What I'm Not Playing This Week: Artgames Edition

Okay, so here’s a little back story: I’m currently about two weeks away from graduating from college with a double major in Art and Computer Science. The past week or so has revolved entirely around the finishing stages of the former major, with the main element being a full-scale art thesis exhibition. It was one of the most intense projects I’ve ever had to put together, and it was incredibly rewarding to finish it all up and see my work on the walls of the gallery.

That said, now that it’s done, I never want to see or think about art ever again.  And for this week, at least, that includes Artgames as well. After the jump I’ll run down just a few examples of the types of games that are going to feel way too pretentious to even approach.

Now, right off the bat, I want to make sure you know that this is not intended to be a debate piece about whether or not games are form of art. That’s because they are an art form and therefore there actually isn’t a debate. It’s also beside the point, because some games choose to emphasize the fact that they are art much more than others, games that are typically referred to as Artgames, and those are the games that I’m avoiding this week. For example:

I’ve discussed Jon Blow’s Braid in the past on Not Playing because of its incredibly touching and rather sorrowful love story, but I really have to bring it up again this week because it’s probably one of the first games I think of when I try to exemplify the Artgame movement. Not only does it have the soundtrack and beautiful painted graphics to wear the title, but the way it fuses its story and gameplay mechanics together is truly second to none. And that’s why I want nothing to do with it. Its art is too good and its concepts are even better, and I am severely burnt out on that kind of high-minded crap. Speaking of which,

Passage might have been one of the very first games in the Artgame movement. It’s simplistic and takes almost no time at all to play through, but it was among the first games to present game mechanics as metaphor and artistic allegory, which is really what sets the movement apart from the mainstream games industry. Its creator, Jason Rohrer, is incredibly well-respected in the indie community, and in fact just released his latest creation, a bizarre-looking, recursive shmup, Inside a Star-filled Sky (pictured at the top of this post), yesterday on Steam. It looks phenomenal, but given Rohrer’s penchant for artsy-fartsiness, I’m going to be dodging that one for a little while, too. You, though, you can (and should) check out all of Rohrer’s games here. Most are cheap or free, and all are worth your time,

As for me, though, I’m gonna spend this week playing the most mindless, story-less, games I can find, completely devoid of metaphor. The kinds of games that demand nothing from their players than testosterone, ten brain cells, and an itchy trigger finger. Perhaps one day my artistic impulses will return to me, but until then, I’ll just sit here and lament the fact that Duke Nukem: Forever doesn’t come out for another couple of weeks.

Hail to the king, baby.

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Danl Haas

Danl is a home-grown Minnesotan gamer, artist, and programmer. He loves rhythm games, RTS, and platformers. He loves building computers, too. His favorite games include Phoenix Wright, Dance Dance Revolution, and Katamari Damacy.

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