Can Art Be Games?

Can Art Be Games?

What's the difference between a game and just a statement or artistic expression? The answer depends on who you ask.

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Great read, it's good to see the experimental stuff getting some coverage here. The folks who did The Graveyard did a great rundown of all the hell they caught from both sides of the issue.

http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/the-graveyard-post-mortem/

My favorite observation they made was how gamers kept playing the game and trying to solve it. The boldest thing so many of these games proposes always seems to be not being a puzzle or a challenge. Like the 4 minutes and 33 seconds games, it's not something you really approach in a typical manner. There's nothing to win or accomplish.

The important things these games are doing is paving the way for AAA games to start exploring their own game content. I don't think anyone is proposing that mainstream stuff suddenly become obsessed with being artsy, it's just there are a lot of great ideas you can borrow from these experiments.

Look at something like Randy Balma. The last level of that game uses visual distortion and light patterns in such a way that the challenge is to not vomit. Literally, as in you'll get motion sickness while playing and barely be able to look at the screen while you collect the last few baby heads.

i believe it should

Passage is an excellent art game. Gravitation is the first video game that made me cry for reasons not related to fatigue or difficulty.

Yes, art games should be their own genre. They should, however, be games first. The Graveyard might be an astonishing piece of interactive art, but it's not a game; hence, it's not an art game.

Is 'catch' a game?

How about Cat's Cradle?

How about a funhouse? Is a funhouse a game, like hop-scotch is a game?

Maybe art games aren't games at all. Maybe they are digital funhouses.

well, enjoy not watching tv for the rest of your life, along with music, because both are considered art

freduardo:
I think the real question is as follows: can art suck my dick?

Seriously, art sucks. Paintings, sculpture, architecture, music, film and especially video games should never try to be art. Art can blow me.

You contributed so little to the conversation that I have to point out how little you contributed.
This was it.

Ironically, I have contributed even less.

freduardo:
I think the real question is as follows: can art suck my dick?

Seriously, art sucks. Paintings, sculpture, architecture, music, film and especially video games should never try to be art. Art can blow me.

Am I the only one who finds it humorus that he registered just to make this post?

Eric the Orange:

freduardo:
I think the real question is as follows: can art suck my dick?

Seriously, art sucks. Paintings, sculpture, architecture, music, film and especially video games should never try to be art. Art can blow me.

Am I the only one who finds it humorus that he registered just to make this post?

One has to start somewhere.
Obviously, the gayest the concept, the more artistic it seems to be.
Kill Muslims seemed to have a message though.

In the end, it's art because I say so. Period.

I don't see art-games as games but more of an interactive painting. A game can be an art form though. The things that have to go into a game is what makes it a peice of art. Like how the mind-bending and settings in braid make braid a peice of art.

I think these are pretty cool ideas. I haven't played or heard of any of these, (unless the little part where he mentioned SotC, Homeworld, and Myst counts) and I find the whole concept interesting.

I've seen many games where artistic atmosphere goes together with the gameplay, but I haven't seen games where it really is just about the beautiful world.

I certainly think games can be art, and after reading this and thinking about it, I believe that art can be games.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Maybe art games aren't games at all. Maybe they are digital funhouses.

I think you're on to something there.

In the words of Yahtzee, Games Arr Art :)

The MGS series is a pretty good example of how far a storyline can go, and a story is art in its own way. Plus, check out the fairly movie-like scenes of MGS4, I swear that last cutscene is 90 minutes.

Graham:

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Maybe art games aren't games at all. Maybe they are digital funhouses.

I think you're on to something there.

Thanks! People always talk about shooters and action games as an "amusement park" so, if you're interacting with the art and not shooting it or jumping on it, guess that makes it a funhouse.

That, and talking about Cat's Cradle and hop-scotch got me thinking about stuff that you don't see much these days.

One thing that may have relevance here is "game" vs "simulation": The Addy "games" (I don't know if anyone here played them as a kid, basically an education software that rewarded you for completing lessons by unlocking games) had separate sections for games and simulations. Games were pretty straight forward, stuff like Breakout clones and such. The simulations were designed to show the interactions between different variables interactively by letting the user change a variable and see what else happens (e.g. in a forest ecosystem you could adjust the hunting intensity which would then affect the number of predators and prey which in turn affected the health of the forest, etc). They weren't designed to be entertaining but to utilize their interactivity to educate.

Interactive doesn't automatically mean game but at least the cited examples are actually using everything to form their art, many other articles just cite games that look like art (Ico, Rez, Braid, pick your poison) or something, basically a game with art ducktaped to it. IMO it's a case of missing the medium if the art is pretty much separate from the interactive part (e.g. a railroading story that makes the player an actor who has to obey his script should have been a book or movie, not a game). Only by utilizing the interactivity to do things that the other art could not do alone does the game become an art game (or the art become more than just art stapled to a game).

I'm not going to say art games aren't art or aren't games (at least if they have interactivity and a way to amuse yourself with that) but I will say that a game that tries to be art but destroys its game part in the process (this happens mostly through neglect rather than deliberate choice though that also tends to tie into the ducktape issue) is a bad art game.

Of course the example of Graveyard seems to be on the edge, it's hard to say if a software with the only inputs "start" and "exit" counts as interactive (I would say no).

That is a question one asks themselves and answers on their own behalf.

"What is good, and what is not good, need we anyone to tell us these things?"

I'm surprised that in a feature on the "art game"--especially one with such a provocative title--there's no mention of John Cage's seminal work, Four minutes and thirty-three seconds.

With respect to video games as art (and indeed art in video games), I can see the art aspect. At the same time, though, the video game is transient. Unlike art that exists in print or sound or in performance or in 3 dimensions, video game art exists only for the now. Developments in OS or hardware tend to render games superannuated.

No, art can not be games. Games, however, can be art. :p

I think of art as any sort of creative output that can be experienced by someone- all games are an art form for me. On a side note, I live but a few miles away from the link picture.

ceolstan:
I'm surprised that in a feature on the "art game"--especially one with such a provocative title--there's no mention of John Cage's seminal work, Four minutes and thirty-three seconds.

....

What?

Games are already art. Did anyone here play Bioshock? The entire game is a beautiful Art Deco set...

I think art games are not so much games as art pieces. Back in the days of more traditional views on art you couldn't pass off sound art, video art and in fact most conceptual art as "true art". Some people very likely see the same thing about video games. These aren't so much games for the sake of entertainment but art pieces that take to form of games in the interactive sense. What really makes me happy about this is that it pushes gaming forward in terms of its intellectual level. Not to say the gaming is for the stupid or that gaming itself is stupid. What I mean to say is that the general opinion of gaming outside of the gaming world is that it is not a refined concept, it is not an art form and certainly doesn't warrant any attention as if it is either. These "art games" push the envelope for that case and punch that opinion right in those peoples pretentious faces. This is, of course, not to say that the concept of an art game isn't pretentious either, especially if it goes under the same guise as a game which has the main purpose of entertainment and story-telling.

Bottom line: here's the analogy to help you understand my above opinion on this. Games in general are novels. They tell a story, they can be shitty novels that are addictive like Dan Brown's books. They can be incredible experiences written by the gods themselves (I'd give an example but good writing is more subjective [to me] than bad writing). Art games are poetry, they are there to make their point, they can tell a story, but they are there as a single entity that has to be appreciated on a different level than a novel.

EDIT: I also have to say that the Endless Forest game is my favorite concept for a game of all time.

xxcloud417xx:
Games are already art. Did anyone here play Bioshock? The entire game is a beautiful Art Deco set...

You mean it's a game ducktaped to a beautiful Art Deco set. Or is bludgeoning stuff with a wrench a necessary part of the art deco design? Yeah, okay, whether you bludgeon the little girls is important to decide whether you are the reincarnation of Jesus or Hitler...

Fightgarr:
What really makes me happy about this is that it pushes gaming forward in terms of its intellectual level. Not to say the gaming is for the stupid or that gaming itself is stupid. What I mean to say is that the general opinion of gaming outside of the gaming world is that it is not a refined concept, it is not an art form and certainly doesn't warrant any attention as if it is either. These "art games" push the envelope for that case and punch that opinion right in those peoples pretentious faces.

Does it matter whether our toys are art? Does it serve any purpose other than make us feel smug, elite and discerning while playing mass-produced million seller number 19792? Are we really trying to do anything besides trying to elevate our juvenile gore-fests into the status of "culture" by associating them with art games noone heard of or cares about? An art game is a nice distraction we look at once or twice before shoving it into a drawer and going back to stabbing aliens in the face with a chainsaw, only to pull it out whenever anyone accuses us of mindless alien face stabbery. Then again it'd take a fairly low bar for art to accept that the majority of people who watch movies are subjected to any form of art.

What is wrong with games being games, toys you use to amuse yourself? You did your contribution to society on the job, you got your paycheck for it, do you really have to feel like the reward your paycheck buys is making the world a better place instead of just your computer room?

ceolstan:
At the same time, though, the video game is transient. Unlike art that exists in print or sound or in performance or in 3 dimensions, video game art exists only for the now. Developments in OS or hardware tend to render games superannuated.

That's an interesting point, I really like that. But your assumption is that the game, and thus the art, exists only as long as it's being played. I would argue that the game, and the art, continues to exist long after it's been played, uninstalled and superannuated. To make a bit of a crude analogy, a great painting remains constant even when you're not looking at it.

KDR_11k:
What is wrong with games being games, toys you use to amuse yourself? You did your contribution to society on the job, you got your paycheck for it, do you really have to feel like the reward your paycheck buys is making the world a better place instead of just your computer room?

But what if you don't get a paycheque? What if you've created something not to amuse but to make people think and talk? It's easy, although not necessarily correct, to dismiss mainstream games as commercialized amusements, but what about games like Passage or Gravitation, where the creator isn't being paid and the players almost certainly don't come away amused? We're drifting back to the conventional question - can games be art? - which is entertaining enough to discuss, but this time around it's a question of whether "art games" are truly games.

KDR_11k:
Does it matter whether our toys are art? Does it serve any purpose other than make us feel smug, elite and discerning while playing mass-produced million seller number 19792? Are we really trying to do anything besides trying to elevate our juvenile gore-fests into the status of "culture" by associating them with art games noone heard of or cares about? An art game is a nice distraction we look at once or twice before shoving it into a drawer and going back to stabbing aliens in the face with a chainsaw, only to pull it out whenever anyone accuses us of mindless alien face stabbery. Then again it'd take a fairly low bar for art to accept that the majority of people who watch movies are subjected to any form of art.

What is wrong with games being games, toys you use to amuse yourself? You did your contribution to society on the job, you got your paycheck for it, do you really have to feel like the reward your paycheck buys is making the world a better place instead of just your computer room?

Of course it does. That kind of attitude where smugness and elitism is the the viewed goal is ill-informed. Do really believe that is the goal of any art piece? While its very true that art can often be pretentious as hell there's a good deal of art that I've seen that is accessible on many levels, with a clear statement or purpose. Please don't try and take my posts out of context. I'm not saying that I'm going to play it in the same way as a regular game so that I can point at it like some beacon of excuses to justify gaming in the eyes of the public. That isn't what I said. What I'm saying is that people outside of gaming do not realize the potential of the medium to deliver an experience and evoke discussion.

To me your wanting for everything to be entertainment strikes me as shallow. As I said, its a new use of the medium. Its not to be used in the same manner as a game for entertainment's sake. If you actually oppose the art game as a game I understand, but if you oppose the art game then I must say that you have a narrow and verging on xenophobic view of how the medium needs to be used.

If you don't get a paycheck you've probably got more pressing concerns than whether games are art, namely getting something to eat :P. I'm talking about the gamer's point of view here, not the developer's. The paycheck is probably for something boring like working at retail or flipping burgers.

My point is that art games are like trophies that get put on a shelf to show how "educated" you are. Of course they are art (or at least it'd be difficult to find any other term for them) but are they any significant portion of what constitutes gaming? Does it really matter if niche art is made in gaming instead of, say, on a canvas? Aren't we just hoping that the art-ness of these games rubs off on the things we actually play so we can say we're doing something educated while playing our regular dose of if-it-moves-shoot-it?

Besides, as some crazy exhibits show: The true difficulty in making art is not the message but convincing people to pay for it. The often referenced Shakespeare wrote his plays to boost the profitability of his threatre, he didn't make the modern kind of "it's no fun therefore it's art" stuff, he made plays that featured low-brow humour and plots you could follow when drunk. Yet he also made works that are now held up as some of the greatest ever. Maybe we should not ask if art games are games but if art should be able to get away with taking refuge in its art label. Should we call art out for failing the primary goals of the medium it chose? I'm not sure if it was Hirai or Kutaragi who said we wouldn't call an architect out for placing the front door off the path to the house (response to the PSP square button issue) but realistically we would do just that. Architects make their houses usable while still being art (well, if they're trying to do that) but art games try to get away without the usable part and in our frenzy to prove that games are art we point at them anyway as great examples of games being art. Of course they can be games if they want, they would most likely just be bad games.

Modern artists somehow try to tell us that art exists in a vaccum and that comercialization is destroying art. Well, it sure didn't in all those previous centuries in which artists hard to work hard for their money. In the past artists were hired to do jobs and they did those jobs, art happened when they did well. A painting was usually commissioned to be put up in some room to boast with being able to afford your very own painting or maybe having it use its symbols to flatter you. I'm not even sure what modern art really does but my theory is that it acts as a status symbol (maybe twice because you read the booklet that came with it explaining the meaning so you can appear knowledgeable in front of anyone who asks). So maybe art games DO perform the job they're bought for...

Yeah, okay, I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this either... Pretty much rambled about everything else while answering the main question with just a quick "yes, if they say they are games then they are games" (though I'd advise the artist to call them interactive exhibits since that changes what's expected). I guess this article is relevant though.

Fightgarr:
That kind of attitude where smugness and elitism is the the viewed goal is ill-informed. Do really believe that is the goal of any art piece?

I think that is the ultimate goal of the purchaser, even if only subconsciously.

KDR_11k:

Fightgarr:
That kind of attitude where smugness and elitism is the the viewed goal is ill-informed. Do really believe that is the goal of any art piece?

I think that is the ultimate goal of the purchaser, even if only subconsciously.

But the goal of the artist? In this case I think that would be a projection.

KDR_11k:
My point is that art games are like trophies that get put on a shelf to show how "educated" you are. Of course they are art (or at least it'd be difficult to find any other term for them) but are they any significant portion of what constitutes gaming?

I suppose it's the times and environment in which I've grown up but I've found that while I can appreciate the beauty and worth of conventional art I don't respond to it in nearly the same way I do with interactive art. I'm not an educated or cultured person and my exposure to the conventional art world has been minimal and that no doubt has something to do with it; but I find it far easier to make emotional and intellectual connections with the medium of games (and I'm talking here of full-on art games like those in the column, The Graveyard, 4 Minutes, etc.) They are "trophies" in a way, even I like to indulge in that feeling of being a "superior gamer" now and then (although as a PC gamer that's my natural place in the hierarchy anyway) but I also believe that there's genuine value in these things. Not a monetary value, of course, but an intrinsic worth.

You may not be sure where you were going with that but along the way you did a pretty good job of convincing me that although it's arbitrary and hazy as hell, there is a line at which games cross over into art and don't look back. I'm happy with that.

It is OK to take a crap on a table and call it art.

It is OK to write the word cake on this turd and call it art.

It is even OK to enter this turd in a cake competition and call that act itself, art.

However.

When people start praising this turd for it's superior cake qualities.

When you start getting taken seriously as a baker for crapping on a table.

When people start eating this turd and smilling at you with that special grin only the turd eater can manage.

When the specialist cake orientated media is more interested in a turd than a cake because it's not a cake and therefore special.

Well that's just a little bit offensive to people that dedicate their lives to the art of making cakes, don't you think?

At this point the level of incompetence in the cake orientated media has reach an all new low, just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse.

This game is made especially for those of you with bits of turd trapped between your teeth.

http://pief.wetgenes.com/

I don't think you made a fair comparison, xix, however humorous.

They may not be Halo, or even Mona Lisa, but art games do take a lot of effort and dedication to make. They are not just ready made objects that the creators appropriate as their own artwork.

Furthermore, contrary to the turd you mention, many people in the world do enjoy art games. In fact some enjoy them more then regular games and they might even reverse your parable.

Even though the question at hand is whether the "genre" of art-games is foremost "art" or "game", one must first try to answer two prerequisite questions.

#1: "What is art?"
and perhaps even more importantly
#2: "What is game?".

Assuming my own definition, "art" can loosely be described as a conscious observation and/or evocation.
With that settled, "game" is form. Form, as proven in writing, painting, photography, performance and film, is capable of artistic expression.
Hence, games can most certainly be art.
Having the artistic merit of games established, one must further distinguish the rudimentary characteristics of the form.
This is where it get's complicated.
Does one limit the definition of games to the efforts and executions of a single market and it's target audience?
Isolate it to entertainment, thus deeming more abstract creations pretentious?
Establish the idea-driven aspect as it's basis, only to have amusement conveyed as moronic?
Taking a step back, is it not obvious (as art in the major sense) that one cannot, should not exclude the other?
And has it not been proven that the two do can merge quite successfully without diluting the impact of either quality?
It is after all, in all senses of the word, interactive experience.

 

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