I’ve been playing Remedy Entertainment’s game Alan Wake this weekend. Let me state up front that it is one of the better games I’ve played, is very atmospheric, and has a number of clever ideas and quite an enjoyable story.
Nevertheless, it, along with much of what I’m hearing about Rockstar’s L.A. Noire, has made me a little concerned. It seems almost like video games are trying too hard to imitate other art forms, as if to prove that they are worthy. An understandable impulse, I suppose, given what people like Roger Ebert say about them.
Alan Wake seems to be trying really hard to prove it can do everything that a horror novel, TV program, or film can do. And, indeed, it can. As a story, it is every bit the equal of the typical specimens of those genres. Likewise, Noire–which I have not played–has been greeted with “it is like a Hollywood noir-detective story! Huzzah!”
This is good, I guess. But the thing that bothers me is that video games are not the same thing as books or TV series or films. As others have said, they are a unique form, and it would be a shame if they constrained themselves needlessly in trying to do in their form that which is by its nature optimized for others.
P.S. I should mention that a while back, I read a really good article about this tendency in games. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who wrote it or where it appeared. (Critical Missive and Sane Man of an Insane World were my first guesses, but I couldn’t find it either place.) If anyone reading this happens to know, I will make sure to add a link to it.