Thanks to matthewfrota for the inspiration.
Every lore tidbit from XIII reinforces what’s happening in the gameplay. Shit’s going down and you’re not really wanted here and Barthandelus is a dick with an understandable purpose but unfortunately just a piece of a MUCH larger puzzle. They are constantly running away from Pope Benedict XVI (can’t really blame them) and forced to at the very least fight together if they want to live, and are only given some breathing room after reaching Pulse.
Are video games art? They can be. But in order for it to be art, we need people who are able to analyze what they’re viewing.
When it comes to Final Fantasy XIII, most people didn’t bother. Most gamers didn’t care about how the game makes them feel in contrast to the themes of the game. They do compare it to relative Final Fantasy criteria, that sometimes the company itself challenges.
Most people complain that Final Fantasy XIII is such a beautiful game. There’s so much to explore. But players can’t. Might this be the point?
How do you think the characters feel? Your characters are on the run. It makes little sense for them to stop to talk to citizens, shop in store, or sleep in inns. You wouldn’t even want to run off the beaten path on a trail. Who knows what might lay in store for them? Whether or not this was the intention, it’s consistent with the theme.
The development team talked about the game being the way it was due to limitations. But sometimes it’s the happy accidents that make art memorable. Even if this wasn’t their original intention, this is how it turned out. And it turned out well with the themes and motifs in the game.
So then technically, the gameplay illustrates a major theme of the game: being on the run. They were also on the run from their problems.
Of course, it probably could have been better with more useless, point-in-click style busy work minigames. A lot of other Final Fantasy games have this to illustrate characters avoiding their problems. Then again, I can’t see how the usually standard minigames would fit into Final Fantasy XIII’s world. Maybe even making you go off on a tangent to explore for treasure that was useless?
And how about the ultra frantic, hectic, high intense combat of Final Fantasy XIII? Many players complained about feeling stressed. Well, you should feel stressed, according to the narrative. Think about how the characters might feel. Well, players did indirectly. And many couldn’t handle it. So they took the easy way out and choose auto-battle. Most couldn’t care less that their characters have to handle less that they can sit down. And then, without reflecting on the need for auto-battle, they complain the game had become too easy.
Riding a bike becomes easy when you’re riding with training wheels. Just as easy when your parents hold the handle bars. But have them let go without the training wheels. Many fall over, cry, stomp their feet and give up. Riding a bike should be fun, right? Playing a Final Fantasy game should be fun, right?
Fun. In this sense, I think I see what the problem is. Many games love to extol the virtues of video games as art. Only, not in the way most art enthusiasts would claim. When gamers mean “art”, they’re referring to HD graphics. What they don’t mean is “providing a full experience of aesthetically pleasing material”. Most people who played Final Fantasy XIII give the rest of the world they don’t like reading; the Datalogs enhance the story.
Of course, materials outside of the game shouldn’t explain the story. But within the context of their world, the Datalogs in this game should. Final Fantasy XIII mixed literature, music, and art into a blend of interactivity with a theme. This is monumental. But gamers cared about personal enjoyment (understandably) and most overlooked how the elements came together. To make…art.
And who are we kidding here? We aren’t usually the first one to expound upon the existential dilemmas set forth by Kierkegaard. Players don’t usually analyze a Warhol Campbell Soup Can painting to delineate between fine and commercial art.
Final Fantasy XIII is far inferior to all of these things.
Video games are art, but gamers would never know it. They’re a poor judge of it. Like most of us, they just want their interests validated. Getting respectable art critics to cite video games as art might do it. But then, if a game invalidates a gamer’s ego, it might as well be trash. Gamers themselves are the biggest detriment to seeing video games as art.