F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. What do these novels have in common besides being considered some of the world’s most adored fiction classics? They are all first-person narratives.
These classic stories put the reader in the “driver’s seat” of the narrative. When the book is opened and the first sentence is read, the reader immediately begins to see the world of the story as seen through the narrator’s eyes. This writing style has made an otherwise distant concept, such as life in Missouri for a boy named Huckleberry during the mid 1800’s, feel accessible. It has helped these novels to become the classics they are today, and some of the most influential art ever created.
So, is it possible for a video game that is told in the first person to be considered art?
This Cedar Brook FPS Examiner says yes, but not yet. In terms of pure, unbridled action; the modern first-person-shooter has surely achieved the level of admirable art. In terms of engaging, engrossing storytelling; it’s close but not quite there yet.
Titles like “Battlefield Bad Company 2,” “Call of Duty Black Ops,” “Halo Reach,” and “Killzone 3” all have the ability to transform the surrounding suburbs of Southern New Jersey into a war torn battlefield filled with invading troops and massive explosions. Yes, there are plenty of bullets and buckets of blood. No, there are no elevated allusions to life, love, loss, or laughter.
Just because the highest grossing FPS’s out there don’t usually contain anything that will be revered for several decades to come, does not mean they aren’t “art.” In the literal sense, any creative creation can be considered art. So yes, “Call of Duty Black Ops” is art; as is a finger painting created by a six-year-old. However, it is now safe to say that the vast majority of “Call of Duty” fans purchase the inevitably annual title not for the “thought provoking narrative” that is the single player campaign, but rather for the admittedly addictive “aim-shoot-repeat” multiplayer component.
With each passing year, the video game industry comes closer and closer to creating elevated, intellectual art. Yes, “Bioshock” was incredibly imaginative, but far from being used as a teaching tool in literature or creative writing courses. What the FPS’s of tomorrow need to achieve this elevated status is immersion; not only within the game-play mechanics and graphics, but in the story as well. With “Bioshock Infinite,” “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” and “Battlefield 3” coming fairly soon, the FPS community will see where developers are putting the majority of their efforts.
Since the first-person-shooter not only puts the gamer in the “driver’s seat” of the narrative but allows them to interact with it, the potential for the truly artistic FPS is limitless.