A second book writer has emerged from among the staff of the Finnish Pelit video gaming magazine. Aleksandr Manzos is known as the reviewer of the weird games, the aimless walking simulators and the acid heavy lucid dreams, and he seems to like most of them.
This is his second foray into book writing. This one picks elements in games, that reflect life, that is, it picks an element of art, and points out, that games are there. Aleksandr is convincing and his writing is entertaining. Occasionally his rationalizations veer into far fetched territory, but in general his arguments are plausible. His writing keeps you reading even through the weaker bits. He is smart to pick just a single aspect of art and reflect on that in a quite free flowing manner – this is not an academic piece trying to convince you that games are art. Not being academic, he can stay away from the more awkward areas of the question. When just ruminating about these things, he hits gold occasionally and you almost start to believe.
As an added bonus, the book goes through its themes through games that are sometimes not well known but highly interesting. I didn’t know about several of the games or had ignored them after reading a less thorough review, but the book goes out of its way to find games, that go into territory that is not often explored with games, and that interested me in quite a few of them.
- Title: Pelit elämän peilinä
- Author: Aleksandr Manzos
- Year: 2018
- Finished in: 18th Jan 2019
As a quick side note, I need to mention, that I attempted to read through the other Pelit alumni book writer’s, Juho Kuorikoski’s, Pelitaiteen manifesti.
It was inspired by Seitsemäs taide by Henry Bacon, which is book that takes film, which is said to be the seventh art, and very thoroughly compares that to all the previous six art forms (in reality, there are more). Henry is clearly an educated researcher of film and the arts in general. He is able to distill the essences of the various forms of art and finds the similarities and differences to film.
Pelitaiteen manifesti posits video games as the eight art form. The biggest difference between these two books, is that the gaming book is a manifesto that posits something, that is currently highly contested – it faces an uphill battle in trying convince everyone that games are art, where there was no question about the position of films as art, when Bacon wrote his book. The second major difference is that while Kuorikoski’s knowledge about games is extensive, he is at best a dabbler at making an academic manifesto like this. His arguments are badly rationalized, he seems weak even, when he is building the essences of games, let alone the other arts, his comparisons are amateurish. The question of games as art is of some import to me, so I was unable to finish to book, when it started to look like the book is actually making games seem less like art than they probably are.
Finally, in my opinion, games in general are far from art. There are distinctive parts about game design and production, that definitely fill various definitions of art, and occasionally a game emerges, that could be argued to be an artistically valuable piece. The general artistic quality of games is very much lacking though – the average blockbuster game is at best on the level of a bad summer blockbuster film – built to entertain and any serious look at the games’ handling of various themes breaks the film apart in a heartbeat.