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Apocalypse Now, An Interactive Experience, Can Video Game Be Art?

Apocalypse Now the video game is being crowdfunded. They are trying to raise $5 Million to release the finished game by 2020 on all platforms including virtual reality.

For over 30 years, Apocalypse Now has remained the epitome of cinematic arts. It's both a critique of US involvement in the Vietnam War and a warning against lavish self-indulgent filmmaking endeavors. In the movie, if the US were to win the war, they would need to lose all their humanity. The filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola, almost lost his mind and morality making the film. As revealed in the behind-the-scene documentary Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, shot by his wife, the filmmaker would rather let Martin Sheen die in a heart attack than delay production. Now, Coppola is developing a video game from his movie.

Apocalypse Now the video game is being crowdfunded. They are trying to raise $5 Million to release the finished game by 2020 on all platforms including virtual reality. The director of the game, Montgomery Markland, claims his game will stir up the stolid atmosphere of the game and movie industries. It will be a first person survival horror shooter game with role-playing elements encouraging players to make choices creating their unique personal journey into the Heart of Darkness. It will be completely opposite of shallow linear games like Call of Duty.

Many skeptics doubt Markland will succeed to follow the footsteps of Coppola's film or even worthy to be mentioned next to literary canons like Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Homer's The Odyssey. Since all of them are arts, people argue since video games can never be art, Markland game won't do the source martial justice. It'll be a waste of time. This leads to the heated discussion of whether video game can be considered art. To gain some insight into this discussion, I recommend reading the article by Roger Ebert and watch the TED video of Kellie Santiago. Both passionately and very convincingly make their arguments. Interestingly, they talk about what the definition of art is.

The real question is "why" video game want to be considered art? We play game for entertainment because they are fun. They have rules and you win or lose. This doesn't sound like an artistic experience. In my opinion, art entails ALL three things. First, it has to elicit some emotion from the audience. Second, it is self-aware therefore making the audience acknowledging its form. Third, it stands the test of time. Apocalypse Now, the film, fulfills this definition for me by being a scathing commentary on filmmaking and the Vietnam War. Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Homer's Odyssey both are meta-narratives that will be analyzed by generations to come. These are arts; video game isn't. For the sake of discussion, let just say that video game wants to become art. How can this be possible? First, it has to remove itself from the word "game". Don't call it a video game. Call it interactive art or something else. Then, pinpoint the unique characteristic of the medium. For example, interactivity is one of the key qualities that can be explored along with the subject matter. If Markland wants to turn Apocalypse Now into interactive art, he and his teams have to let participants make their own choices. Not only that, they have to make that experience timeless. I don't mean they have to keep coming out with DLC's or allow people to create MOD's. Although those are great ideas to increase its lifespan. For example, letting participant experience the world of Apocalypse Now as a Vietnamese character is particularly interesting and different. What I mean by timeless is that the content has to be relevant thirty years from now.

I'm not even sure that Markland's ragtag team can pull off this ambitious project by 2020. Let's hope they do and it won't be like Coppola's previous game adaptation - The Godfather video game is awful.

If you want to learn more details about this project visit the website:

Game Teaser

Can't wait until 2020? Play Spec Ops: The Line. Another game based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness

For giggles:

Softbank Publishing

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