NiGHTS into Dreams for the Saturn brings to mind the topic of games as art. Not only because the game has artistic value, though. Fans of the title have been calling for a sequel from the second the original was released. Yuji Naka, the leader of the project, contemplated giving fans what they want but then decided NiGHTS should stand alone.
So what does this have to do with art? Gamers’ have the attitude that games are made for them and developers should value the input of their fans. This works nicely as long as we assume games are merely consumer products. But what if we hold that games are art? Doesn’t that make developers artists? It’s one thing to hope your favorite band makes more music you enjoy, but to demand they output exactly what you want to hear and to feel entitled to this is bizarre.
Realistically, most artists have at least some sense of the market place their art exists in. Shakespeare wrote for an audience. I am not advocating we accept anything game designers produce simply because they are artists and should not sink to making art people other than themselves would enjoy. The poet who writes only for himself and believes that all critics merely don’t understand him is often just talentless. But at the same time, producing art based solely on the market place yields such atrocities as Britney Spears and Monster in Law. Shakespeare wrote for an audience but he still wrote what he wanted to write. Game developers should not be loathed because they refuse to create exactly what their customers want.
Yuji Naka has compared NiGHTS to Spielberg’s ET. To make a sequel of his game would be like making a sequel to a perfect classic movie; completely unnecessary and self defeating. I understand and often feel the desire for developer’s to make what I want them to make (SHENMUE 3 NOW!!!!!!!) but it is hard to deny that Schindler’s List 2 would be stupid. As would Ico 2. If gamers’ want to do more than give lip service to the idea that their beloved medium is art, they need to treat it as such and realize they are patrons of the arts and not merely electronics consumers.
Some may not be convinced by the art angle. Whether I say games are the height of human culture or simply shrink wrapped pieces of plastic, many will still insist that developers survive because of their fans and so they owe their fans. Thus, I have also constructed a more practical argument. This is why NiGHTS 2 should never come out – Sega is, for all intents and purposes, dead. The likely-hood they will release another classic in the next century is nil. You’re better off waiting for L Ron Hubbard’s second coming on the Hale-Bopp comet. Now that Naka has left Sega and the talent left at Sonic Team is responsible for brilliant characters such as Silver the Hedgehog, the request for a NiGHTS sequel seems masochistic.
Even if the game were great, which it wouldn’t be, it is exceedingly difficult to top a classic. Nintendo pondered over New Super Mario Brothers for over 15 years and still did not come close to trumping Super Mario Brothers 3. A merely good NiGHTS 2 would tarnish our memories of the first game. It is often better to dream of what could have been than to have the object of your desires in your hands. Shenmue Online will make this nut-crackingly clear.
Merry Christmas and may Santa never brings you NiGHTS 2.