Visual art, such as paintings and photographs, aren’t really my thing at all. After aggressive art teachers in my youth and talented but not very understanding artist friends past, present, and future?; I tend to shy away from visual art forms entirely out of the learned fear that I just don’t know what I’m looking at – so that poisons my entire view of the art form with an avoidance prejudice. So I chose to go with an indie video game. This is a game that began as an internet game but I played it on the Nintendo Switch. West of Loathing.
Now, I am far from a seasoned gamer. My poison of choice is fiction in the form of books and dark fantasy films and television shows. So I arrive with absolutely no expectations nor prejudices. I hadn’t heard about this from anyone in my family nor my group of friends, so there were no opinions to build upon.
Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has a joke in it. From overt puns to cleverly worded setting options. This game gave me ultimate joy in an Old Western themed long running gag, despite presenting all of this in stick figure black and white graphics.
I can argue that West of Loathing satisfies the first moment in Kant’s theory, the moment of Quality in the judgment of taste. In this, Kant claims that “the satisfaction characterizing a judgment of beauty in taste is entirely Disinterested… Taste is the faculty of judging of an object or a method of representing it by an entirely disinterested satisfaction or dissatisfaction” (286). As this is a new art form to me, untouched by past experiences and other’s opinions – as well as my own – this absolutely fulfills the conditions of the Quality moment and allowed me to experience the work of art with entirely new eyes, without the coloring of expectation, past experience, or hearsay.
I can also argue that West of Loathing satisfies the third moment, stating that for an object to be beautiful the object must strike up curiosity within the observer. “Therefore it can be an object without any purpose (either objective or subjective)…” (PAB, 295). The positive feelings that the beautiful work creates in the observer leads them to experience the work with a childlike wonder and joy. The observer is thereby in a place of mental play and stimulation, thinking further in the mode that the work has introduced.
Here is the main game critique I found, AFTER I did my own research (or… play-through). Polygon celebrates West of Loathing for turning the gaming industry on its head, with emphasis on the power of stick figure graphics and the jokes that cover every inch of gameplay. As this gamer review website matches all I have said, I think I can argue that this is a universal sort of beauty. The novice – A.K.A. me – hit many of the same points in much the same way as the expert – Polygon.