Big in Germany

Art games are on the rise in Germany. They’re even introducing a new name for it: “emogaming”. Though we have a feeling that the term will go the way of the “handy” (the German word for cell phone) in the rest of the world.

Neverthelless, the interest is genuine.

Last week, we participated, by video chat, in a symposium, taking place in Munich, called Emotional Gaming, about the “relation between gaming and emotionality”.

A few days ago, we were interviewed about The Graveyard for Zündfunk, a Bavarian radio show. The theme of the show was “emogaming”. They even had a professor talking about love in games. Have a listen, if you understand German:


And finally, also in German, is a long article about our work, how it is art and how that’s a good thing we need more of, on the popular Krawall website, entitled Spielekunst.

Die meisten Entwickler würden die Frage, ob Spiele Kunst seien, reflexartig bejahen, denn der Kunst haftet in unserer Gesellschaft schließlich ein positives Image an. Die Firma Tale of Tales macht Kunst-Spiele hingegen aus voller Überzeugung.

(rougly translates as “Most developers would answer the question whether games are art with “yes” by reflex, since art has a positive image in our society. Tale of Tales, however, make art games out of determined conviction.”)

Meanwhile, in the USA, Pullitzer prize winning game aficionados cast their doubts in mainstream newspapers about the artistic value of best selling games:

Narrative art of that caliber is distinguished by its ability to re-organize our preconceptions, to shift us into a world that’s always been there but that we’ve been afraid to acknowledge, and I’m not convinced that GTA IV pulls off that miracle.


Successful art tears away the veil and allows you to see the world with lapidary clarity; successful art pulls you apart and puts you back together again, often against your will, and in the process reminds you in a visceral way of your limitations, your vulnerabilities, makes you in effect more human. Does GTA IV do that? Not for me it doesn’t, and heck, I love this damn game.

Maybe we should invite Junot Díaz to have a look at our “emogames”… :)

7 thoughts on “Big in Germany”

  1. I think it’s certainly fair to say that GTA4’s narrative aspirations far overshoot their actual efficacy, due in equal parts to uneven quality of writing and dissonance with the type of game they tried to superimpose their narrative over. That a Pulitzer Prize-winning author is even interested enough in video games to write a long article about one in major publication, and that the article addresses whether the game is “successful art” (an important distinction– one that presupposes video games are “art,” period, and judges them evenly on that scale) is a positive indicator of significant mainstream generational shift in our favor.

  2. One question remains though: did the Grand Theft Auto authors intend to make great art and fail? Or did they intend to make exactly what they made? In the case of the latter, I don’t see much progress.

    We’re all very quick to say that games are art. But how many developers are actually trying to make art with their games? Art is rarely made by accident…

  3. I only played a little bit of GTA IV’s single player. GTA has never really been my cup of tea, so I had a bit of a hard time getting into it more than I did. (Not only that, but I think I had more fun just messing around in the multiplayer’s free mode with friends than I did playing the game itself.) Needless to say, I did feel that GTA IV’s approach to the story was deeper and more emotional than the previous GTA titles.

    I actually liked the character, Niko Bellic. I found the idea of a character trying to start a new life but just falling back into his old pattern and life style while wanting to escape it was interesting. I even liked how they did make Niko somewhat feel remorse. I won’t forget the line when you first get learn to use weapons and Niko says something like, “Just don’t tell me you stole this from a hospital of sick children or from nuns. My conscious is catching up.” However, I question rather or not I could call it art; though at the same time, I feel I can’t rightfully judge it since I hardly scratched the surface of the game.

    The potential was defiantly there though based on the bit I played. One thing I have to wonder is rather or not pressure of the existing GTA fanbase not accepting a more ‘philosophical’ story is what kept them from going farther than what they did.

    I must say though, is that one thing I love about art is there is no right or wrong answer to, “What is art?” There’s so many definitions for the word and so many things that could be art. A piece of stepped on clay may be nothing to one person but to another, it’s something abstract that truely speaks to them. I think rather or not a game is considered art truly lies within each person who plays it. Sure, there’s an universal level where everyone can pretty much agree that certain games aren’t art but there’s plenty of games out there that you can come up with an argument was to if it is art or not.

    I have noticed that more developers are starting to embrace emotions and are trying to drag the player deeper into the game. There’s still a long way to go for a lot of games but at the same time, there’s plenty of games out there that do exactly what the Pullitzer prize winner described; if needed, I could name a couple of games that made me really stop and think about myself and changed me in some way.

  4. Please name those games, Steph!

    It is true that more and more game designers are paying lip service to emotions in games. But they often seem to linger in “manufacturing mode”: they try to scientifically trigger the emotions in your brain. But that’s not art. That’s some kind of drugs.

    The essence of art is meaning. Meaning often provokes emotion. But not the other way around.

  5. The best example I can give is a game ToT recently just talked about- Silent Hill 2. The idea of a man being so deeply in love with a woman and wanted so desperately to be with her again, that he went as far as he did just for a chance to be together again even though he knew she was dead is something that anyone who has been truely in love can relate to. (Who wouldn’t do whatever they could to once again be with a loved one they’ve lost?)

    The game shows “your limitations, your vulnerabilities” You can’t bring someone back from the dead. No matter how much you wish or what you try, you just can’t but that doesn’t mean your love and tie to them is gone. Love is argumentatively the strongest emotion humans fill and can make us do almost anything- even if we know it is insane or hopeless.

    The same theme is expressed through Shadow of the Colossus. Again, love drives someone to overcome an unbelievable obstacle to- once again – gain the ability to be with a lost love again.

    If you want to escape the theme of love, there’s certain games that have ‘moments’. I say this because some games I’ve played have had a part that blew my mind and made me stumble back thinking, “Wow…I never looked at the world that way” but the overall theme or feeling of the game wasn’t that moment.

    For example, in Assassin’s Creed, Altair talks to victim before killing them. In one of the later chapters of the game, an official was burning books because he didn’t want the public to find out some information. Before dying, the victim asked why he had become a target. Altair replied because he was deny people the ability to learn more by preventing them from reading certain material; that the people had the right to read whatever they wanted and make their own decisions on how to live. The victim then told Altair that they were one in the same since Altair was doing the same thing by silencing the official who was expressing his beliefs by burning the books; that Altair was preventing people from listening to the official and deciding as to if they should listen.

    I know that sounds confusing. It makes more sense in action when you play it but that moment made me stop and look at history (and even events now) in a slightly different way. It showed the irony in the way people think and disagree; it helped to show that two people may feel that each other is wrong but they’re really acting and feeling the same way. Sadly though, the whole game didn’t have this feeling to it.

    Now, if you want to talk about emotions with meaning (in the context of how one feels effect what one does), then look no farther than Mass Effect. At least with the way I played it…I got very into the character I created. With her being the only survivor of her family, I made show that my in-game decisions set a certain personality for you.

    I showed compassion and protectiveness to my character’s crew and friends. (I figured that if someone had lost everyone they cared about once, they would want to do whatever they could to make sure they lost no one else again.) However, I made her bitter and sarcastic to the Council because she disagreed with them not taking action against the villain. (I figured her attitude would be that she did not want anyone else to suffer the pain she did when her family was killed. Therefore she was eager to want to protect others and was upset with the Council not doing that.)

    Of course the game itself didn’t force me to be that way, it was my own choice. So I guess, in a way, you have to think that way to get that experience from it but it does show that more developers are getting their feet wet and are at least allowing the player to experiment with emotion if the player chooses.

    And I apologize for the long comment. I’m quite passionate about this. 😛

  6. I’m not directly responding to the discussion here, but this is one of the few place I can think of that would be very fascinated by this development. Multiverse is a new platform that offers tools for creating an MMOG at no cost to developers. If the creation starts to generate income, there is a revenue sharing program in place (10%). I hope we see alot of “artist”-oriented developers and designers take an interest in this opportunity.

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