on there, damn you share button. And immediate play. Everywhere. So you will never have to stop using the PS Vita. Aside from the fact that people use mobile devices like their phone or tablet to game, and not the PS Vita, cloud gaming is still an unproven technique, and its desirability is questionable.  There has been talk that the new cloud delivery method of gaming is actually intended to eradicate piracy, and by extension second-hand game trading. GameStop should really begin to sweat now, with retailer Game dying out not too long ago.

The Future of Consoles?

Developer Valve have come out and said that they are not going to pursue cloud gaming, as they envisage issues with delivery of a smooth gaming experience.These guys know about their gaming delivery. I have never had an issue with game access on Steam, unlike the PlayStation Network (credit card hacked and stolen), or EA’s Origin (I have currently been unable to access Mass Effect 3 multiplayer for 3 days, still no response from tech support. I wish this was the only instance). On slow broadband lag can be bad enough as it is, unless you are lucky enough to live in a very high speed area that affords you a low ping (unlikely in Ireland). If slow broadband made your online cloud game purchase inaccessible, or that it ran in sputtering low screen rates, how would this be received? And what would be the legal implications for being unable to access your purchases, what would be the delivery of service terms and conditions? I really don’t want to endure the Ryanair business model applied to gaming, we already have that in Zynga.

So what is the PlayStation 4’s unique selling point? What do they have that Nintendo hasn’t in the WiiU? Or all the titles available on Pc or Mac via Steam, usually at a lower cost, and with less hassle  Why are they trying to reach the casual gamer who spends a few quid maximum on a game for their phone, with a probably massively expensive console where the games are far more expensive? And that’s it. That is the problem with the PS 4. There is not enough for me to spend several hundred euro, for more wrinkles on an old man. The social media aspect is completely disinteresting to me (heresy as a digital humanist, I know). I never asked to put my gameplay on facebook or twitter. I have Steam for that. There is even a special award from Valve for that. And Garry’s mod. And the entirety of youtube. If I wanted to be play socially there are acres of muliplayer games, or the occasional public single player.

At the very least, can I please have a decent Final Fantasy game this time?


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