Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beliefs in Art, Talent and MMOs

A lot of the entertainment venues and resources out there coincide in also being a form of art, such as movies, theatre, crafts, music and books. All of those elements are present in MMOs: cut scenes like in movies, theatre at every corner of RP servers’ inns, in game music, lore and the crafting possibilities given to players when customizing characters, appearances and housing.

With that said, MMOs are, to me, a venue in which we can express ourselves through art, and the product itself, without its users, is also a piece worth of calling it art. Just look at the many high quality blogs dedicated to housing, decoration and outfit making inside MMOs.

And that makes me think of “talent”, and I believe many other people will quickly associate it with the word art too. Talent can be what we use to separate quality work from pieces we don’t like as much, or even to describe pieces we don’t understand at all. Or, more often then not, talent is the mystery that divides artists from simple mortals.

As Brenda Hoddinott says on her Understanding Talent article, talent is explained to us by the media as a mysterious and unreachable thing, as we are told that pieces we might not understand are good, no matter our opinion on the matter. Being fed such media impressions leaves a lot of people with the concept that they can’t reach any form of art, since they can’t make a masterpiece without practice, or never get their works to be sold.

Anyone with enough practice and motivation CAN make art. You don’t even need hands (or feet) to paint, or play a musical instrument, or write a book. Your first pieces might come out very different from what you were expecting, but all you need to do is keep practicing, go for instruction or DIY books or classes, get better materials over time, and so on.

What does this all have to do with MMOs? The “AAA” myth. My belief is that, just like art, any game developer is able to create a game that people will enjoy, or not, be it a famous one or a fresh into the market one.

It is just the same. If Blizzard (Metallica) announces a new MMO (CD), a lot of people will buy it without even trying the beta (hearing a sample on the radio). It does make sense if you like the game developer (artist), but don’t they also have a chance to fail to your expectations sometimes? (and Metallica did, I don’t like their newer stuff).

And then a game developer you don’t know the name announces a new MMO. A lot of people will say straight forward that since they don’t know where it is coming from, it is either bad or not worth their precious time. The game might even be free, and people will still not try it out, because it is not an “AAA” tittle. Makes me wonder if there are people out there who will only watch Oscar winner movies.

Reading that kind of comment around the internet made me go after definitions of what an “AAA game” might be, which ranged from something of top quality, a game that sold a great amount of units in the past year, to a definition used to make you buy it, assuming you’ll believe it to be top quality. Also, that it comes from a studio that had enough money and thus, should be able to make something of top quality, even if it fails to.

What it means to me is that “AAA” became a short cut to tell costumers that their product should be bought without much questioning, that it is good because they say it is good, and not because you gave it a chance to be so. It is like telling you that you should love the Twillight movies because they got all of the MTV awards last year.

I read a lot of beliefs around the internet under news posts. The most common ones are related with the belief that “if I never heard of this game, then...” which can be completed with beliefs that the game shouldn’t either exist, or be popular, or be profitable. I’ve never heard of Starbucks before moving to U.S., does that make it disappear, or be unpopular to its users, or probably something that does no profit?

Beliefs are to blame on a lot of people who miss trying different tittles and game developers (and music, and movies and even food). Money is often directly connected with the ability to create something good (or to be happy), but then we’ll end up finding games that are both small, from an unknown developer, and cheap to purchase that we enjoy, if only we give it a chance.

Examples of such games to me are Torchlight, AudioSurf, Family Farm, Wurm, Minecraft. Some of these I own, some I’ve only tried the demo and will get a copy once I have the chance. But all of them came from smaller companies or developers, and were able to deliver not only quality products, but many hours of fun to me.

The point of all this is that I want to ask people to give a chance to the unknown. Like art, games don’t need to come from well known sources to be able to be enjoyable and of good quality.

What about you guys? Any games that are not called “AAA” that you enjoy but haven’t shared about yet? Or which big “AAA” promise disappointed you?

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the designation "AAA" has become a warning mark to me, denoting something that I will probably not like. Every game that I've played that was called "AAA" has been either a sequel to another game, or the latest game from a developer who has put out other games that I liked. In every case I can think of, the AAA game has been an inferior game to the previous ones, except for the graphics, which are usually improved.

    AAA games are like "blockbuster movies". Stuff for mindless popcorn entertainment and visuals. Not what I see movies for, and not what I play games for.

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