The Wii versus the Xbox 360: which furthers the artistic development of the gaming culture?

Let me first say that I acknowledge the many who are instantly discouraged by such a title as it automatically assumes artistic merit in video games. But for the members of the Comparative Blogging Foundation, that is an easy assumption to make. I would love to engage the very basic question of that merit but first I’d like to start with the question answered and work backwards. Assuming that there is artistic potential in the video game world, which system (between the Xbox 360 and the Wii) is furthering the artistic development of the gaming genre? I do not think there is an easy answer to the question and have personally witnessed both sides defined their viewpoints fiercely. But I will say this:

In observing the interactivity that has come to represent many of the installation art exhibitions of the current era, perhaps the Wii’s desire to further the interaction between the user and the game is a better development. With the Wii, the user is required to actually act out the actions of his or her avatar as the narrative develops. Without the user’s physical input the game would not proceed thus suggesting that the art of such games cannot exist without the user. An idea that has come up here before, that of the need for viewers for the art to actually exist.

But to contradict that, the users involvement is already required with the Xbox, in fact one could say that the user is required to participate in a less obvious fashion. Or to use an almost cliche art term, the user has to participate in an “abstract” way with the use of buttons and joysticks. Also on the Xbox side is the power that system operates with. With the processing advancements only capable by a system backed by Microsoft, the Xbox 360 has opened the figurative doors for game designers to animate almost without limitation. This freedom allows for the traditional artists of the genre (the graphics designers and game developers) to fully flex their creative muscles and create extraordinary worlds and character development that would have been unthinkable even with the original Xbox.

But on the other hand when has art been measured by processing power? Are movies today more artistic than in the 30s? I am not convinced that such advanced processing power is the key to better development. After all it is not the power that creates the art but rather the artists working with that power. To better explain this point I would like to bring in the Disney films. I feel that one would be a thin ice to suggest that the Pixar films of today are more artistic than the classic Disney films of the 30s and 40s. Well let me restate that. They may find the Pixar films to be more artistic but they certainly wouldn’t attribute it to the computer power behind the films. What it ultimately comes down to is the designers behind the games.

But, going back to the Wii for a second, that is true about the designers when dealing with what a game can do. But when you are talking about redesigning the interface between the user and the game, that has wide reaching ramifications that should not be overlooked by simply stating that the designers are the real artistic developers. I am of the opinion that experience counts more than presentation. And by that token I must align myself with the Wii camp and say that a focus on the experience will ultimately pay off.

But this is not about conclusions, this is about discussions. So I know open up the forum: Which system, given the Wii and the Xbox 360, will bring out the art of gaming?

-Huysmans

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One response to “The Wii versus the Xbox 360: which furthers the artistic development of the gaming culture?

  1. One data point is that a lot of games that try and fail to be artistic fail because they don’t fully embrace interactivity. I don’t play games much anymore, but I remember some that seemed to be created by frustrated novelists, with a lot of reading and not a lot of player control over what happens. The games that succeed on an artistic level are the ones that embrace the fact that in a game, gameplay and not narrative is primary. An example would be the various war games that wrench the unrealistic concept of “respawning” after death into a reminder of the carelessness with which a soldier’s life is disposed. For something like this to succeed, the artistic aspects and the interactivity must be closely allied, not at odds with each other. Because of that, I agree with you that the Wii could potentially be the more important contribution, but I also think that the novelty value could get in the way – like flashy graphics, the input device is technically impressive, but it could be debated whether its contributions really go beyond the superficial. The example I used, the war game, would make its commentary in pretty much the same way regardless of how the player controls the soldiers’ actions.

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