Spec Ops: The Line:
An Example of How Gameplay Should Serve a Game
The point of the painting was to illustrate how we are hammered day after day, hour after hour, with inescapable corporate advertisements to the point that they all bleed together (like the coke bottles in the painting) into unintelligible nonsense.
Now let's look at Spec Ops: The Line. I have heard the argument that because its gameplay is derivative, overly familiar, and otherwise mediocre, that somehow this should undercut the accolades this game has received. I fervently disagree.
I think most everyone here can agree that games are art. A work of art's primary purpose is to evoke emotion in the person experiencing it. Though Mr. Warhol dismisses any notion of basic artistic principal, and abandons making this piece look aesthetically appealing, this piece of his is very successful at what it attempts to illustrate; commercialism presented to us ad nauseum.
If Spec Ops: The Line is a game, and games are art, then the primary goal of Spec Ops: The Line is to evoke an emotional response in the player; the success of the game falling on how great of an emotional response it manages to evoke. Being a game, the means of achieving this must be primarily done with gameplay, in conjunction with graphics, narrative, and all of the components that make up a video game when viewed as a composition. So if Spec Ops: The Line's primary goal is to evoke an emotional response, and the gameplay is the main vehicle in which Spec Ops can accomplish this, then well-implemented gameplay would be a system whose mechanics keep a player engaged while subsequently aiding to the emotions the game attempts to evoke.
Like Warhol's Coca Cola, Spec Ops: The Line exists as an elaborate commentary on the Modern Military Shooter genre; a genre that is brutally repetitious, monotonous, monotone brown, and whose recent entries are so uninspired that they all bleed together at first sight.
Like the Coke bottles in Mr. Warhol's painting, the gameplay in Spec Ops: The Line is something very familiar to anyone who has been playing video games over the past few years. Though the mechanics are solid and serviceable, the game does nothing we haven't seen in other games of the genre, games that no doubt are derivative enough to bleed together in our head. This familiarity immediately puts players at an almost robotic state. We begin to engage yet again in a gameplay loop that we have done on so many occasions that the frequency of which seems a bit blurry. How then must we feel when these all too familiar mechanics get warped into a means of increasingly cruel acts? How must we feel about the other games we have played that utilize the same mechanics, yet strike a disgustingly disconnected tone of the carnage we continuously inflict? How could we be so indifferent to something callous that we see everyday of our lives, be it corporate advertisements, or the means of glorifying ghastly heroism in entertainment? Without this abundant familiarity that parallels other games of the stagnating Modern Military Shooter genre, the emotional gut-punch Spec Ops: The Line produces would be diminished.
Just as Mr. Warhol's ugly painting techniques illustrate how repetitious advertisements bleed together in our head and become nothing, Spec Ops: The Line's gameplay illustrates how derivative shooters have become, and how comfortable we have become with committing atrocities when given gameplay mechanics that are so familiar that they have bled into our mind. The mediocre gameplay helps Spec Ops: The Line deliver its message. If you truly believe that games are art, then why not accept that so long as gameplay is serviceable and engaging, then it CAN be a good thing to create "mediocre gameplay" in order to prop up the game's point? You may see this as pretentious; I see it as the medium evolving.