Once, when discussing with someone the frivolous argument that games do not qualify as art, the idea of devotion came up, and how in most cases a piece of art may be in honour of someone, or in honour of some abstract ideal. The argument went that most games were created simply for their escapist quality, and that games such as World of Warcraft or Call of Duty were made either to vent or fantasize. This might be true to some extent, most video games are cathartic, but an easy reply offered itself. Some of the most memorable moments in gaming are devoted to real people, and some of the most touching are ‘memorials’ to people who have died.
In the past year, before the release of the hugely popular Overwatch, a Chinese student was killed attempting to stop a man from robbing a motorcycle. Besides from being mourned in China, the Overwatch team, upon finding out that he was exuberant with the release of the game, decided to honour him in game with a memorial. Much more recently, one of the developers of Shadow of War passed away, and in order to raise funds so that his family might live comfortably, the team brought out a new DLC based around a character modelled significantly on the deceased man.
You will notice that of these two memorials, one is dedicated to a fan whilst the other is dedicated to one of the developers themselves. But what is more important is that both these memorials show the emotional passion at the heart of gaming. Whereas one of these examples shows the inter-dependent connection which developers have with the gaming community, the other shows the inter-dependence of the developers themselves, both of which are crucial qualities needed to create masterpieces of gaming.
A superb example of both of these qualities being brought into one game is ‘Witcher 3’. An outstanding game that actually respects its players (eat shit EA), the standard copy of the game came with a genuine thank-you note which thanked the players alongside some free downloadable content. When developers such as CDProject and Bethesda and Blizzard decide to dedicate something in some form to the players, it shows gaming as something more than the cathartic button mashing that a lot of people consider gaming to be. It shows the connection between the art and the artist, and more importantly is an actual manifestation of the emotional connection between the art and the gamer.
Interestingly enough, quite a few in-game memorials are not in fact created by the developers. A lot are created by the gamers themselves. Now given the tools to freely manipulate a gaming world, such as Skyrim’s extensive modding community, memorials are increasingly becoming small features of larger mods. The democratisation and decentralisation of the gaming world has allowed this, and once again a new layer of emotional feeling to gaming has come about. Like revisiting an old photo or video, people are now able to revisit their loved ones through gaming, and allow others to visit them in the process.