Have you ever drawn/painted/ sketched a still life in a group? While everyone in the group was looking at the same subject, more than likely each person had a different outcome. One person focused on the lighting and shadows; one person focused on a smaller area of the subject; another focused on perfecting the colors; a fourth focused on perspective; and the last one seemed … to focus on not much at all.
This happens with other art, as well. I know I’ve talked with a group of friends about a new song playing on the radio and each of us has said something completely different: “The lyrics are great,” “The use of strings in that one part was cool,” “I liked the vocals.” We all listened to the same song, but it spoke to us in different ways.
True, that scenario is not really the artist’s interpretation of the subject, but rather the audience’s. That interpretation is just as valid: Art is expression, both by the artist and by the person experiencing the art. It’s a communication device or the communication, itself; art allows us another avenue to share points of view, to help us empathize with others. Art can also help us better understand ourselves as we look at another’s interpretation of a subject and contrast how ours are similar or different.
From what I say above about art, one can conclude (correctly) that I have a rather broad opinion of what constitutes art. Does it convey someone’s view? Does it evoke a response, emotional, mental or physical, in someone experiencing it? If so, it’s probably art. It may not only be art. And not all those who engage in an activity are artists – a child may be drawing, but unless he’s drawing pictures of high-fashion models, chances are those stick figures probably aren’t really how he interprets the world.
My “rules” for art, and many other people’s for that matter, get cloudy on the subject of videogames. Why? Videogames, like movies, musicals or ballet, are the combination of several defined forms of art. Just as a musical is a combination of dance, music, singing, acting and storytelling, a videogame includes layers of visual art, programming, music, storytelling, voice acting and interactivity. For a videogame to be considered art, do each of these have to follow the rules for art? Just a few, maybe? Even, perhaps, only one?
This week, The Escapist focuses on just one of these many layers of art in videogames: visual design. Visual 2-D or 3-D art is one of the most accessible layers for the general population, as most of us have participated in this art form, whether as creators or viewers. It is the aspect most often pulled out when the “Are games art?” debate heats up. In this issue, our writers discuss their own experiences with, and speak to those who create, visual style in games. Enjoy!