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Part 6: Art And Its Relationship With Games
by Darren Tomlyn on 09/02/11 11:16:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


(Note: All the entries in my blog are meant to be read in order - you can find the contents here: Contents )

(EDIT: I've added a part near the end to put everything together to show how all the different uses of the word are related to and by the definition I've given).

Part 1:  Recognising The Problem With The Word Art

Recognising and understanding what the word art represents, at least in and for itself, should simply not be a problem at all.  The word art, and/or its equivalents in other languages, has been used in a consistent manner for as long as our records and culture has existed, worldwide – the basic forms of art are consistent regardless of where you happen to travel on our planet.

And yet, we still have a problem.

The reason for this, is because of the focus on just forms of art, that are recognised and understood by the media used:

Acting (including dance etc.).
*Organised sound* - (does not necessarily have to be considered 'music' to be considered art (sound effects etc.)).
*Sculpture* - (not just for sight, but also touch) - making something to look at/touch/use (or even wear) that is a tangible object – (nearly every tangible object we create would count under this, from jewellery to clothing to furniture, architecture etc.).
Creative food, including *cooking*
Spoken language (song/poetry) and additional literature.
(Not sure how to describe this one - but anything created specifically because of how they smell - such as perfumes etc.).

It should be obvious that forms of art exist and can be applied to affect all of our senses – even simultaneously, in combination.

The problem, as should be fairly obvious and expected by now, is that these forms of art, and  the media they use, merely form part of the application of what the word art itself must represent.

In other words, in order to fully understand what it is the word art represents in isolation, that can then be described in relation to the rest of the language, we again need to be able to separate the application from what it is that is being applied.

As you should expect, and as we have seen with the dictionary entry in the first part of my blog, the main reason the word art is causing problems, is because this is not being done in a fully consistent manner.  As you can probably tell by now, this is the consistent problem found with nearly all the words I am looking at here, in my blog – people mistaking applications of words for their definitions.

Because of this problem, many people try and base their definitions of art upon these applications – I’ve seen people on this very site, again, who have tried to define art based on the audience’s behaviour or how it made them feel, for example.


But that is not how the English language functions.


So, as I said before, and as seen with the word game, we need to derive the definition of art from such applications – to see what it is they have in common and therefore what the word art itself represents.

Some dictionaries and encyclopaedias appear to have managed to do just that, such as Wikipedia:

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect.”

But we have a problem with this, as I said before, or, in fact, two problems, or symptoms, caused by the same, deeper, problem within the language.  This particular problem should now be familiar and understood:

Recognising and understanding that the word art represents an application of behaviour - (an application of things that happen) - based on how the word is used and its place within the language.

Again, in order to fully define the word art, and understand what it represents, both in isolation and in relation to the rest of the language, we need to find out and recognise what application of what behaviour of who, it is used to represent.

Again, the problem with the above definition, in a similar manner to how some people think on this site, is defining the behaviour of one person, by how it makes someone else feel.  Feelings and emotions, however, are not behaviour, (they're properties), and therefore have no place in this word’s definition, since they are merely a side effect of its application.

Art is not defined by the behaviour or properties of its audience.  Is something a work of art simply because I happen to be looking at it, or listening to it etc. at a particular time or in a particular manner?  Does something cease to be art if I don’t like it?  No.  I can apply the definition of art in such manner if I so choose, but I do not define it as such.  (A piece of art, just like any other object or piece of information we create, does not, of course, cease to exist in an absolute manner just because no-one currently perceives it.)

Affecting our senses is, of course, part of what this application of behaviour does.  This part of the definition therefore makes sense, but again, is it not part of the audience’s behaviour or properties?

When someone perceives an object, thing, or even someone else’s behaviour as described above, (based on the media used), as being art, are they not simply applying a/the definition of such a word based on the properties of what they perceive, (that have been therefore created by someone else’s behaviour), in a subjective manner?

If I perceive anything that has been created in a manner that is consistent with a particular function, even if merely intended or possible, rather than actual behaviour or a property it has, what has my own behaviour or properties got to do with any such applications of relevant words (for their definitions), based on such a function?

The recognition and understanding of what words represent, how they are used to represent what they do, and how they are then applied based on the information they represent, and how this all then relates to people’s own perception of the universe around them, is therefore the matter that is central to everything being discussed here.  Any inconsistencies between people’s perceptions and understanding of such matters, in any way, in relation to the language being used, even to think, will cause problems…


Part 2: Recognising a solution

If the audience has no place in defining the word art, merely applying it based on what they perceive of, ultimately, other people’s behaviour, then what ramifications does this have for its definition, based on its use?

The largest impact this has, is to solve the biggest problem facing the word art itself, based upon how it is, and has been, used:

Reconciling two uses of the word that are currently seen as not being related, let alone the same thing.



“Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science".[1] Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions.”


As usual, what has happened is that people have confused the application of a word and what it represents, for its definition, and therefore lost touch with what it is that is actually being applied.

Based how the word art is used, in its entire scope, we therefore appear to have a few definitions:

1.  The process of creating something – (the art of/an art).

2.  Something that has been so created that affects, or is intended to affect, the senses – (including forms of art, involving various media).

3.  The performance or teaching of such creations where applicable.


One of the problems with the paragraph before, from Wikipedia, is of course the word intent.

Words are intended to be used and applied in an individually subjective manner.  It is possible, therefore, to apply definitions of words upon and regarding other things and concepts, such as art, in a manner completely at odds with anyone else.  In other words, just because someone created something to be a work of art does not mean I have to apply the word as such, to and upon such a thing, myself.

Indeed – there are many such ‘works-of-art’ on this  planet that I do not perceive as being such a thing, but that is fine, since that is exactly how the language is supposed to work!

But because the word art has become confused for its application, and applying words and what they represent is supposed to be subjective, it should be no surprise that, again, the definition of the word art has also become so subjective too.

So, the question still remains, how do we reconcile the three main uses of the word art above?

The most important thing is, of course, to understand and recognise that the behaviour described as 1 is what everything else is simply an application of, along with how and why.


Part 3: Deriving a Definition of Art:

So, the problem then becomes very simple:

How to describe such behaviour in a manner that is consistent with what is then described in 2+3.

This is, of course, the problem Wikipedia is trying to solve, even if it’s not recognised.  Unfortunately, it goes too far and becomes more of an application, again, rather than a definition of such a word, (though not as far as my little Mini Oxford English Dictionary).

So how do we solve this problem?

Well, remember the basic behaviour we can use in conjunction with the word story?


Things people do for themselves = writing their own stories.

Things people do for others = telling stories.

Things that happen to people = stories they are told.


Here is where we run into the limitations of the ‘normal’ method to describe such behaviour, even when used in isolation:

Art cannot be described as something people do ‘for others’, since it implies intent, which is not consistent with how the word is used and applied.  The reason we’re having problems, is because people are focusing on art as something that happens to people, which of course it does become, eventually, but is not consistent with the actual behaviour the word represents an application of.  Art is also not consistent with being something people do for themselves, either, so how do we describe such behaviour?

Although the normal method of describing such behaviour presents problems, using the word story makes things far easier and more consistent, because intent ceases to be a problem.

It would therefore appear that art can simply be described as involving people telling stories.  We can tell a story to someone without intent or even any awareness of such behaviour – (also see ‘tells’ in poker/cards etc.).  The only thing that matters is that other people perceive the story we happen to be telling.

The primary reason for problems with the word art is therefore because of people confusing the behaviour of telling a story, with that of being told a story, which of course it becomes, but they are different behaviour, of different people, and therefore cannot be the same thing.

It is possible for one person to both write and tell a story, simultaneously, but not be told the same story at the same time in a similar manner.  The term improvisation is used to describe the act of both writing and telling a story simultaneously, especially in relation to art as it is being performed and also created.  Since improvisation is merely a type or application of art itself, writing a story is not what the word art represents.

It should be obvious that, based on its use, the word art represents an application of telling stories.

So, the questions therefore become, what application of such behaviour does the word art represent, and how does such behaviour relate to the three uses of the word art?

1.  The process of creating something.

This would appear to be the main problem in regards to the definition of the word art, as also seen in its entry for Wikipedia.  How does the simple process of creating something – (the art of designing or making anything (for any reason)) – involve telling stories?

Simple – everything we create tells the story of its creation.  Everything we create can therefore be seen as being a work of art – (a work of such a creative process).

The only application the word art therefore represents, in relation to such behaviour, is that it is of our own creation, nothing more – creative story-telling.

So why isn’t the word used in such a manner to describe everything we create, as it appears that it can be?

This is, again, simple.  Nearly everything we create is not created for the purpose of telling a story, even as it does so.  Most things we create are intended to fulfil a specific function and purpose, to usually enable a story to be written by someone else, other than its creator, separately from the story that it tells, (though of course it’s possible for anyone to use such things for their function, even those who have already created it), and so such functionality is how they are defined, labelled and perceived.  It is still possible for such objects to be perceived as works of art – results of such a creative process that tells a story - but it’s merely an additional label, (also) subjectively applied – a subjective application of the word art, upon and in addition to what the thing itself happens to be described and defined as.

Furniture, cars, consumer electronics, buildings etc. in addition to games, puzzles (and even competitions), (when applicable), can therefore all be recognised as being works-of-art, in addition to what they are defined as, based on their function and purpose.

It can also be said, that some things we create, are not intended, or are perceived as involving ‘creativity’.  Creation and creativity, in this manner, do not represent the same thing.  The act of creation, merely describes the behaviour of making a thing, or even a thing that happens, that would not otherwise exist without our intervention.  Creativity and creative, even in relation to the word art, involve the use of a person’s imagination.  But again, the difference all depends on the perception of the person applying the definition themselves, as to what they feel is ‘enough’ creativity for anything to be labelled or defined as a work of art.  This is a legitimate area of argument about what is a work of art and what is not, and is the main reason why it will always be argued about regardless, but is not the focus of this blog.  The main problem at this time, however, is that such arguments are not being fully based on a consistent, objective, definition, and so the arguments themselves are not entirely consistent either – (and is also affecting other words, such as game).  (This, of course, can then lead into arguments and discussions of copyright and patents, which is also beyond the scope of this blog…).

It should hopefully be obvious why the other uses of art also involve telling stories:

2.  Something that has been so created that affects, or is intended to affect, the senses.

3.  The performance or teaching of such creations where applicable.

The whole point about 2, is that it is simply an application of what the word art represents in a manner that is fully consistent with its definitioncreative story telling.  Anything that is created to tell a story – has storytelling as its main function – and is perceived as such, can therefore be defined as a work-of-art, and just using the word art itself to represent such things, again, isn’t helping, since recognising the use of the word to represent a thing that is therefore an application of its main use and definition, is also a problem for many people.  This is how such applications listed earlier therefore represent forms of art – the basic methods and media used in telling stories, and why people get confused between the different uses of the word art, itself.

It should also be obvious for 3, that performing and teaching also involves telling stories.  It should also be obvious that the use of the word art in such a manner can go beyond what is written there.  The act of performing or teaching anything again, so long as it is perceived as being created, and/or possessing such creativity, can be recognised as art, or even an art (form).

“Skills and masteries”, can be used to describe the different creative processes art represents, especially in relation to different media used and things being created.  Martial arts also simply fall under such creative story telling being performed - (even if it hurts!)

The act of using many arts, such as those recognised as involving martial, or performing arts, (acting/music/dance etc.), when not actually telling a story to anyone else at that time, or intending to, is considered to be practice.


Art & Design

The word design is often used in combination with the word art.  The problem with this, is that, again, the use of the word art in such a manner is based upon its application, rather than its true definition.  Design, as another application of behaviour, is encompassed by what the word art itself represents, and is therefore a lower word within the taxonomic hierarchy.  The term art & design, is therefore the equivalent of 'movement and walking', or 'music and composition' - one of which is fairly meaningless in combination with the other in such a manner.


Part 3A: The Uses of Art and Relationship To Such A Definition (summary):


I think that’s it’s probably best to show how all the main uses of the word art are related, to and by the definition I’ve given, in a single part:

Art = creative story-telling.

1) The basic creative process, (the act/behaviour of creating anything), is what the word art represents in general.  (Everything we create, tangible or not, tells the story of such a process).  It’s rarely used as such, because it’s mainly perceived by how such a concept is applied, but it’s still what it must represent, based on the rest of its use.

2) There are two main basic applications of the use/definition above:

a) Two applications of art that represent a more specific creative process in 1, (one of which can be seen on this web-site), as in the art of (creating something)/(it is (a specific creative process)) an art.

b) Perceiving such a process, (a creative story someone is both telling and creating), directly, that may, or may not be intended to be such an application – (creative/skilful play in sport would be an example) – which can also lead the use of another application of art, this time as a property something/something that happens, possesses – the word artful.

3)  A further application of such a creative process, sometimes labelled by the media, (all or some), being used to tell such creative stories – art forms, the arts, performing arts, (martial arts can be perceived as such too, but, (like performing arts), also have relevance in other applications, such as 2b and 5).  This may involve both things that have been created and behaviour.

4) A specific example of such an application of a creative process in 3, whether intended to be, or merely perceived as such – a work of art.  Things or behaviour that have such an application of the creative process as their function, can therefore be defined as a work of art.  Things that do not, may merely be perceived as works of art.  Some examples may be both created and performed at the same time - (involving improvisation) - and can therefore be seen as a combination of 2b and 4.

One of the problems we have is that such examples, (especially in visual form), are also merely called ‘art’ itself, without any reference to the creative process.  This is obviously not helping people understand the relationship between the two.

5) The teaching of 2a, 3 & 4, can also be seen as art, and since teaching is also, naturally, about telling stories, teaching may also be seen as art, or an art, in itself, if perceived to be ‘creative’.


The main problem with the word art, today, is therefore because of people trying to reconcile the uses of the word art in 2 (a specifically), with 3 & 4, without always fully recognising and understanding, and therefore involving, 1, which is impossible.


Part 4: Art and Game(s):

Since the definitions of both of these words have become confused with their applications, recognising and understanding how they are related to each other, based on their use, is also a problem for many people at this time.

The primary reason for any and all confusion between art and games, is because games can be both viewed as works of art, (like anything else we create), in addition to being able to use many different forms of art to enable and promote the activity itself.

But, as said before, games, like many, if not most of the things we create, are not defined by their art, and are not therefore a type (or form) of art in themselves.  The function of a game is not to tell a story, so they are not consistent with being such a thing.  Games exist to enable a story to be written, using competition and rules.  All the forms of art – the media games may use to enable such a thing - are already labelled, defined, understood, and exist as forms of art (based on the media that is further being used to enable the game) – such as video/music/pictures and sculpture - independently of games.  Games are not a medium for art itself at all, since they do not affect how such forms exist - it's the other way round, though only indirectly, as a condition of any true media or objects used in a/the game itself - (boards/playing cards/computers etc).  So for computer games, it's not the game that means anything for art, but the computers themselves.

Games therefore bring nothing whatsoever to the meaning and definition of the word art itself, they can merely borrow and use what already exists, to enable and promote another type of behaviour.

Games are defined by what is important for their function – the written story.  The types of story written and the (usually physical) media used to enable such a thing, are therefore all that matters in such a manner.  Art has no place whatsoever in describing any type of game, since it is always nothing more than a condition of the medium being used, be it pictures/animation/video, sculpture or even sound/music.

Nearly every type of game is described in such a manner, except one, and this is causing problems.  This ‘type’ of game is not labelled by the medium or written story it represents, but by a form of art the relevant medium usually uses.  The use of art in such a description is therefore inconsistent with the definition of games, and is therefore causing problems.

I am of course talking about the label, video game.

The term video game is inconsistent with how the word game is used elsewhere in the language for a simple reason – the type of art the word video represents, is merely a condition of the medium being used, in the same manner that a picture is a type of art that many other media use for games, (such as a board or playing cards).

The true medium by which these types of game should be labelled, is, of course, a computer (of whatever kind or type).

Now, the act of designing and creating a game is (an) art, but what is being created, in this case a game, is not defined as such, but may simply be perceived as such, subjectively, on an individual basis.  An individual game may therefore be recognised as a work of art, but will not, must not, be defined as such a thing, in a similar manner to any other thing we create that is defined by such a function.  I may view a particular car as being a work of art, but that doesn't mean all cars must be defined as such!

Because of the inconsistent label, asking if video games are art, is like asking if an oak table is wood – the question and answer mean very little.

The word game, however, is not the word art – it is an equivalent in itself: a word of the same type, representing a different application of different behaviour that just so happens to be compatible when related and applied in a specific manner to and/or by different people.  The word game and art have equal stature within the overall taxonomic hierarchy, ultimately under the term 'application of things that happen (etc.)' .

Just because games can use art, and the process of creating a game is (an) art, (‘the art of making games’ is perfectly consistent), does not mean that games themselves are art, anymore than buildings, furniture, consumer electronics, or anything else we create that is defined by a different function...

Games do not require art to be used when being played, even if it can be perceived as an art to create a game in order for it to be played.  Of course, for some of the most basic games, many people may feel that such creativity is negligible, and so even that is still subjective.  ‘I’ll race to you to that tree’ may be a game, but I doubt many people will consider it creative enough to be a work of art in itself.

The act of perceiving a game being played by someone else, as being art, however, is, of course, different and separate from it being a game itself, even though it involves the behaviour of the same person, since it’s the perception and application of such words by different people that then defines them as such.


The most important concept for anyone involved in the act (and art) of making games is this:

What you are creating may be a work of art – (or just art if you prefer) – but that’s not what makes it a game – it’s the behaviour it is used to enable from the people who choose to play your game, that defines it as such – not your behaviour in making it, or even the game's behaviour on your behalf.


Computer games can therefore be seen as works of art for people to use to play a game.  A problem, is that many people merely think in terms of simple ‘interaction’, to describe uses of such art by the players, that enables a game to take place.  But the word interaction, in itself, is not precise enough to describe the behaviour the word game represents (an application of).  Puzzles and competitions can both involve people interacting with art, let alone merely work or play, and so this type of simple thought and language used, is not really suitable to describe the nature of such an activity and product used to enable such a thing.

Again, games should be created to enable one thing – a written story by a (the) player(s) - within a structured, competitive environment – (and of course, the environment itself may be perceived as a work of art in itself, if and when applicable).



Part 5:  Art In Relation to Other Applications of Behaviour:

Because art involves telling stories, it also, naturally, involves the behaviour of narrating and all other related words.  Although narrating can describe telling stories that are not creative, merely factual etc., since this is the behaviour the word art represents an application of, all art involves narration of some kind.  Since the words narrate and story are not fully recognised for what they represent in relation to each other, at this time, however, many people can get confused between the use and application of the two.

Games can involve art, of course, but may also include merely narration itself – a story told to a player within whatever setting it takes place within – either on behalf of the game itself or another player.  The basic written story of a game, however, is not in itself, a narrative – again, the same story cannot be both written and told to and by the same person, simultaneously.  For this reason, games are, again, not art themselves, even if any individual game may be perceived in such a manner, either as a basic work of art, on behalf of it's creator(s), that is then defined as a game, or because it is being subjectively perceived as such by another observer.

Competitions and puzzles, however, are different.  The reason for this is simple – competitions and puzzles do not have to be created in order to exist, (in general), they can merely be perceived to exist based on the natural behaviour and interaction between people and/or other entities or even the universe itself.

They can, however, of course be applied in a manner that is fully consistent with what the word art represents – being created, (and telling the story of such creation), to enable such applications of behaviour instead.  Again, however, just as with games, such concepts must be defined by the application of behaviour they represent - their functionality - which is different from the word art, even if compatible in the same way as games – (using art to enable such a thing to take place).

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Corne du Plessis
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A great series of articles, Darren. It's hard to believe you don't have some kind of Uni experience :P

I agree with your definitions of both art and games, at least within its respective primary contexts. I wish to add that, although most signifiers, in this case 'art' and 'games', are valid within a primary context, the possible meaning of these signifiers are never exhasuted. As you have pointed out earlier, language is in an ever changing and growing state, and terms such as these will also grow and change. What is more, a game developer will not be in the wrong somehow if he/she explicitly desires to create a game with the intention of primarily being art - that is to say, a game that's predominant on narrative or visuals for example, with gameplay being secondary, and I doubt such a developer would choose gaming specifically if, as you pointed out, the computer is the medium - there are far easier ways to tell a story or paint a picture through other computer software. As far as narrative goes in gaming, the developer has a number of signifiers at his disposal -music/fmv/image etc and you cannot isolate these conecpts from the final product merely because they dont suit a definition. A creation is always the sum of its parts, and if the developers did not believe that these signifiers somehow complete the whole they certainly would have omitted it - especially in today's profit driven world.

Also, meaning is open to the gamer as well. Yes, there are those who will interpret that games allow for stories to be written through competition and rules, but there are others who will want to escape into another's story, merely "controlling" certain game characters in order for the plot to play its course. Most single player campaigns can not be defined by your version of 'game', since they offer the player the illusion of controll with predertmined rules and outcomes. The only real choice the player has is whether or not to continue playing. The outcomes of the story are predetermined, even if they are multiple, as is the case in some games. A gamer can only play these games and see where they head, they do no writing/telling themselves.

To sum up, a primary contextual definition (I dont like using the term objective) is valid, but linguistic meaning is by no means static, and any serious exploration of these concepts has to consider the multiplexity of meaning attached to a concept.

Also, could you please clarify what the function of these 'games' and 'art' are in your definition?

Darren Tomlyn
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Again, don't mistake subjective applications and perceptions of words FOR what they represent WITH their definitions.

Art can be used to enable a game, or a competition, or a puzzle, but does not define any of those. Do not mistake the 'thing' such art may be part of, with the actual activity - the application of behaviour - the word game represents.

Art is art, whether used by itself, or as an ingredient in a game/puzzle or competition. It just has no place in DEFINING games, puzzles or competitions by itself. The most it can do is HELP to identify an individual game/puzzle/competition for what it is - no more.

What you are talking about in your 2nd paragraph is merely a SUBJECTIVE APPLICATION of a computer game, not games and art in general.

Your third paragraph is all about education - teaching people what different words represent, based on how they are used, to allow them to describe and understand what it is they perceive in a consistent manner, to and by the person/people/themselves who happen to be behaving. It's all about whether or not someone perceives to be 'writing a story' or merely 'interacting with a story being told' - which is about subjectively applying a definition, (game or puzzle in this case), nothing more.

The problem we have at this time, is that we're calling EVERYTHING that "appears" to be a similar activity, using and upon a computer, a 'game' - even if equivalents outside of computers are not labelled or considered to be so - we're not recognising or understanding the differences between games, puzzles and competitions, (or even work and play), in a manner that is consistent with how the words are used independently of computers - and that is the problem you describe here - a failure of linguistics. (Which is of course the reason for my blog in the first place).

The concepts we use the words game, art, puzzle and competition, (aswell as work and play), to represent, have existed for probably as long as 'humanity' itself. The fact that it took so long for our language to gain consistent labels (words) for such concepts, is what I find surprising. Because of this, I would be very surprised if they change much, once humanity has been well informed of what it is such words represent. The only reason it all seems up in the air atm, is because that hasn't happened. As I said, a failure of linguistics.

The only way I see any of this really changing much, is if the language itself changes beyond recognition - i.e. not really 'English' any more - which is certainly possible, if not likely some ways into the future. For now, however, I don't expect much change - even during my lifetime.

Corne du Plessis
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I believe there is only subjective interpretation. Universal definitions - a sentence or two attempting to capture a human phenomenon or object - themselves stem from a modern sensibility, and will be employed by subjects who adhere to modern values, therefore being subjective. Claiming that 'game' equals 'writing your own story through competition and rules' is a subjective application, not a universal law passed onto us by some higher power that resides over language. You arrived at that definition through a process of reasoning and logic based on the very language you are bringing into question - the English language propagated by modern Western cultural discourse.

Lets not remain caught up in definitions. My main question I have now is: In relation to your findings concerning these terms, what is the nature of video games and what values do they impose/impart, if any?

Darren Tomlyn
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A language is about communication - transferring information - between PEOPLE. As such, it cannot function on an individually subjective level. There is therefore a MASSIVE difference between being subjective on the basis of an individual, or on the basis of a large group of people/part of humanity itself - such as that the English language itself is used by.

Because of this, the more of an objective foundation and perspective that can be given to a language, by how what it represents is described, the better. Obviously 100% objective is not possible, but 100% subjective is also the 'enemy'. Individuals do not define words in a language - people do, and the amount of people who use the words noun, verb, adjective, game, art, puzzle, competition, story etc., have ALREADY defined them, because of how they are used.

The problem we have at this time, is that how these words are described, either in isolation, or in relation to each other, is NOT fully consistent with how the words are used and/or the rules of the language itself, and therefore what they MUST represent in such a manner.

All my blog is here to do, is show how the language already has better methods and ways of describing these words for what they already represent in such a manner. If anyone wishes to argue about my descriptions, then they are free to do so, but in a relevant manner. Yes, my individual descriptions are subjective on my behalf, but unlike all the other descriptions of such words, they are not subjective on behalf of the language or those that it represents - which is what really matters, here.

I thought I'd already covered all this - the nature of language etc., in part 1 of the first post in my blog?

Such definitions are the root cause of the problems we have - without a consistent foundation upon which to build - we (already) have problems.

Well, I've already talked about the term, 'video' game, and why it's part of the problem in the above post...

As far as computer games are concerned - (of whatever type) - they're just any game that uses a computer as its medium - simple. As far as the types of written stories they can be used to enable, and what potential they have to be reached in such a manner, well, that's for the future...

Corne du Plessis
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"*sigh*"? Am I not suppose to comment on your blogs?

The problem you outline is metonymic in nature, and in no way a "problem" as such. Most of the people who use the terms game and art, be it in writing or everyday conversation, do so in a polysemous manner, which is part and parcel of the English language and its rules, and has been around since the mid-19th century. The philologists came to the conclusion that polysemy is in no way a problem, since words, for its meaning to be conistent with the English language, must always be used CONTEXTUALLY. For example, when someone says on the site that "Bioshock is a work of art", they don't mean it's a painting or form of music, they mean it is a game with possible attributes related to art and its effects. What is more, when someone else read it they don't think he is referring to a sculpture, since that would be silly based on the CONTEXT - a website for and about gaming.

Therefore, polysemy is also a part of linguistic communication, and it in no way stunts communication. In fact, it allows for diversity. Everyone doesn't have to talk and behave in a standardized fassion, disallowing re-interpretation of new and old meanings - that is the modern senisibility I refer to. I am also not suggesting everyone should be 100% subjective (that verges on egomaniacal luncay), but meaning should always be CONTEXTUAL - not universal.

You accuse me of extremities in your second paragraph. Viewing communication as a simple system of [sender - message - reciever -understanding] is also an extremity. Communication is only possible in so far as the reciever being able to counter-sign a message - this is a concept thoroughly explained by one of the most prolific recent thinkers and writers, Jacques Derrida, an expert in linquistic studies and philosophy. This means that a sense of understanding must be established, but never complete understanding, since this disallows the reciever of contributing his/her own meaning to the message, and undermines autonomous communication.

Darren Tomlyn
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I'm afraid I do despair a bit when people obviously do not fully understand the nature of the problem, especially when it concerns recognising and understanding the fundamentals of language in a specific way, in order for it to be relevant to the problem at hand - at which point there is no way I can possibly explain in a manner that will coincide with people's own subjective perceptions on the matter - therefore we always wind up going round in circles with no end in sight - so, *sigh*.

Obviously language can never be 100% consistent - and, as you say, we wouldn't want it to be - but there is a very big difference between outright inconsistency - individually subjective definitions - and consistent *enough* for the language to do it's job.

The problem with the word game especially, is that it falls on the wrong side of that line, currently.

Again - do not mistake HOW we use the language for WHAT we use it to represent. The former is the bedrock upon which the latter is built, and is NOT part of the problem, instead having a main role in the solution...

(EDIT: After re-writing the initial posts of my blog (after more thinking) - it is obvious the sentence above is also back-to-front...).

The problem, is that people's PERCEPTIONS of what words represent, are not consistent with such use, due to how they are currently described/taught etc.. THIS is the problem I would like to (help?) solve.

This problem is very simple and basic, yet because of the words that suffer from such inconsistent descriptions, it might be affecting far more of the language than I currently see. All I know for sure, is that it's definitely affecting the word game, and some similar words, directly.

This is NOT a matter of (edit: subjective) philosophy - what we use the language to represent is more important than how and why of this problem. There may be some room for discussion about the language used to describe such words, okay, but I still think WHAT is more important than HOW. Nor do the rules of English grammar matter, except to be obeyed and applied in a consistent manner for such descriptions - which they are not, currently, for some of these words.

This is a purely self-contained problem within the English language itself. It may affect far more than just the language, sure, which is why solving such problems is important, but it's still nothing more than a simple matter of linguistics. Trying to read more into this problem than exists is a constant failure of many people so far.

Discussing the nature of the road if it's the car itself that has the problem, isn't going to help fix it.

Corne du Plessis
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I always believe in approaching a situation from different angles, and the WHAT is certainly one of them. I do believe though that WHY and HOW often precede the WHAT, provides a closer look into the essence of a thing/concept, but not always. That is just one of numerous possible methodologies that can be applied to deal with a specific problem, and starting with WHAT is certainly also a viable option.

That said, Im looking forward to further posts related to this problem in your blog, and hope to see you provide a fitting solution. I did enjoy reading these blogs, even if I didn't always agree with your methodology.

P.S. Determining the WHAT is also a form of philosophy, specifically in the schools of discourse analysis and semiotics.

Darren Tomlyn
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The reason why you've got problems, is that you're still not understanding the problem - as simple and as basic as it is:

The WHAT, HOW AND WHY ALREADY EXIST - they've already BEEN created! As such all relevant philosophy pertaining to that should already exist too, and is therefore irrelevant to the problem itself.

The problem, is simply that we don't KNOW, recognise and understand the WHAT. The HOW is recognised and understood - which is why it's a mature language in the first place. The problem is simply that the people who should have figured out the WHAT, based UPON the HOW, (and even WHY), and then informed and educated everyone else, have failed to do their jobs - (dictionaries/encyclopaedias etc.).

The ONLY problem, is the WHAT - the HOW and WHY are irrelevant, except to figure out how best to describe the WHAT itself. This blog is here to show what I feel is the best possible method of doing so, based on how the language itself is currently used. If you want to argue about that, then that's fine, so long as again, it's relevant and consistent - but no-one ever does - instead arguing about things that are irrelevant to the problem itself.

This problem is a SIMPLE failure of linguistics - that has caused the problem to spread and start to become one of semantics in general. The sooner the problem is fixed, the better.

Corne du Plessis
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I understand the problem that you have highlighted - the inconsistent use of the word game (and a few others) within the English language by most people, as a result of confusing the WHAT, HOW, WHY of a thing (and for good reason - these are interconnected), and also the word's relation to other words. I just don't necessarily view it as a problem of consequence - as I've mentioned in my comment about metonymy and polesymy - and the concept of a paleonymic - an old word that has adopted new meaning(s).

I also don't think that your problem can be solved. Dont get me wrong, I believe a rational mind, like yourself, can come up with a possible solution, but I don't think it will take effect. The reasons are highlighted in other comments where I described the nature of signifiers, but also since the majority of people prefer their subjective interpretations, since they ring truer to their own experience with a game (or mish-mash product as you would say). Don't simply negate my comments by saying I don't understand the problem you have pointed out. The truth is that one discussion will branch out into many others. It may not all be the exact same problem or idea, but they are undoubtedly related.

Darren Tomlyn
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No - they're not confusing the how or why very much at all - except when this coincides with their perception of what the word game represents - (such as game=play etc.). The ONLY inconsistencies with HOW the word game is used, therefore appear because of WHAT it is perceived to represent - fix the what, and the how will follow - (why doesn't really enter the picture anyway).

But as I've shown, part of understanding and recognising what the word game represents, lies deeper in the language, and so cannot be treated in isolation. We basically have a group of words that needs to be treated either at the same time, or noun/verb/adjective first, with everything else following - (which would probably be best).

Of course it can be solved - it just takes time - just change the dictionaries/encyclopedias and lessons - give it a couple of generations and it will happen... The only problem is making such changes happen in the first place - which is why I need to be at Uni and 'plugged in' to the system myself.

Corne du Plessis
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I admire your dedication to the matter, but having worked at a University for 3 years now, I have an idea of the climate and expectations. Ultimately your methodology is couched within Modernist discourse and this is just not the 'in thing' at the moment, it of course was the only thing untill the end of the 19th century. Academia is currently (it will change again in time but doubtfully back to modernism) couched in postmodern, and more specifically poststructuralist discourse, which "denies the validity of structuralism's method of binary opposition and maintain that meanings and intellectual categories are shifting and unstable".

You are the first person I have encountered that deals with the word game in such a manner, but other words have been going through such treatment since the 17th/18th century. For example, have a look at Theodor Adorno's 'Aesthetic Theory', which is possibly the most advanced modernist take on art at this stage. It's fully comprehensive, starting with the WHAT of art and moving on to all other aspects as well. Yet even his work is currently not at the pinnacle of academic interest in art, nor did it change subjective application of the term by people in general.

The thing is, you cannot hope to change systems unless you understand the entire tradition up untill its contemporary point. You certainly have the intelectual ability, and the fact that you have no Uni experience makes this far more impressive, but using a dictionary and wikipedia as your main sources will hardly qualify your findings as viable, nevermind elevating it to the heights of linguistic change. Inconsistencies in linguistics is also not something that has gone unnoticed, that is why semiotics originated in the late 19th century. However, semiotics, being a form of structuralism, has started being outweighed by poststructural discourse analysis, which also deals with etymology, but in a postmodernist sense, see the work of Michel Foucault or Jacques Derrida for example.

Ultimately, change can only occur through the masses and that is why even the above mentioned academics achieve very little major change in the world. Have you noticed how many people have commented on your blogs? This is because the subject matter escapes their intellectual interests and/or abilities, which is also underpinned by educational background and cultural values, as can be noted in some of the 'shorter' replies you received of the "what have you been smoking" variety. Even worse, go to one of the more popular game sites with an article like this and you will probably get explicit insults instead of comments. This is not just a case of changing dictionaries and encyclopedias, there are far deeper discursive elements (related to culture, education, economics etc) at work than a mere dictionary, which most people rarely pick up; and "plugging into the sytem" to affect concrete change of any form is not merely enrolling at Uni, it invlolves understanding the discipline, and others related to it, in its entirety.

Darren Tomlyn
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I'm not concerned with how many people have or have not commented on my blog atm. I'm just using this as a sounding board to put everything down, and figure out the best way of describing what it is I see.

There are TWO main elements at work - only one of which is consistent with what you describe in some respects - being a natural part of our own subjectivity. Yes, fighting that is exactly what language must do in order to be able to be functional - I didn't say it would be easy - its not, but the systems are there to support corrections such at these in order to solve such obvious problems. The problems ARE with the dictionaries/encyclopdia's/education in the first place - so don't tell they can't be changed - and won't have any effect at all - it's just about time.

The other, however, is not. It is an entirely artificial problem created by those who support the language in the first place, by not obeying the basic rules of the language itself to describe the basic types of information it is used to convey. This is a far deeper problem within the language that can ONLY be dealt with by the relevant people - not the masses themselves.

The ONLY reason the English language can function on the scale it does is BECAUSE of the amount of support it has. If that support is causing problems all by itself, then the language in general is going to have problems, even if the masses who use it don't fully recognise and understand how or why.

It may be that it's far too late to do anything, already, and the language is already on a course to fracture, for a variety of reasons. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

The enemy of language is direct individual subjectivity in regards to what it is used to represent, and THAT is the problem I see appearing in the language over the past few years, which the internet is only accelerating. It may still take some time for it have any noticeable impact, but by then, it'll probably be too late.

James Gambrell
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Darren, more words does not equal more communication. In fact it often equals less. In addition to studying linguistic history, you also need to learn to express your ideas clearly and succinctly. These blog posts are way beyond any reasonable expectation you can place on your audience.

My $.02:

Premise 1: Any durable object created by one person for the express purpose of evoking an emotional response in some 3rd party unknown to them is a work of art.

Premise 2: Video games are works designed to provoke emotional responses in their players.

Thus: Video games are works of art.

You are interested in drawing theoretical boundary lines around the terms "game" and "art", and yes that is interesting, but its a purely academic exercise. In reality any game that does not provoke emotional responses in its players is not worth wasting time thinking about, so any game that matters is a work of art. That is why semantic boundary lines (e.g. when does a hill become a mountain) are so ill-defined, there is no practical need to define them.

James Gambrell
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Darren, more words does not equal more communication. In fact it often equals less. In addition to studying linguistic history, you also need to learn to express your ideas clearly and succinctly. These blog posts are way beyond any reasonable expectation you can place on your audience.

My $.02:

Premise 1: Any durable object created by one person for the express purpose of evoking an emotional response in some 3rd party unknown to them is a work of art.

Premise 2: Video games are works designed to provoke emotional responses in their players.

Thus: Video games are works of art.

You are interested in drawing theoretical boundary lines around the terms "game" and "art", and yes that is interesting, but its a purely academic exercise. In reality any game that does not provoke emotional responses in its players is not worth wasting time thinking about, so any game that matters is a work of art. That is why semantic boundary lines (e.g. when does a hill become a mountain) are so ill-defined, there is no practical need to define them.

Darren Tomlyn
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Sorry - I missed your reply here - (don't know if you'll read/see this reply, though).

*An individual game* can be perceived as a work of art. Anything we create can be perceived as a work of art - but that does *not* mean that everything we create must be *defined* or even *labelled* as a work of art.


Because everything we create is defined (and therefore labelled) by it's *function*.

The function of games are *not* consistent with the word art itself.

Therefore: game != art

A game could not exist if its *only* function was to exist as a work of art.

This isn't about *theoretical* 'boundary lines' - it's about recognising and understanding the language we have as it already exists, in a consistent manner.

Do you think it would be possible to fully understand the universe around us without being consistent with the use of mathematical functions? How do we know what these functions mean? How do we manage to use them consistently? By being taught and informed in a consistent manner in the first place!

How do you think people would manage if we were all taught differently for +-/x etc.?

That is the nature of the problem we have, which is something you appear to fail to understand...

Shaun McLaughlin
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When you define "computer" as "the medium for this type of game", you appear to be violating your own established principles. By failing to to evaluate the noun independently of it's assumed applications, you've basically done something akin to calling an engine the medium through which an automobile, or more specifically, driving an automobile is experienced. In fact, I think you'll agree - "computer" doesn't explicitly account for the audio-visual or input devices typically needed to experience this type of game.

I also found that defining "work" as "productive" and "play" as "non-productive" only served to distract from the linguistic

Shaun McLaughlin
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When you define "computer" as "the medium for this type of game", you appear to be violating your own established principles. By failing to to evaluate the noun independently of it's assumed applications, you've basically done something akin to calling an engine the medium through which an automobile, or more specifically, driving an automobile is experienced. In fact, I think you'll agree - "computer" certainly doesn't explicitly account for the audio-visual or input devices typically needed to experience this type of game.

I also found that defining "work" as "productive" and "play" as "non-productive" only served to distract from the linguistic focus of your work, because those are highly subjective terms, both wildly philosophically debatable and requiring context to properly evaluate. There is simply no responsible way to distill "work" and "play" to these forms, without then defining quite clearly what constitutes "productive" and "non-productive".

Where are the specific examples of improper usage of the terms you seek to define? Except for the bit about "Sudoku on a computer still isn't a game..." along with some obscure references to cRPGs and whoever the random dude(s) you debated them with, you provide little context for your linguistic motivation. Describe a situation in which one of these terms being misinterpreted had/could have serious consequences for gamers, how proper understanding of them will definitely lead to better experiences.

Give details! Use your imagination! This exercise should be grounded in something people can relate to, or it's just poncy intellectual hogwash.

Finally, although you did demonstrate mostly sound logic throughout your work, I hope you can see the profound irony and absurdity of trying to define language in its most basic, objective forms while writing in what is perhaps one of the least economical and accessable styles of the last 800 years. Furthermore, it is absolutely inexcusable to refer to a word (story) in abstract terms (" such a word","such an application") for 9 (NINE!) straight paragraphs before revealing what you're referring to.

Since I've observed the way you treated most of the other commenters - from mildly condescending, to completely disrespectful, to downright sociopathic, I'd like to state the following as clearly as possible:

YES, I read the entirety of your blog content and,
YES, I can confidently say I was able to understand all of it.
NO, I will not respond to any response you may have to my comment, unless you feel like actually, y'know, discussing something other than how profoundly ignorant I must be.
DESPITE what I will acknowledge as a tone that is not always easy to distinguish as, shall we say, complimentary - I intended my entire comment to be constructive criticism, scout's honor.
I AM NOT here to debate you.

Darren Tomlyn
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I'm afraid you maybe shouldn't be quite as confident as you say, unfortunately, based on your post here...

I'm afraid the term computer is now used to mean more than just the 'engine' - and in a consistent manner. The word computer now (also?) means a complete collection of components - (not just a CPU) - that can be used to compute - including input and output devices. Many components exist and are labelled, and can therefore be considered, individually, but since they have no function independently, using the term computer for the entire collection of components when used in combination to to enable such computation functionality, just like the wheels on a car, it's chassis, it's engine and a steering wheel for example, is perfectly consistent with the rules of English grammar, and is how the language is currently used.

Yes, the nature of a computer used may depend on its specific application and purpose - (games console/PC/Mac etc.) - but that, again, is a subjective application, and has no place in its definition...

(And the term computer has been used in such a general manner for quite some time, now, even if technicians (and you) etc. don't like it). (I think it means 'programmable', rather than 'program' - and Asimov may disagree with a computer being defined as a 'machine' - (a robot = machine+computer)).

The terms productive and non-productive in this context actually have relatively precise (as possible as it gets), recognised, meaning - just maybe not for those making games, (or yourself), currently.

An activity or behaviour being productive, is placing an emphasis on what is being PRODUCED, by such behaviour, rather than the behaviour itself - such as a particular good, or even reward/money etc. - specifically on behalf of those taking part, in this context. (It is usually applied to monetary rewards in such a manner, though doesn't have to be - (speak to an economist)). In other words - it's not about the activity/behaviour itself, but the reason for it taking place.

Now, some people, because they feel that such rewards and what is being produced are related to, and even defined by, other people - feel that makes work as something people do for others... But even then, however, it's still all about being productive for those taking part - (even slavery is productive for the slaves, even if they hate it - (if it means staying alive, then...)) - even indirectly, so such a description is still inconsistent - (and, of course, another person's perception of someone else's behaviour, again, can be how such a word is applied).

Play, as being non-productive, is all about the behaviour and activity itself, not any rewards in such a manner - not being used to produce anything - and because of that, we therefore have another reason for behaving in such a manner - because it's enjoyable.

Yes, the line between the two is extremely subjective - but that is nothing new. Good and bad are subjective in such a manner too, for similar reasons...

As I said - it's all about being able to separate out the definitions of words from their applications, based on how they are used, and then how we use the language itself to describe such words. If you have problems with the former, then I advise you to find a good English teacher to speak to. If you have problems with the latter - the language I've been using in such a manner - then say so, and do so constructively, but I shouldn't be expected to repost an entire dictionary, especially if it isn't incorrect/inconsistent in such a circumstance.

As to the reason why all this matters - you'll have to wait - I've got an awful lot built upon such a foundation, but it's going to take me a long time to get there, I'm afraid. The main reason for that, is that I still need to spend a bit more time explaining the problems... (And I'm not very well atm, so I haven't been (re-)writing much).

What and how I've written (in) my blog, I have done so for specific reasons - based on a lot of arguments and discussions I've had over the past (5?) years. You may feel I spend too long talking about the nature of the problem(s) and solution(s), rather than the actual problem(s) and solution(s) themselves, but I've written it that way for a good reason. (I.e. if you don't like it/need it, then the chances are it's not aimed at you, specifically). You need to understand that I'm linking to my blog here from elsewhere, outside of the game-design community, too, so I do need to cover and emphasise more than you'd maybe want or need.

Yes, I'll be the first to admit my blog isn't perfect - (I've made a couple of small revisions based on some feedback, only yesterday) - but what people generally argue about is something that already exists outside of my or their influence, that I'm merely reporting on - e.g. how we use the language in the first place - and that IS a problem...

Moses Wolfenstein
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Most people would refer to code/software as the medium rather than computer/hardware as the medium. I would consider it acceptable to say that the medium is both much as a painting can be created using the medium of oil and canvas.

Darren Tomlyn
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The medium is what the relevant people interact with - for games, that is the *players*, and the *players* only interact DIRECTLY with the hardware - usually a keyboard/mouse/gamepad etc., with FEEDBACK via monitor & speakers etc..

The WHOLE thing - the entire computer - is the medium.

The hardware ENABLES the software - NOT the other way round.

The software on a computer is the equivalent of a picture on a board, for a board game - it's part of what makes the game what it is, but is a *condition* of the medium, not the medium itself.

EDIT: For painting - it is the paint itself that is the medium, hence the label. anything the paint is applied TO, is merely a condition of it's use - (canvas, wood, brick/stone etc.).