The Art of Gaming

September 19, 2014 – Culture

Fake Geek Girl was off gallivanting for a while but she’s now back in action. Swoosh!

When I say video games, what do you think?

Do you think Call of Duty or Battlefield-esque gameplay, complete with guns, explosions, and a couple of enemy crushing tanks? Or do you think casual mobile games such as Candy Crush, Angry Birds, or Bejewelled? Maybe you think platform like Super Mario, Crash Bandicoot, or what my youth was dominated by – Croc. Or perhaps you think old-school: Tetris, Space Invaders and Pacman.

But do you think art I wonder. Because you should.

When I was first introduced to the concept of games being art, I dismissed it immediately.

“Of course they’re not art”, I thought to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledged that they were fun and creative, but to me art is something else. Art is that beauty or ugliness that comes from within, art evokes feelings; the only feeling that I was experiencing while playing games, was frustration.

Not only was that attitude wrong, but it was snobbish and incredibly pretentious. Could you imagine someone saying that now about films? That they’re not an artform? Imagine how you’d react if somebody you knew said that. At the very least you’d be expecting some kind of explanation for having that point of view.

I only realised that games were art a few weeks after I’d, so very rudely, dismissed the idea of them being so. I was sat at home, playing through a platform game that brought me through to Victorian England all the way to 19th century China and back. I had stopped to take a gulp of my, by that point, lukewarm tea when I just looked at my screen and took in what I had paused the game at.

The detail in the graphics was astounding. Vanilla and raspberry sky with delicate birds flying lazily around some trees in the horizon. It was gorgeous.

Then I started to pay attention properly. The way it deserved to have been paid attention to. The soundtrack was beautiful too. Not that dramatic music that the game plays when you’re about to fight off some baddies, but just that atmospheric music that floats around in the background.

That didn’t compose itself.

And the artwork didn’t create itself.

And the storyline – no matter how in depth or cursory it may be – didn’t write itself.

This is living, interactive art.

If you fancy playing through some games that are more on the arty side, rather than the traditional platform or shoot em ups, I have a few suggestions below:

Limbo is an amazing game. It’s all done in black and grey with nothing fancy at all. But don’t let the simple, almost childish graphics fool you, this game is emotionally brutal.

This is the story of a little boy who is searching Limbo for his little sister. He had to deal with shadowy spiders, other children who want to hurt him and mind controlling parasites.

When he dies, (which he does a lot) it’s done with no ceremony or ‘wipeout’ music. The game  just lingers for a second or two too long on this little boy’s broken ragdoll body, and then you try the puzzle again. The whole idea behind it is that there is no punishment for failing in Limbo per se, instead the death is just a little bit too brutal and  too real, and you have to experience it every time you mess up.

I cannot recommend it enough, but be warned, it’s an emotionally draining experience.

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Dear Esther isn’t a traditional game at all. Instead it’s been described as a poetic ghost story told through the gaming medium.

As you play you walk through an abandoned island and as you do so, fragments of the story are narrated. I don’t want to say too much about this game because I’d only ruin the story and the immersive experience. Just play it. Even if you hate games and everything that goes with them, this is an amazingly emotive story that blends the narrators past and present together.

The music is sublime and almost heart wrenching at times. The graphics don’t look like graphics – they look like hyperrealistic paintings. All of this is set with the sound of piercing winds blowing in the background and cold surf rushing onto an abandoned beach; if anything was to make you feel like you were out wandering around an offshore Hebridean island, this is it.


Valiant Hearts is a game set in World War I and is done in pretty and cheerful comic book style artwork that just seems to highlight the brutality of that war.

The game tells a story that deals with love and loss as characters try to survive the horrors of the trenches, gas, and bombings. It feels almost innocent in parts of the game, but that innocence is beautifully transposed against the heartbreaking storylines and the moments of utter futility that the characters go through.

Reading Wilfred Owen’s poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, at school came rushing back to me as I played through my first battle-scene. At that point, it felt almost macabre to play through something as grim as this in those bright cartoonish colours. But every now and again as you play, you look upwards and you see this pale dawn light, seeping down from the pencil drawn sky and rain, and it’s beautiful.

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Words: Fake Geek Girl