Extra Credits Addendum: Discussing the Role of the Player

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Skunktrain:
snip

This is a good one. good job.

I have to go with TG here. A game with a good, memorable story will, IMO, be one told to the player. Yes, the player can customize some things about it (EG rather than have a long, drawn out battle with Sephiroth, the player simply uses Knights-of-the-round with Mime and just obliterates him), but at the end of the day, a memorable story is one which has the player remembering the heretofore already-written plot points by the game's designers.

For example, take the original Starcraft and Brood War. How you complete each individual mission is more or less up to you--but the events that happen as a result of those missions is the plot of the two games, which blizzard--not the player--wrote.

I differ from the position of both of the conversants here.

Because I don't think it's a matter of fundamental differences. I think it's a matter of degree.

There's a major difference between the Role of the Player in Final Fantasy XIII and the RotP in Minecraft. One is an interactive movie, the other is a creativity toy draped in the trappings of a video game. Neither of these games are BAD (yes, I liked FFXIII, so sue me), and neither one is less qualified to be classified as a "game" than the other, but I don't see how the player can be said to "shape the narrative" of a game that consists mainly of predetermined cutscenes. Whereas with Minecraft, not only do you shape the narrative, you pretty much CREATE the narrative.

So, while both sides of this conversation have made some insightful points, I think they're both missing the real point. They are debating over where the line is drawn, but I don't think there IS a hard line. Life is a matter of degree, as is narrative.

In addition, I take issue with the "indubitability" of the claim that football has a narrative. Sports have narratives in the same way that accounting has a narrative. "Joseph Sports scored more scores than the other men, and won that thing!"[1] has about the same narrative chops as, "Joe Accountant added this number to that number and got a third number, and after seven hours of doing this he got bored and fell asleep." Now, this is still technically a narrative, but when extrapolated in the other direction, it means that watching a movie and reading a book allows the reader to take part in the narrative. This can be through interpretation and analysis, play-along participation (I'm thinking of the famous "rituals" of The Rocky Horror Picture Show), or just having experiences like bonding over movies and stuff. Activity books also qualify.

But, in any case, it's nice to have a forum thread filled with insightful wall-o-text comments again. I've been here since the early days of ZP, and I was worried those days were gone forever.

[1] (cookies to whoever gets this reference)

mikespoff:
I'm with James and the EC guys on this one.

The football analogy is the most clear to me. Despite Grip's arguments to the contrary, a game of football (or any sport) is dictated by rules just as strict as its virtual equivalent. The rules of play define the space in which the players create the game.

Grip seems to say that the rules of a video game are stricter; I have to say that I have yet to find a video game with rules that are more rigidly enforced than gravity and conservation of momentum, which are two of the rules that govern most sports...

So then according to Portnow's argument, can Joe Montana or Michael Jordan be considered amazing artists? What about the announcers describing the game? That's one of the problems I have with that line of reasoning.

Also, the rules of physics are dictated by nature, not by a human, so they can't be taken into account. Additionally the other rules of football are malleable, and can only be enforced to the degree that all the players agree on them. The rules of a video game are 1) created entirely through human effort 2) unchangeable unless a) specially designated by the developer b) hacked by a third party (which is akin to drawing over a copy of an artist's painting).

matrix guardian:
It seems people who are taking Grip's stance tend to view it as an all or nothing type of deal, as if granting some artistic creativity to the player somehow diminishes the artistic merits and steals credit from the game developers. As if calling the player and artist means that the developers aren't artists? Why can't it be both, without threatening one or the other?

Personally, I have more of an issue with people using Portnow's stance to claim that video games are "special" because of the co-authorship idea. The same phenomenon is present in other mediums as well. You already noted how games are similar to theater and dance, but even in literature and film you have audiences interpreting the same events very differently and essentially making the artwork into something it might not have originally been intended for.

I also think that few people realize how much the developer actually controls the player's actions, even in a relatively "open" game like Mass Effect. For example, choosing either the paragon or renegade path does not make you an artist because both paths and their outcomes were already carefully created by the developers.

Emergent play could perhaps be considered artistic, provided that it's actually emergent and not just something that already laid out for you by the developer.

matrix guardian:

The difference is that the video game player is BOTH partly the co-artist and the audience. Some have mentioned that it only counts as art if it is communicated to someone else. But I don't know if that is true. Can the artist also be the audience. As James said, they player is telling a story to themself. What comes to mind for me is when I play guitar and sing a song for my own amusement when I'm by myself. Does being the player of the music as well as the intended audience mean that it can't be an artful experience? I would say no, it very well can. And what If I play a song that somebody else wrote? Is music only art when it's played by the composer? Of course not. The musical experience of me playing a song is a co-created event, by the writer of the song and by me learning to play it and physically manifesting the song, and in the process adding part of myself into it. I can change the tempo, make it more staccato, add crescendos, alter the strumming/picking pattern, etc. All things to make it MY performance, even though it is still that same song that someone else wrote (the same pre-written "story" to follow).

I will agree that it would be very silly to say that since I played a certain game that "I made that game, that's my artwork." But I would also think it would be silly to deny that I played an active role in creating and shaping my experience of the game.

I would agree that you can be your own audience, but I think that in order to be considered an artist there has to be some conscious effort to make art. Otherwise it is just play, which I don't think can be considered art by most definitions. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying art can't be fun to make. It can, but at the same time attention must be paid to the fact that sometimes the most artistic choices aren't always the most fun.

To put it another way, someone leisurely playing Halo or Mass Effect probably isn't creating art, just the same as someone casually reading Hamlet or practicing Beethoven on their piano isn't an artist either. The true artistry comes when someone is already well familiar with the original work, and the make a conscious effort to make it into something of their own. A Marxist reading of Hamlet, for example, or a performance of Beethoven where the differences from other performances are more a result of skill than lack thereof.

Skunktrain:
If I may be so bold as to add my two cents on the matter I see the role of the player as the part of an actor. The script is set and the gameplay serves as the director for this particular telling of the story. A game like Minecraft where the player generates much of the content is analogous to improv while an open-world game is more like a play and the strictly linear games are movies. None would deny that actors are artists but they present stories and may take different approaches to a part most often there are a limited range of interpretations. For instance, there is academic debate as to whether Hamlet is insane or faking (leaving aside the popularity of interpretations) so an actor must decide at the outset which his interpretation of Hamlet will be; in much the same manner, in Mass Effect the player is forced to quickly choose whether they will follow the Paragon or the Renegade path. In GTA the player may skip missions for flow or interest but the game might not permit it if the plot point is too important much like most stage plays. Final Fantasy 13 is like working for an auteur director who has a vision for the film and demands that the performer hit specific emotional notes at specific times and will give only enough leeway to ensure those notes be hit. This ties into the long-time question of lives in video games: those are rehearsals. As an aside, I also can't help but notice that both acting and video games tend to appeal to less extroverted people. I know that that is a generalization that does our industry no favors but it is interesting that both would attract the same kind of people.

I would agree with you as long as the "performance" is a conscious effort. For example, a great actor choosing to play Hamlet as either faking or crazy is certainly an artist, but one who comes off as either despite not giving the issue any thought is not.

Similarly, something you create in Minecraft might be artistic, but you are only an artist if you consciously set out to create art in the first place.

Sylocat:
I differ from the position of both of the conversants here.

Because I don't think it's a matter of fundamental differences. I think it's a matter of degree.

There's a major difference between the Role of the Player in Final Fantasy XIII and the RotP in Minecraft. One is an interactive movie, the other is a creativity toy draped in the trappings of a video game. Neither of these games are BAD (yes, I liked FFXIII, so sue me), and neither one is less qualified to be classified as a "game" than the other, but I don't see how the player can be said to "shape the narrative" of a game that consists mainly of predetermined cutscenes. Whereas with Minecraft, not only do you shape the narrative, you pretty much CREATE the narrative.

So, while both sides of this conversation have made some insightful points, I think they're both missing the real point. They are debating over where the line is drawn, but I don't think there IS a hard line. Life is a matter of degree, as is narrative.

In addition, I take issue with the "indubitability" of the claim that football has a narrative. Sports have narratives in the same way that accounting has a narrative. "Joseph Sports scored more scores than the other men, and won that thing!"[1] has about the same narrative chops as, "Joe Accountant added this number to that number and got a third number, and after seven hours of doing this he got bored and fell asleep." Now, this is still technically a narrative, but when extrapolated in the other direction, it means that watching a movie and reading a book allows the reader to take part in the narrative. This can be through interpretation and analysis, play-along participation (I'm thinking of the famous "rituals" of The Rocky Horror Picture Show), or just having experiences like bonding over movies and stuff. Activity books also qualify.

But, in any case, it's nice to have a forum thread filled with insightful wall-o-text comments again. I've been here since the early days of ZP, and I was worried those days were gone forever.

I agree with you, and would like to know what that quote is a reference to. =)

[1] (cookies to whoever gets this reference)

Wonderful discussion. I actually enjoy the idea of a storyteller not knowing the story that will be told, but having some measure of control over the end result. Really it's the core idea behind every procedurally generated game. If we take Dwarf Fortress as an (extreme) example, everything from topography to civilizations, including fairly detailed histories of every NPC in the entire world are randomly generated. Every time you start a new game, your get a new experience, but one that is created within the confines of the creators design. You then interact with the world at you leisure. If you choose to express yourself in an artistic way, that is your choice, but the game's job is to provide you with an environment from which a story can emerge naturally. All games do this some degree, most are just more heavily scripted than DF.

If the player was the artist, he would control when the encounters occur, how the puzzles are solved and how/when the plot occurs. Sure the player has some control of any/all of these to a degree, but that's what makes them players. I would also argue that creating a narrative for the audience of a football game is nothing at all like creating a narrative for a player. The audience of a football game doesn't participate. That's why they're the audience. A player playing a football video game isn't emulating the audience in the stadium, they're emulating the football players. The storyteller's (game developer) job is to create a system in which these potential narratives takes place. He may not have control over the fine details of the plot, but does have vast control over the generalities.
If I create a character in Oblivion, I am not as much creating my own unique narrative (like an artist), so much as am experiencing a general narrative created by the artist with variations also put in place by artist. Whether I choose to be an assassin or wizard may be up to me, but the option was first considered by the original artist.

Additionally, if I put any extra thought into said character, such as a background, personality and quirks, there is no way for me to interpret these "artistic" endeavors other than by imposing voluntary restriction on myself, and really that's not artistic. It's creative, sure. Clever, maybe. But not artistic. Taking that game experience and writing a story about it on the other hands would be artistic, but then you're not playing the game anymore.

The ability to create a story without knowing its final outcome is unique to the interactive nature of games. I think a big problem is viewing the player as an audience at all. The player isn't an audience, they're a player and that further exploration of that word needs to be done.

Awesome article, love the conversation this is sparking.

IvoryTowerGamer:

mikespoff:
I'm with James and the EC guys on this one.

The football analogy is the most clear to me. Despite Grip's arguments to the contrary, a game of football (or any sport) is dictated by rules just as strict as its virtual equivalent. The rules of play define the space in which the players create the game.

Grip seems to say that the rules of a video game are stricter; I have to say that I have yet to find a video game with rules that are more rigidly enforced than gravity and conservation of momentum, which are two of the rules that govern most sports...

So then according to Portnow's argument, can Joe Montana or Michael Jordan be considered amazing artists? What about the announcers describing the game? That's one of the problems I have with that line of reasoning.

Michael Jordan is not necessarily an artist, but he is playing an integral part in creating the basketball game in which he is playing. Whether that constitutes artistry depends on whether you view basketball as art (which I don't). The point wrt to the "Role of Player" discussion is that the game of basketball is co-created by the rule makers and the participants.

In a game, there are varying degrees of restriction on player freedom (along what one could call the Minecraft-to-FinalFantasy spectrum), but to whatever extent the player has freedom to control the activity within a game, they are a co-creator of the specific instance of the game that is being played.

Half-Life is a very linear game, but it is still not a passive medium. Whatever artistry exists in Half-Life comes into existence when the game is played, and the exact details of the game will be different for every player (even within the linear storyline). Thus the player is integral to the artistic value of Half-Life.

Skunktrain:
If I may be so bold as to add my two cents on the matter I see the role of the player as the part of an actor. The script is set and the gameplay serves as the director for this particular telling of the story.

The analogy of player to stage actor has strong parallels to a linear game: the lines are written, the stage directions are already given, the set has been constructed, but the actor brings it to life.

mikespoff:

Half-Life is a very linear game, but it is still not a passive medium. Whatever artistry exists in Half-Life comes into existence when the game is played, and the exact details of the game will be different for every player (even within the linear storyline). Thus the player is integral to the artistic value of Half-Life.

Just to seize on this quote here: what you said about Half-Life could be applied to any piece of art in general. Games are more interactive than other mediums, but all art is an interaction between art and audience to some degree. On it's own, Monet's Waterlilies is just a piece of canvas with funny colours dabbed all over it. It needs the interaction and interpretation of the audience for it to be the genius painting that it is.

No art exists in a vacuum. It all needs an audienct to interact and react to it, because it is that which gives it context. A painting without an audience is just a piece of canvas. A sculpture without an audience is just a lump of stone. A book without a readership is just a block of paper. And a film without an audience is just a series of photos. Games are not alone in requiring interactivity in order to come alive. That is the state of art in general. Games just require it to a slightly greater degree.

At the end of the day, even in the most non-linear games, you're not creating anything, you're experiencing it. To use your Half-Life example, yes everyone's playthrough may be different, but none of those playthroughs will feature anything that was created in the game by the player (unless you go into mods, which is a different matter entirely). The only thing different from player to player is not the weapons, or aliens, or levels. It's the experience, and that again is the same for all art. No two people have ever looked at the same painting and had exactly the same reaction. Playing Half-Life, you may decide to adopt a more cautious playstyle, while I may go for the more run-and-gun approach. That's not art. That's the experience of the player. We're reacting to and interpreting the game that Valve created.

theklng:
i've had similar debates in some of my uni courses, and i will say that this debate leads nowhere. why? because it's too far up its own ass, basically.

And that results in a somewhat limited view. I think this was my feeling when I saw the original EC episode, but without actually being able to pinpoint it exactly.

Thanks for a refreshing point of view.

It's a bit of a stretch here, but I think we do have a similarity to video games in the medium of literature.

Specifically, in choose your own adventure novels.

Now, I'll admit right off the bat that I've not actually read one of these, the closest I've come to are certain webcomics and forum games, but the principle is the same in those as well.

Many video games, if not all at least in the actual gameplay, tell a story from the 2nd person perspective. This is rare to ever happen in writing, Personally I've participated in a forum game or two like this and read a short story by Ray Bradbury in the 2nd person. In these cases I didn't really feel like the "you" was referring to me.

However, I habitually do feel this way with games. Interactivity at a high level, makes this possible. It doesn't even matter if my choices have any effect on the game's main storyline.

So, to game designers: You can think of players as story tellers, artists, whatever, as their actions will affect the story they are experiencing, but even if you choose not to consider players as storytellers at the very least consider that the story is being told in the 2nd person through gameplay.

Unclever title:
It's a bit of a stretch here, but I think we do have a similarity to video games in the medium of literature.

Specifically, in choose your own adventure novels.

Now, I'll admit right off the bat that I've not actually read one of these, the closest I've come to are certain webcomics and forum games, but the principle is the same in those as well.

Many video games, if not all at least in the actual gameplay, tell a story from the 2nd person perspective. This is rare to ever happen in writing, Personally I've participated in a forum game or two like this and read a short story by Ray Bradbury in the 2nd person. In these cases I didn't really feel like the "you" was referring to me.

However, I habitually do feel this way with games. Interactivity at a high level, makes this possible. It doesn't even matter if my choices have any effect on the game's main storyline.

So, to game designers: You can think of players as story tellers, artists, whatever, as their actions will affect the story they are experiencing, but even if you choose not to consider players as storytellers at the very least consider that the story is being told in the 2nd person through gameplay.

Erm, what examples can you give of "second-person" gameplay? Practically every game I can think of plays through either first-person (through the eyes of the main character), or third-person (the main character is a separate, identifiable person). Second person implies seeng the player character through the eyes of another game character (that character being in the position to call the main character "you"). The only example I can think of is the brief section in God Of War 3, where you follow prompts to beat the crap out of Poseidon while seeing everything through his eyes. In that particular case, Poseidon has become 'I' and Kratos has become 'you', but the controls still focus on Kratos as the main character of that brief scene.

That's the defining thing about the different perspectives of narration:

First person is 'I'
Second person is 'You'
Third person is 'He/She/They'

To call most video game players artists is akin to calling a completed connect the dots puzzle art created by the person who completed the project. They aren't true expressions of the 'artists' thoughts or desire. Instead the are completions of someone else's vision.

People who play games are participating in an exploration of someone else's expression. In some rare cases like Minecraft there is enough freedom and opportunity to allow for the same kind self expression we commonly recognize as art. However in most cases video games are little more than multiple choice tests that fail to provide any real creative freedom of expression. Even in MMOs where people try to tell their own story they usually have to incorporate so much of the worlds lore that the final product is more like a collage that nobody observed.

Being observed, that's another key part of art that your premise of 'players as artists' entirely neglects. Art requires viewers to be Art otherwise it is just an activity. Art is performed, or created, to have emotional impact and engage the intellect of the viewer. Playing the most games is an exorcise of having your emotions impacted and your intellect engaged, instead of creating art to do that for others to observe.

I understand that each artistic medium has its own restrictions, watercolor artists cannot produce the exact same art that sculptors, dancers, singers, or even authors, can. However it may be possible for those to evoke the same kind of strong emotions.

I have seen video games inspire art. From rich fiction based on the Sims or Everquest, or car art imported to games so people could pimp their own rides, all the way to the creation of entirely new theme packs and skins for Doom. Art is so closely tied to video games that it is easy to think of the players as artists but most of the time that just isn't the case.

On even further reflection, if a player is anything in the artistic process it is really more of a tool or implement being used by the game designer to create something. Why do I say this? Because a game is really incomplete unless it is being played.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Erm, what examples can you give of "second-person" gameplay? Practically every game I can think of plays through either first-person (through the eyes of the main character), or third-person (the main character is a separate, identifiable person). Second person implies seeng the player character through the eyes of another game character (that character being in the position to call the main character "you"). The only example I can think of is the brief section in God Of War 3, where you follow prompts to beat the crap out of Poseidon while seeing everything through his eyes. In that particular case, Poseidon has become 'I' and Kratos has become 'you', but the controls still focus on Kratos as the main character of that brief scene.

That's the defining thing about the different perspectives of narration:

First person is 'I'
Second person is 'You'
Third person is 'He/She/They'

I'm not talking about persons as shown through visual perspective and I'm undoubtedly stretching terms here, so feel free to scold me on my misuse of definitions.

Interactive immersion makes a third/first person experience indirectly second person.

The game is telling you, the player, a story about "you", the character. As you play through the game the game tells you things about "you," what "you're" capable of, and you do these things by discovering and doing these things yourself/"yourself". "You" might be in first or third person in viewpoint or narration compared to you, but by virtue of the fact that you are in control of "you" that makes the story indirectly second person in experience.

When characters in the story are talking to "you" doesn't it sometimes feel like they are talking to you? Or regardless of how it feels, do you not occasionally respond how you would or do you strictly respond only as how "you" would?

Regardless of all that above though, a game might not only tell you about "you" but will tell you some things about you, simply by participating. Some of it you already know, but some of it might be stuff you don't know.

Like I said, I'm likely using all the wrong words here, but video games are uniquely designed for this in a way that I have not seen in other media simply because it involves active participation, whether or not that makes you, the player, an artist.

I have read a 2nd person story before. It didn't feel like it was about me, but more as though the story was addressing some invisible person standing behind me. With games, though, it feels different, because I am interacting with the game.

If you look directly in a mirror you see an image. Because that image moves in tandem with your own motions you conceptualize it as an image of yourself. In that way, reflections are second person representations of yourself. You see you by seeing "you".

(Though I guess you could call that third person as you see "you" as other people see you. Sight isn't exactly a thing that classifies into the second person is it?)

Similarly by observing "you" while you control "your" interactions in a virtual world you learn about you, while simultaneously learning about "you" even though in this case "you" is not a perfect reflection of you.

So while the story of a game is about "you" in effect it is also about you.

Regardless of "whose" eyes you're looking through, your interaction and involvement with the story cause you to, in part, also be looking at yourself.

----------------------------------------

Sorry if this is confusing, and if I'm missing the point on perspective. Truth be told, I'm actually giving myself a headache, and I (supposedly) know what I'm trying to say.

Unclever title:
Snippedy-doo-da, Snippedy-dee

S'all good. I think I've got the jist of your points.

Regarding your point about the difference between "you" and you, I see what you're saying. However, I personally think it's pushing it to call it "second-person." While you undoubtedly fulfil the role of the main character in a videogame, becoming the "you" you mention, it's no different I think to stepping into any other kind of role in any kind of game.

Think about hide-and-seek, for instance. In this game, it starts off with one pre-determined 'seeker' role, and everyone else becomes a 'hider'. By choosing one role or the other, your behaviour in the game changes dramatically. If you're the seeker, you spend all your time searching out the other participants of the game. If you're one of the hiders, you spend all your time trying not to be discovered by the seeker. Is there a second "you" at play here? I don't generally spend my time hiding behind the sofa, but if I play a game of hide-and-seek, that sort of behaviour automatically becomes part of what I do.

Likewise, consider the game Monopoly. In that game, one person has to be the 'banker'. They control the flow of money, stop any illegal moves or deals, and generally make sure everything's kosher in the game. Again, I generally don't spend my time telling other people how to go about their finances, and I certainly don't spend my time giving them 200 every time they do a tour of London. Is the banker, therefore, a separate character that I've projected for myself, or is it simply a title that allows me to play the game?

This is how I see videogames. While I get your point, I personally don't think enough developers have experimented enough with the boundary between main character and gamer to really offer any significance between "you" and you. Just as 'the banker' is simply a title in Monopoly that allows me to play the game in a certain way, 'Master Chief' is simply a title that allows me to play through Halo with assault rifle in hand. Sure, when it comes to cutscenes the game uses MC as a separate character, but any time it goes back to gameplay, Master Chief simply becomes a name and a visor which allows me to shoot aliens.

Third-person games are trickier, as there you can always see the character on-screen. But even then, in most third-person games, once the gameplay kicks in, you have such absolute control over your avatar that in essence they cease to be their own character and become simply a puppet for you to play with. In essence, once gameplay commences, there isn't really a "you"- the game itself addresses you, and you have to use your puppet to achieve the goals it sets.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in terms of play mechanics, I can see the difference between "you" and you, but in terms of narrative, I think in most games the difference is negligible at best. Things generally happen in cutscenes over which you have no control, and when the gameplay actually starts (the game section) the identity of "you" is completely subsumed by you. Non-linear games, like Mass Effect, are a little bit more interesting, because in ME you have a character, Shepard, over whom you have almost complete control, yet who still stands as their own separate character- the "you" if you will.

I dunno. I think I need to think about the issue some more. None of this takes away from my belief that the player is not an artist, which is ultimately the issue at hand. It would be interesting if a developer one day made a game where the boundaries between the player character and the player are actually examined (as in, the character may express intentions for one action, but you the player are able to do completely the opposite, thus fucking with your character) but until they do so, all we can really do is pontificate and conjecture on the issue. So, erm... yeah.

Now I've got a headache too.

mikespoff:

IvoryTowerGamer:

mikespoff:
I'm with James and the EC guys on this one.

The football analogy is the most clear to me. Despite Grip's arguments to the contrary, a game of football (or any sport) is dictated by rules just as strict as its virtual equivalent. The rules of play define the space in which the players create the game.

Grip seems to say that the rules of a video game are stricter; I have to say that I have yet to find a video game with rules that are more rigidly enforced than gravity and conservation of momentum, which are two of the rules that govern most sports...

So then according to Portnow's argument, can Joe Montana or Michael Jordan be considered amazing artists? What about the announcers describing the game? That's one of the problems I have with that line of reasoning.

Michael Jordan is not necessarily an artist, but he is playing an integral part in creating the basketball game in which he is playing. Whether that constitutes artistry depends on whether you view basketball as art (which I don't). The point wrt to the "Role of Player" discussion is that the game of basketball is co-created by the rule makers and the participants.

In a game, there are varying degrees of restriction on player freedom (along what one could call the Minecraft-to-FinalFantasy spectrum), but to whatever extent the player has freedom to control the activity within a game, they are a co-creator of the specific instance of the game that is being played.

Half-Life is a very linear game, but it is still not a passive medium. Whatever artistry exists in Half-Life comes into existence when the game is played, and the exact details of the game will be different for every player (even within the linear storyline). Thus the player is integral to the artistic value of Half-Life.

Interesting you should mention that because it brings me to my next problem with Portnow's argument.

While I agree with all that you say above, I don't see how video games are special in this regard. People often say that literature only comes to life when there is someone to read it, and that audiences can often directly affect how a musician performs their songs. True, in video games the player sometimes has a direct hand in shaping the plot, but how often do those changes actually affect the themes of the work itself, and even more importantly, how often are those changes not the result of mechanics already set in place by the game designer.

To use your HL2 example, yes, certain details of "what happens" will inevitably be different from play through to play through, but how many of those details actually matter when you consider the whole of what HL2 is trying to do as a work of art? Even in a more "open" game like Mass Effect, player choice is mostly just a facade to get the player more immersed in Shepard's character and the challenges he faces. It's no different from a novel being written in the first person or a film's use of closeups on characters we're supposed to sympathize with.

IvoryTowerGamer:

mikespoff:

IvoryTowerGamer:

snip

snip

...While I agree with all that you say above, I don't see how video games are special in this regard. People often say that literature only comes to life when there is someone to read it, and that audiences can often directly affect how a musician performs their songs. True, in video games the player sometimes has a direct hand in shaping the plot, but how often do those changes actually affect the themes of the work itself, and even more importantly, how often are those changes not the result of mechanics already set in place by the game designer.

I don't necessarily hold games as special in this regard (except perhaps in the degree to which the player/reader/viewer must be considered). But this very discussion seems to reveal differences in how people perceive art. I think it is vital in a video game to consider the player as a participant in the art being created, but I also believe that the same is true for the viewer of movies or reader of books or audience of plays or the person appreciating sculptures and paintings. I don't see artistic merit in something which has nothing to convey, and that criterion necessarily involves a "consumer" of the artwork who participates in that conveyance.

A painting or game or movie created solely for the enjoyment of the creator is not art, it's masturbation. Art is communication.

Is it possible for that communication to occur on accident? Even if a creator does it for his/her own enjoyment and it just happens to mean something to another, does that not count?

mikespoff:

IvoryTowerGamer:

mikespoff:

snip

...While I agree with all that you say above, I don't see how video games are special in this regard. People often say that literature only comes to life when there is someone to read it, and that audiences can often directly affect how a musician performs their songs. True, in video games the player sometimes has a direct hand in shaping the plot, but how often do those changes actually affect the themes of the work itself, and even more importantly, how often are those changes not the result of mechanics already set in place by the game designer.

I don't necessarily hold games as special in this regard (except perhaps in the degree to which the player/reader/viewer must be considered). But this very discussion seems to reveal differences in how people perceive art. I think it is vital in a video game to consider the player as a participant in the art being created, but I also believe that the same is true for the viewer of movies or reader of books or audience of plays or the person appreciating sculptures and paintings. I don't see artistic merit in something which has nothing to convey, and that criterion necessarily involves a "consumer" of the artwork who participates in that conveyance.

A painting or game or movie created solely for the enjoyment of the creator is not art, it's masturbation. Art is communication.

I wholeheartedly agree, though I'd also like to point out that your last paragraph seems to preclude players of most single player games from being considered "artists" as well (unless they document or communicate their experiences in some way, that is).

IvoryTowerGamer:

mikespoff:

IvoryTowerGamer:

...While I agree with all that you say above, I don't see how video games are special in this regard. People often say that literature only comes to life when there is someone to read it, and that audiences can often directly affect how a musician performs their songs. True, in video games the player sometimes has a direct hand in shaping the plot, but how often do those changes actually affect the themes of the work itself, and even more importantly, how often are those changes not the result of mechanics already set in place by the game designer.

I don't necessarily hold games as special in this regard (except perhaps in the degree to which the player/reader/viewer must be considered). But this very discussion seems to reveal differences in how people perceive art. I think it is vital in a video game to consider the player as a participant in the art being created, but I also believe that the same is true for the viewer of movies or reader of books or audience of plays or the person appreciating sculptures and paintings. I don't see artistic merit in something which has nothing to convey, and that criterion necessarily involves a "consumer" of the artwork who participates in that conveyance.

A painting or game or movie created solely for the enjoyment of the creator is not art, it's masturbation. Art is communication.

I wholeheartedly agree, though I'd also like to point out that your last paragraph seems to preclude players of most single player games from being considered "artists" as well (unless they document or communicate their experiences in some way, that is).

I'm glad we're on the same page with this.

wrt the single-player games, the artistry is in the communication between the developers and the player. Art can be experienced solo if it was created by someone else. Writing a novel for yourself to read is pretty lame, but if even one other person reads it (by themselves) and is edified by the experience of doing so, art has been created.

JP has been right throughout this whole arguement.. The painting analogy was perfect, that you credit the painter, not the companies that made the materials even though the materials are what's limiting the creation. Otherwise, nothing would be art, because everything that we create are limited by materials in some way or another. If we discredited the player from contributing to the storytelling of a game, we'd have to discredit the designers from making the game because they didn't make the tools, software, and materials themselves. But even then, you'd have to discredit the makers of the tools, software, and materials because THEY used someone else's tools, software, and materials. Eventually this would boil down to nothing being created by anyone because everything we've made came from the world around is, making the... true creator of ANYTHING/EVERYTHING the big bang.

So automatically, players already have been contributing to the storytelling of all games.. It's what makes them games (interactive entertainment). Unlike movies and novels, where you can experience them differently, it is not only due to perception, it is due to your interaction and how it literally shapes the story (and sometimes the climax of it). What Extra Credits said was that there can be more games that take advantage of this, which I totally agree with, why not take advantage of the 'interactive' part of interactive entertainment? If I wanted to play through a perfectly linear experience it wouldn't really be a game as much as a movie that you have to constantly hit the play button to keep watching.

As far as calling the player an artist for this, nobody should've ever even gotten into that. What is and isn't art has ALWAYS been up for debate (look up dadaism). Because of this, what I define as art, is anything that was intended to be art. It just makes it easier.

Finally, saying that tetris isn't about stacking boxes and that farmville isn't about actually farming has nothing to do with the arguement. Games aren't made to simulate real life, there'd be no need for them then. Games are about experiencing things that we could not (or don't want to) experience in the real world. For example, I wouldn't like being a terrorist/counter-terrorist in real life, because I'd risk being killed. I play counter strike so I can experience the FUN and THRILLING part of being in CT vs T combat. If games were meant to simulate reality, that would mean that after I die in counter strike, (or any game for that matter), I'd be dead for good.. I wouldn't ever be able to play the game again because my character is 'dead' and you don't come back to life after death..

So games are made to experience things we can't in real life, or to experience the fun part of things in real life without all the drag (like risking your life). Tetris is based off stacking boxes, but it's not supposed to be a reality simulator, it's supposed to simulate the fun part of it. If your game isn't fun it has nothing to do with what it's about.. ever.. It'd be because you don't know how to make fun games. TG's whole arguement was heavily flawed.

This is the only EC post left on the account. Not sure what's happening but would like an explanation. Thanks.

Hey guys! What's happening? This is the only post left and what happened to all the videos and pages?
Don't tell me there is some kind of legal dispute :(

Ok for you guys that will end up here there is a legal dispute google it to find out more.

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