Stop and Smell the Pixels: Nicholas O'Brien Considers the Underappreciated Art of Video Games

Stop and Smell the Pixels: Nicholas O'Brien Considers the Underappreciated Art of Video GamesImage via Reddead Wikia / Rockstar

We consider ourselves pretty serious gamers here (some of us) and we definitely appreciate all the work that goes into making them what they are. Often the landscapes and other artistic nods in video games serve as filler because most players want to drive, shoot, run, and climb their way to the end credits as quickly as possible so that they can move on to the next release. Nicholas O'Brien wrote an interesting 1,700 word essay for Rhizome in which he discusses Jon Rafman's use of Max Payne 3 as source material for his video work A Man Digging (2013). For O'Brien, Rafman's piece brings to mind the tendency for games with "insistent narrative-centric designs" to prevent players from "exploring the potential for triple-A games to take on the unique, interactive potential to create contemplative and self-reflective video game environments."

O'Brien reflects on playing games like Red Dead Redemption in which the narrative would interrupt his enjoyment of the expansive and gorgeous world. He writes "the designers—or at least some of them—clearly wanted me to gaze upon this virtual splendor, just as one would meditate on a painting by Thomas Moran or Albert Bierstadt. However, the game’s AI would continually interfere, summoning cougars or coyotes, escaped convicts or roadside bandits, to ruin my perfectly good respite." Gamer or not, we recommend you read this essay. It makes great points about "contemplative spaces," visual design, and immersive environments.

[via Rhizome]

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