Long-time B A Starters will remember the Great Debate over whether or not videogames are art. After much discussion and refining of definitions, my statement was “not yet”. Maybe they can be, but no one’s come up with anything so far that makes me say “yes”.
I’m pissed at myself for not knowing anything about Jason Rohrer until Alanna lent me December’s Esquire. I read the article and played Passage, and now can quite firmly state that there’s at least one person out there making art in this format. (The person who made The Majesty of Colors counts too — a post for a later date)
Before you go any further, I recommend giving Passage a play. I read the summary in the Esquire article before I played it and wish I hadn’t. Still, despite knowing the point before going into it, I still had an emotional reaction to the game.
Passage provides you with choices. Do I hunt for treasure chests, or do I explore the world? Should I marry? If I do, it becomes harder to get the treasure but more rewarding to explore. But no matter what you choose, you will subtly age and die. Unceremoniously, suddenly, irrevocably.
For the first time in a lifetime of videogaming, I found myself reflecting. I have had a lot of reason to consider my choices recently — career, personal, spiritual — and this 5-minute game resonated with my meditations. It’s an interactive Beethoven’s fifth; go ahead and make your silly little choices — fate will win and they will have done nothing to change that. All you can influence is your own experience, and try to do as much with your 5 as possible.
I’ll be keeping an eye on what this gent produces. If you find anyone else out there working to communicate emotion through the interactivity of videogames, do please throw a comment my way.