Video Games as Art
I’ve been playing Oxenfree on the Xbox One as it was one of the games with gold a while ago. I’d heard a little buzz about it when it came out, but not much. That might have just been me having my head in the sand but it definitely didn’t feel as buzzy as say Limbo, Braid or Fez.
I really hope a ton of people checked it out while it was on offer and more continue to afterward. This game is amazing. It isn’t breaking any new grounds or doing anything brand new mechanically but it is really beautiful both in design and in writing.
I very purposefully mentioned those other three games before as they, along with a few others, are often cited when people make the argument for video games being a true art form.
I personally think that it’s ridiculous to try and argue against that fact but I will definitely concede that not all video games are so. I would make the same case for film, tv, music or even printed works.
What Oxenfree does, I think better than those games, is add the depth of having a true narrative story. Limbo, Braid and Fez both definitely do have a story to tell but it is a lot more interpretational.
There are a lot of great narratives in video games too, I would look to the modern games from Naughty Dogg or Rockstar as the most common example. While I agree that all those titles are great fun and tell a story they are very much all about the spectacle and building to set piece moments. This makes sense, its still a video game and have always been structured as such; we just used to call them boss battles and instead of figuring out how Ellie would escape the creepy guy in the snowy lodge we would have been learning what platform to jump on to be able to stomp on Dr Robotnic’s head.
Thats why I love when a game will take a different approach. They tell a story, complete with characters who act and emote and have excellent voice talent, but they don’t feel the need to split the story up into particular beats with obvious levels or set pieces.
Playing this game is like watching a beautiful and surprising indie film as opposed to a fun action packed summer blockbuster. They both serve a purpose and both absolutely have a place but it is always refreshing to find something new that you connect to.
It may also be worth noting that a lot of my enjoyment potentially came from going into this game unsullied. I really knew nothing about the game outside of seeing a couple of screen shots. It was the equivalent of seeing a movie after only seeing a teaser poster and not any of the trailers.
If you haven’t played Oxenfree yet I urge you to, it’s available cheap on pretty much every platform. Let me know what you think and if you’ve got any other suggestions of games I should check out I’d love to hear them.
I’ll see you all back here tomorrow.