US and the Game Industry (NR)

Documentary 95 min. August 8th, 2014
By Katherine Vu
Roger Ebert once argued that video games can never be art. Games have objectives and can be won, he reasoned, whereas art is appreciated primarily for its beauty and emotional power. Such a categorical dismissal was bound to ruffle feathers; Ebert eventually issued a cautious mea culpa, stating that while his opinion was unchanged, he oughtn't have publicly expounded on a medium he was unwilling to examine firsthand. His statement, however, is a good reflection of how nongamers view video games. Stephanie Beth's documentary, Us and the Game Industry, explores this widespread perception and credits indie developers (and those behind the acclaimed game Journey, in particular) for leading the way toward the artistic redemption of video games. And why is redemption necessary? Some might take offense at the implication alone -- all games have artwork, after all; doesn't that qualify them art? As Beth's film elucidates, there's dissent even among game developers. Robin Hunicke, a prominent producer in the industry, laments the identical hack-and-slash experiences that many mainstream games offer. "There are so many things games can express," she says, "why are we only expressing the same three sentiments?" For every game that strives to be different, there are a thousand louder, more popular, better-looking games content to maintain the profitable status quo. Us and the Game Industry is an incisive, evenhanded look at the inner workings of indie game development and offers high hopes for a future that will definitively prove Ebert wrong.
Stephanie Beth Michael Peddicord Stephanie Beth Synergetic Distribution