After finishing Remember Me
, I mentally placed it on the shelf in my mind labeled "glad I finished, also glad I'm done playing it." On that imaginary row also sits El Shaddai
, and even Walking Dead Season One.
(That last one mainly due to how poorly it ran/played on PS3, and I read the 360 version played even worse.) Games I wanted to experience, mainly due to the art design, story, or experience of the game's world.
Games I kept plodding through, often despite not really enjoying the gameplay much of the time.
That can seem counter-intuitive to people not as easily enraptured with the medium of video games as I can be. Much like a audiophile closing out everything but a sublime piece of music, a movie lover watching the same film dozens of times, or a sports team fan painting their bodies and making it to every game, I have a passion for my specific pastime, a deeply-rooted affection for the hobby I've enjoyed since my youth.
That doesn't really explain why I sometimes play through games I don't necessarily enjoy playing. It may lead assumptions to the opposite; having quite the knowledge base of available interactive entertainments (and a decently-sized pool from which to choose from at home) why would I stick with something not so fun, instead of booting up the next game in my backlog or replaying a favorite? In an admittedly somewhat laughable (and pretentious-sounding) response, I sometimes do it for art.
To those who do not perceive video games as art, I'm not writing to convince otherwise. There is a different manner to frame the concept though, one to which I've always gravitated to by default. Let's start with some components; A graphic artist, using different mediums, constructs the design assets to be used in-game. A musician, some using circuit boards, others using symphony orchestras, writes and conducts the pieces of music for the game. Sometimes, a writer develops a story the game is to tell. Each of these components, when removed (or even completely divorced from) the wholly constructed video game, could be judged and critiqued for artistic merit, and would in general be considered pieces of 'art' themselves.
For example, sometimes a game's art assets are published as a book, displaying mediums such as watercolor, pencil, and CG. Albums of instrumental music written for a video games are sometimes compared to other moving, emotional works of audio expression. And while video game stories are often (and honestly, probably deservedly so) lambasted as being of little relevance compared to great literary works, occasional gems of worth arise, as in any literary genre.
In other words, once taken apart, a video game's individual components could easily be judged as art. And yet once compiled, with the added layer of interaction, such a thing is seen by some to reduce the parts to less than a whole in terms of artistic merit. Yet the interactivity, the 'gameplay' as it were, is yet another delicate component of creativity, balance, and experience; an art. Make these components serve a game, and the interactivity becomes the trunk of a tree that, to some critics, makes all of the beautiful leaves uselessly fall off. Even the roots of history, technology, and innovation that fed the entire construct is somehow automatically irrelevant.
As a gamer, I've always felt that a video game's gameplay should be the core, and ideally all other components serve that end. But sometimes like a painting that just never comes together, or a song that just doesn't hit that sweet spot between the ears, gameplay is not as fun as a player wants it to be. Perhaps the genre just doesn't connect. (I'm not much of a modern sports game player.) Maybe there are technical problems. (Hello, terrible frame rate and input lag on Walking Dead
.) Perhaps despite everything coming together, it just doesn't feel 'fun.' (I've really, really tried to enjoy the latest Gran Turismo
, the Killzone
series, and even the earliest Tony Hawk
games, but they never 'clicked' with me.)
However, sometimes the rest of the game is so compelling, that the gameplay takes a backseat to the desire to see the entire experience through. Such was the case with Remember Me.
While I appreciated the intended design of the customizable combo melee combat, and how the rhythm of button presses integrated into gameplay and even music, it just felt 'off' to me the whole time. Maybe I was so used to the superlative design of Batman: Arkham Asylum
, maybe I just never got the 'flow' of the game engine, maybe I just really really wanted a 'counter' mechanic, either way I didn't enjoy the combat. Or the platforming. Or the level design.
Why on earth did I keep playing?
I adored the gameworld. The Neo-Paris, cyberpunk art design. The interesting, high concept ideas such as memories-as-currency. The music, animation, setting, and sound design sold the experience very well. I wanted to explore every nook and cranny I was given; here was something interesting, and while I couldn't explore where I wanted to go, the glimpses were worth it.
I bought the art book before I got the game; I think that may have automatically put me in some form of hipster territory.
Anyway, I treated Remember Me
as I have many other games that showed me an enthralling place. I toured it like a museum, absorbing the art displayed all around, taking in this strange, interesting place. Sure, I got frustrated when I was shown something inaccessible that piqued my interest and it sometimes felt like I was tripping as much as walking, but it was fascinating, different, and most importantly, worthwhile. Like any good museum.
A friend of mine once visited and stood staring at our huge bookshelves full of video game strategy guides almost all night long. He'd take one down, thumb through it for awhile, and then replace it with another. After a few hours (!) I joked that he could just walk a few feet over and play most of those games instead of looking at pictures of them. He gave a slight frown and shook his head; he said that, anymore, just looking through guides and remembering them, looking at the art, seeing all the little nuances recorded in the guide, was as fun as going back and playing them.
I can't say that's entirely true for me, but I think I get what he's saying. Sometimes I don't have several hours to pour into a game, but I want to revisit it. This fellow showed me I have a gigantic stack of old tour guides right in the next room.
Next time I want to revisit Remember Me
, I'll probably do so through the beautiful hardcover art book instead of firing up the game, but you never know. I have a lot of virtual Art museums I hope to peruse one day.