PS3’s Spring Art Show

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Can a commercial video games be a piece of art?  I think it is obvious that they can, however I do feel that the scope of games falling into this category is very limited.  Few  games I have played would seem at home in both an art gallery as well as a living room, but in the past few weeks two games have been able to fall into that category for me.  Both Flower and Noby Noby Boy have the ability to walk the line between video games and interactive art.  The interesting thing is that both games seem to accomplish this in very different ways.

Hit the jump to see how.

Flower is a game which at its most basic level is nothing more than a collect-a-thon.  In the game you goal is to fly over flowers which opens them to collect their petals. Once enough flowers are opened, a new section of the level is opened for the player to explore.  There are no consequences for taking your time and enjoying the view, no enemies will kill you and send you back to the start screen.  The only goal is to get from one end of the level to the other, and  besides two sections which put you on rails, you are free to explore each level at your leisure.  All of these mechanics are what make this a very mellow game, but what exactly takes it from a laid back game to a piece of art?

flower-screen

Sure Flower is able to deliver an amazing visual experience without really pushing the graphical boundaries of the PS3, but its how the visuals are used to create a story that pushes Flower into the realm of interactive art.  Flower doesn’t force feed you a story, but rather presents 6 different levels as set pieces in order to create a narrative.  It is up to the player to interpret what the game is trying to say with these levels, or  if it is saying anything at all.  Even what you are controlling is up for debate, are you a flower petal, are you the wind propelling the flower petals, or are you a symbol of nature itself.  It is this sense of uncertainty which for me makes Flower an art game. Like many paintings, it can simply judged on an aesthetic level, or it can be taken further as a subjective reflection of the world around us.

Noby Noby Boy on the other hand is a game which is more of an oddly experimental social art piece.  In the game you control Noby Noby Boy, a creature with independently controlled head and tail ends.  Your ultimate goal in the game is to make your character as long as possible by eating everything around you and the moving your body in opposite directions.  Then you report your accumulated growth to the Sun who adds that growth to the length of Girl. Girl is an enormous version of Boy who is trying to extend from Earth to other planets with everyone on PSN’s help.  When I last checked, I gave around 8,000 meters to the 21,000,000 meter long Girl.

twisted-upMy attempt to make Boy look how my mind felt after playing a bit

The design choices are very similar to the creators previous game, Katamari Damacy.  Everything in the game is created from simple shapes, but are plastered in a bright rainbow color palette.  From your Pinocchio nosed house with rainbow colored hair to the flower doughnuts you eat, everything in Noby Noby Boy oddly intriguing.

Really there is nothing more to Noby Noby Boy then that, which is a lot to take in.  Unfortunately the controls are equally mind numbing, to the point were even navigating the menus is difficult.  The camera inhabits its own level of bizarre.  It seems as though they thought of every way possible to interact with the camera, and decided to use the most obscure one they could find by using the top bumpers exclusively to navigate in all three dimensions.  It is the controls which make you realize that Noby Noby Boy is ultimately an experiment in being as unconventional as possible.

It is this experimental feeling that you get from Noby Noby Boy that for me makes it a piece of art.  It is also what makes the game hard sit down and play for a while.  Although fun to check out and see how odd a game can be, it doesn’t hold your interest for much longer than a few minutes.  It is just to hard to find the game hidden in the piece of experimental art that is Noby Noby Boy.

With games like Flower and Noby Noby Boy, it seems that interactive art as video games are able to break into the mass market, and I am interested to see where this trend takes us.  Flower is an amazing trip through a visually stunning land, filled with both natural landscapes and urban decay, and is definitely worth the $10 price tag.  Unfortunately I don’t feel that Noby Noby Boy would be as enjoyable for most people to play, but at $5 all you really have to lose is the money for next venti Frappuccino.

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2 Responses to “PS3’s Spring Art Show”

  1. I really wanted to play Flower, but can’t justify buying a PS3 :(.

    Noby Noby Boy, on the other hand. I don’t know why there is hype over this game. Seems like the developers didn’t put much effort into it. I mean I was playing Java applet games back in high school that had the same look as that screenshot.

  2. Same here–I want Flower but don’t want to pony up the cash to buy the damn PS3…

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