No spoilers. Extremely profound discussion of the definition of ‘art,’ devolving into advice on home repairs. You’re gonna love it.
Well, I guess election night wasn’t a total disaster, right? That’s what passes for good news these days.
Didn’t play. A friend was supposed to come over, but bailed, and then Mrs. McP wanted to watch the news so I got drunk as a defense mechanism because what else can you do?
I’ll play today. Everyone’s back at school.
Indeed, this is our good news. Not a complete disaster! Yay!
I was home yesterday because Grigio was throwing up. Good times.
But hey, that night could have been a lot worse. Small joys.
Remember when we hoped for better news than “Not a complete disaster?” Those were the days.
Well, at least I’m not doing pukey laundry.
I think I’ll go cheer myself up by going to check out that new liquor store out in Burlington. Gotta do something.
Those were the days. How young and naive we were!
But hey, new liquor store! Definitely worth checking out. There could be valuable loot. And you need something with which to drink to the not-total-disaster.
Pick me up something that goes with pukey laundry.
On second thought, never mind. Whatever that is, I don’t actually want to drink it. Not unless I get really desperate, anyway.
We’ve all been that desperate. And, if any place was gonna have something to pair with it, this was the place. A little overwhelming, really. But hey! Booze! Hooray, booze!
Well, still didn’t play, but we’re on a roll here, so we can keep rolling, right?
So while I was at stop and shop wondering where the brita filters were, I started thinking about this game in terms of art in general, and decided to get all esoteric. You’re cool with esoteric. It’s how we do.
So I mentioned yesterday about how complicated it gets, analyzing art, when something has such highs and such lows. And we agree Mafia three has very high highs and some low lows, right?
Usually, I would say, “Ok, still a work of art. Art, by definition, is something that makes you think, and, if you are thinking about something’s flaws, then fine. You’re thinking, it’s art. We think on the flaws of art on these pages all the time.”
But the wrinkle in this game wasn’t that there were bad parts, per se, it’s that there were BORING parts. We played parts of this game that were very thought provoking, and then we’d play stretches where all we could say was “Killed Kevin.” That isn’t criticism. It’s a void.
So when we do things like talk about how the shift to third person in Rise of the Tomb Raider was jarring, we’re still thinking hard about the art form, and Rise of the Tomb Raider’s place in it, good or bad. But when you have NOTHING to say about something, good or bad, it stops being art. Right?
But that would mean that it is possible for something, one thing, in this case Mafia 3, to be a work of art that has parts of it that AREN’T works of art. IS that possible? If it is, is THAT something that, like so many other weirdnesses, can only exist in a game?
Then I found the Brita filters.
I didn’t play either. Esoterica ahoy!
And…weeelllll…I don’t think it can be partly art and partly not art. Unless we’re going to say that a movie with a lot of boring parts is partly not art, or a book with a lot of pages where nothing really important happens is partly not art.
It’s partly art you appreciate and partly art you don’t appreciate, sure. Partly good art and partly bad art, if you want to make a value judgment (though, art being subject, there were probably people who preferred the exciting, murdery combat in this game to the boring, overly serious conversation bits).
But unless it literally turns into another thing in some places, like it switches to a video tutorial on how to use WordPress or something and then goes back to the game–it’s all part of the same thing. If the thing it is, is a piece of art, then I say it’s all art. Again–maybe not all successful art, maybe not all good art, but it’s all art.
I mean, if the entire game were nothing but hunting Kevin, we would say it was a boring game we didn’t care about and probably wouldn’t finish playing, but it’s still a game, right? And a game is art, in the sense that it serves no practical purpose.
I’m using art broadly here, obviously, to encompass pretty much any human endeavor that doesn’t have some specific practical purpose. We could argue that, say, a drugstore greeting card with a bad drawing of a kitten and a terrible poem on it isn’t really art, and if we’re going with that, then sure, we can talk about whether or not specific pieces of other artworks (movies, books) are also not really art. However, I’m not sure I really want to get into drawing the boundaries of what is and is not art, so broadly speaking…I’m going with yes, even the Kevin-hunting was art.
Huzzah! Pull up the wing back chairs and put on your smoking jackets. We’re gonna go full PBS.
Except games have a fundamental difference from books or movies. Books and movies ARE one thing. A linear thing. You start and one cover, read until the other. You plop down and start watching when the lights go off, get up and leave when the credits roll. So you can say “Man, some of that was boring” because you couldn’t leave.
But non linear games aren’t like that. We talked just the other day about how reviewers might have played very different games before writing their reviews based on what parts they played.
So are games like movies? Or are they more like collections of short stories? Because if they are the latter, then I think you can very much judge them piecemeal. You wouldn’t sit down with an anthology of short stories, even by the same author, and say “I shall judge the second story based on how I felt about the first.” You’d approach them independently.
See, we’re used to judging games like that: the short story model. We do it all the time. Even games we adore, the main story is usually pretty lame. We love games for the side quests. Witcher 3? Yeah, yeah, wild hunt, save world, yeah got it. The magic of that game was the Bloody Baron and the queen of Skelege. Anything by bioware? Save the world, yeah yeah yeah. It’s the companion quest and whatnot we love. We’re willing to forgive the big picture because of all the episodic things along the way.
The reason we’re struggling so much with this game is it’s exactly the opposite. The MAIN story is great, everything else isn’t. Or, at the very least, the episodes on the main story’s arc are great and everything else isn’t. That’s almost never true. At best, we can say “The main story missions were AS GOOD as the side quests.” And we’re confused.
And I think that confusion begs the question: Have we been thinking about our own thinking about games all wrong? (Told you we’d go full PBS). When we’ve been all judgy of games as whole things, were we a) wrong to do that or b) wrong that that’s what we were doing in the first place? Have we been judging games as episodic shorts all along?
And oh, I’ll define art. I think art is any creative effort that inspires thought or reflection, or, at least, some visceral emotional response. There can be bad art, or offensive art, or flawed art, but I’m going with that as the discussion.
I would say your Kevin hunter game would be entertainment, which is fine, but entertainment isn’t art. The process of making it may well be the same, but art? No.
I think that art and entertainment are a Venn diagram, really. We’ve played games that are, without a doubt, art but not entertaining at all (Looking at you, TLOU), and games that are entertaining as hell without being really thought provoking (Uncharted 3, say). And we’ve played things in that overlap. And it doesn’t have to be in that overlap to be “good.” Both TLOU and UC are “good.” For what they are trying to do.
Which is my segue to how to judge them. If a game (or movie, or book, or whatever) isn’t really TRYING to be thought provoking, but is just trying to be entertainment, then fine. We take it for what it is. If a game (or movie, or book, or whatever) is aiming for that art part of the Venn diagram and misses, then we are going to skewer it, both in how we think about it and how much we like it. Nothing’s more eye rolling than something that takes itself WAAAAAY too seriously. Intent of the artist matters.
Which is why I think we’ve been intentionally or unintentionally judging games as anthologies all along. Take TW3, a game we both think is excellent. There were times when it took itself very seriously, and tried to say serious things. But then there were bits where you got drunk and stole Yen’s clothes, or played a lot of Gwent. And that’s fine, because in the gwent bits or funny bits, it wasn’t trying to say anything of substance. It would be like having a funny short story thrown into the anthology. That’s a lot easier to take than if all of a sudden, there was a musical number in Schindler’s List and we had to judge that as one, whole, monolithic artwork.
NO, YOU DISCUSS!!!
I WILL DISCUSS.
I like the anthology analogy, but…I think it’s not completely accurate. I mean, you can ONLY read certain stories in an anthology. “I bought this for Author X and ignored all the other stories” would work just fine.
Whereas you can’t, often, play only parts of a game. I mean, you can to a limited extent. I didn’t do any of the car racing in Mafia 3, and we both skipped some of the racket missions once we did enough damage to call out the boss. We skipped most of the boxing in TW3. Etc. But in this case, the very complaint is that we can’t skip a lot of the fighting and driving. You HAVE to do it. I think if you HAVE to do it, it can’t reasonably be separated out as “one story in the anthology.”
I can certainly see a game is like “one main story with a lot of smaller stories” and some of the smaller stories can be skipped (and some can’t), but unless we imagine a book with one main through-story and bunch of skippable side stories, it’s not exactly the same.
Maybe more than an anthology, a game is like a TV series…a lot of episodes in an ongoing sequence, featuring a lot of the same characters, but with potentially very different tones and emphases from both one episode, and one season, to the next. And some episodes, or some seasons, are a lot better than others. I would still argue they’re all art, but according to your definition, this may not be so.
And then, I guess, it’s far to ask whether or not we judge TV series as monolithic artworks, or as individual episodes/seasons. And the answer is probably “yes.” We do talk about them in both senses. (This could also apply for long-running book series, where you have a lot of different ‘episodes’ in which to explore different characters and stories and tones.)
Maybe we love some characters but hate certain seasons or story arcs or books. Maybe the first few seasons/books were great and the last one was terrible. Maybe it was all good except for that one story arc about so-and-so.
YOU DO THAT!
True. Anthology is an imperfect analogy. Even in games that didn’t have so much unskippable stuff, you’re going to have to do the same beginning, say. Do the tutorials. We all had the same opening scene in the Witcher 3. You cannot skip to page 187 as soon as you open a game up, that you can’t. But it’s the best analogy I got. We’re talking about a new art form, here.
I think we do tend to judge TV series as monolithic pieces of art. Even if we don’t judge them as one unit (yes, we say that season was better than that season all the time), we expect a certain thing, with limited deviation, from each episode/season/whatever.
It goes to “what are they aiming for,” again. But, with TV, we allow them to aim once. Usually. A comedy? We can say “that episode is funnier than that,” some episodes become rather iconic while some are forgotten, but it has to stay FUNNY. Seinfeld’s horrendously misunderstood finale, which ended with them sitting in a prison cell quoting “No Exit” pissed EVERYONE off because what was Seinfeld DOING? They CAN’T do that! We could say that a popular show breaking the fourth wall and pointing out you’ve been laughing at awful, AWFUL people for years is quite an artistic endeavor. But it’s not acceptable for a show that hadn’t been doing that.
For some reason, the opposite seems to be more acceptable. We’re ok with a serious show letting its guard down every once in a while. An episode, say. Not a whole season.
Ok. But to go back to our initial question regarding how to judge something that’s sometimes so good and sometimes so bad, how many episodes/books/whatever in the series have to be good to couteract the duds? Or how many duds drag the whole thing down? There’s gotta be a line somewhere.
I’m sure there’s a line, in terms of how many boring episodes one can tolerate while still judging the overall work to be good, but I’m not sure it can be precisely calculated since it will probably vary from person to person.
Also, I’m not sure it’s always necessary to pronounce a final judgment on things. “Is this good, or bad?” Sometimes, things can in fact be both. “There were parts I liked, and parts I didn’t like” is a perfectly reasonable (and extremely common) response to…a lot of things.
But where any given person draws the line between “good with flaws” and “bad with some good bits”, I don’t know. I suppose it would make sense to just say it’s about the proportions, and if 51% was good, it’s good with flaws…but then, it also depends on the specific flaws.
If it was 51% good with flaws, but the flaws were really, incredibly, horrifyingly bad (in this case, I don’t know, say if you not only had to hunt all those Kevins but the game inevitably glitched and shut down halfway through each fight so you had to spend 5 minutes reloading every single combat), then maybe that outweighs the good. I might just no longer have the patience to sit through those flaws to get to the good parts, even if the good parts were technically a larger percentage of the game.
Like I said, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to devise a precise formula here.
Well, that’s fine. We’re not good with precise. But at least we have encouraged thought. Thus, we are art.
That we are.
Man, I’m tired. And broke. Paid the junk people, the electrician and got new gutters and soffits this week. How are your soffits? You have soffits, you know.
Do not speak to me of soffits! We had to have a plumber to fix the toilet last week. Someone has to come back to fix the stove again, because the last time, it didn’t take. The sliding doors in the upstairs shower are out of their tracks and cannot be convinced to go back in, so you basically just can’t get in.
I do not wish to hear tell of soffits. Even though you totally made that up.
There. Wikipedia says it’s real.
Ok, tip on appliances:
There is no bigger waste of money than repairing an appliance. By the time the fucking thing gets fixed, you’ve paid, like, 80% of what it would cost to just get a new one.
Just get a new one.
As for shower doors, I’ve been there. Rip ’em out, get a curtain.
Carefully, rip them out.
And fixing toilets is easy. The fuck you calling a plumber for? Even I can fix toilets.
But here’s the real “Why’d we buy houses?” tale of the week:
So I went to replace my outside light fixtures. I can do this. You unscrew the old one, take it off, attach the white wire to the black wire, screw it back up. Easy. Done it a lot. So I go to unscrew the fixture, only to find it is nailed there. Nailed. “Odd,” thought I. So I took out the nails only to find that the man I bought my house from had simply sawed a rather uneven hole in the outside of the house, reached in, pulled two interior wires through the wall, attached them to a fixture without anything else, like a junction box, and then nailed the whole thing to the outside of the house.
So for all these years, our outside lights are really just…what’s the word….fire hazards.
The electrician took a look and said “Well…that’s….crafty….”
Why’d we do this?
Buy a new stove. Get a shower curtain.
But dude, fix your own toilet.
The toilet was leaking water all over the bathroom floor AND through the pipes into the basement! We were afraid to mess with it. Next time.
You’re probably right about the shower doors and the stove. Unless the steel tariffs have driven up the price of appliances.
We should actually probably get one immediately, just in case that’s going to happen next month.
I don’t know why we got houses. You did try to warn me.
Also, everyone knows Wikipedia can’t be trusted. You probably wrote that article yourself just now.
Ah, see, “all through the pipes” isn’t “toilet” so much as “complete clusterfuck.” Be specific.
Go get a stove.
Sorry, my bad. I’m new at complaining about houses. I might not even have realized what a terrifying fire hazard your outside lights were!
“Crafty?” I might have said. “That sounds like a compliment! I will now skip away humming a merry tune.”