These two principles seem to be increasingly antithetical, given that with greater popularity comes greater requests for accountability on political correctness (justified or not). What I mean by artistic integrity is an adherence to the thematic characteristics of the subject matter forming the game's environment; World War 2 for Battlefield V, modern "grey" or proxy conflicts for Modern Warfare. As someone who plays primarily mainstream shooters or RPGs, I suppose I can only comment on these genres, and will use Battlefield V and Modern Warfare as examples for this argument. Battlefield V had its fair share of controversy and blowback when DICE decided to amplify the presence of women in its portrayal of WW2 battles, and to incorporate uniforms or appearances that were not compliant with what was standard-issue at the time. Having played this game extensively, it seems they walked back that initiative in relation to the game's original advertising, but still do not adhere to a standard dictating the art in a game such as Battlefield 4. Clearly, the conflict between broad appeal and artistic integrity is increasingly seeing broad appeal win over. Unfortunately, emphasis on "value-added" artwork assets (suits, shoes, guns, charms, sprays, skins), which appears to be cost-effective trend occurring across most of the mainstream gaming industry, further drives this trend. I used to argue for maximum inclusion in mainstream video games, but now I'm not so sure the costs are worthwhile.
A game like Modern Warfare takes the tendency toward broad appeal to an entirely new level. Perhaps only R6 Siege comes close to Modern Warfare in this regard. Modern Warfare uses fictitious "forces", however it places them among realistic ones, such as the British SAS or the US Marines. In doing so it somewhat blurs the standard as to what legitimate art (uniforms, colors, personnel) in this environment is. It's also clear that true modern warfare has far fewer established "rules" than it has in the past, given the greater role played by proxy forces, terrorist organizations, and "covert" forces in modern conflicts. However, even given this rather generous basis, the game manages to grossly bastardize the thematic traits to be reasonably expected from a modern warfare environment. It mixes accurate portrayals of military hardware with erroneous portrayals of modern fighters, and even erroneous portrayals of military hardware. Amongst The broad range of artistic assets in the game detracts from what is ostensibly the very purpose of the game's chosen environment and even its title. This game is meant to be about modern warfare, but modern warfare becomes a platform on which to stray into a variety of loosely related or unrelated themes brought in to capture demand from as many segments of the game's market as is possible. If you like bling, there is a skin for you. If you identify with "hacker culture", there is a pack for you. If you appreciate customizing the appearance of your profile to be viewed by others on the platform, there are a multitude of charms available for purchase. And if you want to infuriate your opponents, there are a variety of messages incorporated in purchasable "sprays" that of course, are available for specially calculated denominations of the offered transaction amounts of the game's unique and obfuscated currency. To digress from that tangent, the result is a smorgasbord of almost random artwork clashing across the backdrop of 3D environments meant to be accurate representations of real-world hot-spots. Add to this the emphasis on remaining competitive as opposed to remaining artistically accurate, and users within these environments select skins, weapons, traits, and tactics that maximize their effectiveness rather than adhere to any notion of realism. At least in FPS gaming, this latter betrayal of artistic integrity has been widely accepted – it's fine if the mechanics of the game are unrealistic so long as the setting and art have some thematic integrity to them. At least then, there is an aspect of role-playing, even if only some enjoy that aspect. At least then, there is a point to setting a game in World War 2, or in Africa, or even on the moon. But if mainstream games today boil down to expressions of personality and monetization of cost-effective art assets, what is the purpose of placing a game in the "modern warfare" environment, or any other? This environment is inevitably perverted, sometimes even shortly after release.
Is there any hope left for artistic integrity in mainstream gaming?
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