Santini812 Jul 25, 2013 @ 9:09pm
Games as Art....when?
So I was sitting at the old homestead listening to a guy from Penny Arcade talking about games as art, and my first thought was cool, I can see it but only in theory. Games can occassionally touch a button that evoke an emotional response other than fear or humor but its extremely rare. Mass Effect comes to mind, prior to everyone getting butt hurt over the ending, and Bioshock is often called out as a classic "almost artful" game, but is it really?

Here's my question, what game has effected you in a way that didn't require you to add "Bro did you see me 360 no scope that dude".

Case in point a photo, taken years ago by a National Geographic photographer. I won't post a link because there are probably copyright issues but just google "The Afghan Girl". The picture was taken in the seventies after the Russian Invasion....look at the picture for a few minutes, notice the feral look, the scar on her nose, imagine her life, apply a little empathy "that my friend is art". Not some weird little puppet dancing along sanddunes to some happy or unhappy afterlife....Sorry I liked Journey but it certainly wasn't what I would consider art, but it was close for a game. I'd like your opinions...I have lots of Vodka and would enjoy hearing your responses.
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Haldurson Jul 25, 2013 @ 9:55pm 
Originally posted by Santini812:
Here's my question, what game has effected you in a way that didn't require you to add "Bro did you see me 360 no scope that dude".
I can't tell you the last time a game affected me like that, but I can tell you the first time. It was an Infocom game called Planetfall. In this text adventure, you have a companion named Floyd, who is a childlike robot -- very simple-minded, with a lot of charm and humor, and you end up caring about what happens to it. Spoiler alert -- at some point, Floyd ends up sacrificing his life to help you complete your mission. Some people, I've read, actually were in tears when that happened. I don't recall crying, but I do recall be incredibly moved by it.

I'm of two minds about your question regarding games as art. On the one hand, art is entirely subjective. So that gives you a very exact answer -- a Game is art as soon as you accept that it is. Until you do that, it isn't. It has nothing to do with the emotional feelings that a game inspires -- a whole lot of things can inspire you without being art, and a whole lot of art simply does not inspire me. Emotions are not an aspect of a piece of art, it's an aspect of the viewer and may have absolutely nothing to do with something's creation.

That said, I don't see games as art (or at least not good art), to the extent that the more something is art, the less it is a game and vice versa. Games can USE art within them, without actually being art. For example, while Planetfall had a story which you could very easily argue was art, the game itself was not art, and the fact that your path could hit a dead-end, and you would have to reload it, and start from a save totally kills any narrative. There's a beautiful story buried within the game, but it's not prsented in an artful way. Open world games are kind of canvases with limited palettes for people to create stories, but not artful stories. The graphics, and the created world as a whole used whin the games, you might argue are pieces of art in some cases. The entire world of Skyrim, for better or worse, is a beautiful set-piece used within a game engine. But the whole, the "GAME" itself is not art.

If you take a look at a lot of indie 'games' (and I use that term loosely) that people have labeled as 'art', you see that they've cut out all that we normally associate with games, and simply give you a world and music to enjoy. But there's usually no actual game system. So games are not art. But they can be a showcase for art, presenting art in a fun way. And that's not a bad thing.
Last edited by Haldurson; Jul 25, 2013 @ 10:01pm
Santini812 Jul 25, 2013 @ 11:10pm 
Thanks for the insight, and I agree I don't see games as art....so far. Self-sacrifice seems to be a popular theme in most RPGs nowdays, at some point a person or character that you have been forced to spend time with is finally killed off in a heroic manner. I'm not certain if that is any different that Queequeg's sacrifice in Moby ♥♥♥♥, or Patroclus in the Iliad but it seems different.

As I said in the first comment , what sparked this idea was a gamer/gamedesiger trying to advance the idea that games are becoming more "art orientated", which I think is just a way for game designer's to say..."Hey take me seriously here!"

Indie games are for the most part throw backs to a time when games sucked but they were new so we played them, of course there are exceptions but for every 100 Indie games 99 of them are just as bad as ET The Extra Terrestrial.

I totally agree about using art and being art as two different things. In contrast 'Lolita" is a horrible story of indulgence and lust but told in such a beautiful way, that people (okay I wanted to say women but that would seem sexist) still argue with me about it being a love story. I consider Lolita "art", not because I liked it but because it forced me to think beyond myself.
Haldurson Jul 26, 2013 @ 12:38am 
Part of the problem is that 'art' is not a well-defined term. If you point to something and ask me if it is a 'dog', I'd likely give you an answer that almost everyone would agree with, because we all have a common definition of what a dog is. Occasionally, you may have a dog-wolf hybrid or a dog with an odd mutation of you can go back in time and maybe find an evolutionary missing link that is not quite a dog, but very close, and then have a disagreement between scholarly men. But point to a collie, or a poodle, or a German Shepherd, and we all accept that they are dogs.

So maybe asking if something is art is a bad question to begin with without a common definition. Define it strictly enough, and I might be able to say definitively whether something is art or not. Or maybe there will still be uncertainty.

One reason why this is, besides the lack of a common and strict definition, is the fact that people's brains and senses do not all operate in the same way. there's actually a lot of evidence of this. An obvious example is color-blindness. Another example I like to point to is that of the finicky eater, which, as it turns out, has a genetic component to it. Children in particular, who are finicky eaters are capable of tasting a specific chemical in vegetables that no one else can, and it tastes particularly bitter. People with refined palates certainly have a higher density of taste buds, so, for example, they cannot abide spicy foods the way that others might. There are examples just in the way that some people are very good at math or logic, or maybe are very good at dealing with people. Some people thrive on chaos (like me) while others can't abide disorderliness.

Then there's cultural differences -- people who've grown up in a modern society learn a specific way of looking at pictures. Their focus tends to be towards a specific point about 1/3rd of the way down from the top, and approximately centered between the left and right. People who've grown up in less modern societies without exposure to western art, tend to focus on points to the lower left or right-hand corners. The explanation that is often given for this is that it's a habit that comes from looking out for snakes or other small animals.

So we are all wired differently, sometimes for cultural reasons, sometimes genetic reasons, sometimes simply because of entropy. So it makes sense that art, to each of us, is not going to mean the same thing.
Last edited by Haldurson; Jul 26, 2013 @ 12:42am
Icedrum Jul 26, 2013 @ 2:38am 
I believe games can be art. I don't think we've gotten there just yet, but we've gotten close. Until then, I wait the day that game arrives.
Santini812 Jul 26, 2013 @ 9:31am 
It's true art is subjective and also true that it's almost impossible to define, so I gotta fall back and paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart on pornography "I know it when I see."

I was just wondering if anyone thought we've reached that level of game design.
Astral Jul 26, 2013 @ 12:36pm 
Have you ever seen ".detuned" on the Playstation Network? I think that's the closest to the traditional idea of art that I've seen in video games.
Gus the Crocodile Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:20pm 
Originally posted by Santini812:
I was just wondering if anyone thought we've reached that level of game design.
I don't think you need to reach a level. I think everything humans create or "frame" is art, because I think that's the only consistent and thus useful definition. I don't say the Mona Lisa isn't art just because it piques no particular emotions in me, that's just me not finding it a very interesting picture.

Of course you could take an inherently subjective definition, instead, and say that what is art differs from person to person. That's okay, that's valid, but I don't know, it doesn't seem very useful so I don't adopt it.

To me, "art" is less an attribute of an object (though it is, as I said, also an attribute of an object - the ocean or the moon are not art) and more a way of looking at creations. It's analysing and appreciating whatever aspects of them that it's appropriate to analyse and appreciate. Those aspects naturally differ between arts - you don't experience or judge a song in the same way as a sculpture - so the fact that they have to differ when looking at games is completely normal. So as far as I'm concerned, game design is absolutely an art, and thus games are absolutely art.
Haldurson Jul 27, 2013 @ 7:55pm 
Originally posted by Gus the Crocodile:
Originally posted by Santini812:
I was just wondering if anyone thought we've reached that level of game design.
I don't think you need to reach a level. I think everything humans create or "frame" is art, because I think that's the only consistent and thus useful definition.
Generally speaking, we distinguish between an art and a craft. We use the word 'Craft' to indicate a skill to create without actually being artful -- creation by formula, in other words. So no, not every frame can be art. You have to distinguish between the person who mass produces the same card-playing dogs, or Elvis on black velvet like hundreds of other so-called artists, from the person who actually does something original. I may enjoy that Elvis on Black Velvet, but that doesn't make it art. Maybe the very frist time it was done, it was art. It certainly was never good art. But maybe it was art. I'm not saying it was, I'm just pointing out that not every painting is art. If I paint a house, it's not art, because I'm following a formula. If fill in between the lines on a paint-by-number, that's clearly not art either. If I take a piece of music and simply put it through a synthesizer to transform it, that's not art either.

Note that I'm not saying what IS art, but I know what isn't art. I can tell when something does not come from someone's soul, when it's not an expression of a person, but of a machine or a technique or an algorithm. There's a possiblity that the result of the expression of a person's feelings or vision can be art, I know that that's not sufficient for something to be art, but I do know that it's a necessary element.

And that's why a program is not art, although it can include art within it as a small piece of it.
Santini812 Jul 27, 2013 @ 9:17pm 
Brilliant! Well said!
Gus the Crocodile Jul 28, 2013 @ 1:13am 
Originally posted by Haldurson:
Generally speaking, we distinguish between an art and a craft. We use the word 'Craft' to indicate a skill to create without actually being artful -- creation by formula, in other words. So no, not every frame can be art.
Well great, but I'm not interested in "generally speaking" - I've heard a lot on this subject over time, and generally speaking I think people have pretty rubbish, nonsense ideas about the whole question that I'm not about to take on board just because they're common. I understand the nature of communication means that using uncommon definitions confuses people, but I'm happy to take on the responsibility of making allowances and explanations where necessary.

Originally posted by Haldurson:
You have to distinguish between the person who mass produces the same card-playing dogs, or Elvis on black velvet like hundreds of other so-called artists, from the person who actually does something original
You can if you like. I'm happy to have original art and unoriginal art, rather than "art" necessarily including originality (itself incredibly subjective) as part of its definition.

Originally posted by Haldurson:
If I take a piece of music and simply put it through a synthesizer to transform it, that's not art either.
Surely this is nonsense. What's the disqualifier here? This is just use of a tool. A paintbrush is just a way of "transforming" paint and a canvas into a painting.

Originally posted by Haldurson:
And that's why a program is not art
Similarly, I don't understand how you've come to that conclusion at all. You just said that a person's expression can be art, that art is something original. Since programs are written by humans, and have every capacity to be original, I fail to see how they're disqualified even under your own thinking.

I see contradictions everywhere in what you're saying. If you guys want a definition of art that isn't actually a definition, just a way for everybody to particpate in "I know this isn't art, because I know" self-indulgence, you can have it, but I'll keep my own.
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Date Posted: Jul 25, 2013 @ 9:09pm
Posts: 10