Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Top Gear in Gran Turismo 5

11/2/10.  That is the set release date of Gran Turismo 5.

We all know how that goes.

I love the franchise and may buy a PS3 for this one, but should, in all honesty, get the Wii first.  That said, there is one thing that really has me chomping at the bit, so to speak.

The Top Gear test track is in this one.  That's right.  The best show on television, which has often referenced and used Gran Turismo, is now getting its turn in the game. 

I'm donning a white firesuit and describing myself as a man who is afraid of ducks (Stig reference for all you ignorant types).  This is, of course, grand news.

I have my doubts about the release date, because we've heard this before.  I know Polyphony seems pretty firm with this date, but I'll believe it when I see it. 

3D.  Chicago.  950 cars.  This is ... a wet dream.

Monday, June 21, 2010

But is it Art?

Roger Ebert, a film critic I happen to respect (he's also a huge inspiration when it comes to my own film journalism pieces), posted a piece on his blog a while back about video games not being art.  You can read it here.

I obviously love video games, and if you read my other blogs, you know I am a big supporter of art over entertainment.  Ebert's piece, which has raised all kinds of hackles in the video game world, was well-written and it proved his point.  He even went so far as to question why video games should even concern themselves with the art issue.

So, how do I feel about it? 

I agree with him.

Video games can be artistic, but none of them have risen to the level of fine art yet.  Not a single one I can think of.  The problem is they can be artistic, and can even be played artistically, but at the end of the day -- they are games through and through.  Games have scoring systems, rules, certain criteria that must be met to win or complete them.  That's not art. 

Ebert asked why games had to be considered art, and I have to agree with that, too.  Why can't they be satisfied being great games?  Why is there no pride in that?  Look at what happens to artistic mediums when they aspire to be something else.  For example, comic books.

Comic books have been doing things like "director's commentary" and printing in widescreen format, both of which seem ridiculous in a comic book format.  They aren't satisfied with being comic books (and they are artistic).  They want to be movies because that is where the respect is at.  Even when there is a movie being made of a comic book, the comic book will do a movie adaptation! 

Video games aspire to lofty plateaus.  They want to be art.  In doing so, they have forgotten what appeals to gamers -- a good game.  I love video games, but I don't care that they aren't art.  They can still be things of wonder and beauty, but no video game has ever inspired me to create (my art of choice is writing, if you don't know).  And if they have inspired people, I believe it is probably only inspiration to create more games.  Sort of like a chocolate chip cookie may inspire you to bake.

Ebert is right.  As of now, video games aren't art.  They may never be, either, unless we change our definitions of games.

Let me know I'm wrong.  In fact, I'd like to be proven wrong.  Game Informer did a fairly large piece on this issue, and I am far from convinced. 

Ebert is right.  He not only knows film, but he knows art.  And while he may not play video games -- I do, and I agree with him.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jack Black Loves Pitfall Harry

If you had an Atari 2600, you had Pitfall.  It sold something like 4 million copies and was one of the best selling games on the system.  A young Jack Black did one of the commercials for the game.

I'm not a huge Black fan.  I mean, he's not the worst actor around, but he's not a box office draw for me.  This commercial may be the most low-key thing he's ever done.  It also doesn't do the game justice.

Granted, this game drove me nuts when it came out (and so does the version in Marvel Ultimate Alliance).  Those alligators you have to jump across always got me as I got nervous and died right before the last one.  That didn't stop me from putting days into this game.  I even attempted to take a picture of my score so I could get the jacket patch.  (The photo turned out to look like some weird Polaroid porn.) 

One of the reasons I bought Activision Hits Remixed was because I thought I could lure Black to my own personal dungeon.  Well, not really.  It was Pitfall, which, ironically, I have to play on that game.  I'm sure it's not as good as I remember it, but for months I couldn't be budged from the original. 

Younger readers may not understand its allure, but let me tell you.  Back in 1982 this was the shit.  Swinging over weird self-closing pits, cobras, gold bars, rolling logs -- no other video game had that.  Say what you want, but this was a lot like the first time you played Grand Theft Auto III ... only with worst graphics and no hooker killing.