Beer and Wine
I like wine. Good red wines in particular. I developed the taste at an early age, encouraged by my parents and many of my friends are also wine drinkers. It is a matter for respect among my peers to know a good wine and over time I have refined my taste so that I can appreciate different varieties and speak intelligently about them. It is not just for show, I take genuine pleasure in discerning the various flavours that make a fine wine. I’m not one for drinking heavily, drunkeness only hampers discernment, and anyway good wine is too expensive to waste getting plastered.
You, on the other hand, like a beer. And not one of your prissy “boutique” beers but a good old fashioned
ale (ahem) , served cold in a can. Among your friends it is a matter of pride to be able to drink large quantities. Ah, the stories you can tell about nights out drinking with your mates.
Recently one or two of the pubs in your area have been transformed into up-market wine bars, and you’re rather nervous your own local will go the same way, losing its friendly charm and filling up with snobbish wine-fanciers like me. I, on the other hand, know that such places are few and far-between and resent the fact that most drinking-houses are full of coarse drunkards like you.
Can’t we all just get along?
Okay, so it’s a metaphor. Wine and beer could be replaced by any ‘high’ and ‘low’ arts: classical and pop music, literature and mass-market fiction, art house and hollwood films. Or in our case: “art games” and “commercial games”.
High art is generally characterised by being ‘difficult’ where low art is ‘easy’ in cerebral terms. High art often requires a level of indoctrination to be appreciated where low art has more popular appeal. Generally this means that there is a class divide between the audiences, which results in high art being regarded as “elitist” and low art as “popular trash”.
The kinds of art we like are reinforced by the company we keep. We like people who share our interests and in turn we adapt our interests to encourage them to like us. These social groups are self-reinforcing and exclusionary. We disparage people who are not in our clique, because they don’t like the things we do. And they dislike us because we dislike them.
Exacerbating this division is the fear that other cliques threaten our pleasures. High art is generally prefered by wealthy minorities, low art by less wealthy majorities. The majority fear the minority because they are powerful. The minority fear the majority because they outnumber them. And as we have seen in many, many different online conversations, the dispute can get quite vitriolic at times.
In truth I suspect there is little to be afraid of. Commercial “just for fun” games will go on being made because they have mass appeal. A niche community of artists will continue to make experimental “art games” that try to create something else, as artists have always done since time immemorial, because artists are the kind of people who are driven to create regardless of acceptance or criticism. Neither group has any real right to say what the other should or shouldn’t be doing.
Let us say “I would like…” rather than “You should…” and perhaps we can all get a long a little bit better.
And I’ll drink to that.