Scott McCloud is Really Smart

Today I attended a talk by Scott McCloud, author of the amazingly great Understanding Comics, a comic book about the mechanics of comic books as a medium. McCloud’s work has been inspirational for me (and many others) because he so effectively dissects a pulp medium (comic books) to show its core traits and characteristics. In doing so, he exposes an amazing degree of art and skill required for the medium, and discusses techniques that are wholly applicable to all kinds of other mediums. What the public mostly views as a nerdy, disposable, and ultimately shallow form of entertainment, McCloud shows to be in-fact built on rich and purposeful techniques; by examining the very fundamentals of comic books, he shows that they are worth so much more than the main stream often gives them credit for.

I’ve found McCloud’s work fascinating, even though I don’t read a lot of comics (any more; I was a pretty diehard fan when I was a kid). Comics mirror video games in many ways (including concerns over the medium’s effect on children and censorship-related legal bouts back in the 1950’s), and McCloud’s research is extremely applicable (and is often actively applied) to video games. At the end of his lecture today he even talked about games as they relate to comics, and though there wasn’t really enough time to get involved in a discussion, it was clear that games excite him greatly.

Video games need to be examined and dissected the same way McCloud has examined and dissected comic books. The medium is understood by far too few people, and somebody needs to step into McClouds shoes and provide similar insights into video games. Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun isn’t a bad start, but it’s far too vague and broad to be as useful as McCloud’s works. I’ve tried to use this site to study a subset of games with the same sort of focus on fundamentals that McCloud uses, but what I’ve found is that generalizations that are more true than not are pretty hard to come by.

Anyway, the lecture reminded me that I should post about McCloud’s book, (and his new one, which I can’t wait to read). I also wanted to relate this great quote of his that he said today about the never-ending death march towards “photo realistic video game graphics”: “I think the best way to make a goal seem utterly pointless is to achieve it. ” McCloud is interested in all the other parts of video games: the fun parts, the story parts, the drama parts, the parts that matter. Here here!

2 thoughts on “Scott McCloud is Really Smart

    Ideally, games would encompass all those things you mentioned, plus have great graphics.

    I have worked as a graphic designer, am highly visually oriented, so I am biased in favor of great looking games.

    Having said that, though, I have played video games that have stunning graphics but that were as dull as mud, leaving me feeling disappointed. If the game is pretty but boring, it’s useless.

  2. Yeah, he was referring specifically to high-end graphics technology. What he meant in his quote, I think, was that once absolute realism has been achieved, what will game designers do next? They’ll have to focus on something other than graphics, and that’s where he thinks games will really start to get interesting.

    Also, I think he’s right that great graphics technology doesn’t necessarily equate to good art. Okami is one of the best looking games ever, and it’s running on a PS2.

Comments are closed.