AAA gaming titles – the high art of this age?

Do you remember the days of floppy disk games? Well, if you do, congratulations, you are as old as I am – they don’t quite make them like that anymore :) We use to have heaps of computer games on one single floppy disk, and for those of you who are too young to remember, the bigger newer floppy disks were 1.4mb in size! Elon Musk kicked off his billion dollar career by writing a computer game in primary school and selling it to a computer magazine.

This was a time when someone who could code, could basically build a game and even sell it. Yes, I grant that development was way more difficult back then, without the internet and Stackoverflow and such, but those who could break through those constraints could make a living out of being a game programmer.

Oh how the times have changed. How many people do you know of that can still build games from scratch? I mean really from scratch, build their own physics and graphics engines, write their own music, do their own 3D characters and models. Basically this doesn’t happen anymore, we live in the age of game engines (UDK, Unity, CryEngine, GameMaker etc.), the bar has been raised of what people consider to be a good game.

Have you ever taken the time to actually go through the credits for a AAA title game? It’s massive! Heaps and heaps of people work on those games: Illustrators, animators, 3D model designers, coders, story writers, musicians, directors, producers etc. etc. etc. And this brings me to my point:

I believe that video game production, and specificly the AAA titles, are the high art of our age. Why do I say this? Well, because it’s the only form of media that incorporates every single part of the creative process you can possibly imagine, and then on top of all that, you can interact with this art!

Video game:

  • are like painting a landscape, and when you are done, you can walk around in that landscape you painted
  • it’s like building a Pinocchio, and afterwards it comes alive and interacts with you
  • it’s like listening to an orchestra play while you go about your day, having a soundtrack for life
  • it’s like jumping off a massive cliff and not die
  • it’s like writing a story, and then the characters you wrote about take over and you can’t control them anymore
  • it’s like watching a blockbuster movie, but then becoming the main character

Yes, AAA gaming titles are all of this and more. How can any creative mind not want to make games? Gone are they days that a great video game can be made by just a guy sitting in his basement with a computer, the full production team of the AAA gaming industry is going to dwarf the production teams in Hollywood in the near future.

My passion has always been to make games, I was somehow always captivated by the idea of controlling your character and exploring virtual worlds. I loved having a movie that I can interact with, that I can be part of the fight-scene or car-chase scene. The part I was most passionate about in all of this, was the creation of the game story, the concept and the mechanics. So being a game developer has always been a bit of a dream. The only problem is that there was no real educational training and/or industry for game development in South Africa when I finished high-school, so the options weren’t really there.

I dabbled with a lot of game engines from time to time, scratching bits of my itch – but every time I came to the same conclusion, I can’t do this by myself, I need a team. And so, slightly saddened by reality, I would stop playing around with game development again. But luckily the story does not have an unhappy ending :)

Frustrated with the fact that I did not have the means or resources to actually make the AAA title games I wanted to make, and not wanting my stories to die, I decided that I am just going to write some of the stories that I want to make games for. And so I did, and now I am nearing the end of my first novel. The creative experience in writing a novel was awesome: I did not only create a story, I also created a world, and I created mechanics for that world.

I found over time that every piece of creative outlet inspires every other one, which is great. Once I have created a world through telling a story, I can then write some music to go along with that story (another passion and hobby). And then, heck, I might as well create a boardgame that is themed with that world I created. Who knows, maybe one day I end up producing a comic book with my world in it, or a short movie, or maybe even a AAA title video game!

You see, the great thing that I realized during my creative pursuits, is that it’s not about making the game, it’s about creating, all of it, every part from the concept art to the soundtrack, and I love all of it. Even though I may not be writing a single line of code for it, I am busy making AAA title video games :)

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2 thoughts on “AAA gaming titles – the high art of this age?

  1. I wouldn’t say games have become high art, especially AAA games. While it is amazing the work that goes into a large game, I feel indie games are more likely to be seen as art. AAA games are often similar to Hollywood blockbusters, with big budgets and crews. Movie blockbusters are rarely seen as high art, though, and smaller movies are typically what you’ll be learning about in film class. That’s not to say AAA games aren’t art, but they certainly aren’t anywhere near being seen as high art. Art is moving towards digital though. Electronic music, digital graphic design, and certainly animation have entered the realm of high art in recent years.

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  2. I think firstly I would like to clarify that the idea of the post was not at all to make the indie game scene seem inferior in any way. In essence, I came to a place where I enjoy every part of making games or creating worlds, as indie as that part may be.
    I am a strong supporter of the indie scene, in my recent post about music, for example, I focus only on indie artists:
    https://fantasticalmuse.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/inspirational-music-for-the-creative-mind/

    But to respond to your actual comment @william : Maybe our definitions of art differ, I pull my definition from Google: “the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance”.

    So in using this definition of art then, it is seen as all the various branches of creative expression. The reason why I call AAA titles “High art”, is because it is one creative expression that combines all the others into one, thus establishing itself as high art.

    When you reference the types of movies you will more likely learn of in film school, I don’t think the reason for this is because they are considered “more art” than blockbusters. I will actually maintain that the flavor of movies taught is rather a personal preference of the film scholars themselves – a brand of movies that will be called “art nouveau” in layman’s terms (because the actual definition is different). How can a specific style of art be considered more art than another? Is painting more art than dancing?

    I don’t think so. If art is simply considered as any form of creative expression, then I will stay with my opinion that AAA title games are high art, in spite of the genre or style they fall under.

    PS: Thanks for sharing your opinion.

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