How will mobile affect the art of gaming?
The video game industry has long been criticized as not being an art form. Roger Ebert has gone as far to say “that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.” (source)
Art is defined as “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others. Art is something that stimulates an individual’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or ideas through the senses.” (source) The gaming industry has proved time and time again its ability to create emotional experiences parallel to those of other art/entertainment industries; even Ebert’s own film industry.
Who can forget the adrenaline rush in Half-Life 2 when the chimney stack collapses and you have only moments to race to safety, or the relief of catching a flag-carrying friend on your hovercraft mid-air in Tribes. What about the thrill of accomplishment at dinging level 60 in Diablo III?. And who can deny the breathtaking scenes of God of War III, feeling the sand between your toes in Journey, or the slumber party-esque fun of Little Big Planet?
Chris Melissinos @CMelissinos has been a long time advocate for the art of gaming. At his current exhibit at the Smithsonian, Melissinos shows video games as not just mere play, but “richly textured emotional and social experiences that have crossed the boundary into culture and art.” (source)
So the question becomes, how will mobile affect the art of gaming?
There has been criticism around mobile games as a medium due to the size/ functionality of the phones (small screens, and minimal buttons – space to touch screen). Games followed a conventional wisdom of short and simple so things weren’t lost in translation. However companies such as Kabam are showing an ability to provide advanced artistic development in the mobile market.
“Twelve months ago people thought Zynga games would be dominant,” Mr. Chou, chief executive, Kabam says, “now you’re going to see much more sophistication in the market.” In making sophisticated games, he says, “we were the first to say that social gaming shouldn’t just be casual, it should also be for the hard-core gamers.” (source)
And there is a market for it. “Casual gamers were only 10 percent of the total market, and Zynga tapped it out,” says Greg Richardson, Rumble’s chief executive. “People want to hit a button and go straight to a game. I’ll give Zynga credit for doing that. But people will still fall in love with a great game.” (source)
Mobile engagement has evolved with the technology. Mobile gaming is no longer limited to the mindset of “short engagements/light activity.” In fact it is becoming the most serious conversation about the art of gaming. Mobile in its essence allows for flexibility and integration into the human experience. And companies like Kabam and Rumble are leading the charge in proving how mobile games can stimulate the senses. It won’t be long before the technology of LA Noire will be in the palm of your hand.
Does this mean that Zynga-esque games are becoming obsolete? Absolutely not. They all still revolve around the same idea; social sharing, creating experiences that can be shared with others. No matter the genre of game, the conversation around gameplay has always and will always continue to exist. Going back to what Melissinos said, these are “richly textured emotional and social experiences that have crossed the boundary into culture and art.” So while business strategies will change, the core value of gaming exists in its artform. And in that ideology there is room for all types of gaming, gamers and of course critics.