It's a safe bet that if you're reading this article, then you are a fan of video games. Even though we know the level of storytelling and immersion that is possible through gaming, it always seems to come as a surprise when someone who is considered a "real artist" reveals that they share the same level of enjoyment and addiction. Guillermo Del Toro, director of critically-acclaimed films Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone has made it clear that it is possible to produce high fantasy in filmmaking while simultaneously enjoying a blood-and-guts shooter.
In case you haven't heard, Del Toro recently confirmed that he has partnered with THQ in developing a large-scale, expansive horror series. Del Toro spoke highly of the quality of design and experience possible in gaming, and how long he has been trying to get into the industry. So when Del Toro was taking questions at a recent book signing, and was asked about his feelings on the medium, he took the opportunity to share some of his favorite experiences, and deal out some harsh criticisms to those who dispute the claim that video games can be a legitimate art form:
"Video games are the comic books of our time...It's a medium that gains no respect among the intelligentsia. They say, 'Oh, video games...' And most people that complain about video games have never f***ing played them."
"Video games have proven to be incredibly immersive experiences, and not every game is a shooter game...You will see that they are an art form and anyone saying differently is a little out of touch, because they are an art form."
"Like the way they say, 'Horror movies, they make the kids delinquent! Horror comics, they make the kids criminal!' Now it's video games...It's all bulls**t."
Del Toro cited games like Left 4 Dead, Uncharted 2, Marathon, and Half-Life as games that come to mind when discussing fantastically unique experiences, and shared the opinion of many that Bioshock was "one of the most fully-realized worlds in any medium." High praise coming from the creative mind behind Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy. Del Toro also drew a connection between the artistic drive behind both his filmmaking and his desire to create a compelling game:
"The one thing I can say [about my movies] is that I'm doing them because no-one else is doing them. And the video game is the same thing: I want to do that video game in a way that no one else is doing."
For the full discussion, including Del Toro's own experiences with Left 4 Dead as a family ritual, as well as the games he was too nervous to continue playing, check out the full video.
I don't think I'm alone in saying I completely agree with Mr. Del Toro's comments on both the quality of game development today, and the ignorance of many nay-sayers being a real problem in games being accepted as a legitimate art form. We've already seen the compelling case made by Ico and Shadow of the Colossus that the lines between game and artwork can be entirely blurred, and hope to see more of the same with Team Ico's next offering, The Last Guardian.
It's particularly interesting to draw a comparison between video games today and comic books of the past. While initially dismissed as immature and worthless by those unwilling to read it, comic books eventually reached a level of storytelling, action, and character development that has made them a prime target for conversion into other media. With more people like Del Toro, the game industry has a much better chance at gaining some respectability in artistic circles, which will hopefully mean that more creative minds will see the medium, for what it really is: a fantastic way to tell a story.
I can't wait to play the game that Del Toro eventually produces with THQ, and look forward to his presence in the gaming community for the years to come. Do you share my optimism, or do you think the gaming industry should stop trying to convince the mainstream to take themselves seriously? Let us know in the comments below.