Video games are the answer to the New Boring

jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2011 , Posted by admin at 2:34

Video games are the answer to the New Boring

Fed up of Downton Abbey and Adele? Games have the obvious answer, it's just that some people aren't listening

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Just one of many vibrant and astonishingly entertaining video games released this month.

If you read the Guardian last Thursday, you may have caught Stuart Jeffries' robust polemic against "the New Boring" – an entertainment trend in which terrifyingly inoffensive offerings such as Downton, Strictly and Kirstie Allsopp's Home Knit Bakery Challenge (or whatever it's called) have seemingly lobotomised the nation into docile viewing acquiescence. Jeffries borrowed the term "the New Boring" from Peter Robinson of superlative music blog Popjustice, who has angrily decried the comparable "Beige Wave" of audio dullards – the turgid likes of Adele, Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling.

Jeffries and Robinson are right of course. In these troubling times, it seems mainstream entertainment has turned into the equivalent of a nervous-looking policeman shuffling in front of a burning fireworks factory shouting, "nothing to see here, more away, please" as a billion catherine wheels ignite in unison. Downton and MasterChef have dropped below the level of entertainment to become gentle cultural sedatives. Meanwhile, our simmering fury at the world is being skilfully channelled, not into marching en masse toward Downing Street, but into shouting at our TVs when the wrong karaoke singer is evicted from The X Factor.

Contemporary mass entertainment, then, is largely horrible, asinine and designed to be forgettable and throwaway – like the cheap, impulse garments filling our high-street tat shops. But what annoys me is that there's a vital exception to the New Boring flourishing under the noses of our cultural critics, they're just not seeing it. They are not seeing video games.

Okay, so admittedly, games aren't any more in touch with the 'real world' than scripted reality TV shows or the movies of Michael Bay. But at least they are extremely good. This autumn has seen a relentless barrage of acclaimed mainstream masterpieces, from the gothic thrills of Batman: Arkham City to the ridiculously ambitious expanses of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, via the warm, generous beauty of Skyward Sword. Metacritic, the leading score aggregation site for the music, movie and games industries, has seen an explosion of titles rated at 85% and above. If all this were happening in the TV or movie sectors, critics would be tumbling over themselves to proclaim this a golden age of passive visual entertainment. As it is, critics are simply tumbling over themselves to switch off I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here.

And even the biggest, most conservative game releases are many times more adventurous and subversive than their televisual counterparts. The military shooter Modern Warfare 3, which has been derided by gamers for not being imaginative enough, still manages to feature a land invasion of the United States, a shoot-out on a fragmenting jumbo jet, a gas attack on London and US pilots bombing the Eiffel tower until it falls over. It makes Spooks look about as dangerous and apocalyptic as Come Dine With Me.

And then there's Saint's Row 3, an open-world crime shooter, that seems to have been concocted entirely by hyperactive 14-year-olds force fed on a diet of sherbet, Red Bull and Korean gangster movies. This is a game in which the player can, entirely at random, bludgeon passers-by with a giant dildo. To the best of my knowledge, Downton Abbey features nothing even remotely comparable – although, to be fair, I skipped most of season two, and may have missed a key scene in which Hugh Bonneville attacks his butler with some nightmarish Edwardian device intended for the cure of female hysteria.

At the other end of the scale, there is Skyrim, a game so vast, so open, so wondrously detailed, you can effectively plan and enact your own unique Game of Thrones adventure. Nothing that Zack Snyder hacks together using a digital camera and his comic collection will ever, ever come close to the grandiose vision at the heart of this immense experience.

And then Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword... Please, if you are a parent and you want something to do with your kids on a wet Sunday afternoon, don't rent the latest heavily marketed CGI bore-fest from a Hollywood studio more interested in selling you merchandise and the moral agenda of its self-serving financers, buy Zelda. Buy Zelda and share a genuinely thrilling, heart-warming escapist fantasy with your children. Certainly, it's not as "good" as taking them to a museum or getting them to play footie in the park, but if the only alternative is Horrid Henry, it is spectacular – and they will never forget it.

That is why games will never be part of the New Boring. Even the annual updates, the tired sequels, the safe Triple A blockbusters, are constructed by insanely dedicated teams whose modus operandi is the construction of memories: the first time Batman lifts his cape and soars over the rain-slick streets of Gotham; the darkness of a looming citadel in the pulverising RPG thriller Dark Souls; Uncharted's Nathan Drake fist-fighting on the open cargo door of soaring aircraft. Interactivity is a blunt but effective tool to ensure attention and alertness. And as such, video games have never sought to stultify or repress. Video games are not interested in teaching us to make the most out of our tired soft furnishings.

Of course, the spirit of Jeffries' piece was one of agitation. He wanted us to rebel against mainstream entertainment and its agenda. But that doesn't have to mean chucking your TV out of the window and occupying your town square. If you want mass entertainment that's going to test you, enrage you, get you talking to your family, games are where it is now. Forget mainstream TV, forget it. It's over – at least in terms of water cooler discussion. Apprentice and The X Factor may reliably trend on Twitter, but it's all ironic chatter mixed with barely-disguised collective embarrassment and culpability. There's nothing enriching there.

By contrast, games demand immersion and investment. Traditionally, this has formed a stereotype of dead-eyed zombies slumped in front of monitors, but of course, through XBox Live and PSN, gamers now constantly communicate with each other, as well as share creative tasks in titles like Little Big Planet and Minecraft. New research from Michigan State University suggests that gamers are more imaginative story-tellers – the findings are far from conclusive, but they don't surprise me. The game worlds in Zelda, Uncharted and Dark Souls are rich and deep. They are cluttered with possibilities.

Big business knows that this is true. Corporations are busily converting their websites and marketing campaigns into mini-tasks and collection challenges. "Gamification" is the communications buzzword of the 2010s. Industry leader Bunchball has supplied gamification tools to everyone from Warner Bros to Playboy; and when Nike introduced its Nike+ range of trainers and gamified jogging apps, sales grew by 10%, with 35% of purchasers claiming to be completely new to Nike products. Games get to us on some primal level, they speak to the machine code of the human id – and that can be a good thing. Last year, game designer Jane McGonigal gave a talk at the TED conference entitled, 'Gaming can make a better world' in which she argued that the sense of passion and commitment within game communities could be harnessed to solve real-world problems.

You have your doubts and so do I. But the very least mainstream games do is give us a platform to discuss amazing things. When you talk about Zelda or Uncharted 3, you can talk about beauty, art, mythology and adventure; when you talk about the forthcoming Bioshock: Infinite, you can cover architecture, paranoia and politics and it all makes perfect sense. These elements aren't hidden away, to be teased out by cultural studies students desperate to apply their knowledge of Derrida and Saussure. They're there in the very form, the very function of the games. Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are idiotic and politically suspect, but give them five minutes and they'll show you more about the computerised lunacy of contemporary conflict than most of those MOD-arranged shaky cam war reports beamed into your living rooms by over-stretched 24-hour news channels.

So much contemporary television is transitory and listless – it doesn't try to be memorable, it just recaps everything before and after the commercial breaks and hopes for the best. The apathy of the audience is actually built in to the format. What a fall from grace. I'll sound like an old codger here, but you couldn't forget Cathy Come Home or Our Friends in the North or Boys From the Black Stuff, the anger and craft seared themselves into your brain. Games don't tell us much in comparison, but at least they know we're listening. And they know we're not bored

Video// Youtube
Article,photographs and video taken entirely from the web http://www.guardian.co.uk/