Arty Games

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People have some weird ideas of what "art" means.

Good luck finding it. Last I heard it was only really available on Gametap or illegal download. Wizards killed any licensing for the 2nd ed campaign settings after they went to third ed, so the chance of this getting released on something like GOG is slim and none.


It's depressing to hear about the rarity of the game itself. Oh well. Good things are hard to find, I suppose.

Well, you say that, but... I mean, I ordered and recieved the game a few days ago, from that page, all shrink-wrapped and shiny. Interesting that I just searched for the same edition on the .com version and couldn't actually find it.

People have some weird ideas of what "art" means.

I'm not sure picking 5 games is the right approach to the discussion. If you take those 5 games to Ebert I bet you go around and around in circles. The first salvo in this discussion is asking your local devil's advocate to define art.

If videogames are not art, then they must have a definition of what art is. If they have a definition of art which somehow excludes the entirety of videogaming--then if it isn't manifestly and snobbishly exclusive then I bet it is still faulty enough to chip away at it.

Something I confess myself curious about. Most gamers seem to accept that games are, or at least can be, art. How many people think that playing games can be an art? Consider that we call the dancer at least as much an artist as the choreographer, the musician as the composer, the actor as the director or scriptwriter. I haven't given the matter much thought yet, so I'm open to varying opinions. Just occurred to me a couple days ago.

I think 'Every Day the Same Dream' (a flash title, I think Alt-Escape featured it) fits pretty well. It's a critique on modern work-life, down to earth (serving as a good counter to the 'games can only be fantasy' stereotype) and very easy to pick up and play.

I'll stand by the fact that Fallout 3 is an experience beyond that of a usual game. It is captivating and immersive. And thought provoking and emotional as it shows the possibilities of human technology.

It's fun to play, but the setting and storyline (yeah the main quest isn't great, that isn't what I mean. I just mean the story of the world around you) are wonderful.



Damnit, ninja'd.

Can I say that Mario 64 is art? I mean, you are jumping IN to art... well... yes. For me, it was an experience that made me think. And isn't that really what art is?

Obviously art is a subjective and indefinable term, however (I hate now saying however, sorry)the use of aesthetic elements like sound, cinematics or story is not what defines games as art. Maybe define is not the best word. Intent, that's better. Okami is not intending itself as artistic expression, it is conveying the artistic style of Japanese woodcut prints. Gravitation, The Marriage, Passage, Braid, Today I Die and even Shadow of the Colossus, on the other hand, convey expressive ideas through the use of gameplay mechanics and THIS is what i feel makes games art.
As a lame excuse, this is my subjective opinion and I understand that art is indefinable and that this only represents my view of how it is represented in games. Thankyou.

I would heartily agree on World of Goo.

Portal... yeah I guess it counts as artsy, but I think it's more just plain and total puzzle joy. Even though I found it a bit easy.

[The 1st] Bioshock would be a good choice if shooters were acceptable. It's incredibly dark, the gore isn't excessive like I imagine God of War is, the characters are wonderfully crafted, the setting is perfect, and the feeling of being manipulated is wonderfully used. I was honestly pretty mad when I found out about that part of the plot, and I felt stupid as well, but not in a bad way. As in like "Oh man, I shoulda seen that coming. Seriously." It just worked.

That's the best I can come up with.

I think there is a big difference between something made of art and something that is art.
I'd say Bioshock's story plays off the mechanics of games and makes you question them. Combined with an amazing setting and unbelievable atmosphere, I think it's the only game I've played that comes close to qualifying as art.

Braid was good, but the art in that game was just pretty pictures, and a rather abstract storyline, but I did not feel it was connected enough to the story to encompass it. (apart from that end section, the story isn't really that coherent. And if you say "but that's the point" then it only makes it a self defeating one. something being open to inerpretation does not make it omni-relevent)

The void was quite artsy. But it got annoying with the fact you could die on the level select screen. Didn't give it much time.
The path was much the same. not enough happened to hold my interest.

Edit: god dammit 3 pages without bioshock being mentioned, and whilst I spend 5 minutes writing it I get ninja'd.

Okay, it's not. It's a game. If I could be arsed, I'd write a long, boring passage on why games shouldnt be art, and why I can't understand why we want to compare an enjoyable hobby to a hundered year old form of "reading to much into things". Simply looking nice or being awesome doesn't make something art, and it shouldn't. It's sad that as gamers we can't accept our own medium of good enough without having to slap the lable of "art" over the top of it. Is our collective self-esteem really that low?

It all depends how you define art. To me art is simply the more or less perfect example of anything. An incredible piece of music, a stunning painting, a fantastic game. Any object/something that demonstrates a fantastic piece of work in a specific genre.

Not all games are art, and not all paintings are either. Art is something that makes you feel something and preferably something that is above the regular stuff. Something that has evolved, moved on. Something...better...something...special, and beautiful.

Art is, has been and always will be subjective. And as such it is rather silly to point out anything at all as "universal art". Art is subjective, always. And on that note, games are art, and not.

No love for Flower? Portal is a very good choice for breaking someone into first-person. Personally, I've used Flower on several different people to show the beauty of games. Simple, intuitive, fun and engaging.

It's funny, I would've also said 'Portal' and 'Silent Hill 2'
glad to see we both thought that :D

For me, Flower and Heavy Rain would be the two that I would show people. They both use fairly simple and intuitive control schemes, and are also moving and powerful, Flower with its environmental message and Heavy Rain with how it really succeeds at making the player feel for the characters.

everyone seems to be sidesteping Another World for some reason... why?

This is Suda 51's favorite game of all time for crying out loud.

How many people think that playing games can be an art?

You've never seen me play Civilization IV using a graphics tablet and my feet.

Personally, i think people have ideas about art that are too refined. Art can't really be defined. People have tried...

YES, "Today I Die." That game WAS art. No question.

Which ending you get also tells you about yourself-- essentially what art is SUPPOSED to do.

And I can't really have any respect for Ebert here-- I very rarely agree with his movie reviews and criteria for excellence.

Yeah, I feel that the indie movement has so much more experimentation in expression and does so effectively through mechanics of play. That's why Today I Die felt so new and invigorated.


Emotional Range - Check

The story elements are all crafted in such a way that they actually provoke thought, not competition. You and the game are working together rather than simply trying to beat the stuffing out of it.

The characters are rich, well acted, and by the end of the game you honestly care about both what you did to them and how they reacted.

The narrative turned the RPG genre on it's side by being introspectively epic. I've never played a game that did that before or since.

This times one thousand. I also would count the latter games in the Legacy of Kain games if you could get past all the time-travelling tomfoolery :P

Hell, I've oncidered games art since I could clearly identify what the hell everything was supposed to be, from Sonic Sprites to static Myst backgrounds.

As for Ebert, I never agreed with him about what movies were good & bad, so why should I expect him to agree with me on anything? I hate modern movies so much that if he were me, he'd have just retired & moved on to something else. But he's not me.

What about "The Path"?

The Path is my one choice for games as art. It's moving, it's beautiful, it's dark, it's brilliant. One of my favourite games and definitely a worthy experience.

YES, "Today I Die." That game WAS art. No question.

Which ending you get also tells you about yourself-- essentially what art is SUPPOSED to do.

And I can't really have any respect for Ebert here-- I very rarely agree with his movie reviews and criteria for excellence.

Oh yes, and this, Today I Die is possibly the best flash game I've played.

Oh, The Longest Journey! You've caused me to fall into a pit of nostalgia, shame on you. Luckily I own it on Steam, so I can play it again right now and fall in love with the characters and the story all over again. It's a pity that the series lost a certain something with Dreamfall... ah, c'est la vie, I suppose.

I think people often misunderstand art, and some even go so far as to say that art cannot have any utility aside from being artistic, I believe this is nonsense. Anything can be art as long as it is designed with emotion and caring attention. If you don't believe me, take a look at some of the more modern bridges around the world. Par exemple:

I think it's fairly obvious that games are not only a medium in which art can exist, but inherently art, atleast by any definition I've heard. Of course, if I were tasked with persuading a newcomer, that is not the argument I would use.
If faced with this insurmountable task, I would start with games that tell great stories, to show that a video game can have a compelling narrative, just like a novel or movie; games such as:

    -God of War
    -Golden Sun
    -Mass Effect
    -See, this is why games aren't taken seriously.
I don't agree with your premise of getting the person to play the game. I know - playing it - that's the whole point of a game, but if you've convinced someone who didn't think of games as art to actually play one, you've already persuaded them and are now arguing that "games are even more".
Good storytelling is a recurrent theme in your 5 examples (well, I've only played two of them, but I'll take your word on the rest). By simply playing a game, it could take hours to realize that the plot is more than "badassjamin gunsworth kills bad guys cause they kidnapped the princess / president / his girlfriend". However, if the scenario is a live verbal debate, you need to make your point in well under 5 minutes. If I were in that situation, I would rely on YouTube to show gameplay and cutscenes.
After the story argument, I would show games with beautiful environments, reflecting what's 'artistic' about a painting, sculpture, or movie. For example:
    -The three games mentioned above
    -Donkey Kong Country
    -Far Cry
    -Jak and Daxter
    (This is not to say that these are the only beautiful-looking games in existence or even that I've played, just in an 'artistic'-looking way.)
Of course, if you're actually and seriously trying to convince someone that games are art, what you should really do is ask them to define the word 'art', then think of games that fit into their definition.

My definition of art: "Something that is created for an audience using creativity"

I think Planescape Torment is the closest to art you can get.


"I always feel the need to stress how hard it is for an adult to learn to navigate a first-person world if they've never done it before."

Really? Why adults in particular?

Come on, kids always have a better time adapting to new technology. Adults tend to lag behind. Teenagers always end up having to set up their parents DVD players, or fixing the email/facebook page up etc. The whole appeal of the Wii is its simplicity, making it easy to pick up by adults. Having a grand total of two buttons simplifies things a great deal. Hence why Point and click adventure games are also easier for people to get into.

Yeah, I get that - but he said a "first-person world" specifically, I was just wondering if he meant FPS games were somehow harder to navigate than when in third-person.

What about "The Path"?

After all, it breaks Ebert's strongest criterion, in that it doesn't have anything resembling a "win". Not the best thing for a child, but the interface is staggeringly simple, so it's not so bad for an artistically inclined adult.

This was also my first thought when I saw the article's headline. The Path would be my first choice to show people the potential of videogames as media and art. It tells a story in a way that doesn't readily resemble one of the other media, and it doesn't keep a cinematic pace or force the player to "win" in any way. It is simply art. It is a great example on the uniqueness of how games can tell stories, nto necessarrily because it has told the best story, but because it doesn't have a narrator/a lot of text/dialogue like movies or books have, but instead focusses much more on how a game can tell a story.

Shadow of the Collossus is definetly one I have used before. I loved the art style, and, along with ICO I think they are certainly some of the more beauytiful games released on the PS Series.

Okami = Epic. That was art, no one can ever deny that

Can I say that Mario 64 is art? I mean, you are jumping IN to art... well... yes. For me, it was an experience that made me think. And isn't that really what art is?

The Art of Mario 64 isn't in the visuals, it is as you say in the experience. That makes judging games as a visual art just as informed as doing the same for, say, performance art or music.

We need a different vocabulary to discuss games as art, just as opera, live painting and abstract photography have very different vocabularies from both each other, and say film.

That's the humanities way of doing it, at least. Note that this wouldn't necessarily be the language of "ganking", "teching" or "camping" -- although I also really think we need to consider that games become art in the hands of the player!

It's when a game is played that it becomes art, not before and I would question if it is art afterwards, just like with the example of live painting.

So absolutely! Playing Mario 64 can both be an art and be art in itself, plus you jump into art as part of the gameplay, so this is really meta-art! :P

I recently came across trailers for The Whispered World.
It looks incredible

And to add to the debate. What do movies have that games don't?
If we're being perfectly honest, many games do just what movies do and then some.
-They can tell a story.
-Have a beginning and end (not necessarily a case of winning or losing, you can't lose many adventure games for example)
-Invoke emotions.
-Express an opinion or belief.

The only difference between movies and games is challenge and interactivity, I'm pretty sure there is already such a thing as interactive art (some types of installation or sculpture) so unless people want to argue requiring thought/effort and providing a challenge in doing so can disqualify something as art then they havn't really a leg to stand on.

I would define art somewhere along the lines of an item that has been created for form but not (at least primarily) function. So - simple example a statue. Its not there to support anything, cover anything its there to look nice.

So lets extend the logic to computer games. The primary function of a game is to entertain, just like the primary function of a brick is to make a building. If we take the base of a computer game and then use it for more aesthetic purposes than entertainment, then it is art at least by my definition. Imorrtall a great example - I probably wouldn't call it an entertaining game in the tradidional "win" or "lose" no "high score" but still pleasing. The complete opposite of say pacman or space invaders - entertainment with no form at all.

Along those lines then I could recomend a few games that are more art than others, and some that are clearly less. Left 4 dead and team fortress 2 come to mind as not art. There entirely to be (relatively) mindless fun. On the other hand, a game like Mafia or Fallout where you can get genuinely attached to characters and plot lines....the ending to either...

If you talk about games being art and do not mention The Void or Pathologic, everything you say is instantly disregarded.



Every time people mention games are(n't) art without also mentioning The Void makes me sad. So relevant, yet so overlooked because it isn't mainstream.

Holy shit! *high-fives*

Wow. I thought nobody had played that game.... I loved it. Good taste in games guys :)

As soon as I saw TLJ, I nodded.

The art in that game was about more than good looks - it was about detailed creativity and hints of another life in every scene. The art, music, characters and story all together made it 'arty'. Or so I think. :D It's a great example to show in comparison to, say, Big Fish games like Curse of Briar Rose - visually gorgeous but emotionally and creatively empty.

Of course, to be clichéd, Art is in the eye etc.

I've pointed at The Path as an 'arty' game before. In fact, I think it really IS more "interactive art" than game, what with the low playability and convoluted (perhaps even.. unfinished?) inventory/ending system. The Endless Forest is another example of art over gameplay. There are no goals, the world is small and you can only communicate using rudimentary deer-like body language. :D

Well... Shadow of the Colossus, Ico and Okami...

Great article! Agree with your choices as well.

Agreed. I would also add Dishwasher: Dead Samurai and Sam & Max.

Can i put one thought out about Okami. There are 2 ideas we think of when using the word art. The first is that of visual elements that make up something, the art of a game. The second is, well, I can't say. Noone can, but we all have our ideas. My point is that Okami is misassosiated with art because it is ascetically beautiful. It's fun no doubt, and this is just MY OPINION which i am in no way trying to constitute as fact BUT I wouldn't consider Okami art because there is no intent for personal self expression within the interactions of the game. It just looks pretty. OPINION. Please disagree.

I do agree on "The Longest Journey". I hadn't played it before a two months or so ago, and even though it is a bit old, I found it to be beautiful. The story is quite captivating. *considers* I think I will check out Jade Empire in a while too, if at all possible. It did sound quite nice. My suggestion for "a game that is art" would be Golden Sun. I do not know if it is or not, but I certainly thought the soundtrack and scenery quite "artsy".

I like these weekly columns. They always give me good inspiration, sort of, to go check out a game I have not played or heard of.

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