Via Andrew Sullivan, a very interesting interview with Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. He’s arguing for why video games should be seen as an art form. I’d never heard of him before, but he’s clearly a very smart guy, and he’s doing good work to combat anti-video game bigotry.
There’s just one problem: he doesn’t realize just how right he is about games. For example, he says:
“A lot of video game storytelling is phenomenally good: BioShock, Portal, Left 4 Dead, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect.”
I can’t vouch for Bioshock, Left 4 Dead or RDR. ME and Portal are both better than average game stories, for sure. But why the hell isn’t Planescape: Torment in there? That game towers over those other titles.
At the end of the interview, Bissell describes his ideal, not yet in existence, video game:
“I’d love to see a game in which problems were spread out before the gamer that did not have easy or even obvious solutions. A game in which decisions were largely irrevocable, and made you commit to the choices you make. A game in which characters seemed something more than nth-generation Xeroxes of action-movie heroes. A game that offered a world with no good guys and bad guys, but people with equally intricate and complicated belief systems. A game that left people stunned by the variety of human experience, in other words. A game in which not every obstacle was a puzzle or an enemy, but something spiritual, maybe, or moral, or personal.”
Then get thee to the work of Chris Avellone, posthaste! He has made several such games. In fact, basically every game Obsidian Entertainment has ever made fulfills at least some of those requirements.