Thursday, 22 March 2012

"Won't someone please think of the artists?"

I’ll just clarify now that I’m not stepping into the “Are games art?” argument here because I don’t care for the fires such a question can ignite in hearts and angry keyboard fingers. What’s really riled me is how the screams to change Mass Effect 3’s ending are being described as ‘undermining artistic integrity’. Demanding a better ending is justified in my opinion, especially with the space magic, plot hole riddled, nonsensical conclusion Bioware originally delivered.

Again, I’ll keep this one spoiler free for those who have yet to play this truly amazing game that tragically ends on a whimpering fart.

One of the challenges posed by those against the Retake Mass Effect 3 movement is that it is not our right to challenge an artist and demand they change the ending to their story because it harms artistic integrity. I’d argue that games pissed away their artistic integrity a few years ago. Games aren’t mainly made for the love of it anymore. The really sad and depressing truth is that mainstream games are made for the money.

Why do you think we are bogged down with sequels and series revivals? It’s because original ideas are risky and not guaranteed to rake in the big money. The ambiguously titled ‘indie games’ scene is going a long way to tackle the creative deficit, but we still have a long way to go until the big boys of publishing start taking serious risks.

The artistic integrity argument has particularly annoyed me because of the industry’s new favourite tack-on: downloadable content. Chunks of games that could have been included in the original release are being removed and served later for extra cash. I didn’t buy the day one From Ashes DLC for ME3. I get the impression it was meant to be in the full game but was cut and made premium content due to time restraints, even though it was ready in time for release day. Surely this should have been free content for players that purchased a new copy of the game, similar to the Zaeed character in ME2?

How can you claim artistic integrity when you are not shipping completed works of art? Did the Mona Lisa have alternative scenery people could buy to place onto their prints to expand it? Does the Venus De Milo have ports for clip-on arms to finish the unfinished work? To claim artistic integrity you should stick by your original work and not charge for as much additional content as possible to milk your original vision dry. Anything you add or modify should be free or significant enough to add content that can stand up as its own ‘piece of art’ and deserve a price tag.

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