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Posts Tagged ‘Ebert’

Update: Apparently, pOnd stirred up enough traffic that it brought down the Peanut Gallery website. For the time being you can now play pOnd here.

Warning: Spoilers appear below the break. If you want to fully experience pOnd play the game before reading below the break.

IndieGames.com lead me to an intriguing game yesterday called pOnd. It’s a simple, one-button browser based game made by The Peanut Gallery in which you use the space bar to control a characters breathing as he walks through the woods towards a pond. The creators proclaim the game to be a very zen like experience and even suggest players breath in time with the game.

Over all, its a wonderful experience. The graphics are superb and the music and sound really pull you into the experience of walking though a forest in the early morning. Actions in the world are triggered by the passing of the player and their breathing  which sends wildlife scampering and prompts beams of light to cascade between tree branches.

By the time I reached the pond I was totally immersed in the experience and like the character stopped to admire the scenery taking in the pulsing spheres that prompt the player to breath in and out.

-Spoilers Ahead!-

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Roger Ebert is rather well known amongst the video game industry for claiming that “video games can never be art.” His latest foray into this argument came in response to a TED talk by Kellee Santiago on why video games are in fact art. I will refrain from delving into Ebert’s argument or lack of authority since many others have already done so (and much better than I probably ever could), but I do think this is a good opportunity to bring up another subject: the importance of critics in the process of validation.

Having someone who opposes our ideas gives us the opportunity to avoid shouting into the echo chamber, forever repeating the same tired arguments amongst the same old faces. Before Ebert’s post on the topic, the most interesting advancement in the discussion came from the Art History of Games Conference held in February where Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey of Tales of Tales boldly stated games are not art and that video games are largely a “waste of time”. While this was interesting to hear from the group of developers who created The Path, it was still addressed to gamers and the gaming industry. If we as game designers want validation for our art form we need to look outwards not inwards.

Perhaps more importantly, critics point out where the flaws in our arguments are so that we can better prepare ourselves for the next confrontation. Dennis Scimeca wrote an article on BitMob where he address the possible short comings of Kellee Santiago’s Ted talk. If we want to further the discussion, we should look at where others (purportedly) failed and improve upon their shortcomings. After all, if you can convert a critic they will most likely be one of your strongest allies. Imagine what convincing someone like Roger Ebert the video games are art would to to further the validation.  Having someone like Ebert lending his voice to the argument would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Another thing critics are great for is presenting their counter parts with challenges. While Ebert has admitted it might have been wrong to say video games will never be art it still stands as a challenge for us as game designers to create something that will change his mind. We have a great base to start from with games like Braid, Flower, and Bio Shock. I can only imagine where our games will go in the future.

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