Because of this I read a lot of news on a website called IGN.
Because of this I became aware of, and read articles authored by, Michael Thomsen. He wrote articles about games that made me think beyond my blind love of them, they made me expect more from them, they frustrated me because they pointed out the obvious flaws that had only previously existed only in my subconscious during gameplay.
Michael Thomsen did an interview with author Tom Bissell who wrote a book called Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. This book simultaneously recited my hopes for gaming as a medium, as well as lamenting how pathetic most videogame's attempts at narrative were and continue to be. It shared my most personal emotional experiences with games and gave me insight into some of the industry's visionaries.
Tom Bissell wrote about people like Jonathan Blow (Braid), and Clint Hocking (Splinter Cell/Chaos Theory, Far Cry 2), Leigh Alexander, Michael Abbot, who wrote or talked about games in such interesting ways, taking game critique to analytical levels that I'd previously only experienced in media theory.
Through Clint Hocking's blog I became aware of an article which wrote praise for a games designer called Jason Rohrer. His commitment to artgames and the philosophy of a games rules of play being the basis for narrative, communication of metaphor, or message, fascinated me. At first I disliked the retro style he made his games in, but I soon began to appreciate it as a means of conveying his games messages in the most simple and profound aesthetic style.
Through these people and their respective blogs and podcasts and interviews I began to discover a whole other school of game design and ideology that at first confused but then thrilled me. Each new person I discovered opened a new layer to this thriving community living in the internet, affording me access to opinions and concepts that I had no idea existed. I went back to an old podcast I remembered listening to that featured Jonathan Blow, Rod Humble, and Jason Rohrer talking with Michael Thomsen at one year's Game Developers Conference. This podcast totally blew my mind as what seemed like four perfectly nice guys idly debating game design; slowly unravelled into four minds whose analytical thought processes rapidly laid bare the most intricate inner workings of each others games and those of the mainstream. They touched on fundamental design philosophies, thematic importance, the compromise (or not) that the industry forces designers to make. All this, when (sadly) most people are content to shoot each others faces off in MW2. The incredible depths they reached in that discussion proved to me beyond a doubt that games can be art.
I have since played the masterpiece that is Braid. I don't want to talk about it. I just want people to go and experience it for themselves, give it their time, and their thought.
I have played Far Cry 2, found the experience unpleasant, I persevered, grew accustomed to the awful things it asks the player to do, and then finally realised: thats the point! Its an FPS, its about shooting people in a war torn african country as a mercenary with malaria, you should feel like a bastard until you become an unfeeling monster. What else should you expect from a game were the play revolves around the single most violent and disturbing act a human can commit against other humans. Murder. Far Cry2 is an important game because it goes so far beyond "its just a game", and "games should be fun", that it makes a point about the human condition through its gameplay. How many games do you know that do that?
I wanted to share this with anyone who will listen, anyone who reads this blog, anyone who plays videogames. This shit is important, in a medium which is advancing faster than any other, in terms of technology, in terms of technique. I want you to be able to find all this amazing stuff that its taken me all this time to discover. So please do.
This probably isn't the last you'll hear on the subject anyway...