Ico: Videogames as Art?

26 11 2006

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There has been an ongoing debate on whether videogames can be considered art. The opposition argues that videogames cannot be considered to be “art” because it contains choices that are to be made by the player, unlike film and literature which are dictated by the author. There is one game that just has to be considered art for its beauty.

That game is Ico.

Ico was released in 2001 for the PS2 by Sony Computer Entertainment. The game puts you in the role of an awesome, young boy named Ico fully equipped with a horned helmet and a wooden stick. Playing as Ico, you must escort a princess out of a castle and avoid the shadowy enemies from taking the princess. To beat said shadowy enemies, you will have to use your trusty wooden stick and beat them up with it. For the majority of the game, you will be leading her through puzzles, rooms, and other obstacles. Sometimes you will have to hold her hand and lead her to safety from shadowy enemies, other times you will have to leave her for a while to solve a puzzle. But in the end, you still have to come back and pick her up.

The game’s graphic style was quite amazing back when I played this game in 2001, and even now it still amazes me. Missing is an HUD that shows life or other information like in all other games, which helps give it a film-like quality. The colors used and the architecture of the castle combine for a very satisfying image that makes me think “art”. To complete the whole experience, music is used only to heighten the moment and does not overpower the scene. This game is very minimalistic in its design, and that is part of its strength.

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Even though the game has not sold millions like other popular games such as Halo or Grand Theft Auto, it has garnered a decent-sized following for its art and gameplay. Due to the mass acclaim it has recieved and the good sales, another game was developed by the same development studio as a spiritual sequel to Ico. Released in 2005, the second game by the Ico team was called Wander and the Colossus(ワンダと巨像) in Japan, while in North America the titled was changed to “Shadow of the Colossus.” This game continued the critical acclaim of Ico and adds to the argument of videogames as art. Sadly, I’ve yet to play Shadow of the Collosus but I will hopefully get to doing so in the future.

As a result of releasing games such as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, maybe there will be an effect on the videogame industry that will show more games that are focused on giving the senses stimulation, not just from the cheap thrill of guns and violence, but from the beauty of the sight and the moment. Only then will more people recognize videogames as art.

Now time to play some Grand Theft Auto!

(That was a joke!)

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