So how did “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” convince me that video games are indeed a form of art? Well before i answer that, i’d like to point out why i didn’t think video games were art in the first place.
The video games that i played up until “Human Revolution” never told or spoke to me, never told me a bit about myself, or used its advantages (Interactivity) in a way to do so. I always thought of them as pieces of entertainment, and i was always confused as to how many people were so passionately arguing for video games, when even the ones that they heralded as masterworks ultimately did nothing for me other than being a good waste of time.
“Okami” is one game in particular that was placed on a shining pedestal and cited as proof that the medium did indeed transcend itself to become a work of art, and i played it based on these raving reviews. While i wasn’t disappointed by the game itself, as it is indeed a great game but i didn’t find anything deeper than just what i saw on the surface. I’m sure that there is subtext and the like within its narrative, but drawing out shapes (rather poorly i might add) to effect the game’s world did not make it a piece of art to me, it just made it a fun and unique experience, and nor did its Sumi-e aesthetic do anything more than what Jet-Set-Radio’s cel-shaded graphics do (provide interesting visuals).
There are lots of other games (especially now with the explosion of the indie game market) that are being heralded as works of art, but all of the ones i played never convinced me. That is until i played “Human Revolution”.
Perhaps part of that reason is because i didn’t expect it to be. I was certainly curious about the game, i remember a group of us watching the trailer at work after it was shown at E3, but i didn’t get it the moment it came out. I waited, and forgot it existed until a co-worker bought it and began to play, and assured me that it was a good game, not a work of art, not insisting that i play it, not telling me anything other than the fact that he quite liked it. So, during one of Steam’s crazy sales i bought it and all the DLC i could for a cold $6.99 and got down to playing.
While i quite loved the game as i played it, it wasn’t until its ending that i realised the significance of what i had experienced.
You are given a choice of 4 endings by the end of the game, these are to tell the entire truth about the illuminati’s conspiracy, blaming it on Neuropozyne or Humanity front, or destroying the whole complex and letting people decide what to do for themselves, with the ramifications determining the future of Mankind.
It is in this choice that tied everything together, and i chose the ending i wanted. I sided with Sarif for a number of reasons, one of which being i despised Taggart and didn’t believe his insistence that he wasn’t wholly against augmentations, I also couldn’t sympathise with Darrow’s methods as i judged him to be acting out of petty jealously that he couldn’t be augmented himself, and while the choice of blowing up the facility and letting people decide for themselves what happened was tempting ultimately i wanted to make a statement for myself.
I truly believe that Trans-Humanisim is the future for us as a species, not just because its “OMG, FALL OFF BUILDING, and turn INVISIBLE AND SHIT IS SO AWESOMEZZZ!”, but because i see it as the natural progression of technology and our use of it. I can’t stand people who are afraid of progress, who question each and every single new thought, experiment and discoveries that are made and are being made as i type this blog. All of that paranoia surrounding the activation of the LHC is a prime example of how fear can cloud judgement.
While i’m not one for just rushing in and seeing what will happen, as any new experiment with potentially dangerous results should be done with the safety of everyone involved, i can realise and accept that if we had let our fear and doubts about the future hold us back we would still be living in the middle ages. Should we have stopped using AC power just because Edison electrocuted an elephant (and unsurprisingly killed it) to show it is dangerous? Should we have stopped using trains because it gave people motion sickness? Both answers are no, and if someone thinks otherwise they should live in a cave where they belong.
All of these thoughts i had in my mind before i played “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”, but the game and most importantly the choice it gave me really made those thoughts have just a bit more tangibility, or more satisfaction in knowing that there are others that think the way i do.
Perhaps the strangest thing about it all is that this game isn’t the only game where the choices i made told me a bit about myself, “Dragon Age: Origins” and “Dragon Age 2” also showed me a bit about who i am, but for some reason i don’t consider them to be pieces of art. The endings in both those games were chosen for me by my actions while playing, and while that emulates real life i suppose, it doesn’t really give me complete control over what the game is for me. It is that control over the story, and the character of Jensen that i found to be what made it art for me.
You can play the game almost in any way you want, you can be passive, you can be aggressive, confrontational, or empathetic/sympathetic. There is always at least 2 ways (except the boss battles…) to approach any given situation. You can use how you played your character to decide his ultimate fate, or choose the ending you want for yourself (like i did). This level of interactivity is what keeps the game feeling like a game and not just a movie, it allowed me to play the way i wanted to. While the freedom and scale of this game is ultimately pretty small and linear compared to say “Skyrim” or any number of sand box games, it had just enough of it for me not to mind.
That’s also one of the reasons why this game turned into a work of art, it had just enough of everything to do so. It has a great story, it has sympathetic and conflicted supporting and main characters, it has a wonderful visual aesthetic, it has am affecting and perfectly suited score, it has themes that i find to be interesting and involving, and lastly it has great interactivity and player freedom.
In closing, i have to admit that i’m probably doing exactly what initially turned me away from accepting that Video Games could be art in ranting and raving that indeed this game is, to me at least. So i do apologise if someone who is reading this blog thinks of me in the same way i thought of others, but i can’t help myself in not recommending “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” for anyone to play.