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Why Are There No Highbrow Video Games? 424

Posted by Zonk
from the easier-to-do-boobs-and-guns dept.
simoniker writes "In his latest 'Designer's Notebook' question, columnist Ernest Adams asks a very simple question: are video games' lack of cultural credibility partly due to the fact that "we don't have any highbrow games"? Titled 'Where's Our Merchant Ivory?', Adams asks: 'Almost every other entertainment medium has an elite form... We produce light popular entertainment, and light popular entertainment is trivial, disposable, and therefore culturally insignificant, at least so far as podunk city councilors and ill-advised state legislators are concerned.' Do games have an image problem compared to other popular media, and how do we fix it?"
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Why Are There No Highbrow Video Games?

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  • by ALeavitt (636946) * <aleavittNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:38PM (#15867242)
    Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus transcend simple "gamehood" and, to me at least, stand as true works of interactive art. A game doesn't have to be stilted and boring to be highbrow.
    • by sottitron (923868) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:45PM (#15867323)
      These are EXACTLY the two games that came to mind for me, too. The problem with saying there are no highbrow games is that makes it seem like the author has seen them all... So maybe this is a stretch, but, who is to say a game like Rallisport Challenge 2 isn't highbrow?? First of all, its gorgeous and doesn't have anyone killing anyone else with a machette. And do you know what the bankroll of someone who is really into Rally racing is like? I mean if you can travel to another country or even another continent to see a race, you are not exactly sweating it.
      • by aichpvee (631243) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @03:04PM (#15868644) Journal
        I'm not going to read the article (it isn't "highbrow" enough for me), but maybe the point he should have made is that there aren't ENOUGH "highbrow" games. This is probably because of the high cost and low sales (considering the price) of video games and the relatively "lowbrow" demographic that they continually fall back on because it is cheaper and safer than chasing other groups of end users. So of course there isn't that much content there, because it's all being aimed at the lowest common denominator, which is often too low to even be common.
      • So maybe this is a stretch, but, who is to say a game like Rallisport Challenge 2 isn't highbrow??

        Why would a game designed to intentionally represent a real sport as accurately as possible be considered more "highbrow" than the sport it's intended to represent? At best, the highest form of culture it could aspire to would be the same as the sport itself.

        I do think there are plenty of "higbrow" games out there, whatever that means, and it is one of those terms (like the term "insane") that is only used by
        • by Mindspider (993974) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @07:05PM (#15870440)
          I don't think the author was saying that we need a romance game; what the author meant was that we need more games with intellectual subtlety. Comics are an excellent example here: comics aren't lacking in technical skill. I'm currently studying art in college, and even though I may understand the intricacies of a Caravaggio or a Michelangelo painting, sometimes I'd rather just read Spawn. Comics aren't lacking in complex plotlines, either... there are many examples of fantastic writing in the comic-world.

          The bottom line, though, is that true classics of any artform have layers upon layers of subtleties. There just aren't many examples of comics that are truly rich in intellectual value. From my own experience, I've found that most classical painting was done using very conventional, often uninspiring, subject matter. Look at the Mona Lisa- a standard portrait of a woman. Nothing exciting. What makes the Mona Lisa so amazing is the incredible subtlety and thought that went into the painting, and that isn't something you can pick up at a glance. A Spawn cover may look more interesting, but it pales in serious comparison.

          So back to video games- there are many examples of intelligent, extremely well-executed video games out there. However, I don't see any games that are comparable to Bach or Rembrandt or Dickens. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are beautiful pieces of art, but beautiful doesn't necessarily mean "high brow".
    • by giorgiofr (887762) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:11PM (#15867651)
      Also throw in Deus Ex: Conspiracy. A masterpiece of interactive art, as you put it. AND arguably one the best games ever made.
      Let us never speak again of the sequel, though.
      • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:56PM (#15868097) Journal
        Also throw in Deus Ex: Conspiracy. A masterpiece of interactive art, as you put it. AND arguably one the best games ever made. Let us never speak again of the sequel, though.

        There was a sequel to Deus Ex? How could anybody hope to top that? Next you'll be telling me there was a sequel to the movie "The Highlander".
        • Next you'll be telling me there was a sequel to the movie "The Highlander".

          Yeah, but if they did that, they'd probably make a really crappy one and have to do a third just to set the record straight... better they don't do any more.

          Although it might have made a good TV series.

    • by XenoRyet (824514) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:30PM (#15867828)
      Those two are excelent examples, and the columnist's discription of a "highbrow game" was practicaly a review of the Myst series. I'm sure there are a score of other great examples that we're not remembering just at the moment.

      I don't think the problem is so much that we don't have highbrow games, as it is that no one, not even snooty columnists, recognizes them when they see them.

    • You left out "Leisure Suit Larry"
      • by Anonymous Coward
        What about Final Fantasy VII certainly not graphically wounderful by todays standards but it has love, betrayal, your heros journey. Not to mention it actually evokes emotional responses from player other then just frustration at how hard it is to beat some boss. Top that all off with and amazing music score and you have the closes thing to highbrow I've seen in awhile, much more so then say Civ 4.
    • by utopianfiat (774016) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @05:41PM (#15869904) Journal
      Monacle-bearing man: "Pip pip, time for a spot of Myst, eh good chap?"
      Stiff-upper-lip man: *pushes shuffleboard puck* "Right-oh."
  • Honestly, don't you have something better to do with your time?
  • Very simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:39PM (#15867256)
    Making games costs money. People with lots of money don't want to spend lots of money on "intellectual" games. Because it's just games.

    Movies can be "highly intellectual and cultural". Music too. Even food. Computer games are simply nothing to brag about in front of your high profile friends.
    • by RingDev (879105)
      Spoken like a man who has never ascended.

      -Rick
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:05PM (#15867572)
        Whatever it may mean...

        Let's face it, though, that the computer culture is, so far, a short one. It's a very new medium, unprecedented by anything it developed from that could be viewed as the "heritage" of it. Music developed during the ages. Even movies had their roots in theatres and plays. Computer games have nothing to draw from.

        Thus they are not taken serious as a cultural element. One could argue that the junk that's currently sold as music is at best what fast food is to cooking, but there is "good" music, maybe it's a bit dated, but there are pieces of music that can be considered true art. And it needn't be something along the lines of Mozart or Beethoven. A lot of "pop music" is very capable of moving people, inspiring them, it had some serious impact on our life and it even had influence on politics and the way people see the world. I'm especially thinking about music from the peace movement in the 60s, for example. Most of it can be considered pop music, but it had a "message", it contained elements that are thought provoking, it's not just easy listening and entertaining.

        Such precedents are missing in the computer games history. And now is maybe one of the worst moments to try something like that. Making games is costy. It's not like you can sit down in the basement with your friends and you strum your guitars 'til something with a message comes out. You need good people, with a lot of math and physics in their brains, and I do take a serious background in computer languages as granted, who spend a lot of time working out the game.

        And then, nobody will buy it. It doesn't carter the fast food generation gamers, who want a quick, fun game to rush through and then go on to the next. And, as stated before, people who are looking for entertainment with depth, meaning and message are not looking for it in computer games.
        • by Haeleth (414428) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:13PM (#15869240) Journal
          Let's face it, though, that the computer culture is, so far, a short one. It's a very new medium, unprecedented by anything it developed from that could be viewed as the "heritage" of it. Music developed during the ages. Even movies had their roots in theatres and plays. Computer games have nothing to draw from.

          True, that. How can games ever hope to be taken seriously? It's not like there are ancient traditions of gaming with deep roots in our culture or anything. No serious intellectual would dream of wasting his time on a frivolous pursuit of the working classes, like chess, or go, or bridge.
          • Don't forget that a large part of the fondness the high class crowd has for those games is tied to their social aspects. When you play bridge, you don't just play cards. You talk, you interact, you eat (really crappy cookies), you show off your new attire and whatnot. All of that is lacking in computer games.

            A good deal of the motivation for the upper class to go to some events is not to see what is shown there, but to be seen and show themselves. First, to show off that they are interested in culture and e
        • by snuf23 (182335)
          "And, as stated before, people who are looking for entertainment with depth, meaning and message are not looking for it in computer games."

          Here's a question for you: why should a game have meaning and message? Why do you judge an entirely different form of entertainment by criteria you associate with film or music? Film and music are passive entertainments. You absorb them and if they are good reflect on them. Games are played and if good you reflect on them. Not necessarily on the meaning or message (altho
          • Watchmen (Score:3, Interesting)

            by NickFortune (613926)

            When someone, be it random blogger, industry expert or Roger Ebert states that games "are not highbrow" entertainment or "are not art", people bring forward examples of games that reflect other mediums. "This game is art because it has a good story". I don't think this is the right approach.

            mmm... interesting.

            Anyone remember Watchmen? [wikipedia.org]. Moore and Gibbons' series played a big part in rehabilitating comics from being regarded as a junk medium. The made a point of using every literary device they knew

  • Suppose the only music in all the world were rap or heavy metal. Do you think music would have anything like the level of respect that it does now? Would there be Kennedy Center Honors, with the President in the audience, for 50 Cent or Nuclear Assault? I doubt it.

    If I see President GW at a 50 cent concert I'll vote him for a 3rd term.
  • High Brow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deliveranc3 (629997) <deliverance@l[ ]l4.org ['eve' in gap]> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:40PM (#15867271) Journal
    You mean that they focus on emotional problems in a deep and meaningful manner?

    People don't like to do that, they like to watch other people fail at doing that.

    As far as high brow goes, we have Patrician, Total War, Civilization, and the Sims.

    All of which offer some pretty interesting insights if you look deeply into them.

    One of the largest factors is probably that in a book a grammatical mistake is something from the author that might lead you to think about something diffrently, a bug in a game totally spoils your ability to analyse the small points that are so important for real understanding of the artist.
    • Yeah, my first thought was the Civilizition series, and then some of the Maxis titles (although not Sims, I was thinking of SimCity and the like). I think Spore might be high brow too, when it comes out. It sounds like this guy has only seen Unreal Tournament and GTA. There's also a large number of puzzle games, with some very complex thought involved in the production and solving.
  • There are... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tanmi-Daiow (802793)
    I believe there are highbrow games out there. You just have to look. I am considering a high brow game to be one that is fun, deep and has the ability to move you. For Example, Call of Duty for PC. That game gave me goose bumps. It was immersive and deep. You couldn't just run in and kill everything, you had to hold back and fight like it actually was a war and not a deathmatch. Even multiplayer had this feel. You would be dead in an instant if you ran into a room with guns blazing. Also games suc
  • Does it matter? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richard Steiner (1585) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:42PM (#15867294) Homepage Journal
    How many people who are into "high brow" activities would bother to use a common technology like a video game?

    Are gaming consoles or personal computers themselves socially acceptable to that type of person?

    If the device is seen as "low brow", the actual content present on that device becomes far less relevant.
    • Re:Does it matter? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Thyamine (531612) <thyamineNO@SPAMofdragons.com> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:17PM (#15868290) Homepage Journal
      "High Brow" activities aren't mutually exclusive with other activities. I enjoy going to the art museum, I enjoying reading, I enjoy theatre, and I enjoy video games. I'm sure there are plenty of others here who enjoy those activities as well. Enjoying something high brow doesn't require you to have a butler and live in an estate where you don't have to interact with the common man. In fact I used to play the violin, currently practice martial arts, and this weekend I put up drywall. Go figure, I'm not just a computer geek ready to be pigeonholed for my entire life. Sorry if this sounds a bit aggressive, but I dislike how people have the notion that someone can't cross boundaries. If you use computers you don't know how to use a hammer, you work on cars so you can't be intelligent, or you like video games so you can't be mature.
      • by mrraven (129238) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:17PM (#15869277)
        I wish I had mod points to mod you up, but alas I don't. While highbrow may be an elietest and pretentious term it does contain a kernel of truth which is that cultural artifacts should attempt to touch our deepest emotions and have qualities that transcend the time and place where they were written and not just appeal to the puerile base glandular responses of excitement, hate, or lust. For example a novel like Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky makes us reflect on deep issues of spirituality, the rights of the basest and most vile people, and what it means to be a decent person in a world of strife and conflict. This IS different than a t.v. program like E or a video game like Grand Theft Auto which mainly appeal to twitch and glandular responses and not only don't involve reflection but actively discourage reflection.

        I personally believe some video games do reach the level of art like Myst that was mentioned before, I also think games like Sim City encourage us to think about things from architecture, to the quality of life in a cit,y and if they aren't exactly art at least qualify as a culture product.

        I also agree with the parent that you don't have to be of a particular class to enjoy "high brow" art, I make less than the U.S. poverty level and enjoy both Mozart and Tool, and see no inherent contradiction there at all. Perhaps what we need is a less loaded term for art and other culture that engages us at a higher level than the kitschy trash pop that Americans seem to produce to such excess. Not all culture has to be "high brow" there is of course a place for mindless escapist entertainment, but if a society ENTIRELY lacks culture that forces a person to reflect then we are probably in deep trouble at a level that can scarcely be expressed in human language.
  • ...there's no high-brow reality TV shows, but that genre's still booming...
  • by also-rr (980579) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:43PM (#15867306) Homepage
    We don't want good ones! Look at the reaction to Elephant's Dream - the plot of which covered an abstract look at the internet - on Slashdot. Total mockery. Even Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] doesn't bother to mention the story.

    Can you immagine the Slashdot comments if ED was used as the basis for a game, exploring the nature of the internet?

    Couple that with the fact that naturally creative types are pushed away from/dont want to touch programming or the 'hard' subjects that go along with video game design and you end up with the situation we have today.
  • Does anybody here really want video games to be 'fixed' so that they appeal to people who's greatest converns are in the tabloids?
  • Ico (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    got the low sales to prove it too.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:45PM (#15867333) Journal
    This is a pointless article... but I'm probably not saying that for the reason why you think I'm saying that.

    The problem is that "highbrow" is not defined. Classical music, perhaps the definitive example of "highbrow", was actually the pop music of the time; it enjoyed widespread popularity amoung all classes. One can profitably argue that this is because it had no real competition from 100 genres like today and it was about the only real music available of any kind beyond folk songs, but it was still popular music.

    Is highbrow merely a synonym for "pretentious and boring"? I can't find it in me to cry about "pretentious and boring" not being well represented in gaming.

    Is highbrow something like "acquired taste"?

    Is highbrow "difficult to understand"?

    Depending on how you really define what you're talking about, the answers vary widely. In the absense of such a definition, this essay is simply content-free, alluding to some vague idea in your head that may or may not resemble some vague idea in the author's head, which may or may not actually correspond to reality in any particular sense. It may make you feel warm and fuzzy to say something insightful like "we need highbrow games", but that's the totality of the value of the statement: warm fuzzies.
    • (By the way, I'm assuming the closest thing to a definition the author gave, dealing with "history, science, technology, politics, music, art, religion, diplomacy, family, manners, love, death, duty, sorrow, revenge, depression, and joy" isn't what he really means by "highbrow" because there are umpteen bajillion good games that deal with each of those, and I'm hoping and praying the author isn't ignorant of all of them, because many of them are quite mainstream. I'm pretty sure the author is invoking just
    • Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] refers to 'highbrow' as "intellectual" or "high culture," and it's interesting that the etymology goes back to phrenology. Wordnet [princeton.edu] offers a short definition: "highly cultured or educated."

      I feel that there are plenty of games that are "smart enough." Depends on how the player is able to interpret them. As with any creative work, the interpretation is up to the consumer, not the creator. When the consumer is able to get a meaning out of the work that the creator hadn't intended to convey - that
    • Highbrow definition (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chemisor (97276)
      > Is highbrow merely a synonym for "pretentious and boring"?

      Sometimes it is, though it may be due to hypocrisy rather than intent. The culture of the elite is supposed to portray the best traits of humanity, its noblest and worthiest virtues, its most beautiful aspirations, and the perfection of taste. One might contrast this with the culture of the "proles", which tends to glorify mediocrity and small aspirations, encouraging its consumers to adhere to a "steady-state" life of simple wants, of "living f
      • The culture of the elite is supposed to portray the best traits of humanity, its noblest and worthiest virtues, its most beautiful aspirations, and the perfection of taste. One might contrast this with the culture of the "proles", which tends to glorify mediocrity and small aspirations, encouraging its consumers to adhere to a "steady-state" life of simple wants, of "living for today", of thinking as little as possible, and generally enjoying what they have.

        So you would agree that by this definition, quite
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Classical music, perhaps the definitive example of "highbrow", was actually the pop music of the time; it enjoyed widespread popularity amoung all classes.

      Not really. It was primarily the music of the church and the court, gradually catching on with the bourgeoisie, and once in a while a catchy tune would trickle down to even the lower classes (most of whom of course did not live anywhere near an opera house, and couldn't have afforded to go anyway). Folk music has always been the music of choice for

    • by cgreuter (82182) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:22PM (#15867758)

      Classical music, perhaps the definitive example of "highbrow", was actually the pop music of the time; it enjoyed widespread popularity amoung all classes.

      Not to dispute your original point, but this statement isn't true. Classical music (specifically, symphonic music and opera--the Classical era runs from 1812 to 1900-ish (IIRC, and I may not)) was generally funded by wealthy patrons (i.e. nobility) and performed for them and their guests. Common people's music was ditties that could be played by one or two musicians and sung along to. This is what we now call "folk music". The concept of "pop music" didn't really come about until the early twentieth century when it became possible to distribute recordings.

      A better example would probably be literature. Shakespeare, for example, wrote plays that everyone could enjoy. He had dirty jokes for the aristocrats and flowerly language for the peasants.

    • by Kunta Kinte (323399) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:10PM (#15868216) Journal

      The problem is that "highbrow" is not defined

      I agree with your point, but my theory...

      I think "High Brow" means inaccessible. It's a socio-enconomical class marker; In many ways, it is often legitimate.

      The upper socio-enconomic classes have more money to educate and entertain themselves. These people thus are introduced to a variety of forms and influences. Sometimes, allowing them to develop a more 'nuanced' taste. This has nothing to do with the person's natural abilities, which are equal across classes. This is all nurture.

      The elite, now 'learnt', begin to take interest in different things. Everyone else 'below' this elite socio-economic class begin to follow suite because it is ingrained in us to 'improve' our socio-economic class. It's a bain hardest felt by the middle class.

      So why 'dig' inaccessible things? Exclusivity is one yes. But these forms of art may also simply provide enjoyment to people who prefer to invest more into their enjoyment, and choose to do so in that fashion.

  • There are no highbrow video games because there are none that are expensive enough.
  • from TFA: And before yet another idiot pipes up with Standard Asinine Comment #1 ("but FUN is the only thing that matters!"), let me just say: No, it's not. Shut up and grow up. Our overemphasis on fun--kiddie-style, wheeee-type fun--is part of the reason we're in this mess in the first place. To merely be fun is to be unimportant, irrelevant, and therefore vulnerable.

    I can't take this guy seriously. fun IS the only thing that matters in a "game". if it weren't fun, it would be a simulator or learning to
  • says you. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by penguinstorm (575341) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:46PM (#15867345) Homepage
    I consider Myth high brow.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:46PM (#15867349)
    Merchant Ivory films aren't "high art," they're pretentious fluff aimed at airhead elites who think that "great actor" is synonymous with "actor with a posh English accent." If you get beneath the surface of most of those films, you'll find writing little better than that of a predictible soap opera. In the world of truly serious filmmaking, it takes more than a classical soundtrack and posh English actors (or Americans faking posh English accents) to cut the mustard.

    The kind of people who think of Merchant Ivory films as "high art" are the same kinds of himbos and bimbos that think that "George" magazine was the height of political commentary. They are the kind of people who celebrate classical music and ballet because they think they're SUPPOSED to, not because they truly enjoy either. They're the kind of pompass asses who laud the brilliance and insight of an Italian opera even though they don't speak a word of Italian and, consequently, have no fucking clue what the Hell was even going on onstage.

    Yes, it is true that there are many great, brilliant, insightful films out there. And, yes it is true that there is a derth of sophisticated, clever, original, and intelligent video games. But film as a medium has been around for over 120 years now. And it wasn't until "Birth of a Nation" (25 years later) that anyone even BEGAN to expand that medium's horizons. It took 60 years into the medium to produce Citizen Kane, and 90 years for serious films outside of the strident studio system to become widely accepted.

    Video games can indeed become a more serious artistic form, and they are already beginning to take those strides. But it's hardly fair to compare it with more mature forms, and downright pig-headed to bring crap like Merchant Ivory into the comparison (when it doesn't even represent a mature form of its OWN medium).

    -Eric

    • Your opion of Merchant/Ivory is your own, but to come down on them for using "posh English accents" is pretty silly - they are English! And, regardless of your opinion of their work, they do aim to make "art".

      I enjoy MI films, I enjoy classical music and jazz, as well as ballet. Nice of you to lump anyone who has liked "Remains of the Day" as a poser.

      I do agree that gaming is in its infancy as an art form. However, I think we've seen some pretty interesting and mature games already. Certainly Myst was w
    • by steveo777 (183629) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:25PM (#15867784) Homepage Journal
      or Americans faking posh English accents

      Then have I got a movie [imdb.com] for you!
      Prince John: And why would the people listen to you?
      Robin Hood: Because, unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.

      Much better than the feminine Robin Hood that Cosnter portrayed. Pansy.

    • Merchant Ivory films aren't "high art," they're pretentious fluff aimed at airhead elites who think that "great actor" is synonymous with "actor with a posh English accent."

      Relax dude. Of course there are lots of posers out there, but have it occurred to you that many people enjoy these films? Looking at their filmography [merchantivory.com], I at least think that The Remains of the Day [imdb.com] and Howard's End [imdb.com] were great films. In fact I like most of Anthony Hopkin's movies.

      And it wasn't until "Birth of a Nation" (25 years l

    • by sielwolf (246764) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:00PM (#15868133) Homepage Journal
      And it wasn't until "Birth of a Nation" (25 years later) that anyone even BEGAN to expand that medium's horizons.

      While composing most of the elements that now make modern filmmaking, it would be more accurate to say that The Great Train Robbery was one of the first films to explore film as a long form different than drama (1903, so 13 years after). It utilized "parallel editing, double exposure composite editing, camera movement and on location shooting" as well as pioneering the theory that the element of a film was a shot (as compared to a scene, the unit of a play, which dominated filmmaking thinking up until then).

      One could also say that in this modern communication era where the length between flash and bang is much shorter and that it should be reflected in the maturation of a medium. There are Eisners for webcomics and humanities departments are embracing blogging and hypertext. While those are just extensions of existing media, they've still matured very quickly.

      Of course I'm in the camp that what makes a game a game is a competitive element (either PvP or Player v. Machine) which is absent from art (even the interactive type). A game can be profound just as art can demand something of its audience but by needing to satisfy that element it is wholly seperate from art (unless using the most liberal use of the word where we could discuss the art of the fast ball or the art of running the pick and roll). But Merchant Ivory isn't the way to think about making better games. Merchant Ivory is just yuppie porn like Architecture Digest. "Highbrow" is what folks throw out when their only measure for entertainment is if it is something that "someone like me" should do. It is completely perpendicular to the concept of quality.
    • They're the kind of pompass (sic) asses who laud the brilliance and insight of an Italian opera even though they don't speak a word of Italian

      People who are fans of opera tend to be fairly familiar with the librettos so Italian really isn't a prerequisite.

      I should add that you state your case in a way that isn't likely to win you any kind of meaningful support, despite your points having some validity. I like many Merchant Ivory productions and believe them to be better than most Hollywood productions.

  • Because games as a medium have yet to "mature" to the point where they're as acceptable to the public as movies and television. in fact, when TV and movies were in their infancy, there was no highbrow entertainment to be had there, either. These things just take time.
  • The closest thing to high-brow for video games that you are going to get will be things like Silent Hill, Shadows of the Collosus, ICO, Killer 7, and maybe something like Siren.

    I don't think any of these games or type of these games will ever generate as much revenue as Madden Roster Change 2008 or the like.

    I'd love to have a *GOOD* mystery game or something that challenges my brain rather than my dexterity. Nostalgia aside, the text adventures (sans terrible text parsing) is a good example in my opinion.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:49PM (#15867388) Journal
    Chess and Bridge come to mind. Those are two games that are often played by the literatti...
  • The number of "highbrow" people has been in steady decline since the fifties. What we called high culture then has been becoming less and less popular concurrently. The modern man does not go to museums, listen to operas, read poetry or serious fiction, or, for that matter, read much of anything at all. He has replaced it with television, its reality shows and Fox news; he buys widescreen sets, useless (but entertaining) gadgets, and ugly comfortable couches upon which to sit and drink beer on sundays. Most
    • The number of "highbrow" people has been in steady decline since the fifties. What we called high culture then has been becoming less and less popular concurrently. The modern man does not go to museums, listen to operas, read poetry or serious fiction, or, for that matter, read much of anything at all. He has replaced it with television, its reality shows and Fox news; he buys widescreen sets, useless (but entertaining) gadgets, and ugly comfortable couches upon which to sit and drink beer on sundays. Most
      • Who are all of those people I see lined up at the symphony, bookstores and museums, Mario Mushrooms?

        If you live in a place large enough for there to be people lined up at the symphony, bookstores, and museums -- a place large enough to HAVE a symphony or museums -- then you live in a place large enough that even if there's 5,000 people in attendance, that's still only a tiny tiny percentage of the city's entire population.

        I would bet that Major League Baseball fills more seats in a single game day than all
    • Actually, I have heard from more than a few places that since the internet became accessible, sales of paperbooks has increased dramatically, per capita. I know I read more now, particularly since I can easily get a review (or 12) of a book, so the "risk" of spending $20 on a book is less.

      I would disagree with you on the fact that we are "less cultured" than we were 50 years ago. We are simply more tolorant of public displays of "low brow" music, art and entertainment than we were 50 years ago. Particula
  • There is "Serious" Sam forchristsakes!!!
  • Apples and Oranges (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skotlake (891399) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:55PM (#15867451) Homepage
    I think one of the complications of the industry is that video games aren't as accessible as other popular mediums, such as movies or books. Movies are a huge industry because of the social aspect -- people can go to a movie theater and "enjoy" (I use that word lightly) a film with between 200 - 500 other people. A group of friends can watch a movie just as easily as a single person can pop in into their DVD player with very simple setup--pressing the play button. Books, while no longer getting the recognition they deserve, are portable and relatively cheap. However, video games are not as accessible as these mediums. There are high start-up costs (at least $200 last generation) and it's a much more personal and complicated affair. It's hard for just anybody to pick up and play a video game. The video games that become pop culture "phenomenons" such as Tetris, Pokémon, or Grand Theft Auto are mostly single-player games, which make it hard for a group to enjoy these together. Especially as we enter the next generation of gaming, the budget to make a robust game exceeds millions of dollars, meaning it's hard for many independent studios to produce video games that can compete with giants like Nintendo, Square Enix, or even EA. Even when a small studio can produce a video game of the same quality as these studios, their marketing budgets are never too high, and since video games aren't nearly as accessible as books and movies (like stated above), it's hard for word-of-mouth to pass through the masses. With individual games costing $50, a studio can't hope to just grasp a niche audience like independent movie studios can. Being an "elite" studio in the gaming industry unfortunately won't cut it financially nowadays.
  • by dominion (3153) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:55PM (#15867452) Homepage
    Anybody remember Grim Fandango? Brilliant stuff.

    But to be honest, I don't know if I can take somebody seriously who says something like 'Suppose the only music in all the world were rap or heavy metal.'

    I mean, honestly, has the guy never heard of Saul Williams [saulwilliams.com]?

    I am that timeless NGH that swings on pendulums like vines through mines of booby trapped minds that are enslaved by time. I am the life that supersedes lifetimes, I am. It was me with serpentine hair and a timeless stare that with a mortal glare turned mortal fear into stone time capsules. They still exist as the walking dead. As I do, the original suffer-head, symbol of life and matriarchy's severed head: Medusa, I am. It was me, the ecclesiastical one, that pointed out that there was nothing new under the sun. and in times of laughter and times of tears, saw that no times were real times, 'cause all times were fear. The wise seer, Solomon, I am. It was me with tattered clothes that made you scatter as you shuffled past me on the street. Yes, you shuffled past me on the street as I stood there conversing with wind blown spirits. And I fear it's your loss that you didn't stop and talk to me. I could have told you your future as I explained your present, but instead, I'm the homeless schizophrenic that you resent for being aimless. The in-tuned nameless, I am. I am that NGH. I am that NGH. I am that NGH. I am a negro. Yes, negro from necro, meaning death. I overcame it so they named me after it. And I be spitting at death from behind and putting "kick me" signs on it's back, because, I am not the son of Sha Clack Clack . I am before that. I am before. I am before before. Before death is eternity. After death is eternity. There is no death there's only eternity. And I be ridin' on the wings of eternity, like yah, yah, Sha Clack Clack.


    Hell, even Tupac wrote books of poetry, and with artists out there like Mos Def, Talib Qweli, Outkast, etc., it's hard to understand how somebody could use rap music collectively as an example of "low art".

    But then again, given his examples of high art being the kind of things that wealthy white people put on tuxes to clap softly to, I'm not sure I'm particularly interested in what he has in mind.
  • I thought Shenmue was somewhat of a highbrow "game". I think part of the reason it failed commercially was due to its sort of highbrow nature. It had the game elements in it, but then it was also kind of a big tech demo and an actual virtual recreation of 1980's Japan and Hong Kong. Shenmue 2 even had artsy filters for sepia and black and white looks to give it even more of a highbrow feel. It also had an epic story (that unfortunately looks like we'll never learn the end of) with a character struggling to
  • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:55PM (#15867457)
    High brow means "we're better than you are because of our choice of entertainment".

    There are no high brow videogames because the people you think are the better people don't talk about how they're better because they play Y videogame instead of Z videogame.

    In other words: STFU you pompous, pretentious snob.

    Entertainment isn't high brow or low brow. Different people are entertained differently by different things and no one is better or worse because of their entertainment choices.
    • Sounds like "highbrow" should be synonymous with "fan boy"... :)
    • Re:Umm No.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by prakslash (681585) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @03:37PM (#15868936)
      High brow doesnt mean "we are better than you".

      Usually high brow means entertainment that requires a little higher intelligence level to enjoy it.

      The term "high brow" comes from "high brow or high forehead" which used to be seen as a sign of intelligence.

      To use an example from the comedy genre:

      "High brow" comedy may involve dialog containing witty puns, word play and/or other clever situations. On the other hand, "Low brow" comedy involves hitting someone in the crotch with a bat.

      After seeing someone hit in the crotch with a bat few times, some people tend to get bored and want something more. It is this group that needs the so-called "high brow" entertainment. Doesn't mean that people who can't get enough of bats-to-the-crotch are a lower form of life. As long as they enjoy it and are having fun, that is great. The problem is that the some people do not enjoy it anymore and want more. It does not make them better than anybody else. At the same time, they should not be called snobs either.

      What the guy in the article is lamenting about is not that he would like to see high art or some pretentious art. Nor is he implying that he is better than others. It is just that he would like to see something that he can enjoy more. And for that, it has to be more intellectually stimulating for him. Nothing wroong with that.

      Problem is what he wants, he labels as "high brow" which to some people means he is being snobbish although that is not what "high brow" means.

  • Chess programs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:56PM (#15867460) Homepage

    Chess programs qualify as "highbrow games".

    Order Fritz or Junior from ChessBase [chessbase.com]. Play chess against the machine. Unless you've been on the cover of Chess Life, you're going to lose. Chess programs are very strong now. "Deep Blue" is obsolete; now multiprocessor PCs are beating grandmasters. You can buy and run PC programs that have beaten Kasparov.

    Now that chess programs do better than people, nobody really cares outside the chess world. One of the leading chess programmers made a comment that explains what's happened. Analyzing grandmaster games, he discovered that, about once in every ten moves on average, grandmasters choose a suboptimal move. Not a really bad move, but one where a better option existed. That's the base human error rate, and that's enough to give computers a fundamental edge at the higher levels.

  • The premise is nonsense. There are plenty of highbrow games. Is he really suggesting that a game like Cvilisation IV is dumbed down?
    Sure, there are lots of dumbed down stupid games that treat the gamer like a dork, but there are plenty of stupid dumbed down TV programs, and that doesnt invalidate stuff like "The West Wing". There are plenty of stupid movies aimed at morons, but that doesn't invalidate stuff like "Syriana" (yeah ok, insert your choice of whats highbrow here).
    To be honest, people writing arti
  • General populace is not high brow.

    Highbrow movies seldom do well at the box office, and it's why they're the minority of films, generally made independantly, and relegated only to a cult status 9/10.

    It's the same with games, except the major audience is younger so in most cases less sophisticated. There's even less of a market. That's not to say there aren't some excellent, intelligent, and mature games. Some examples have already been posted, Shenmue I think is most in line with the author's perspective
  • If it means something that requires a level of cultural understanding, then games like Civ, Sim City and the like would qualify in my book. Sure, you can play them as games, or you can immerse yourself in the worlds and try to develop them.

    If it means something that is pretentious and incomprehensible then Ico would fit the bill.

    If it means something that everyone pretends to like but no one actually does, then Final Fantasy comes to mind.
  • Simply put, a "high brow" game, as TFA seems to try to define it, simply would not sell because conceptually it does not work for a game. If we take the intended definition of high brow as touching emotions and addressing subjects that are not usually handled by the low brow media, then in order to do so, a large focus of the game needs to be shifted to the story telling and the content rather than the gaming itself, which should be a factor. A large reason that it's hard to tap the deep emotions that mos
  • The thing is that Merchant-Ivory costume dramas weren't highbrow. They flattered the audience with their lush period settings and aristocratic finery, though beneath that were about as challenging and thought-provoking as a Stephen Spielberg blockbuster. In a sense, they were the perfect art form of Thatcher's Britain: dressed up in the seductive trappings of wealth, though populist at the core, and placing commercial calculation before any sort of artistic or intellectual decisions.
  • I'd suggest Europa Universalis (http://www.europa-universalis.com) is probably a good stab at this. Especially as the game format is quite open and there's an active user community who have enhanced it to include a plethora of historical events (and what-if's) at a quite staggering level of detail.

    It's not the kind of game that appeals to everyone (but it's highbrow right ;-), but for anyone with an interest in history the ability to play what-if is really quite addictive. The game engine is rather impres
  • Thinking games? We've got tons of strategy games, puzzle games, and adventure games. On top of that many other genres include puzzles, sometimes difficult ones.

    Movie quality storylines and settings and acting? A good number of RPGs and adventure games would fall into this, with huge, thought out histories and well developed personalities. Just have a look at The Elder Scrolls or Xenosaga. Again, most other genres also have games that would fit these requirements with excellent acting, interesting stori
  • They're kept busy with their monocoles, top hats, snuff buxes and making fun of poor people.
  • We produce light popular entertainment, and light popular entertainment is trivial, disposable, and therefore culturally insignificant, at least so far as podunk city councilors and ill-advised state legislators are concerned.

    Yes, because culturally significant music, books, and movies never draw criticism from School Boards, City Councils, and State Legislators.

    No, wait. I was thinking of Bizarro world. In the world I live in, if games were actually culturally insignificant then School Boards, City Coun

  • There are no high brow video games because there are no highbrow gamers. Face it, if you play video games, you've got the attention span of a goldfish. Simple really.

    On the brighter side, give it a generation or two though, eventually DOOM 2 will be considered the height of culture.

     
  • I'm an admitted elite gamer. I'm very picky about what I'll play and I only buy a couple of games a year. That includes board and card games. I bought the first pack of Magic cards at my hobby store. I played "diceless" roleplaying. I'm a snob.

    Ok, enough credentials.

    The fact is that game producers are just making either knock-offs of popular games or iterations of their own games. Oh look, another WoW. Oh look, another FPS Quake. Yes, they keep making these games better, but honest, I had fun the fi
  • by LordKazan (558383) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:32PM (#15867850) Homepage Journal
    Exlcuding the movie that I think Chris Robert's must have been smoking some strongy wacky tobaccy while making - Wing Commander is an absolute classic. Only a moron would not consider it "high brow" - it tells a much better story across it's first 4 games than even Peter Jackson could manage in 9 movies!
  • Your answer lies within the following book:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1886411840/102-63 47914-4633758?v=glance&n=283155 [amazon.com]

    There are also some insights in "Chris Crawford on Game Design" as well, but I think you will find "The Art of Interactive Design" more closely relating to your question.

    As for a solution, Chris has been working on that for the last 15 years or so. He has a free engine out you can play around with to create interactive stories, but it uses a new language which has kind of a steep
  • Half Life 2 is definitely "high brow." A look at the number of forum posters that don't "get it," even on this site, are proof. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are also probably in that category. Spore will probably receive a great deal more critical praise than sales. It's rare, but they're out there.
  • by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:41PM (#15867944) Homepage
    I always felt that Planescape: Torment was high-brow. It's a game that is very text-heavy and wouldn't be enjoyed by a typical action-oriented gamer. Although you always end the game in the same place, you can get there various good and wicked ways. There are many moral quandries, and the entire game revolves around assuming the role of a man who has done horrendous evil. As the game unRavels, you realize the extent of malice your character has displayed, and how it has ruined the lives of people around you. Many decisions are ambiguous -- you do not choose good or evil, but try to find the best path among many imperfect paths.

    In the end, when the game ended for me, I wept. I wept because there was no happy ending, only a bittersweet "best I could manage guys, sorry" ending. It felt very true to life, with consequences for each decision I made. When I was done, I felt that I had learned many life lessons, that I had been exposed to viewpoints contrary to my own and had come away better for it, and that sometimes the best way out of a bad situation is to be a better person from the start.

    -Tony
  • Not their time yet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thelost (808451) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:56PM (#15868091) Journal
    There's a simple reason and it's to do with acceptance. Take for instance animation. Generally speaking Western cultures up until recently animation was considered a childish thing, because on the whole animation was made mainly for kids. If you look at Japan to take an obvious example, animation is not simply aimed at children, nor are comics. They are cross generation mediums which appeal to people in Japan of many ages. There isn't the same snobbery to animation by adults as there is here.

    However our attitude towards animation is changing, in part due to the adult themed animations coming from Asia. With deep searching themes and adult discussions of sometimes very tough subjects these are certainly not Mickey goes to the beach animes.

    It's the same with games. In the future games will gain a foothold among an adult audience. Our generation might be the one leading that assault, as we are so completely embedded in a gaming culture. However these things will take time. Don't expect it to take place over night.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:13PM (#15868239)
    Video games aren't kicked around by pols because they're low-brow. If they did that, they'd lose 90% of their constituencies. Video games are kicked around because they're a convenient whipping boy for demagogues who want to appeal to the 'think of the children!' crowd. It's no different than Elvis and Rock 'n' Roll were back in the day--a convenient scapegoat for shysters who want your vote and money.

    But Rock 'n' Roll is now considered mainstream because those darn kids grew up. Video games are almost there, given how many adults play them too now. Let's see how long politicians continue to slam video games once 80% of their audience pipes up and says, 'hey! i play video games and they rock and you have your head up your ass.'
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:14PM (#15868254) Journal
    1. A Mind Forever Voyaging [csd.uwo.ca]
    Admittedly it's not a very long list, but it's accurate, complete, and most importantly of all, non-empty.
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @03:01PM (#15868617) Homepage Journal
    It's all about market segmentation. The high brow market is not as large as the 15-25 year old males who want to see the movie on opening weekend. So you're upside is limited. On the other hand, it's cheap to produce films for them. Seriously, how much did Vanya on 42nd Street cost to make?

    The sweet spot is a high end of the middlebrow segment, that will flock to a movie like Sense and Sensibility to see Ang Lee's take a novel they had to read in college. You don't blow huge amounts of money on post production, don't have any megastars unless they're anti-slumming for some artistic cred, in which case they aren't charging on the same payscale as they do for Titanic.

    I'm not sure that there is an analgous way to produce a cheap, high brow game.
  • by monoqlith (610041) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:10PM (#15869203)
    Has never come home from a long day at work and settled down to a nice game of Shakespeare vs. Dante: An Interactive Post-Modernist Reconstruction of Hendecasyllabic Meter as Practiced Circa 1315

    It may remind you of the robust Dance, Dance Revolution, only much less...hmm...how to say this without sounding like a snob....plebian.

    Instead of contorting your body on a sweaty mat likely recycled from vagrant filth, you simply recline in your accent chair by the fire, light up a pipe, and compose eloquent verse in sync with the metronome, sprinkling it with chiasmus, litotes, synecdoche, elision and other poetic technique as the television screen instructs.

    Sadly, it may no longer be on the market - though you may be able to borrow it from Oxford's archives. You might want to check out the sequel, Joyce's Dubliners: The Re-Imagining of Early 20th Century Literature

      A fetching game indeed, my good man. /takes a puff from his pipe

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