As I approached the end of Fall 2009 semester, I was tasked to put together a 12 minute presentation (I opted to do a video) for my Art and Technology class. It went poorly – I was lucky to escape from class with a grade of C on the basis of having done good work prior to my final. In retrospect, I think I may have sabotaged myself.
Nevermind my senioritus had pushed my procrastination into chronic levels, the problem in this case is that my chosen topic had a subconscious ulterior motive. I thought I was trying to indicate that, within the purely digital realm of computer game creation, there was an unbridled basis for the imagination to create. What I was actually subconsciously doing was telling Modern Art that, even if I understood well enough to write some good reflections on it, I disagreed with much of it, I thought many examples were being overly vague and pretentious, and was demonstrating that far superior work could be found even in popular video games.
Unless the class is being taught by Andy Rooney, you can expect that to go over very poorly in a Fine Arts class.
You might say that it’s not entirely fair, and it’s a matter of taste, and perhaps you’re right. But then, what if you’re not? To accept bad taste as a new taste would imply that there’s no such thing as good taste – something a modern artist is quick to deny, but can they prove it?
What I do know for certain is, as far as personal taste is concerned, I prefer a bit more reason to my rhymes. I prefer masterpieces, like an opera, not some stoned guy recording himself talk on camera. To be deliberately illogical and vague in order for people to make up their own interpretations and buy it strikes me as dishonest.
Much like my final presentation, when you never knew what you were attempting to communicate, you’re only mumbling, and have no right to earn acclaim for what people think they heard. Perhaps the dividing line is there, as how else can they rate your ability to present a message than to compare what was received with what you were trying to send?
Today, I discovered a game that blurred the lines even for someone who would so clearly (if callously) define them such as myself. This is The Path, developed by Belgian Tale of Tales.
It is generally served up as “a short horror game.” Indeed, it is capable of generating some pretty nerve-wracking moments, as it does everything in its power to unchain the player’s’ imaginations before hinting them towards macabre thoughts. However, it does not seek to simply frighten, it is really more along the lines of modern interactive fiction.
The Path spins the tale of Red Riding Hood from the perspective of six sisters, chosen to embark through the forest to their grandmother’s house one sister at a time. To heed your instructions and follow that path directly to Grandma’s house produces a boring-but-safe-result, and is branded a failure. For a Red to succeed in The Path, she must leave the path and find the Wolf.
As far as being a game is concerned, The Path would seem relatively weak. Though it is beautiful both in terms of environment and the interface and has dynamic music accompaniment, it seems boggled down with pacing issues and you can get stuck on invisible walls. Controls often feel sluggish and, given the surreal backdrop of the forest, it is sometimes difficult to see.
However, much of this is planned, because The Path deliberately confuses, obstructs, disorients, and mystifies. Though it may resemble an adventure game, items collected are never used, but rather shed light on each Red’s personality, which is both the backbone of the game and completely optional. Even the scoring screen generated at the end of each chapter is done tongue-in-cheek.
Like Modern Art, The Path defies interpretation. I would interpret the 6 Reds as being the past selves of the grandmother (who is apparently on her death bed) remembering her life, dreaming of one last adventure, while making peace with the past. Another person would interpret the 6 Reds as being real individuals with everything else being a metaphorical symbol of their coming of age and/or enduring personal tragedies. These are only two of many possible interpretations.
Would that I had only found The Path prior to giving my presentation! Here is a game that bears much of the earmarks of Fine Art while simultaneously being so well done that I could not accuse it of being pretentious trash. I probably could have focused completely on it for my 12 minute presentation and have met the mutual satisfaction of myself and the Fine Arts class. Oh well, that’s retrospect for you.
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