Jimquisition: The Definition of Art Games

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The Definition of Art Games

There's nothing like a debate about art games to ensure that everybody has a fun, enlightening, and not-at-all-aggravating time! Let's discuss the assertion that "art game" as a descriptor doesn't work, that it's a broken term and people ought to call "art games" something else. Let's fight that assertion in order to continue a petty little argument Jim might have had on a podcast.

That's a debate we're all going to enjoy, right? Well ... we will when The Jimquisition tackles it, because The Jimquisition is like an infection of insight, festering in the wound of your own cluelessness and readying to give you Knowledge Gangrene.

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Dammit, I'm trying to say something woth some discussion value in order to justify this hopefully first post, but I can't, because I just agree with Jim that much.
Thank god for him.

EDIT: Wait, I've got something!
Even if a certain term works because it's meaning is clear to everyone, does that still mean that we shouldn't try to change the term to have it make more sense? This is not so much the case with the word art games, but there certainly are words that are in dire need of changing, such as metroidvania.

All games are art, but art is not all they are.

I don't know why we have to argue about the meaning of a term. I'd have thought if someone wasn't getting what your term meant, you could use another one. Then again, I guess a little explanation doesn't hurt now and then.

I always thought the definition of art games is limited to games that you would never play otherwise.

But, you explanation works, so I'll coopt it for my work. Thanks.

I don't get the people that think the term "Art Game" is broken...

Seriously, I get that all games are art, but the term "Art Game" does in fact refer to the genre of games that specifically go out of their way to look good/tell a story well usually at the expense of gameplay.

The fact that "Art Film" is a widely excepted term yet "Art Game" is questionned is mind boggling...

It's like people keep picking on the gaming industry... Even people who claim to support the gaming industry! :S

Ah yes, I remember listening to that episode of Podtoid. the way it was heating up i honestly thought you and Jonathan were going to go mortal kombat.

.................$5 on Jonathan Holmes!!!!!

in terms of art games to quote an earlier Jimquisition: "Who gives a fuck?"

Similarly, I remember being confused by the term "Genre Movie/Film" until Moviebob explained it, but now realize it's fit for its purpose.

I love to see how the topics discussed in Podtoid directly influence the things talked about in Jimquisition. XD

I can understand Holmes' point of view in this one; but ultimately as an amateur linguist I just can't get behind the concept of a descriptor being 'pointless' or 'broken'.
I think that when we say 'Art game' we also mean, 'game with intended narrative or thematic complexities which may not be fully understood upon surface inspection at first glance.' And whilst that doesn't fit the shape of any 'genre' of game we have known to date, I don't think we need to class art games as a genre, I'd pose it more as a descriptor, to be combined with other similar words to help paint a picture of what we truly mean.
Sorry Johnathan, but thank god for Jim Sterling.

Lawnmooer:
The fact that "Art Film" is a widely excepted term yet "Art Game" is questionned is mind boggling...:S

This is the right.

I don't mind the term "art game".

However, the term "games as an artform" makes me break out in hives, especially when uttered by an "indie" developer.

Vkmies:
I love to see how the topics discussed in Podtoid directly influence the things talked about in Jimquisition. XD

Me too. I like to make a game of guessing what the next Jimquisition will be about from the conversations in the latest Podtoid.
I wrongly thought last week would be about Tropes Vs Women, for example.

This is an argument about linguistics, and you should never debate linguistics.

Well it's nice to see Jim's fetish obsession love affair with Jonathan Holmes bleed into his other work sometimes.

Quote of the year: "'Art game' as a thing, is a thing, that is a thing."

malestrithe:
I always thought the definition of art games is limited to games that you would never play otherwise.

Actually, calling something an "art game" is typically a strike against it for most gamers (myself included). I played Braid despite it being made by a pretentious twit, and I played Limbo because it came with a Humble Indie Bundle with other games I liked and I decided "Why not?" I enjoyed both because of their respective atmospheres, mechanics, and puzzles.

But you'll never catch me playing something like Dear Esther, which is a glorified indie movie anyway, even if it did happen to end up in my library through a bundle event.

I'm curious about Journey (mainly because of Susan Arendt), but as a PC gamer, I may just miss out on it, for which I'll shed a single tear.

Rabidkitten:
This is an argument about linguistics, and you should never debate linguistics.

No, no, no. Those are the best debates. :-D

Take THAT (up the bum) Jonathan Holsmes!

I was thinking the same thing all the way through that Podtoid episode. It was strange to hear Holmes be so obtuse and argumentative about something. Whenever he gets in to stuff like that he usually comes up with something that manages to pacify everyone in a respecting yet slightly passive aggressive way.

I can see their reasoning for why it's a "broken definition", but Jim makes a better point about "art game" being it's own genre, like "art film". It seems like, once again, gamers have no clue what some words actually mean...

Any developer reading me, how do you feel about this? Art film was embraced by film producers (makers), but game developers in this media feels like an entity that goes to work and home. They barely discuss their work with their consumer.

most people don't get the difference between 'craftsmanship' and 'art'.

Where the threshold for each one is, may vary.

Honestly this was a dumb episode to me. It was more or less constantly enforcing your opinion and what you write in your career as the legitimacy to define the terminology you use in your work as well legitimate.

Also I didn't like the negative tone and honestly damning of people who would disagree with you just because you are using a definition that you use in your work. Cause I'll be honest, most of the "art games" never actually gave me that experience that you define an art game to be compared to the emotional experiences I have had with the games I have grown up with and today from The Last Remnant, Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy III(JP)/VI(US).

I mean I played Flow and Flower and really didn't feel anything or thought what a novel experience. Sure Braid worked but that was due to the narrative and the ability as a player to interpret the meaning that drew out the reaction and the big "Oh wait what?" to which I wouldn't of understood if it wasn't for the classes I took in college about the history of science.

Poor Jim. Thank God you did this.

I thought everyone already went to Wiki to answer their questions.

Well for what it's worth, I agree with your side of the argument. I mean did anyone not know what kind of games we were going to be talking about when we read the title?

Art games.....

OK, but is The Binding of Isaac an art game?

Just kidding, good episode Jim.

Imp Emissary:

I thought everyone already went to Wiki to answer their questions.

Half of everyone does. The other half calls that half stupid and ignorant with no amount of self-aware irony displayed.

Good episode, and I agree. For what it's worth. Which isn't much, sadly.

To me an Art Game is a game that puts its visuals and/or the experience at the forefront, with the actual gameplay being a more secondary mechanic.

Decent episode.

Oh so bastion is an art game or just a regular rpg?
I always thought of limbo as a platformer rather than artgame.
Lolipop chainsaw is pretty artsy. Is that an artgame?

"You know it when you see it", huh? "If you ask, you imply that you actually understand the term" huh?
And what if not? What if this actually is a nebulous term?

Well thanks for clearing that up.

Who was it that said "if you torture the evidence enough, it will confess to anything"? I think that neatly sums up the "Gears of War is an art game" argument.

To this moment very I didn't even know that there are people that have a problem with the term "art game". Well, should have seen that coming, it's the internet after all.
Still, a whole episode seem excessive, but Jimquisition exists to spell the obvious to the dumb masses.

I read a quote online that went like this:

"The other word I really hate seeing around is "art" and if games are that. That discussion gets very ugly very fast, and no one wins after having it."

I decided to test this claim. I started a thread at another forum and the second reply to the thread, among other things, had this in it:

"And of course all Final Fantasy series. I mean, look at Ultimecias castle. There is an Art Gallery."

Ugh, I can totally see why Jim would have never wanted to do such an episode. People just dont get it.

The term "art game" is broken in the same way that playing a banned card in magic the gathering in an official tournament is broken.

It allows for a previously unforeseen advantage of one person to engage in a debate with another person using a device that has the clear advantage of relying of "subjective" in it's definition.

Making the argument that "its a word" so it's "legal" is no different than saying, "using this card because it's a card, is legal". Casually this seems fine, however, in a more professional setting the term "art game" carries no intrinsic "value" as to the nature of the game, aside than stating that it's intentional effect is unfathomable, or subjective, or known only to the artist; which gives it a clear advantage of carrying meaning where no meaning exist, or shifting the meaning around by modifying the context any which a' way.

Further it allows for a categorical creation in which the "art game" is elevated to a point of being beyond reproach. Like a "circle of protection", or "rune of protection" in MTG.

Gears of war certainly uses visual effects to elevate tension in a scene, this is by design, to illicit an emotional response from it's audience. So it's art. That is not a bad argument, or a reaching argument, it's simply an observation of it's cinematic design.

I suppose the argument that could be made that as a "composition" the end result of the game "by design" is to illicit this response, where as in gears of war it is a prop to facilitate the transition from one scene to the next.

art game = the total product's theme by design is to illicit a response

art in a game = a thematic prop to push a transition often unrelated to the total product's object goal

"It's Art" philosophically gets a bad rap for being a card played in discussion when one or more people "in the discussion" have nothing substantial to offer to the discussion. Playing the race card or gender card does about the same thing.

As an example... Prometheus is an art film... tells me nothing "about" Prometheus as a film, it does tell me quite a bit about the person making that statement.

"Take artificial intelligence, for example,"

I see what you did there.

Also, every time someone mentions Journey, I think of the band.

I still can't get myself to agree that video games are art.I completely agree with Roger Eberts statement of ''Games cannot be art'',simply becuase art is far too vague for video games.I see developers using the term of ''art'' to convery a ''deeper meaning'' to simply hide tha fact that the game is barely interactive, something which is becoming all too common in this age.

If a game is utterly unique,for example, ''Flower'', which literally cannot be described by any basic genres, I see it as a unique video game, with unique mechanics and gameplay,not art.

Basically I'm saying that art is not a good enough a term for video games.We need to keep searching for appropriate discriptions of unique and outstanding games.

Azuaron:
Quote of the year: "'Art game' as a thing, is a thing, that is a thing."

malestrithe:
I always thought the definition of art games is limited to games that you would never play otherwise.

Actually, calling something an "art game" is typically a strike against it for most gamers (myself included). I played Braid despite it being made by a pretentious twit, and I played Limbo because it came with a Humble Indie Bundle with other games I liked and I decided "Why not?" I enjoyed both because of their respective atmospheres, mechanics, and puzzles.

But you'll never catch me playing something like Dear Esther, which is a glorified indie movie anyway, even if it did happen to end up in my library through a bundle event.

I'm curious about Journey (mainly because of Susan Arendt), but as a PC gamer, I may just miss out on it, for which I'll shed a single tear.

Do you have proof that the term turns off most gamers? Or is it a situation where "most" really means "all the gamers I know, including myself?"

I am asking because I can point to plenty of games that got the arthouse label and it sold millions. Amnesia is the first on that list, so is Braid, Flower, Journey and so on. As soon as they got coverage as being artistic, their numbers soar.

Also, despite how you try to weasel around it, both Limbo and Braid only got as big as they did because someone first called them an arthouse game. That does not change no matter how many qualifiers you add to it.

You may not have played it, but you've heard of Dear Ester because some one called it art, right?

I think the strange thing about the term 'Art Game', much like 'Indie Movie', is that it seems to say more about the people making it than about the product they are creating.

It's not simply that you have a thought-provoking game, but that it comes from the mind of a thought-provoking artist. Sci-fi game creators don't get any special respect as opposed to fantasy game creators or FPS creators, even if they're financially or aesthetically successful. Art game creators, however, have a certain cache. You're unconventional, you're shaking things up, you're not in it for the money, all that stuff.

Basically, what the term seems to mean is that at the development end of an Art game you have an official 'artist'. No more, no less.

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