Computer Games-- any comments?

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:58 am

alexanderthesoso wrote:Not all games are art, no, but its a media that is capable of being art, depending on the circumstances.




Grammar lesson: if you are speaking of a singular mode of communication, as here, it is "a medium," not "a media," which is plural.

Brings to mind Fred Allen's wonderful line, that television is known as a medium because nothing on it is either rare or well done.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Moderator » Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:28 am

alexanderthesoso wrote:Reconcile radio commercials with Mozart. Both are musical media intended to convey information of a sorts. One is art, the other, many would say is not, although we are getting disturbingly close to "Demolition Man" where those old jingles were the top 40 hits.

Not all games are art, no, but its a media that is capable of being art, depending on the circumstances. Would you agree with that?


I disagree with your initial postulate that somehow radio commercials and Mozart come from a similar intent. The radio commercial is not designed to create art, it is designed to get attention for the express purpose of selling a product/service. Mozart did not write his compositions with the intent to sell a product, but to create something for the sake of creating.

And yes, I agree that the medium may be capable of being artistic, but so far it has not produced anything I would describe as a unique art form. While many films don't qualify as "art", filmmaking is an art form. And I think this last part is where we differ.

People make art to express artistic visions. If a video game maker works from that criteria then what they accomplish may be called art.

(But they don't, they approach it from the aspect of what makes a good game. The visuals may qualify as art, the "story" may even qualify as art -- but the parts may exceed the whole in this respect.)

Again, I have to go back to my D&D example -- which I do only because it's the best analogy of an interactive video game I can come up with -- and ask: is the game itself art?

And, IMHO, it isn't. Nor are Warcraft, Final Fantasy, or Super Mario Fillintheblank.



(Necessary caveat: There is a thing called videogame art, which is essentially created by rewriting the games involved -- and it is done for artistic purposes since it cannot be sold or otherwise distributed. The fact that the user is doing the work simply to do it adds credence to this being an "art".
(Also, computer-created art is, IMHO, an art form. http://www.Renderosity.com is an excellent example of how good this sort of thing can get. My entire issue is with calling video games art. Even though they are comprised of art forms, they are not -- or have not yet become -- one in and of themselves.)
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The Interactive Play Medium: Electronic

Postby kevinkirby » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:12 pm

One could argue that the value of a videogame, as artistic medium, relies heavily on the proficiency, the manual dexterity and hand/eye coordination, of the intended audience. If this artform's "user" tends to become lost, stuck, confused or generally unable to follow the intended course; then any intended message may instead have an opposite effect.

That having been said, my own choice for videogame "masterpiece" would have to be Shadow of the Colossus.

In that game, there are such periods of utter fascination--as the player struggles to get a handle on each location--followed by unmatched interactive frenzy when an area's Colossus is uncovered, that it transcends the whole concept of just being the progeny of Pong.

For experiencing the lake locations, or the cavernous desert scenario, or the rainswept upper torso of that final encounter, the entire medium itself might ultimately be seen to have come into existance.

But only, mind you, if the game can actually be managed without reference the walkthrough. Myself, i must admit to seeking hints on four occasions in Shadow of the Colossus.

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Postby BrianSiano2008 » Wed Jun 25, 2008 10:09 am

I'm coming to the conclusion that computer games are art, but with a strong caveat. Yes, there are things that art can do that computer games cannot. But there are also many things that other forms of art cannot do, so computer games are not unique in this regard.

Architecture and design are certainly arts. But as exquisite as the designs of, say, Greene and Greene can be, they cannot create the same experience one would have when reading _Anna Karenina_, or watching _Casablanca_, or listening to John Coltrane.

Thsi isn't a matter of high art versus vulgar art, or the educational background of the audience or the artist. Or even the tastes of the audience; I mean, some of us may not care for video games at all, so to those people, they can't be art. But Vladimir Nabokov once said that music is pretty much noise to him-- so it's not a matter of someone being more or less arrtistically inclined.

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Postby Moderator » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:05 am

Hmmm.

I'm really trying to keep an open mind about this but still don't see it.

This might be a very thin hair I'm splitting, but if an interactive video game is developed strictly for the artistic experience of the thing I might see the application of "art" being used.

But if the game is developed as a game, but uses what might be very fine art as its basis the whole, as I note above, is less than the parts.

Let's go even further with this: we're all familiar with the japanese game of Pachinko. There is no question that Pachinko machines are elegant and quite beautiful in many ways -- and, frankly, some of the older machines are on display as artwork in museums as well as private collections.

They are now artwork. They're not really "art", per se, since they were not created to be art -- but they do fulfill a role somewhat more sophisticated than "decoration".

But they're not art, they're artwork. (I know, very thin hair.)

Likewise, a monopoly board with hotels and markers glued down, then framed and put on a wall could be considered artwork -- but it's not art unless the process of gluing the pieces down somehow qualifies as artistry.

And while I agree that the pictures might be spectacularly beautiful in a video game, and the storyline the equivalent of anything Ellisonian, a video game is not conceived or created as art, but as a game with all that this definition entails.

A game can be artistic, but it is a game nonetheless and as such doesn't -- as of yet -- qualify as a standalone art form.

(However, and to complicate things further -- you could hardly qualify the first films as an art form either. Nor was photography considered to be an art form when it was first...*ahem*...developed.)

When you can adequately tell me why Shadow of the Colossus is an art in a way demonstrably different from Q-bert or WarCraft, other than "it's more well done" then you may convince me.

But. Definitions change. And I'm open to that.
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Postby Moderator » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:19 am

BTW - The reason I mention the comparison with Q-bert, etc, as significant is because we're working with terms for an entire category of art -- so that each "member" of that category is somehow a part of the art form. (Art forms cannot be categories with a single example, otherwise they're one-offs, not categories.)

For example, a child's stick figure watercolor painting is an example of art. It may not be good (though the parents might argue), and it might be visually unstimulating -- but it's part of the same art form that includes a Renior.

The pre-teen love sonnet is every bit as much a poem as the works of Shakespeare. Again, not as good and probably opposites of the same spectrum, but both are fundamentally related.

And, to be honest, that vacation photo you took that is all blurry and tossed into a box in the garage, is related to the very best Henri Cartier-Bresson slice of life shots hanging in so many museums around the world.

If SHADOWS OF THE COLOSSUS is art as opposed to artistic, we need to take a look at each of the others in the same category for the same affirmation. If Shadows is representative of an art form, then Super Mario Brothers Exploding Pintos must be considered its artistic brethren.
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Postby Jan » Wed Jun 25, 2008 12:06 pm

Design is design. Architecture is architecture. Games are games. Art is art. It transcends every other categorization. Art "form" and "arts" are term loosely applied to almost any category of human creation that requires some artistry, creativity and skill. It should not be equated with the word "art" just to make the conclusions easier.

What's worse, I don't think computer games can even be called an art form (outside of America, that is) until there is at least one game that deserves to be spoken of as art - and there isn't. They're all just games, with the vast majority of them being very silly and completely useless.

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Postby Moderator » Wed Jun 25, 2008 12:30 pm

Jan -
You bring up an excellent analogy. Architecture.

Buildings may be beautiful, involving intricate and artistic elements, but it would be inappropriate to represent architecture as an art form.

(Though there are undeniably very aesthetically driven buildings -- Gaudi's cathedral in Barcelona; the Eiffel Tower; the Sydney Opera House; the Chrysler Building in New York; the Taj Mahal. These are all examples of genuinely artistic design, without raising the entirety of architecture to the level of Art.)
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Circuitry as Architecture

Postby kevinkirby » Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:30 pm

If any building can be considered a sculptural artwork, then so too might a particular piece of software or electronic game. Who could then receive such an electronic construct, as the transmission of an artistic message? Probably an audience so narrow and limited as to be insignificant.

For the players of Mario Bros spinoffs, perhaps something akin to art might be found somewhere in the gaming experience, or within scenes of the game itself. If the game franchise is popular enough, a degree of shared apprehension will possibly enhance anything categorized as art. But this whole art-within-a game concept might be similar to customized chess sets, enhanced versions of Monopoly, etc.

But just because the detailed settings of the videogame BIOSHOCK are described as being Art Deco, does that mean the game itself is art?

Or that something like art might be found, by some, in playing it?

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Postby Moderator » Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:02 pm

Kevin -

You see, that's what I'm referring to when I state that it's a fine line in some cases.

I don't agree that buildings can be designated "sculptures", nor can I agree that art is only a reaction to artistic stimuli. (Or did I misread your "gaming experience" comment?)

BUT, a hand-carved chess set would certainly qualify as a form of art for many people, including me.

The definition of "Art", however, still falls to intent for the most part: is the chess set being carved with the intent of being an everyday usable board, or is the aesthetic of the design and the carving of the pieces the ultimate point of the creation? Therefore the set transcends the game by deliberate action on the part of the creator, which I don't see as analogous in the production of video games.
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Postby FrankChurch » Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:56 pm

Art shmart.

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Is Button Pushing a Medium?

Postby kevinkirby » Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:28 pm

Perhaps it's one's familiarity of any particular medium that allows the experience of something as art--that permits the definition of something as art.

If all players of Shadow of the Colossus agree that their experience went somewhere beyond mere tiddly-bopping boinkboinkboink, then perhaps someday a subcategory of "art" will include the playing of this game. What kind of art museum that would be, I don't really know yet.

But for a gameplaying sort of person who wants to share an artistic aspect of some interactive adventure, then the deeper-than-usual themes and art deco environments in something like Bioshock might just do the trick. Just as art can be found in a carved chess set, even by a non-player, so might it be seen in an intentionally "arty" video game scene.

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Re: Is Button Pushing a Medium?

Postby BrianSiano2008 » Fri Jun 27, 2008 11:10 am

kevinkirby wrote:Perhaps it's one's familiarity of any particular medium that allows the experience of something as art--that permits the definition of something as art.


There's something in this. Robert Hughes once said that his recreation, woodworking, gave him a much deeper apprciation for the work of greater woodworkers. It's one thing to look at a Greene and Greene dining table and think it's nice. It's another to know what work was involved in making it, knowing what most tables are like, and recognize it as an exemplar of the art.

But for a gameplaying sort of person who wants to share an artistic aspect of some interactive adventure, then the deeper-than-usual themes and art deco environments in something like Bioshock might just do the trick. Just as art can be found in a carved chess set, even by a non-player, so might it be seen in an intentionally "arty" video game scene.


I'd agree. I mean, _Blade Runner_ wouldn't be half the film it is without the production design.

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Finding the Converse

Postby kevinkirby » Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:01 pm

Maybe it's true that if some example of a medium can find condemnation among enough of those who experience it; then it's also possible for an artist to redeem that medium by producing something transcendant.

Basically, after playing enough videogames that are quite simply crap--and examples can be listed--some appreciation is merited by a game which keeps its head above water.

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Re: Finding the Converse

Postby Moderator » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:43 pm

kevinkirby wrote:Maybe it's true that if some example of a medium can find condemnation among enough of those who experience it; then it's also possible for an artist to redeem that medium by producing something transcendant.

Basically, after playing enough videogames that are quite simply crap--and examples can be listed--some appreciation is merited by a game which keeps its head above water.


But here we return to my comment regarding a child's stick-figure watercolor versus a Renoir.

There is plenty of "condemned" art -- for reasons of both quality and content -- but it's the ascension of an entire medium as an art form that I believe is in question.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.


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