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Pursuing a Video Game Masterpiece
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Pursuing a Video Game Masterpiece

May 10, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

Pleasing as it might be to hear that there is a growing interest in video games within academia, Blow is relatively unconcerned about whether established academics are interested in video games or not, and much more concerned about how the next generation is being taught. "I think that most game design courses are crap," Blow says. "In fact, they are unethical, because as an institution you are telling young students with lots of potential to come and spend a lot of their time and money at your university, and implicit in this is the promise that you will take care of them and teach them good things, and implicit in that is the promise that you are competent to teach those things; but then these universities turn around and hire people who don't really know anything about games to teach the classes. It's really terrible."

"More and more game study programs are that way," Blow continues. "Universities are figuring out that lots of people want to take classes about making video games, so they are all in a hurry to hire. Do a web search for 'game design professor' and look at all the help-wanted ads. Extrapolate that across a few years; then keep in mind that almost all of these institutions are hiring people who are not at a reasonable level of competence. They are just scrambling to put people in there so that they can claim to have a game design program."

While Grefsrud praises the game design course he took at university, he shares Blow's concerns. "For every genuinely useful course that equips students with the practical, intellectual, and critical skills they need to create games, there is an ass-on-seats course that exists more because the university has computer labs that can now be used to establish yet another revenue stream, and not because the institution can offer genuine expertise."

And what of the future that this new generation of game designers will come to? EA COO Peter Moore recently proclaimed that "free-to-play is the future," and indeed, the likes of Crytek have already placed their eggs in the free-to-play basket. This development worries me. I ask Blow whether it's possible for a game that has to integrate the process of payment into its very design to be art.

"I believe that most free-to-play models shift the creator-player relationship into dangerous territory," explains Blow. "To make the kinds of games that I care about, it is important that we respect our players and treat them well and wish the best for them. Free-to-play models tend to gravitate toward extractionary relationships: we lure you into our trap and then don't let you out until you pay us this and pay us that, and we are designing everything with an eye toward getting you to click the 'yes I will pay you' button. The relationship becomes corrupted very quickly."

"I have an idea for a free-to-play game design that doesn't work this way, at least not so much," Blow continues. "Who knows if I will do it sometime, though."

In contrast, Grefsrud argues that "business models are not a factor in art." Perhaps he is right. In any case, the impact free-to-play will have on the artistic potential of the medium remains to be seen. Time will tell as far as that particular question is concerned. In the mean time, we might do well to give more consideration to that question raised by Dr. Tavinor: "Do we really know what a video games masterpiece looks like"?

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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