291: Almost Art

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Almost Art

Before games can accept their role as an art form, developers will have to let go of an outdated loyalty to the way games are made.

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But what about the games that already embrace the criteria you set up?
Are you saying there are none?
The Game you used as an illustration for the article, and indeed have made as I see, the Path, how is that not art? I played it quite a few times, and everytime it moved me and I thought I had learned something about people afterwards.
(Yeah, consider me a fan ;-))

I like the article, I´m sure its right about quite a few things. But I do also believe their are videogames out there, that often get overlooked. Videogames are not all Call of Duty and Halo.
We do have our Silent Hill 2 and the Path.

Though I am not sure Art needs a message. What is the message of an abstract painting? What is the meaning of a painting of a landscape, for that matter? Much more important to art, as I see it, is emotion, and the emotional response art can trigger in its recipient.
Did I mention Silent Hill 2? Ah, yes ;-)

The article makes very good points, I just wanted to say that there are already games like that out there, even though they may not get the exposure of the latest Shooter-title. Most gamers are not here for the art. But those who are can find it, if they look hard enough.

Art or not art I just want games to be GOOD, thats not too much to ask is it?

and I dont mean COD good, I mean bioware good, bioshock good, red dead redemption good, great experiences with good storys

videogames are bland, unforgiving, meaningless, cold-blooded, rigid systems

And this folks, is how to alienate your readers so much that they stop reading in frustration before they finish the first page. I think that games are great and plenty of people agree with me.

I don't know why the Escapist pays for so many anti game pieces on the front page. I really don't.

While I can agree with this article about most games, I find it funny how the author over-generalizes to the point of ignoring even his own games. Just because the vast majority of games are not made as art doesn't mean all games aren't made as art.

On the other hand, I would expect this from Tale of Tales. I read their blog once, and it was full of this kind of pretentious bile for games.

Cool article! And a good call to arms: I think in particular your emphasis on reversing the process, of beginning with an idea, concept or 'thing' that is to be expressed through video gaming technology, instead of tacking it onto already existing rules is a potent thought. Still, I want to make two minor objections or, if you wish, points of discussion to your topic.

1) Videogames cannot avoid being art, although I understand you're calling for a more holistic approach to "games as art" than the following definition. What I mean is that the art assets (level design, creature design, lore design, sound design, graphics design etc etc) are all very much high art in the narrowest definition of the word. Consider Mirror Edge's minimalist, Scandinavian architecture and colour scheme: not only did it facilitate gameplay by making Faith's path easier to map, it functions quite well outside the confines of the game. There is really nothing much else to add - any and all games, simply by belonging to a visual (and aural) medium is absolutely suffused with creativity and meaningful aesthetics, and thus 'art' in all the meanings of the word.

2) Experiential art (or what-have-you) is what we're met with quite often when entering certain modern art galleries. One show I visited last autumn had a room where a sound-sensitive thingamabob of some kind would start vibrating when it picked up sound, creating patterns in water and various sounds based on, I guess, frequency. There were bells around the room you could strike, which caused certain effects. But laughing, talking loudly etc also produced a 'reaction'. In the context of the usually sombre, white-walled, shushed, srs bsns gallery, a room which 'spoke' back at you in such a way was quite amusing, and an experience (which had clearly been the artist's intention).

Games, even games just exploring new game-play techniques, are perfectly capable of creating such experiential art without necessarily needing to sacrifice much to the gods of mammon. I recently played the Adventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and although the storyline itself was a bit of an excuse for the gameplay, really, the gameplay ITSELF was quite wonderful and, well, in my opinion an example of experiential artwork - at least during certain levels. There are better examples, I'm sure (Braid tends to come up, but I haven't really played it myself so I don't know), but the point is that I believe gameplay (to repeat myself) IN ITSELF can be a form of art.

However, I still fully agree with your request that games should begin with an idea and a wish to express that idea, -rather- than some kind of archetype on top of which the 'artsy' bits can be grafted, often with poor success. But I have to say that it often seems to me that despite all the attempts at NOT making something with a message, that message can still be read between the lines. Nazi zombies of Wolfenstein are, after all, a sort of extrapolation of our culture's logical imperative to demonize our recent past...even if the result is a tad bit...kitchy. :P

Good stuff!

So what we basically are told in this article is that games are just like movies today. They require a huge staff if you want to be a commerical big shot and a tight production plan. But still, some movies are art. Many movies are not art. The problem I think is how we define art, what is the prequisite for something being art? Some say it is that the work of art has a message, some that art must evoke emotional reactions and so on and so forth.

But in the end, isn't much of what takes place in game development art? Just think about how Valve designed every level of Left 4 Dead meticulously to be easy to navigate with visual and audial cues. Left 4 Dead doesn't have a message perhaps, but the way it is designed to make the player always be on the edge of his or her seat could qualify for art in the same way that many paintings and pictures are art: Because they evoke emotion, no matter if that emotion is longing for a cold winter morning or adrenaline pumping horror.

Really? in order to become an art form we need to follow a specific theme/emotion/action? well then hell, WE'RE ALREADY THERE! i mean, when it comes to games like Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption, what do you think was thought about first? the guns or the setting/characters/story?

Besides, is fear not an emotion? We can chalk up Amnesia: The Dark Descent as art then.
Is being pumped up not an emotion? Then we can chalk up Halo/Shooters as art then.

i could go on, but honestly, we are already starting with ideas and doing what we can to express those ideas.

i think as long as we keep pushing the good, deep experiences (Valve, Bioware) and not supporting the bad, shallow experiences (Archetypal Japanese games, anyone who keeps pushing "guy with gun kills a lotta people" games) we'll make progress towards getting into the public's eye as more than a violence-inducing machine of devil-worshipping

More Fun To Compute:

videogames are bland, unforgiving, meaningless, cold-blooded, rigid systems

And this folks, is how to alienate your readers so much that they stop reading in frustration before they finish the first page. I think that games are great and plenty of people agree with me.

I don't know why the Escapist pays for so many anti game pieces on the front page. I really don't.

Well it was written by one of the makers of the game "the path". So perhaps they know a little bit about what actually goes on inside games.

And to be fair, regardless of how much "freedom" a game offers it is really just part of a algorithm. Perhaps a more complicated one but the game world still has an edge. You are still locked to the map area, or how many point you can put into charisma. No matter how difficult the moral choice system in Bioshock was (and I bloody loved Bioschock) it still lead to just three endings, all those though choices and your either a saint who single handled saves every little sister ever or you return to the surface releasing an onslaught of splicers. Neither of which take into account the stresses you were under whilst in bioshock, maybe you didn't kill the little sisters because you wanted to, but you felt you "had" to. Now to the individual that is a very big difference, I.E necessary evil for one's own survival compared with "I want power." However to the game, what ever reasoning you had you are evil in their books.

That being said I will mention the "would you kindly" part in a bioshock comes pretty damn close to being "art" since it makes you think of the very nature of video games and their difference to the real world. How in video games every command is followed more or less blindly until a collection of 1s and 0s tells you to stop.

Now the valid argument to this is that due to the nature of computer logic it'd be rather difficult to construct a less rigid game world and even if you did it would just be the impression of one. But then the flaw could be with the general "philosophy" of what a video game is, we've made no attempt to change the basic concepts for all these years and then we try to force an "art" label on to stuff that makes us think. I don't know if it is possible to make a video game that is art but I think the author is correct in saying that to become art we must move away from just have a "cool mechanic". I'm not being snobby and suggesting that every game needs to be art, but in my experience of art, which is limited, one has an initial message they want to convey and then chooses the medium that will best express it. And if that medium is video games then you may just get art.

The response of the games industry to this dilemma so far has been retreat. We minimize the importance of the story and draw attention to our cool mechanics and the fun our players are having. At the expense, of course, of cultural significance and expanding the audience.

This paragraph got on my nerves.

You don't have to make the story the biggest part of a game to make it 'arty'.

The cool mechanics and fun are what makes a game a game.

Look at it this way - if you make a game with a story on the level of the greatest novel ever written, what's the point in making it a game? Make it a movie, that's a better medium for what you've created. Instead of focusing on the story the whole time, we should be focusing on what makes a game a game.

Which are the cool mechanics and the fun.

Diverging from these fundamental values of videogames would be pointless. Sure, you can have games with great storylines, but if they're made with solely that in mind, it becomes pointless. Look at BioWare games - their point is to let the player choose what the story turns out as. You may say that this is focusing on the story, and that's why it is good - but then think of other 'choose your own path' games, like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3. These haven't got good stories, but they have focused their energy on making the most prominent feature that you can't get in any other medium, player freedom. Just as a book relies on intelligent wordplay, music on... the music, films on the excitement and 'art' art on the detail. And that is what makes them art.

Not the storyline.

I agree that games have potential to be as good as cinema, books, ect. However, saying that games are ALMOST ART seems pretty stupid to me. It hasn't reached the same level of impact that cinema achieved years ago, but it will. Games are still art though. They just need to go above and beyond what cinema has produced.

Can't really take the Article seriously because i HATED The Path for being so deliberately and forcefully "un-gamey" (with the player only partially being in control of the character, "winning" being losing and being hardly interactive), as well as pretty pretentious, both of wich hardly is the right path of making a true "art game" that Tale of Tales obviously tried to pull off there.

The biggest thing I take from this article is that you seem to think that something cannot be art and be entertainment at the same time.

Cinema is an artform, but that does that automatically make a Michael Bay movie a work of art.

No it doesn't. Games, like movies, can be art but that doesn't mean that every game that is produced has to have 'artistic merit'. Sometimes all that is important is if it is entertaining.

messy:

More Fun To Compute:

videogames are bland, unforgiving, meaningless, cold-blooded, rigid systems

And this folks, is how to alienate your readers so much that they stop reading in frustration before they finish the first page. I think that games are great and plenty of people agree with me.

I don't know why the Escapist pays for so many anti game pieces on the front page. I really don't.

Well it was written by one of the makers of the game "the path". So perhaps they know a little bit about what actually goes on inside games.

Maybe those words are appropriate for The Path but I like to think that I know a little of what actually goes into games myself and don't find them appropriate as a blanket description. But perhaps every single game ever can easily be described as bland and I as a hopeless know nothing who hasn't even created The Path am over reacting.

And to be fair, regardless of how much "freedom" a game offers it is really just part of a algorithm. Perhaps a more complicated one but the game world still has an edge. You are still locked to the map area, or how many point you can put into charisma. No matter how difficult the moral choice system in Bioshock was (and I bloody loved Bioschock) it still lead to just three endings, all those though choices and your either a saint who single handled saves every little sister ever or you return to the surface releasing an onslaught of splicers. Neither of which take into account the stresses you were under whilst in bioshock, maybe you didn't kill the little sisters because you wanted to, but you felt you "had" to. Now to the individual that is a very big difference, I.E necessary evil for one's own survival compared with "I want power." However to the game, what ever reasoning you had you are evil in their books.

The moral choice system in Bioshock is a very weak example of an actual game rule system. You just make a series of binary choices that have minimal effect on the outcome of the actual game. You can't compare that with a more complicated game where every choice you make has ripple through effects that have major effects on the future of the game. It's actually more of an "artsy fartsy" gimmick than an actual game system.

That being said I will mention the "would you kindly" part in a bioshock comes pretty damn close to being "art" since it makes you think of the very nature of video games and their difference to the real world. How in video games every command is followed more or less blindly until a collection of 1s and 0s tells you to stop.

Yes, that sort of game does not allow very interesting gameplay but Bioshock never gives you a hint of alternative ways of playing where you are in control of the action. Bioshock may have some merit because it satirises it's own weak gameplay. Now that they have debunked the futility of this sort of game I suppose that you going to stop playing them and are they going to stop making them?

Now the valid argument to this is that due to the nature of computer logic it'd be rather difficult to construct a less rigid game world and even if you did it would just be the impression of one.

It's easy to create game code that creates very fluid and unpredictable outcomes. Look up Conway's Game of Life. Every game coder should be able to recreate this sort of thing without too many problems even if it is harder to recreate in an "immersive" 3d game world or applying it to the highly vaunted moral choice systems.

Wolfrug:
Cool article! And a good call to arms: I think in particular your emphasis on reversing the process, of beginning with an idea, concept or 'thing' that is to be expressed through video gaming technology, instead of tacking it onto already existing rules is a potent thought. Still, I want to make two minor objections or, if you wish, points of discussion to your topic.

1) Videogames cannot avoid being art, although I understand you're calling for a more holistic approach to "games as art" than the following definition. What I mean is that the art assets (level design, creature design, lore design, sound design, graphics design etc etc) are all very much high art in the narrowest definition of the word. Consider Mirror Edge's minimalist, Scandinavian architecture and colour scheme: not only did it facilitate gameplay by making Faith's path easier to map, it functions quite well outside the confines of the game. There is really nothing much else to add - any and all games, simply by belonging to a visual (and aural) medium is absolutely suffused with creativity and meaningful aesthetics, and thus 'art' in all the meanings of the word.

Good point, but having art assets in games just makes a game with art in it, not games AS art. Just like editing is what makes film different from other forms of expression, gameplay is what makes games unique. To actually achieve videoludic art, you need to use gameplay to express something, be it an emotion, a concept or a feeling.

2) Experiential art (or what-have-you) is what we're met with quite often when entering certain modern art galleries. One show I visited last autumn had a room where a sound-sensitive thingamabob of some kind would start vibrating when it picked up sound, creating patterns in water and various sounds based on, I guess, frequency. There were bells around the room you could strike, which caused certain effects. But laughing, talking loudly etc also produced a 'reaction'. In the context of the usually sombre, white-walled, shushed, srs bsns gallery, a room which 'spoke' back at you in such a way was quite amusing, and an experience (which had clearly been the artist's intention).

Games, even games just exploring new game-play techniques, are perfectly capable of creating such experiential art without necessarily needing to sacrifice much to the gods of mammon. I recently played the Adventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and although the storyline itself was a bit of an excuse for the gameplay, really, the gameplay ITSELF was quite wonderful and, well, in my opinion an example of experiential artwork - at least during certain levels. There are better examples, I'm sure (Braid tends to come up, but I haven't really played it myself so I don't know), but the point is that I believe gameplay (to repeat myself) IN ITSELF can be a form of art.

However, I still fully agree with your request that games should begin with an idea and a wish to express that idea, -rather- than some kind of archetype on top of which the 'artsy' bits can be grafted, often with poor success. But I have to say that it often seems to me that despite all the attempts at NOT making something with a message, that message can still be read between the lines. Nazi zombies of Wolfenstein are, after all, a sort of extrapolation of our culture's logical imperative to demonize our recent past...even if the result is a tad bit...kitchy. :P

Good stuff!

Exactly! Gameplay in itself can be art. You don't need an epic storyline or amazing art assets to create art. Same thing for movies, especially more experimental stuff. Just by playing with editing, they create emotions and themes. Games can do the same with novel gameplay and minimal assets. Design-centric criticism (what L.B. Jeffries was doing back then) can really help understand how certain games (especially those without explicit stories) can evoke certain ideas.

Azaraxzealot:
Really? in order to become an art form we need to follow a specific theme/emotion/action? well then hell, WE'RE ALREADY THERE! i mean, when it comes to games like Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption, what do you think was thought about first? the guns or the setting/characters/story?

Thing is, setting/characters/story are not something that are specific to games.

I disagree whole-heartedly. Specifically on two points.

Instead, videogames are manufactured as commodities produced to fulfill a certain need. Unlike other commercial media, what videogames are about is rarely significant. Their entire reason for existing is to provide fun to their customers.

Currently, videogames are created to be fun experiences, or sometimes out of technical curiosity. Art, however, is created from an entirely different motivation: to explore certain themes or to convey messages that cannot be said in any other way.

The first quote seems to relate Video Games to toys, which I agree they closely resemble and were once sold as. Nowadays, however, Video Games are closer to movies then anything. In fact, the only thing left about video games that resembles toys are the consoles on which they are played. These are meaningless boxes that allow us to partake in fun experiences, much like a DVD player or a computer.

Going back to the quote, you also suggest that what the game is about is rarely significant. Though what if the game is about the FPS or Racing experience? If that's the basis for the game I'd call that rather significant. Unlike a toy, a video game is designed to invoke a certain experience in the player, much like a movie does with it's story. Invoking a experience, emotion or thought is what art is essentially all about. It's not just a way to explore themes or convey messages; you could fill a whole gallery with fine art that has no message to convey and still come out having experienced something.

Currently speaking, a lot of games mean to convey a fun experience, that's what they do as an artform.

(Re-reading this post, it seems overly aggressive, don't take it as such.)

I just absolutely love this article because it comes off to me as nothing but a tongue-in-cheek, vague idea, stuffed with out of line comments in a desperate attempt to "Step away from the crowd". I suppose if this was a cynic nonsensical rambling rag, I would be nominating it for an award straight away

My favorite evidence of the crime aforementioned, has to be the following sentence: Art Is About Something. Games Are Not. I have to say, I find the use of bold font to emphasize extremely humorous, like someone hiding behind explicitly and strongly enforced rules, to hide the stupidity of said commands. To begin with, "something" is a very broad statement, I take it the wording is just inconsistent, but what I understand is that art seeks to explain an ideology, through an arrangement, while games are diligent fun, or at least that's what the author seems to try to explain. Both statements are deeply wrong. Art and philosophy are completely different things. Art can contain philosophy (For example, The Stranger, by Albert Camus), and philosophy can contain art (Paradise Lost, to mention one), but they certainly aren't co-dependent, and each can exist without the other. Not every book and not every film has to convey an ideology to be art. Art is more about evoking emotion, be that emotion happiness, or the satisfaction of having a realization. On the other hand, games have already shown several specimens that very well fit this delusional criteria of "Everything must contain an ideology in order to be art". Just play Deus Ex, for example. The game sets a very intricate scenario, in which the player is conflicted by the clash between the institutionalized government, and the strength in the individual.

Now that the fact that the lack of "something" in art is out of the matter, and we know that games have, in fact, conveyed "something", there's other reasons why this article is just lacking in content.

Games are interactive. Yes, people, games are interactive, that, of course leads to the "something", when in a game, having to be interactive too. That means that while a film, book or play are pinpoint when it comes to making a statement (Be that statement really superficial, such as "The main character will walk to the other side of the room", or deep and influential, such as "The main character sees the humanity within his deformed body downtrodden, as he has been conditioned to believe that he is nothing but a dysmorphic and repulsive, ugly, eccentricity"). On the other hand, a videogame finds it's métier in raising a question (Once again, be that question as superficial as "Will the main character walk to the other room, or stay where he is?", or as deep as "Will the main character brainwash an entire species, thus removing their independent thoughts, even when this is for a good cause, or will he kill them to spare them from the torture of becoming what they hate the most?)". That just means that the portrayal of the infamous "something" in games in drastically different than that of movies. Do games implement this often enough? Hell no, in fact, the reason why I am such a fervent defender of games as an artistic genre is because there's a lot of wasted potential in dreadful games like Bioshock 2 or Kane & Lynch, but this is an industry that, despite what the article might say, is growing marvelously fast, and even though bland products that lead to articles like this one being published come out constantly, it doesn't stop developers like Warren Spector or Tim Schafer from releasing very compelling products that remind everyone of what games are capable of.

Maybe we need a new term for games that intend to be more than vague fun, and fulfill more crafty personalities. Dynamic novels? I'm sure something will appear sometime, but for god's sake, don't say that games aren't art yet because of the way some developers see them. It's a different market from the ones that use the full potential, and just because some (Maybe most) developers hide behind that ideal as if it were a creativity armor, it doesn't mean that some others haven't already made art out of games; and regarding the immaturity of the medium, it IS, in fact, a valuable fact. Books have several exponents as an art medium because they have been around for thousands of years, meaning the classics have been piling up and going down in history, but if we were to take every single book ever, the odds are 100 bad books to one, probably worse than games'.

And there you have it, gentlemen, my opinion.

Michael Samyn:
Almost Art

Before games can accept their role as an art form, developers will have to let go of an outdated loyalty to the way games are made.

Read Full Article

Your article makes many reasonable resquests of the gaming world and its developers. The tricky spot is that your article makes many, many assumptions about the nature and definition of art--some assertions, in fact, that have been openly challenged for many, many years in other media.

For one, that art necessarily "means something." It's a broad statement with narrow implications, if we're not careful. What exactly constitutes "something?" Does it have to accurately portray a subject? Does it have to be based on a subject at all, whether it be a person, thing, or feeling? At the core, does it have to be communicative (which is the essence of "meaning") to be art? Many say, "No..."

The biggest debate when it comes to this is whether or not something has to have "artistic intent" to join the category of art. A random arrangement of stones isn't art... but the same arrangement, if assembled by a person to be aesthetically (or religiously) pleasing is. The difference is intent... to some. Aleatoric artists would seem to disagree--the art is based on chance events. Of course, even then, the artist sets the parameters in which the random events occur, which is a type of intent in itself.

But do works of that sort "mean" anything? Not really. Sometimes, they're just about the beauty in the structure of something. An arrangement of colors and shapes catches and leads the eye in interesting ways... but it doesn't have a message. It just looks nice, even if no one is certain why. There can be beauty in the structure of something.

We sometimes get into the idea that, in order to be art, it cannot also be functional. I would argue that most good pieces of art are made up of very carefully selected pieces assembled with great care. After all, every word in a poem had to be put there. It had a function of some kind to the poet. While the work as a whole may not "do anything" like clean floors or open cans, each piece is functional in that it contributes to the whole.

The conclusion we seem to be coming to is that art isn't the thing. Art is a state that can exist within the thing. The painting "contains" art, but is itself simply an object. The intent of the creator is the art, and the medium is simply the window, the vessel containing that artistic intent. The intent doesn't have to be communicative--after all, what guarantee do you have that your audience will love the same things about your work that you do?--it must simply be present.

But what about games? Games, likewise, are multimedia presentations that can contain art, surely--visual art, literary art, film art, musical art... but the game itself? The mechanics behind the game can be seen as art. They are carefully constructed to communicate things. If the designers tilt combat mechanics in favor of firearms, this is communicating intent. If armor plays a bigger role than dodge mechanics, that changes the arrangment. The mechanics are part of the art, in the same way that the rivets that hold the Eiffel Tower together are part of it--and were they arranged differently, the whole work would be changed.

Many, many things we don't want to call "art" are, in fact, art. That's where we can start getting into what makes "good art" and "bad art." But I'm afraid I've run on long enough without opening [b]that[/] Pandora's box...

More Fun To Compute:

messy:

More Fun To Compute:

And this folks, is how to alienate your readers so much that they stop reading in frustration before they finish the first page. I think that games are great and plenty of people agree with me.

I don't know why the Escapist pays for so many anti game pieces on the front page. I really don't.

Well it was written by one of the makers of the game "the path". So perhaps they know a little bit about what actually goes on inside games.

Maybe those words are appropriate for The Path but I like to think that I know a little of what actually goes into games myself and don't find them appropriate as a blanket description. But perhaps every single game ever can easily be described as bland and I as a hopeless know nothing who hasn't even created The Path am over reacting.

And to be fair, regardless of how much "freedom" a game offers it is really just part of a algorithm. Perhaps a more complicated one but the game world still has an edge. You are still locked to the map area, or how many point you can put into charisma. No matter how difficult the moral choice system in Bioshock was (and I bloody loved Bioschock) it still lead to just three endings, all those though choices and your either a saint who single handled saves every little sister ever or you return to the surface releasing an onslaught of splicers. Neither of which take into account the stresses you were under whilst in bioshock, maybe you didn't kill the little sisters because you wanted to, but you felt you "had" to. Now to the individual that is a very big difference, I.E necessary evil for one's own survival compared with "I want power." However to the game, what ever reasoning you had you are evil in their books.

The moral choice system in Bioshock is a very weak example of an actual game rule system. You just make a series of binary choices that have minimal effect on the outcome of the actual game. You can't compare that with a more complicated game where every choice you make has ripple through effects that have major effects on the future of the game. It's actually more of an "artsy fartsy" gimmick than an actual game system.

That being said I will mention the "would you kindly" part in a bioshock comes pretty damn close to being "art" since it makes you think of the very nature of video games and their difference to the real world. How in video games every command is followed more or less blindly until a collection of 1s and 0s tells you to stop.

Yes, that sort of game does not allow very interesting gameplay but Bioshock never gives you a hint of alternative ways of playing where you are in control of the action. Bioshock may have some merit because it satirises it's own weak gameplay. Now that they have debunked the futility of this sort of game I suppose that you going to stop playing them and are they going to stop making them?

Now the valid argument to this is that due to the nature of computer logic it'd be rather difficult to construct a less rigid game world and even if you did it would just be the impression of one.

It's easy to create game code that creates very fluid and unpredictable outcomes. Look up Conway's Game of Life. Every game coder should be able to recreate this sort of thing without too many problems even if it is harder to recreate in an "immersive" 3d game world or applying it to the highly vaunted moral choice systems.

I still feel that matter how complicated an outcome their are for moral choices you are still massive constrained. Just to use the moral choice system here as an argument against current games as art, I'm not saying that's the only thing required. The main problem is that it is a moral system designed by someone else, they have populated the world with absolute rights and wrongs. You get no say in the matter, when in reality you can decided what you personally feel is right or wrong. A painting can present you an idea of what is right but you don't have to go along with however if I want to be "good" in Mass effect I have to what they have decided is good. There's a bit in Mass Effect 2(I think it's the second one) where you can either memory wipe or kill hundreds of robots, and the developers of this have made "memory wipe" on a massive scale a "good action." However such a wipe is essentially death anyway but they have deemed it good, so good it shall be.

Sorry I'll get off moral choice systems for a moment. Why would I stop playing a game because its "futile." The majority of things you do in life are ultimately futile. I don't think the game play of Bioshock is "weak" because you aren't allowed choices and pretty much linear, if it's enjoyable then its a good game. I personally feel it was just a really cool twist that made you sit back and think, all those hours I've played how much say did I really have in it. I will still play them since I enjoyed those hours, bioshock raises a few questions about life as well when you think about it how much say do you really have in what you do in life? In bioshock you arrive in a sunkan city surrounded by genetic monsters, damn straight you'd listen to the one human voice that seems to care for your plight. Even if just to save his family, not quite art but I wouldn't go as far to call it weak.

Game of life I am famiular with, the one where a square surrounded by a certain number of squares comes to life and isolated squares die (the isolated squares, or cells, dying is pretty cool because that's what happens with human cells.) Now this does produce unpredictability but and some really cool stuff. Like the patterns that travel across the map and it generates rules about movement and stuff. But its still just some rules chosen by another human being, and every time you a put x amounts of counters in you get y amount of counters out. Not to say it's a bad experience I just find it hard to call it art. Ofcourse you can argue that the universe as a whole had x amount of counters at the beginning and we are just the in between steps are just y, but its a lot different when you don't have the rules of the universe written down. I don't think you could make a formula that creates art.

Art is a piece of work made to express a feeling. Another definition is something that is aesteticaly made to be beatiful. Under those definitions a lot of game are already art.

ShadowKirby:
Thing is, setting/characters/story are not something that are specific to games.

They're not specific to literature, cinema or theatre, either... Disregarding story in a game because it is present in other media is patently ridiculous. It's as if all we could judge cinema on was special effects, or decors in theatre, or typography in books. Yes, Gameplay is unique to games, but that does not make it the only element that can make games art.

Similarly, just because some games are the videogame equivalent of "The Expendables" does not mean cinema is good for nothing but movies like "The Expendables".

What a load of pretentious bollocks.

The reason games aren't 'accepted' by the mass public is because of the insular community that the mediums current format creates. Look at Nintendo; they have widened the market for video games single handedly just by making them more accessible. How has the community responded to this? With 'hardcore gamers' screaming that the industry is being corrupted by 'casual gamers'. If gaming is to reach the masses IT HAS TO BE CASUAL!

This type of self serving 'games can be art' argument works from the deluded belief that art is only art if it has some sort of moral or intellectual high ground, but this will not create a mass interest in games as this is the same elitist viewpoint that fuels the entire modern art community. The same viewpoint that lets current artists set up piles of junk in an 'instillation' at a gallery and justify it with a description based on a conceptual or ideological loop of self referential symbolism that cannot be argued against due to 'intellectual' peer pressure.

Art, in my opinion, is anything created from imagination that elicits an intentional emotional reaction in the audience. So as far as I am concerned, games are already art; the trick is to let the general public see this too.

I strongly disagree with this article. If you inforce those crieteria to exclude videogames from the art, you have to also exclude movies, books and even paintings. Because most of works in said areas do not filfill those criteria - most of movies are just bland form of entertainment without any theme of explorations, most of books are just cheap pulp literature (again designed for entertainment), and for paintings... are you saying me if I draw a stick figure it is art, but if I create a videogame with said stick figure as character it is not?

I agree with some of the points you made, but one of the things you talk about rubs me the wrong way. You talk about the story in the game like it is the only thing that can make a game artistic. What about the visual style of the game? What about the sound design? Why cannot the mechanics of the game itself be art? Also, I think there are more games that qualify as art out today than you let on.

Reading this article reminded me of several statements David Cage made about gaming while in the midst of hyping Heavy Rain. Then, I got the impression that he not only didn't understand games, and the history of gaming as a medium, but that he didn't want to, and only tolerated working in the medium because producers kept turning down his terrible film scripts. Not sure if the same applies to you, Mr. Samyn, but it does give me moment to pause.

Yes, there are lots of games out there with little or no artistic merit, but the broad blanket statements that are made in this article (notably lacking in any actual examples) ignores a section of games that is far larger than the likes of you or Mr. Cage would ever, or will ever, admit. The scales might be in favor of the Uncharteds and Halos of the world, but discounting the existence of the Silent Hills, the Psychonauts, the Fallouts, or even offbeat fare like Seaman or Katamari Damacy doesn't help your argument so much as make you sound pretentious, as does your statement that "Art creation is not a team sport."

While it's true that much of the arts revolve around singular visions, that statement is actually the worst offender, as the very existence of the Beatles blows the theory that only one person drives home an artistic vision out of the water. George, Paul, Ringo, and John collaborated heavily on their music, as do most bands as it turns out (Michael Stipe of R.E.M. mentions in the liner notes of the compilation "In Time" how he will write the lyrics, then give them to the other band members to write the actual music, a practice that's actually common amongst bands). Video game development, while having a few qualities similar to filmmaking, seems to already follow this philosophy. Some designers, like Ueda or Miyamato, might be the Mozarts of gaming, while others, like Warren Spector or Ken Levine, are John Lennons who work great with collaborators, and discarding this ideal is a little quaint.

I don't even want to get into how you ignore that the mechanics of gameplay can actually be used to express ideas, themes, and to emotionally invest players in the game, because I'm short on time.

messy:
I still feel that matter how complicated an outcome their are for moral choices you are still massive constrained. Just to use the moral choice system here as an argument against current games as art, I'm not saying that's the only thing required. The main problem is that it is a moral system designed by someone else, they have populated the world with absolute rights and wrongs. You get no say in the matter, when in reality you can decided what you personally feel is right or wrong. A painting can present you an idea of what is right but you don't have to go along with however if I want to be "good" in Mass effect I have to what they have decided is good. There's a bit in Mass Effect 2(I think it's the second one) where you can either memory wipe or kill hundreds of robots, and the developers of this have made "memory wipe" on a massive scale a "good action." However such a wipe is essentially death anyway but they have deemed it good, so good it shall be.

Sorry I'll get off moral choice systems for a moment. Why would I stop playing a game because its "futile." The majority of things you do in life are ultimately futile. I don't think the game play of Bioshock is "weak" because you aren't allowed choices and pretty much linear, if it's enjoyable then its a good game. I personally feel it was just a really cool twist that made you sit back and think, all those hours I've played how much say did I really have in it. I will still play them since I enjoyed those hours, bioshock raises a few questions about life as well when you think about it how much say do you really have in what you do in life? In bioshock you arrive in a sunkan city surrounded by genetic monsters, damn straight you'd listen to the one human voice that seems to care for your plight. Even if just to save his family, not quite art but I wouldn't go as far to call it weak.

Game of life I am famiular with, the one where a square surrounded by a certain number of squares comes to life and isolated squares die (the isolated squares, or cells, dying is pretty cool because that's what happens with human cells.) Now this does produce unpredictability but and some really cool stuff. Like the patterns that travel across the map and it generates rules about movement and stuff. But its still just some rules chosen by another human being, and every time you a put x amounts of counters in you get y amount of counters out. Not to say it's a bad experience I just find it hard to call it art. Ofcourse you can argue that the universe as a whole had x amount of counters at the beginning and we are just the in between steps are just y, but its a lot different when you don't have the rules of the universe written down. I don't think you could make a formula that creates art.

Yes, moral choice systems are shallow because they really don't amount to much more than a multiple choice test on morality set by people who normally don't have much actual expertise in the area. Moany old computer RPG fans have known as much for years and companies like Bioware have recognised this and shifted away from them somewhat but they still like the gimmick. They are just not an interesting subject of discussion for me. I don't even know why we are talking about them as if they are the best that game design has to offer.

Yeah, having the person guiding you in a game betray you or just use you for their own purpose isn't actually that surprising for older gamers. It's actually a pretty lazy device they use to get themselves out of a narrative jam. To the point that when Morrowind was being developed one of the design principles was "no betrayal" which they used to try and make the game more fresh and innovative. I expect that these things come in cycles since there are only so many stories that can be told. I could say that narrative structure is very limiting compared to gameplay but this has already gone on too far to drop such a joke and have people miss the funny side.

I don't really care if Game of Life is art although it is something that artists with broader ranges of influences have been inspired by. Emergent complexity is something that can be used to make a game unpredictable, lifelike and other good things.

Actually I think most just confuse speech with art...I ts just a cultural definition misunderstanding...

It also doesn't help that Publishers, the ones with the money, don't really care about games being art. If Warren Spector is anything to go by, what most want is "just another shooter" and they cringe at the word "story".

So yeah, if the people pushing the games don't see them as art, why the hell should the rest of the world?

This article was kinda trashy.

Honestly, this just generalized and plain out sucked...

I think it just tries to hard to get us to think, whereas most of us who are into this kinda thing know the game board, and what the problem is. We don't want our art in galleries, we want them on our TV screens...just like the movies.

Video games are by nature, pretty much collages of concept art, digital art, etc. So why is the finished product, much akin to a movie, not art?

And btw, many game developers do have a meaning behind their work. It's just ignored.

Ars Gratia Artis

Michael Samyn:

And secondly, we're not talking about so-called high art here anyway. The fine art on display in museums of contemporary art has long lost the social and cultural relevance that we are after.

We're not looking for a spot in the museum; we're looking for a place in the heart of the public at large.

Read Full Article

Man, I love your games, but honestly, which category do you think your own work falls under?
I mean, I can sympathize with many of your arguments, but so far it seems like the "rules-based" and "team-created" attempts at artistic games are much more effective at getting out of the museum and into the hearts and minds of the public at large.

SamElliot'sMustache:
..."Art creation is not a team sport."

While it's true that much of the arts revolve around singular visions, that statement is actually the worst offender, as the very existence of the Beatles blows the theory that only one person drives home an artistic vision out of the water.

To mirror SamElliot'sMustace's sentiment the absurdidity of saying that true art is derived from a singular person's vision is close minded. Not a team sport? Look at "real" art. If a painter creates a new piece it will just sit there if there is no one to get it out to the masses. Music, like a song, might be created by one person, but when it comes to performing and recording the music it is very much a "team sport". Movies are made by a large amount of people. Watch the credits of even the most independent movies and gaze upon the scores of people involved to fulfill the vision of the director. Games are no different. Plus the rudimentary fact that art is not created in a vacuum proves this claim as incorrect. To say that art is created solely by one person is bogus.

What about the people who view art? Art wouldn't be art without a viewer. They are just as important to an artistic vision as the artist.

I like how this article puts being considered art over fun. No really, there are tons of fun games out there, but we need to stop "settling" for games that we can enjoy so people will take us seriously. What the game industry needs is pretentious shit that we get in movies by film students.
And I'm not saying that being considered art is bad, but when you make a "call to arms" for the whole industry to change, you're being unrealistic. No other medium has confined itself to being artsy or started that way. Some of the first movies were basic comedies, but nobody decided "we need to increase our standards". People are always demanding more from game developers, and better games are being made. Eventually, if it merits it, video games will reach a point where they qualify as art. If not, we'll always have Angry Birds.

I kind of see what the author is saying, but I think the argument runs into some unnecessary and inhibitive snares along the way. It seems to imply that something isn't art until it's recognized as such by the greater public ("...videogames are immature [because] the games industry actively prevents them from growing..." with "...there is far more opportunity in the large market of non-gamers than there is in the crammed and fiercely competitive niche of gamers" implies that the act of "becoming art" and being more accessible are somehow synonymous or parallel) and it explicitly states that art is created "...to explore certain themes or to convey messages that cannot be said in any other way."

Art has never been defined by commercial success or even public recognition. How many authors, painters, and composers have only truly gained recognition after their deaths? Did their work exist in some kind of Schrodinger's box, neither art nor not-art until finally recognized?

Art has also long existed to various degrees in a series of artist-patron relationships, sometimes drastically limiting its audience. If someone pays a painter to do an intricate oil portrait of their terrier, it's hard to argue that said portrait was created "to explore themes and/or convey messsages that can be said no other way". That said, I wouldn't necessarily leap to declare that a well-done portrait of a terrier wasn't art, that it's subject matter or crass commercial considerations rendered it ineligible for vague and possibly arrogant reasons. Not all art has to challenge or speak to the soul, to be a clarion call for justice or inescapable scream of the creator's inner turmoil.

It's dangerous to put art on a pedestal, to make it into some kind of phantasmal classification with which we can bludgeon "lesser" creations. I would hesitate to say that there are no video games that are art, or even that there haven't existed games before video games that constitute art. Chess is as intricately crafted and infinitely faceted as any oil painting, and people have devoted their entire lives to its study. Sennet addresses the travel of the soul into the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. How would we dance to create a definition in which these games weren't art?

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