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What do Videogames do to Art?
by Ian Bogost on 05/18/11 06:37:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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.


Last week the National Endowment for the Arts announced their new call for proposals in an "Arts in Media" category. This category, in the NEA's words, "seeks to make the excellence and diversity of the arts widely available to the American public through the national distribution of innovative media projects about the arts and media projects that can be considered works of art."

The Arts in Media category replaces the previous "Arts on Radio and Television" category, mostly to expand beyond the limits of those two particular platforms. Again, here's how the NEA put it: "The expanded category now includes all available media platforms such as the Internet, interactive and mobile technologies, digital games, arts content delivered via satellite, as well as on radio and television."

It's the last part that got the most attention, largely due to the addition of "digital games," a kind of media that has not traditionally received support from national arts funding.

I've been fielding a lot of press inquiries about the NEA, games, and art since this announcement, and I've been surprised that most of them have mirrored the game trade and enthusiast press's simplistic headlines, all of which amounted to variants on the headline, "Games are Now Art." A few examples:

Escapist, Games Now Legally Considered an Art Form (in the USA)
CNET, Video games are 'art' eligible for your tax dollars
IGN, Government Considers Games Art

This is an unfortunately unsubtle and rather silly response to the NEA's interesting and encouraging move. The reality of the situation is a bit different. Here's how I explained it to Fast Company, which nevertheless ran the sensationalist headline "It's Official: Video Games Are Art":

Ian Bogost, a game designer, critic, and researcher, says that the real news from the NEA announcement wasn't that it had reclassified games as art, but simply that it was actually funding the creation of art again in the first place. Though the Bush years, said Bogost, the NEA mainly relegated its role to the funding of distribution and other peripheral components of art-making. He also called attention to the fact that not just any indie gamer could apply for the grants. The NEA restricts applicants to "nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations; units of state or local government; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes," and while indie game artists could apply, it would have to be in partnership with a nonprofit.

Bogost also wanted to throw the brakes on a tendency he had seen among gamers to celebrate the supposed "legitimacy" the new designation conferred on games. "I think this is encouraging, and we shouldn't belittle it," he conceded of the NEA announcement. At the same time, though, "This is not how culture works," he says. "The way that art and culture develops is messy and weird," and shouldn't come down to the funding decisions of a few government bureaucrats.

"It's best to look at this for what it is," he sums up, "an earnest gesture on the part of the NEA to include more media, and to fund art again."

And that's the truth, right there. It's not bad or anything, it's just far more subtle than these ridiculous ledes lead on.

Another point that I couldn't get across fully in the context of the Fast Company article: the idea that the government has "officially" endorsed games as art is preposterous. They've certainly extended an invitation for the arts community to partake of games, and for (eligible members) of the games community to partake of the extended conversation about art.

See, the games community has it backwards: the point is not to "legitimize" games as art, whatever that would mean. The point is not to shoehorn games into some received, stable, agreed upon notion of what art is, as if there is such a notion. The point is to ask the question, what do videogames do to art? How do they change art, turning it into something new? It's encouraging that the NEA has invited us to consider this question. But its answers are hardly a foregone conclusion.

(Cross-posted from

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Darren Tomlyn
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Games do NOTHING to or for art whatsoever.

All they do is APPLY art in any (or all) of its forms, (that already exist and are defined as art), to enable and promote something else - a FUNCTION - that is defined as, and represented by, the word game.

Games are no different from anything else we create that is defined by its function rather than aesthetics - puzzles, competitions, furniture, consumer electronics, cars etc.. Anything and everything we create can be seen as being created by art - since the process of creating something is described by the word art itself - including the word design - ('the art of making games') - but since they are DEFINED by the function they are created to fulfill, any further use of the word art to describe them - (as 'works of art') - is a separate application of the word art and what it represents upon something in ADDITION to that covered by the word describing its function - (i.e. game, puzzle, washing machine, car, furniture etc.).

The ultimate reason for all the problems people are having here ultimately falls back upon one basic, simple mistake:

Confusing DEFINITIONS of words and what they represent, with their APPLICATIONS. The English language (and many (all?) others) treat these two things separately for a damn good reason! So this problem is caused by not obeying the rules of the English language itself...

A failure of LINGUISTICS.

(Read my blog (click my name) - I go into a bit more detail about the problem, as related to the word game in particular, for the English language specifically).

Mark Kreitler
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I admire the cleanliness of your argument, but it raises some questions.

For example, I can admire any number of urns in various art museums throughout the world. Urns have a function, doesn't that disqualify them as art? Of course, that's silly, because the urns on display were made to be art. But what if I took one and used it to carry water? Does it cease being art once I use it functionally? Is it still art because it's creator intended it that way? If so, what if someone makes a pot for carrying water and I decide it's beautiful and mount it for display? Is it art, now? Is it art just for me? Is it up to everyone to decide for himself?

Then there's the other side of the argument: what is the function of games? Yes, some exist to build a particular skill, but most we consume for enjoyment -- which we experience as intellectual engagement and emotional stimulation. If creating intellectual and emotional stimulation counts as a "function," then isn't art identically functional? If so, isn't it no longer "art"?

As much as I appreciate the argument you've outlined, I think it only serves to reinforce Ian's point: new media overlaps our current definition of "art" in messy ways that will either force us to stretch our definitions, or re-cast some accepted forms of art as "non-art." Either way, we'll have to change how we look at the artistic world.

Darren Tomlyn
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Again - you're mistaking DEFINITIONS (of urns) for APPLICATIONS (of art).

Things we create are DEFINED (and maybe even labelled) by their FUNCTION.

Art = creative story telling.

IF the FUNCTION of something is to exist AS a work of art - then that is how it must be DEFINED - (pictures/films/video/music etc.).

Games, puzzles, competitions, cars, consumer electronics, furniture, pots, urns etc. do NOT EXIST for the purpose of such a function - they exist to fulfill ANOTHER function, by which they must be defined.

Any PERCEPTION of such things AS works of art is therefore a SUBJECTIVE APPLICATION of the word art FOR what it represents UPON such things in ADDITION to their function.

The word game represents a DIFFERENT application of DIFFERENT behaviour (of often DIFFERENT people) to that of the word art. Just because games (and also many other things) are COMPATIBLE with art, does not make them the SAME THING.

Games are about people competing in a structured environment by doing something for themselves - (WRITING their OWN stories). They therefore EXIST independently of art, and are represented as such within the language.

game != art

Labelling a TYPE of game BY its ART, is therefore INCONSISTENT with how the language is USED, and what such words must represent. We don't label board games as 'picture' games for a good reason, yet that is the equivalent of what is happening here with the term 'video' game - it's therefore part of the problem people are having understanding the relationship between games and art.

The true medium by which this type of game should be labelled is of course a computer. Computers are what enable the stories to be *written* and therefore the game to exist - any art used in doing so is just a condition of such a medium, nothing more - which is WHY they can have no place in DEFINING each other!

Mark Kreitler
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I think I'm closer to understanding what you mean, but I'm still not there.

I understand that things are defined by their function, and that one function can be, "To exist as art," but that begs the question of, "what does it mean to exist as art?"

Practically speaking, what does it mean for a film to exist as art? If I create the film with the intent of "being art," then it's art, but if I make the same film with the intent of making money, then it's not art, because the film has a function other than existence?

If so, then isn't it a question of the creator's intent? For example, I could make a doorstop the same size and shape as The Thinker, but since I intend it as a doorstop, it's not art. Meanwhile, The Thinker *is* art, because Rodin intended it that way.

But if creator's intention is all that matters, then games (digital or no) should qualify. Maybe chess is just a collection of small scultpures with movement rules -- not unlike the rules musicians use when playing music.

Yes, this is an absurd argument, but it illustrates where my understanding is falling short. It seems like there's a missing piece of information, and that centers on, "What does it mean to exist as art?"

Darren Tomlyn
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I gave you my definition of art to describe its function:

art = creative story telling.

Anything that exists purely for that purpose - (to tell a creative story) - can therefore be defined as a work of art.

Most things are created to be USED - to fulfill a different function than merely tell such a story.

It's not just about the creators *intent* - it's about the BEHAVIOUR they are designed to fulfil, and people's PERCEPTION of it

Story = An account of events, either real or imaginary, (created and stored inside (a person's) memory). (*An objective representation of a person/entity that such words and the behaviour they represent may be described in relation to and by).

Things people do for themselves = writing stories

Things people do for others = telling stories

Things that happen to people = stories they are told

Art = creative story-telling

Game = competing in a structured environment by writing a story (structured, competitive story-writing)

Puzzle = Either a) interacting with a story being told in order to solve (a difficult?) problem, or b) interacting with a creative story being told - through power of choice, discovery or inquiry.

Competition = 1) The application of, (including the state of), competing - trying to gain a story (outcome), at the expense of, or in spite of, someone, or something else. 2) That being competed against - ('the' competition). 3) An activity in which people compete to be told a story.

Work (noun) = productive story-writing

Play (noun) = Non-productive story-writing

All these words, (except story), as belonging to a type of noun that is related to and derived from VERBS, either directly (for example flight, movement or speech), or abstractly, and can be described as representing applications of behaviour.

The problem is with people (including those who write and create dictionaries and encyclopedias) not fully recognising or understanding WHAT application of WHAT behaviour of WHAT person/people such words ultimately represent based on their use.

Read my blog - (click my name). I haven't got around to art - (or even puzzle which I'm working on) - but I hope there's enough for you to understand the above definitions.

Dustin Chertoff
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This sounds like you are arguing one side of the "does form follow function or does function follow form?" debate. I'm not sure it is really necessary to go down that nebulous route, given that scholars have been arguing that for thousands of years to no avail. Personally, I think the application of rules on what can be art removes the interpretative, subjective component necessary for art to emerge.

As such, I don't think there can ever be a black and white definition of art. Instead, there is a spectrum by which consumers of art can appreciate the intent behind the art. When you look at what are considered to be the great works of art, many of the pieces attempt to capture the emotion of a depicted scene or elicit a particular set of feelings - often it is a combination of both.

Under this description, how powerful a piece of art something can be depends on how well it can convey into the art consumer a scene, in order to elicit a desired emotional response.

For example, Jackson Pollock's work isn't appreciated because of how well he followed rules from art school. Rather, it is appreciated for its ability to convey the frantic, disillusioned feelings Jackson Pollock himself felt at the time of his painting.

The rest of what makes it art is filled in by the art consumer. The consumer interprets what they perceive by searching through their own experiences that reflect the feelings conveyed or elicited by their perceptions. Thus, that which is considered "great art" has a tendency to touch upon the base emotions and experiences shared by humanity at large - loss, joy, success, etc.

This description allows games to be art when they succeed at capturing and eliciting the emotion the artist wants the consumer to have. Similarly, if a game can act as a focal point for the player to reflect upon their own life experiences, the game can achieve the same effect as what is considered a piece of art.

At the same time, a game can just be entertainment if the purpose of the game is not tied to having some greater emotional impact on the player. Music, books, movies, theater - these can all be entertainment, or art, depending on the desired response of the consumer.

Mark Kreitler
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My apologies, Darren. When you said, "art = creative story telling," I wasn't sure if you meant that literally, or as an example of how one *might* define art.

I will visit your blog, as I am still filled with questions.

If the behavior a work is meant to fulfill determines its artistic qualities, that implies a sculptor could never create a decorative urn as a work of art, which seems counterintuitive.

Similarly, if people's perception figures into the equation, then function wouldn't seem to matter. I might look at a battered urn and imply a moving back story about it, and therefore see art. You might see a simple pot.

Obviously, I'm still not getting it. Like I said, I'll check out your blog.

Mark Kreitler
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@Dustin, you nailed where I was going with my above reasoning -- right down to mentioning Pollock.

Thought you also did a great job of summarizing the situation with the NEA's new policy.

Well said on all counts.

Jason Schwenn
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First of all, very fascinating little discussion going here. Very illuminating.

Darren, I'm enjoying following your reasoning and will give it more pondering, but I did want to comment on your initial statement, "Games do NOTHING to or for art whatsoever."

Do video games not, at the very least, provide a new platform or paradigm upon which artists can hurl their artistic sensibilities and talents? And if you meant about games in general, and not just digital/video, is it still not the same? Did not the advent of chess give craftsmen a medium to craft new exquisite boards and pieces with?

@ Dustin: Form follows function, duh.

Darren Tomlyn
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@ Justin, Mark and Jason

As I've been saying right from the word go:


ALL of your problems with art stem from that one, simple mistake - ALL of them.

What we have here is a SIMPLE matter of linguistics:

We have a word (art) and we need to know WHAT it represents based on its use.

The real problems people have with the word art at the minute are:

a) confusing its definition with its application.

Confusing a words' definition with its application is SUCH a basic mistake to make for the use of the English (and probably any other) language, that OF COURSE people are going to have problems.

b) Not understanding the relationship between such a word and the rest of the language, including other, similar words of the same type.

Many of the similar words of this TYPE (of noun) suffer from the same problem - due to such a type not being fully recognised or described for WHAT they represent in relation to each other, let alone the rest of the language itself. (I.e. as applications of behaviour).

c) Getting confused between the two uses? of the word art - without recognising the the behaviour and application thereof being represented is the SAME THING. (Definitions 1 & 2 below).

I'm (or was) intending to get around to describing all this when I get to the post on art (after puzzle), but I guess I'll start here:

The word art has three? (the second is a matter of discussion/argument, though it doesn't matter for its definition*) main 'things' it is used to represent:

1)The act/process/activity of creating something, for ANY reason, in ANY form, (literature/music/dance/food/sculpture/consumer electronics/furniture/architecture/clothing etc. - even the term con-artist applies here, as-well as, say, creative and skilful (aesthetic) play in sport etc.).

2)The end result or product of such creation, when produced to BE art - i.e. when art IS its function - again the term artful can be used in regards to such a creation, (as-well as the process itself, occasionally).

Note: the use of the word art to describe an object created for some other function, would appear to be a subjective APPLICATION of this particular definition.

*Note (2): The use of the term 'work of art' to describe an object would be an application of the FIRST definition, and therefore not require the second at all, which is why it's a matter of discussion as to whether or not it is actually required.

3)The act of performing or teaching such a creation (when applicable) - (martial/performing arts etc.) - in which case it is (usually/always?) considered 'practice' outside of such a performance or teaching.

Note that 1 & 3 can happen simultaneously.

'Creative story-telling' is ALL that is required to describe the word art based upon such use. Anything more would be an APPLICATION, not a DEFINITION.

Games do NOTHING for the definition of art whatsoever. An INDIVIDUAL game may have a use for an INDIVIDUAL SUBJECTIVE APPLICATION of a, (or some), SPECIFIC work(s) of art - but nothing more.

EDIT: You realise though, that many things we create for some specific function, (say, cars), can say the same thing?

EDIT: I'm having a hard time finding a suitable analogy...:-/

Malcolm Miskel
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To say that art = creative story-telling would mean that you can tell a story in an uncreative way. How would you DEFINE that? Is history the antithesis of art?

Mark Kreitler
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Good point. For that matter, what constitutes story telling? Does a Pollock painting tell a story, or capture a feeling? What about an abstract sculpture? Are there artists who don't intend their works to tell stories, but to simply, "be?"

Wow. This is hard. :)

Darren Tomlyn
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How creative something has to be in order to be a work of art, involving our imagination, or purely a work of fact, is part of its application and therefore subjective. The news, for instance, should NOT be creative - it should be a story based on fact with creativity kept to a minimum necessary for the story to be told at all. Of course, we all know that that isn't always - (if anything it's probably rare that it is) - the case... Anything we do NOT create, of course, also tells a story, yet is not (or shouldn't be) considered to be art.

Everything we do that is perceived by someone else is a story we tell. Only if we create it for the purpose of such telling, or it is perceived to have been, will it be, and should be, considered to be (and defined/labelled as) (a work of) art.


My definition of art is based on the use of the word for what it represents, FOR it to be applied in such a manner as it is recognised to be.

The definition of art I have given, is based on its (and it's equivalents in other languages), CONSISTENT USE, by HUMANITY as a whole, worldwide, for MILLENNIA - possibly as long as such a concept has existed. That what the word art represents is so basic and fundamental, is the main reason this has happened and is the case, still, today.

Where do the lines lie? Between DIFFERENT applications of DIFFERENT behaviour by and of DIFFERENT people!


Story = An account of events, either real or imaginary, (created and stored inside (a person's) memory). (*An objective representation of a person/entity that such words and the behaviour they represent may be described in relation to and by).

Things people do for themselves = writing stories

Things people do for others = telling stories

Things that happen to people = stories they are told

The use of the word story to help describe such a thing is, IMO, even more precise as to the nature of the behaviour itself.

Games do NOT affect the definition of art for one simple reason:

They are DEFINED by DIFFERENT applications of DIFFERENT behaviour - and even are ONLY compatible when applied by DIFFERENT people! Therefore game and art can NEVER be the same thing! Even watching a game is NOT enough to consider it to be art BECAUSE it's a GAME - it's art merely because it's a (creative) PERFORMANCE (story telling).

Bad analogy alert: The definition or application of art affects the definition of game (or vice-versa) as much as the definition or application of metal affects the definition of the word furniture. Furniture and metal may be compatible, (in that metal can be used to make furniture), but they exist completely separately and have no place in DEFINING each other. What does metal bring to the word furniture itself? NOTHING. WHY? Because furniture doesn't have to BE metal in order to exist. WHY? Because the word furniture represents a type of item defined by its FUNCTION, not its properties, which the word metal merely CAN be used to represent. (Which is why we need to use the words metal and furniture in combination in order specify such a use and property).

Now, if art ENABLED the property a game had that defined it as a game, then the above would be a perfect analogy - but it does NOT. This is why labelling a type of game by its art ('video' game) is INCONSISTENT.

Games are DEFINED by the stories that are/can be WRITTEN by the player(s) during the game itself - by their BEHAVIOUR.

The basic games are:

A race.

Structured combat. (Can't think of a better description - see my blog).

Competitive throwing/movement for accuracy/precision, distance or time.

EVERY GAME IN EXISTENCE IS DERIVED FROM THESE - (or it is NOT a game - usually a puzzle or competition mislabelled - (of which there are QUITE a few!)).

Such a written story CAN be enabled by art, (by someone else - (its creator) telling a creative story), but is completely OPTIONAL, based on a subjective application of such a thing, and therefore has no place in its (either) DEFINITION.

Yes - the original Olympic games WERE games! (Now, not so much - there's a few competitions (boxing/ice skating/diving etc.) thrown in too).

What matters for art is that it is PERCEIVED as a creative story being told - (that the definition of creative story telling can then be applied to upon the creator of such a thing).

EVERYTHING we create CAN be seen as being (a work of) art. But UNLESS such a thing exists purely for that function, it will not be DEFINED by as or as art. Most things are created for other functions that therefore give them their definition.

Games are DEFINED by their FUNCTION - the WRITTEN stories they enable and promote, and can be LABELLED, and types created, by and based on any OPTIONAL media used that enables such stories to be written. (Boards, cards, balls, dice etc.). Art is NOT such a medium. (A COMPUTER, however, IS).

Since the media used for games still exist INDEPENDENTLY of the word game in itself, and vice-versa, and are words used in COMBINATION with the word game itself, they still have no place in DEFINING the word game for what it represents - they are merely part of its (subjective) APPLICATION.

Game would ONLY affect art if it was part of its definition, and basic application. Since ALL of the applications of art found in games ALREADY EXIST, independently of games, this CANNOT be true.

art != game ('video' game = art + game)

metal != furniture

bird != colour

board != game

paint != art

picture (creative) = art

painting = art

music = art

acting (creative/performance) = art

sculpture = art

race = game

((c)RP(G) = MEDIUM, not written story! (Inconsistent with computer game(s))

Mark Kreitler
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I think I finally understand. The definition of art, whatever that might be, is independent of any work that expresses that definition.

I might consider an urn to be a "work of art," but I am applying the definition of art to the urn. The definition exists independent of the urn.

So, linguistically, we should re-phrase the question du jour, "Can games be art," to "Can games be considered works of art." I believe that's the debate Ebert accidentally sparked several years ago, and the one to which the sensationalist headlines appeal.


While I agree that this is a better statement of the question, I wonder if it's so easy to assert that, "Games do nothing for art whatsoever." If, as a result of the "are games works of art," debate we rethink our definition of art, then they have had an impact.

Games may not affect your definition: "art is creative story telling," but

then again, they may. What constitutes creative story telling? Where do its boundries end and "game play" begin? If we think about those shifting borders, aren't we changing the nuances of the definition "art as creative story telling?"

Or, more likely, I've just misunderstood everything again. I appreciate your patience in this exchange.

Darren Tomlyn
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Doh - see my reply to Malcolm above)

Dustin Chertoff
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So, if by your definition a game is not art, how then can you consider books, paintings, theater, movies and music art? They are all simply a medium for the transmission of a creative message.

Books = paper + ink + creativity

Paintings = canvas + brush + paint + creativity

Theater = people + music + dance + sets + live audience + creativity

Movies = Theater - live audience

Music = people + instruments + sheet music (a form of book) + creativity

In all of these cases, there are aspects that act as the medium for transmitting the message, and then there is the message itself. As you said: "What matters for art is that it is PERCEIVED as a creative story being told." Therefore, you cannot say that

"video game = art + game"

or, in more expanded terms,

video game = "creativity story" + game

but also claim that

music = art

as really,

music = people + instruments + sheet music (a form of book) + creativity.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you are trying to separate the medium from the message. If you do that, then the part that is art is the message. Everything else is simply a different way to express that message.

So, a better definition then, is that games, books, film, stages, etc. are necessary items when one wishes to convey something artistic. These objects are not necessarily also art, unless the medium is intended to be the message.

Jamie Mann
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Personally, I think that defining art as "creative storytelling" is overly limiting. It eliminates all forms of abstract art - including instrumental music, and it also potentially eliminates art from other cultures: story telling requires a context, and if I'm not aware of the context for a particular item, then the story will be lost.

Sure, I can construct a story around a context-less item, but that may well result in an interpretation that's nothing like the intent of the original creator. And it also weakens the definition of art, as you can make up a story about anything - an empty coffee cup, a traffic cone, a single blade of grass, a chocolate-bar wrapper, etc. I can define a creative story around each of these, but will the original object then be a work of art?

My personal definition of art is simpler: it's manmade (or at least conciously framed by a human - for instance, a photo of a landscape) and it evokes thought and/or emotions. Can games do this? Yes. Do all games do this? No. But then again, there's a lot of paintings/sculptures/music/poems/films/books which also don't evoke emotion...

Dustin Chertoff
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Andy Warhol made his living by combining ordinary, garbage like objects into something greater. In a way, you could say that for something to be considered art, there must be constructivism. I'm referring to the learning theory of Constructivism here, and not the actual Russian pre-revolution art movement.

From wikipedia, constructivism states that "humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas." In other words, we form new ideas and express those ideas by combining our observations. Essentially, it is a transformative process.

Thus, art is what emerges when more base ideas or materials are combined in a manner such that they evoke an experience in the viewer.

This allows a chocolate bar wrapper to simply be a wrapper, or as a component of art if it is used in a transformative manner.

Darren Tomlyn
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Games represent, and therefore exist to enable (and promote), a DIFFERENT application of DIFFERENT BEHAVIOUR from art in general - which is why art and game are defined and used completely independently of each other within the language in the first place!

game != art

music = art in EXACTLY the same way as a race = game - (although, to be honest, music itself maybe isn't quite as fundamental to art as a race is to game...*).

(I hate having to say the same thing over and over because people don't quite understand... :-/ ).

game = structured competitive story writing

art = creative story telling.

The basic games - the basic applications of behaviour the word game represents


a race

stuctured combat

competitive movement/throwing for accuracy/precision, distance or time.

The basic form of art is:

The process/act of creating something that tells a story.

Since EVERYTHING we create TELLS a/the story of its creation - EVERYTHING we create CAN be seen and recognised AS a work of art!


Only that we create whose PURPOSE of creation, either intended or perceived, is to TELL such a story, can be DEFINED as being a work of art! Anything we create that is perceived as telling such a story, however, regardless of any other additional function, can also be LABELLED as a work of art, but only as a purely individual subjective application of art based on an individual's opinion.

For this reason, there a few such basic forms of art - (all of human creation):



*Organised sound - (does not necessarily have to be considered 'music' to tell a story - (i.e. 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/*cooking*

Spoken language

(Not sure how to describe this one - but anything created specifically because of how they smell - such as perfumes etc.).

Every other form of art is derived from these. Obviously, although all of these can be used to enable and promote art (a creative story being told) in and for itself - many can also be used to enable and promote other functionality and behaviour - if that should happen then that is how they must be defined as and by.


Art represents an APPLICATION OF BEHAVIOUR - it is/can? also used to represent and describe the results of such behaviour if it is consistent with the nature of such an application of behaviour itself.

One of the reasons why art has been argued about for so long is the lack of recognition of this. Art as an application of behaviour has been confused with art representing a 'thing' etc..

Emotions etc. are NOT BEHAVIOUR in themselves, (which is why they're not, or not derived from, (directly or abstractly), verbs - they're adjectives or nouns related to (directly or abstractly) (such) adjectives), and therefore have NO PLACE WHATSOEVER in its DEFINITION, they're merely a (subjective, conditional) side-effect of such behaviour itself.

Not obeying the rules of English Grammar is the fundamental reason why we're having so many problems in the first place.

Art represents an application - (being creative) - of behaviour - (story telling).

It is IMPOSSIBLE, based on the use of the language and its rules, to be any more specific than this and still be consistent with how the word is used and what it is used to represent when doing so. To be any more specific than this is to turn it into an APPLICATION, instead of a definition, or apply something ELSE to and upon art in itself.

By involving emotion - a property you gain - using adjectives or another type of noun representing an application of such a thing - that is what you've done.

Verbs and adjectives are not used to represent the same thing. They can represent different aspects and APPLICATIONS of certain ideas and concepts, but that is not consistent with how you're trying to use the language here.


Act = verb = the behaviour of doing something (a thing that happens)

active = adjective = the property of behaving (doing something)

action/activity = noun = an application of act/doing something/behaving

actor = noun = a thing that behaves/acts)

Artful, for example is an adjective, related to the word art - representing the property something - (either a thing in itself or a thing that has happened) - can have as containing/displaying the application of behaviour represented by the word art - (telling a creative story).

Dustin Chertoff
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Tea Kettle = object used to brew tea

but, it can also have the property of being a "Sculpted and/or painted porcelain/metallic object."

An object who's primary function is not to be art, can still be artful.

Following this, would you say that the primary function of a game is not to be art, but that games can be artful?

Darren Tomlyn
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Yes - which is the whole point.

Games are not art - but may simply USE art (for what it already represents and as it exists) to enable and promote such a thing - (the application of behaviour we call a game). Puzzles and competitions can also be enabled the same way.

Games CAN be seen as a work of art, yes - but only as a subjective application of art FOR what it represents. But then, EVERYTHING we create can be seen the same way...

Which is what I've been saying all along...

Adam Bishop
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I would say that art is anything which is created to express something. Did you make a film because you saw a gap in the market that you thought you could make money from? Not art. Did you make dinner for your partner in such a way that you intended it to express your love for them? Art. Clean, simple, functional explanation. There's no need to get bogged down in abstract philosophical arguments about the nature of human language.

Darren Tomlyn
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No - it is possible for something to be perceived as art without being intended as such.

Dustin Chertoff
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Good, now that I finally understand what you are trying to say, I can disagree with your explanation with a clear conscience. That's not to say that I disagree with the ultimate delineation you are trying to make - that is, that games are not by definition art. But your argument is flawed.

1) You present a definition of art that is so broad, you must also define games as art and 2) your definition of game is not completely compatible to the definition of a video game.

1) Your definition of art.

You said: "Art represents an application - (being creative) - of behaviour - (story telling)."

To paraphrase, art is the creative application of behavior to tell a story. The story could be something concrete (I went to the store), or abstract (I was upset but became happy).

Also: "Only that we create whose PURPOSE of creation, either intended or perceived, is to TELL such a story, can be DEFINED as being a work of art!"

Or, if something is created with the intent, or perceived intent, to tell a story, then it can be defined as a work of art.

Well, by that definition, so long as I perceive that Joe Schmoe wanted to tell me a story by peeing in a fountain, then the act of peeing in the fountain is, by your definition, a work of art.

This is the flaw in your definition of what constitutes art. Since your definition leaves intent open to interpretation of whether or not a story is being told, everything can be interpreted as a work of art. Therefore, even a puzzle must be considered a work of art, if there exists someone that perceives a story is being told through the puzzle.

2) Compatibility of your Game definition and Video Games

You define a basic game as one of three things: a race, stuctured combat or competitive movement/throwing for accuracy/precision, distance or time.

Your definition is slightly redundant. A race is, after all, a competition over distance and time. Similarly, structured combat is at its core a competition about space and movement. But that's besides the point. Really, what you are saying in this definition is that games are competitions.

You also say that "Games are about people competing in a structured environment by doing something for themselves - (WRITING their OWN stories)."

Which led to a definition of a game as "structured competitive story writing"

Well, that's a really broad definition of a game, and very likely includes things that are not games. In fact, this later definition of a game contradicts your previous definition that games are limited to the three types of basic activities you suggest.

For example, consider two sculptors competing to sculpt the best statue in one day to tell the same story. Under your definition, this competition is a game. The environment has rules on what story should be told, and how much time the sculptors have to finish. The manner in which the sculptors sculpt is them "writing their own stories." However, all of the tasks performed are what you would define as art, since you claim sculpting is equivalent to art.

The above scenario doesn't really describe a game though. In fact, I'd following your initial definition, it really describes a competition, or more to the point for this case, an art competition.

Therefore, there must be something that defines a game beyond competition - else creating art can be a game, which would violate your statement that by definition, games are not art. For this, I'd suggest we use Jesse Schell's definition of a game: "A game is a problem solving activity, approached with a playful attitude." Competition then exists within the methods used to solve a problem.

Video games are not strictly competitions. They can include competitive elements, but can include other elements such as music, narrative, and acting. Thus, your definition of competition (what you call game) is not equivalent to calling something a game, or even a video game.

In fact, video games tend to be transformative works. The act of transforming the everyday into something that tells a story was at the core of an entire art movement (see Andy Warhol). This implies that transformative works can be considered as art.

Therefore, while not all video games are art, some can be, so long as they transform their underlying components into something with the power of expression. After all, when I create a game, my intent, in fact, the predominant purpose of my creating the game, is to tell a story that can have an impact on the player. Therefore, my games would have to be considered works of art, even if no one else agreed with me.

Darren Tomlyn
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Again - do NOT confuse APPLICATIONS WITH DEFINITIONS. (How many times must I repeat that?)

"Well, by that definition, so long as I perceive that Joe Schmoe wanted to tell me a story by peeing in a fountain, then the act of peeing in the fountain is, by your definition, a work of art."

You REALLY do not understand the fundamentals of language do you?

Words are used to represent an idea or concept - (EDIT: a piece of information). HOW such an idea or concept - such information is then PERCEIVED, and APPLIED, is down to an INDIVIDUAL'S SUBJECTIVE OPINION.

The use of the word art is NO EXCEPTION.

The ONLY thing that really matters for considering something a work of art - is how such a definition is APPLIED.

As I said, it can be applied both through INTENT, and through PERCEPTION - both of which are SUBJECTIVE as a matter of course.

The problem you seem to have is nothing more than deciding which is more important? But that's a question ONLY YOU CAN ANSWER FOR YOURSELF.

Is it art because he made it as a work of art? In my personal OPINION, a lot of modern art these days exists for precisely that reason. It is therefore reflected in how the word is USED. Is it art if I perceive it as art? I actually don't consider a lot of this modern art to be art at all - but that's my own SUBJECTIVE opinion, which is also consistent with how the word is USED.

Welcome to the human race - we're a collection of individuals, each with our own subjective perceptions and opinions - our language is DOING IT'S JOB in allowing us to express such individuality by it's USE.

The problem, is when such individuality affects what people perceive the language itself to MEAN in a manner that is NOT consistent with it's USE.


Puzzles, games and competitions all represent DIFFERENT applications of DIFFERENT behaviour than that of the word art, based on how they are USED!

They CANNOT, therefore, be DEFINED as art at all, since they exist to represent DIFFERENT functionality. Such functionality may be ENABLED by art itself, but that does not DEFINE them AS art!

ALL of the problems you are running into are due to the nature of how such applications of behaviour are COMPATIBLE.

Having a race to solve a puzzle or create a piece of art etc. is an APPLICATION of what BOTH words - game AND puzzle/art - represent, in a COMPATIBLE manner, since it uses both of them FOR what they represent - solving a puzzle/creating a work of art is used to PROMOTE a game - but the behaviour that defines the game exists ABOVE AND BEYOND the puzzle/art itself - therefore neither affects the DEFINITION of the other. What DEFINES the activity as a race, has nothing to do with it being a puzzle or art etc., or vice-versa.

COMPETITION, as a basic APPLICATION OF COMPETE, is part of the APPLICATION of what the word game represents in relation to its basic behaviour.

Competition != game

compete: trying to gain an outcome/goal (story), a the expense of, or in spite of, someone or something else.

Games are about people competing, (directly or indirectly), within a structured environment, BY writing their own stories. (Structured, competitive story-writing).

Games are NOT play (noun)! Games can, and are played (verb!) for work! (noun). As is music/concert etc.... (hint - same type of word).

Video = art

Video game = art + game

game != art

a race != art

structured combat != art

competitive throwing/movement != art

Games may be ENABLED by art - just like puzzles or competitions, or washing machines, cars, consumer electronics - but are not DEFINED BY OR AS IT.

Any perceptions of games AS art - is a SUBJECTIVE APPLICATION of the word art for what it represents IN and FOR ITSELF, upon such a thing in ADDITION to it being a game, and can have no place in ANY definition!

COMPUTERS use art to enable and promote a game, but are/must NOT (BE) DEFINED BY IT.

Board/card/ball/dice games use art to enable and promote a game, but are NOT DEFINED BY IT - merely LABELLED as a type BY the MEDIUM USED. We use words such a ball, dice etc. in COMBINATION with the word game for this very reason!

The label of 'VIDEO' in combination with the word game is INCONSISTENT with what the word game represents and its use within the language as a whole! Video is NOT the medium which enables such games to exist! A COMPUTER IS!

game != art

Blinky Comix
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Grants for creating your interactive, online thing.

No wait- don't bother to apply-

I could use the money.

Tejas Oza
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I read these headlines myself recently and find myself somewhat confused. I agree with Mr. Bogost that Art, in any of its forms, need not be legitimized by a government for it to be considered Art. What I've never understood is why there's such a need for games to be widely considered art to begin with.

As far as I see it, video games are just that - Video Games. Sure, gamers and people who make games would love to be given their dues for their work. I understand this all too well. If you think its hard telling people that you want to go into this Industry and be taken seriously, you really ought to try to do the same in India. Despite my own set of hardships in being recognized for the craft I wish to pursue, I don't bandy about trying to sell video games off as art.

The main reason people still argue about whether games are Art or not is because of the abstract nature of the word. /Anything/ can be art. Trying to force a tangible definition of it onto society then becomes counter intuitive in my opinion.

What I'm trying to say is this - Let games be games. Let them speak for themselves and like anything that is created and crafted with care and attention to detail, people's perception of it will change over time. The trick is being patient and putting your best foot forward so that people recognize what you do for what it is. Who knows, we may even develop a new term for what we do as game-makers. We don't really need someone else to affirm what we all believe.

On that note - Putting our best foot forward is sometimes harder than it might sound. *cough* EA *cough*

Dustin Chertoff
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The whole notion that the NEA solicitation for grants indicated that games are art is absurd. Nowhere in the solicitation is that claim ever made. In fact, looking at the guidelines for what constitutes an appropriate grant, were you to propose the development of any ole game, you would be denied.

What the solicitation is saying is that you can now use games as a delivery mechanism FOR art. That is the only thing that was changed - they have no allowed for more delivery mechanisms to receive funding. As an example of how silly these headlines are, consider that the Internet was added as an appropriate media platform. Does this then mean that all individual webpages are art? Personally, I would have a hard time recognizing 4Chan as art.

Therefore, games themselves are not art, in the same way that an empty warehouse converted into an art gallery is not art. A game, therefore, can now be used as a delivery mechanism to introduce, discuss, and appreciate that which is recognized as art by society.

Steven An
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I'd love to see more creative interactive "art" exhibits, whether they're "games" or not.

Darren Tomlyn
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I've just realised - (another post at root for this I think) - do the NEA already include (created) PUZZLES (of all kinds/types - even using a computer) - for such a grant?

The reason I ask, is that puzzles (we create), by their very nature, are FAR closer to being an application of art than games could ever be.

(There is (or can be) a difference between puzzles we create and those we do not).


Because such puzzles rely on art to exist. (Games in general do not).

Puzzle = (2) interacting with a creative story being told, (ART!), though power of choice, discovery or inquiry.

(P.s. interacting with dialogue/literature (choose your own adventure books etc.) is just such a thing - a maze in literary form).

William Collins
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If you consider video games art, then they are; if you don't, then they aren't. It really is that simple. Let's move on.

Harry Teasley
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Darren, you don't have a very compelling notion of Art: it excludes much that is uncontroversially Art, and it could include much that would be uncontroversially considered Not Art. There's a lot of sloppiness in your terms, like Game, Puzzle, Creative, Story, Application,... your taxonomy is a lot less robust, and a lot more self-referential, than I think you intend.

Art is that which produces an aesthetic response in the audience. As such, I think games are open to be Art, although I'm not certain any have yet risen to the occasion, beyond what Brian Moriarty would call kitsch.

JB Vorderkunz
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I agree, but using your own logic games have undoubtedly already achieved artistic status, just not for you personally :) Lots of folks have already responded aesthetically to games like BioShock and Heavy Rain - if you are waiting for a game that EVERYONE responds to, well, *that* painting novel or film doesn't exist either...

Darren Tomlyn
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Art represents an APPLICATION OF BEHAVIOUR, based on its place in the English language according to its rules. (As a noun related to/derived from (abstractly) verbs).

The question then, is simply WHAT application of WHAT behaviour (and also WHOSE) it represents.

The ONLY place an audience has regarding the word art is in its APPLICATION, and therefore they have NO PLACE WHATSOEVER in its DEFINITION. This is fully consistent with how our language is used - subjective applications of (hopefully) objective definitions.

Again - you are mistaking applications with definitions and breaking the basic rules of English grammar in doing so.


Game is DEFINED by the BEHAVIOUR of its PLAYER(s)

Puzzle is DEFINED by the BEHAVIOUR of those interacting with it - ('doing' it).

Mark Kreitler
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I think I finally understand. Mostly.

The behavior of the consumer defines the object consumed:

If you 'play' it, it's a game.

If you 'solve' it, it's a puzzle.

This is an oversimplification, but it's the root of the system, no?

This still seems to raise questions.

First, what is the verb we use to describe the behavior of the creator or art? Going be previous definitions, it would have to convey: "to make [an object] for the purpose of creative story telling." For simplicity, let's use the word Create with a capital 'C'. Therefore:

If you Create it, it's art.

When I reflect on my own Creation, I see no distinction between my game designs or my writing. When I conceive a game design, I draft the rules to produce a particular experience for the audience. When I write a story, I craft the events for the same reason. In both cases, when I'm done, I have no idea who, if anyone, will consume the art object, and to some degree, it doesn't matter, because I have completed the Creation process and found satisfaction in it.

In both cases, I Create. If this verb defines the result, my 'game' is as much art as my story.

Conversely, if my 'game' is, by definition, NOT art, then the definition doesn't stem from the verb Create. I think you're hinting at this, here:

Art is defined by the behavior of the creator.

Game is defined by the behavior of the players.

Puzzle is defined by the behavior of the solvers.

For 'games' and 'puzzles', the creator's behavior has no relevance, so in order for us to know whose behavior to use as a definition, we have to already know if we're looking at a game, puzzle, or art. In other words, there must exist a definition which supercedes the "behavior of the creator/audience.'

You have said that as well. To paraphrase your definitions:

-- If I tell a Story meant for someone else, it's art.

-- If you and I create a Story together, it's a game.

-- If you tell yourself a Story, it's a puzzle.

where I've taken the liberty of writing 'Story,' to indicate any abstract creative act.

But these definitions aren't orthogonal, owing to the following case:

What if I tell you *how* to tell a story?

Here are some examples:

Written music is a set of rules which, when followed, produce a Story.

The script of a play will, when followed, produce a Story.

The rules for chess, when followed, produce a Story.

The rules for solitaire, when followed, produce a Story.

At this point, it's tempting to fall back to the 'verb-defines-the-creation' argument and say, "We know chess differs from music because of the action of the players." Tempting as it is, we can't do that, because, in order to know whether to look at the players' verb or the creator's, we have to know if we're looking at a game or art, and we only know that from the definitions which imply that music and chess are the same thing.

This is not to say I believe music and chess *are* the same, but to point out the remaining gaps in my understanding of your theory.

Darren Tomlyn
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@ Mark

I'm afraid your descriptions of behaviour are not SIMPLE or FUNDAMENTAL enough!

This is causing you problems later in your post, and, in this case, confusing the application with the behaviour.


The fundamental problem we have, is a matter of LINGUISTICS:

We need to figure out what certain words within the language represent, based on how they are used, and then be able to use the language ITSELF, to describe such words for what they represent in a manner that shows not just what they are in ISOLATION, but also in RELATION to the rest of the language and each other if necessary - (which, for these words, and the problems we have, most certainly is).

The whole reason WHY we're having problems understanding what these words represent, is that the people who SHOULD be doing such a thing correctly, have not.

The words we're concerned about here, are obviously game and art - but puzzles and competition(s) are causing problems too - (as-well as work and play (as nouns)).

One of the reason why this particular group of words are causing problems, is because of a lack of consistent understanding and recognition of the type of word - (or rather - the sub-type) - they belong to. These words are not just nouns - they all belong to the same TYPE of noun.

All of the background to this matter/problem is explained in my blog - I suggest you read it.



(Verbs = things that happen).

Or, because people have a problem getting confused between 'things' and 'things that happen':

This type of word = APPLICATIONS of BEHAVIOUR

Story is merely used as an objective representation of a person/entity by which such (very basic!) behaviour can be described in relation to:

Story n. An account of events, either real or imaginary, (created and stored inside (a person's) memory).

The word story is used as representing an intangible thing - a form/arrangement of information, that exists independently of any application, state or quality in a manner consistent with the rules of English grammar. We therefore use other words, such as tell, short, good etc. in combination with the word story in order to give such an application, state or quality.

(A person's) memory is the ONLY place an imaginary story can exist in isolation, in a manner consistent with such use. This allows us to use the word story to describe (people's) (basic) behaviour in an objective manner.

The behaviour that these words represent applications of (apart from a couple of uses of competition) can therefore be described as:

Something a person does for themselves = writing a story

Something a person does for others = telling a story

Something that happens to a person = a story they are told.

Again, such descriptions are MORE precise as to the nature of the behaviour in relation to a person, than just 'for themselves/others' since that tends to imply intent, which may not necessarily exist.

The three forms of behaviour as described above - some of the most basic behaviour possible - (it doesn't include things done TO others, though none of these words require such a description) - are all that is necessary to describe these words in relation to each other.

What is then necessary, is to find the correct words to use in COMBINATION with such descriptions in order to provide the APPLICATION of such behaviour they are used to represent.

The use of the word creative, to represent the act of making something that would not otherwise exist, ultimately through our imagination, is NOT the BEHAVIOUR the word art represents an application of.

The reason for that, is that we can create things - ideas etc. in our own memories, using our imagination, that are not art in themselves. Only when APPLIED to the behaviour described by story-telling would such creations then be able to be seen as being a work of art.

Art = Creative story-telling = application + behaviour in relation to an objective representation of a person/entity.

Doh - g2g...

Read my blog and see if you can understand how everything fits together in relation to this 'thing' we call story...

Adam Bishop
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Words are DEFINED by USAGE. They're just sounds and symbols. They mean what people intend them to mean.

Darren Tomlyn
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@ adam - read my replay above - and read my blog...

The problem is that the PERCEPTION of the MEANING, and DEFINITIONS of words is INCONSISTENT with their USE!

Weston Wedding
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I like to CAPITALIZE words to EMPHASIZE points in an incredibly ANNOYING manner!

Is that art?

Darren Tomlyn
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I'd use italics or bold [i][/i] [b][/b] tags if I could?

Adam Bishop
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@ Darren

I don't believe that's the case at all. It seems as though you believe you've hit upon something important and refuse to accept that other people use words to mean something other than what you want them to mean. Words are just symbols; they can (and do) mean whatever people want them to mean.

JB Vorderkunz
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You want everyone to believe that you and YOU ALONE have discovered the TRUTH. The problem is that your philosophy is a confused mix of neo-platonic aesthetics and linguistic formalism. IF you were well read, or just familiar with more sources than Wikipedia, you might realize that nothing you've said is actually original. I don't say that to be harsh, I say that because you are clearly earnest in your pursuit of the truth, but instead of standing on the shoulders of giants you're shouting up from beneath their feet. Again, anyone as passionate about these topics as you are should be encouraged, but attempting to cast yourself as Prometheus is not the way to go about it. :)

Darren Tomlyn
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This is PURELY a matter of linguistics and nothing more.

We have some words and we do not know for sure what they represent, because the language used to describe them isn't doing it's job, and so education/information about such words is also inconsistent - (subjective/incomplete/inaccurate).

Words are being DEFINED based NOT upon their USE, but the PERCEPTION of what they represent, both in isolation AND in relation to the rest of the language regardless of such use.

There are many reasons why people have been arguing about the meaning of such words and their equivalents for MILLENNIA, even as WHAT such words are used to represent has remained consistent throughout in regards to humanity itself, but the USE of the language in describing what OTHER WORDS in the language represents, has to remain the WORST, most ARTIFICIAL reason of all.

This is such a basic matter of linguistics in regards to the English language that ALL of the problems I see with these words SHOULD NEVER HAVE EXISTED for anywhere near this long - centuries at least for this particular language, (the time will depend on the individual words of course), and MILLENNIA for language as a whole.

And yet here we are...

As I said - read my blog first in order to gain enough context for what I'm talking about, before trying to complain about such obvious things as the nature of linguistics itself.

JB Vorderkunz
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I'm not going to take the time to read all your blog entries, because I've read similar arguments debated by professional philosophers dating back thousands of years. If you want more people to listen to you, you need to start referencing the WEALTH of thought on these topics, instead of insisting you're the first to contemplate them successfully.

Darren Tomlyn
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Then I'll ignore you since you'll never fully consistently understand the problem, which is WHY IT'S NOT BEEN SOLVED ALREADY.

This is NOT about philosophy! If anything it's the OPPOSITE.

This a SIMPLE, BASIC, FUNDAMENTAL matter of LINGUISTICS, in relation to, and for, the English Language.

We have a group of words, that based upon their USE, represent some basic, simple concepts. The reason WHY they've never been fully recognised FOR what they represent in such a manner is:

a) WHAT the words represent is always described in ISOLATION, when what they represent CANNOT EXIST in isolation.

b) Such words are DEFINED AND DESCRIBED for WHAT they represent based on people's SUBJECTIVE PERCEPTIONS, rather than the USE of the language itself. (Which is exactly what linguistics (should!) exists to counteract!).

b-2) Such words are perceived for how WHAT they represent is APPLIED, or HOW they are being applied TO, rather than their USE.

c) The TYPE of word they belong to, and their relationship to the rest of the language due to such a thing, as dictated by the rules of the language itself, is NOT fully recognised or understood.

(If the word game, for example, is not understood for what it represents in relation to the rest of the language, and is not understood for what it represents in relation to its application, they why are people surprised that its meaning has become SUBJECTIVE? It's become COMPLETELY ISOLATED within the language itself! (Which is why it's being pulled all over the place at this time).

Throw all that lot together and you get the complete and utter mess we have at the minute.

Noun, verb, adjective, game, art, puzzle, competition, work and play are ALL affected, either in isolation and/or in relation to each other by such problems at this time.

(The word story is also a problem, but it has a place in helping to solve the problems with the words above).

THIS is what my blog exists to deal with - although I'm a bit stumped with at least one problem - (describing adjectives and the related nouns in a consistent manner - (no equivalent of the word behaviour from what I can see)) - but at least I've recognised that there is such a problem in the first place...

(Strength is an application of strong - agility/agile - colour/red etc.).

READ MY BLOG. (Though you can skip the intro if you want!). BY not reading my blog you completely forfeit any constructive input you may have been able to add to the problem, because you won't understand the problem itself.

If it was up to me - I'd be going to Uni next year and dealing with all this stuff there - I've been advised/told to do so, based on the single problem with the word story itself - but that PALES in comparison to the some of the other problems I've found - unfortunately, it's way too late to do that now for next year...

The problems are simply caused by people not obeying the rules of English grammar when it comes to the linguistic study and identification/education/information about such words in the language itself.

As I said, basic, simple, and even logical - nothing more.

When dictionaries don't even recognise the relationship between words representing concepts and their application - (able and ability for example) - even though it's OBVIOUS - then you should have some idea of just how BASIC these problems truly are!

JB Vorderkunz
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Darren - Absolutely go to 'Uni'!

You are passionate and the creative confines they will place on you will do a lot for you - I wish you luck, and again, I don't mean to sound all ad hominem in this discussion, i am honestly trying to provide constructive criticism.

Darren Tomlyn
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The reason I'm passionate is because of what I see as being possible for games - (especially COMPUTER games) - once they are fully understood and recognised for what they truly are.

Recognising the difference between someone WRITING (their own) story, and merely interacting with a story being told... (Heavy Rain for instance, is about the latter, not the former), would be a good start.

I'm afraid the ONLY way any criticism you have to offer will be constructive, is in relation to the contents of my blog... No way round that I'm afraid...

My blog here exists for a reason - to provide a reference for which all my posts can be taken in context with so I don't have to try and explain the same thing over and over and over and over again - (like I have here...).

If you wish to know and understand more about games - (in addition to their relationship with the English language and competition(s) (so far - I'm working on the post for puzzle - (it's pretty tricky))) then you MUST read my blog!

Unfortunately I don't know if Uni the year after next is going to be an option either - it all depends on whatever happens before then... (And money and other stuff... (Though it would help if the relevant person in the English language faculty would actually reply to my emails first to arrange a meeting). (Dr Anthea Fraser Gupta of Leeds University (I'm in the UK) was the first expert I ran some of this by, (followed by a couple of English teachers) just to check I was doing what I thought I was doing - (applying the rules of English grammar correctly) - and she took one look at what I had, said it was correct, and told me to go to Uni. Then I had to move to Leicester at really short notice... :-/ ).

Martin Juranek
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On one side, I agree with you about games not being art.

But then same writing (something writen, not act of) is not art either.

And sculpture, and anything else. Only art is art.

But in same meaning as people say that literature "is art" (they don't say evertything written) some subcategory of games "is art".

But most of games i know are equivalent to most of moovies, some are not art at all (educational games ~ documentary moovies).

The fact that player co-creates story being told by behaving is not in principle (but definitely in scale in some computer games (btw. I hate term video game) ) different from reader co-creating story by imagining things not explicitely written.

For example, playing few missions in one of delta force games, I finaly got told on emotional level story about soldier shooting civilians not from malice, but because he was afraid they could hurt him.

This mini story was put there deliberately by authors, so they did create it, even if they did not explicitely create the exact sequence.

Darren Tomlyn
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But that is ALL about the difference between an APPLICATION and a DEFINITION.

Nothing more.

The problem we have at this time, is that the latter is affecting and becoming the former which is NOT PERMITTED by the rules of English Grammar!

Mark Kreitler
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"The problem we have at this time, is that the latter is affecting and becoming the former which is NOT PERMITTED by the rules of English Grammar!"

It's not a matter of grammar, but language (as far as I know, grammar does not inform etymology at all). As several people have pointed out, definitions ultimately depend on usage. Webster will update existing definitions if usage demands it for 10 years or more. If, as a culture, we decide that 'art' now means, 'a domesticated descendent of Canis Lupus," 10 years from now, that's how it will be listed in the dictionary, with a secondary definition, denoted 'archaic,' referencing our current definition.

Yes, I know, that's ridiculous, but it's at the heart of much of the disagreement you're seeing -- others aren't wrong to be looking at new forms of media and revising their personal definitions of 'art'. That's how language evolves: if enough people revise their definitions in similar ways, the meaning of art *does* change.

This does not discount your argument, but moves it from the realm of linguistics to the realm of philosophy: "what is the Platonic form of Art?"

You've provided your answer: "Creative story telling."

You've also provided your answer as to the Platonic form for games: "multiplayer competitions for time and/or space" -- which I have paraphrased.

The difficulty with this argument stems from the width and breadth of one's definitions. For instance, the categories you've established do not contain the simple game "20 questions." That's not a race, or structured combat, or a competition for accuracy/distance/time, but most people would agree that it's a game.

Similarly, virtually anything can be considered, "creative story telling." You make this point yourself, here:

"Even watching a game is NOT enough to consider it to be art BECAUSE it's a GAME - it's art merely because it's a (creative) PERFORMANCE (story telling)."

So, it's art because it's creative story telling, except it's not art because it's a game. This creates a circular reference when you roll it back into the definition of art:

"Art is creative story telling, except when the activity is something other than art."

This implies the existence of a higher-order definition that allows us to differentiate what is art and what is not. "Creative story telling" is too broad. What are the missing pieces?

And therein lies much of the resistance you're feeling to your theory. When you finally arrive at a set of definitions that leaves nothing out (like "20 questions") and has no circular references ("art is creative story telling except when it's not art"), you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to include accepted forms of art without also including some games.

Examples available upon request. :)

Darren Tomlyn
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@ Mark

"Unfortunately, I don't think that's true. As several people have pointed out, definitions ultimately depend on usage. Webster will update existing definitions if usage demands it for 10 years or more. If, as a culture, we decide that 'art' now means, 'a domesticated descendent of Canis Lupus," 10 years from now, that's how it will be listed in the dictionary, with a secondary definition, denoted 'archaic,' referencing our current definition."


You simply do not understand language at ALL. How you manage to use it to communicate I really do not know - since you do not fully recognise one of the most basic rules which allows it to function AS a language in the first place.

Language is NOT philosophy. Philosophy is about understanding and recognising the basic individual subjective nature of humanity itself, and how this affects our behaviour, perception and understanding of the universe itself as-well as each other, including our use of the language FOR WHAT it represents in order to transfer our individual subjective ideas, concepts, perceptions and understanding in a CONSISTENT manner BETWEEN PEOPLE, which is exactly what a language exists to do.

Language in itself is merely a TOOL for philosophy to use - not really a matter of philosophy in itself, sorry - simply because if language was so subjective, which is what philosophy concerns itself with, it couldn't function and therefore exist (as a language).

WHAT words represent is not a matter of philosophy - but how what they represent is APPLIED, CAN be seen as such, but is then ultimately about the information itself the language is being used to transfer instead...

Again, as I've been saying, UNTIL you recognise the difference between a word's DEFINITION, and its APPLICATION - one of the most basic reasons why a language can even EXIST - you will completely fail to understand the problem we have with these words, including art and game.

"You've also provided your answer as to the Platonic form for games: "multiplayer competitions for time and/or space" -- which I have paraphrased."

And by doing so you have changed it into something that is no longer consistent with what I described, and therefore its USE, and so it's now meaningless. You have limited it to multi-player, which I have never done, and you left out the behaviour it is an application OF - which is the most important ingredient of all - so it's meaningless, as I said. You have changed it from an objective definition based upon its use, to your own subjective PERCEPTION and APPLICATION.

"So, it's art because it's creative story telling, except it's not art because it's a game. This creates a circular reference when you roll it back into the definition of art"


If you do not understand how and why an activity can be seen as BOTH a work of art AND a game then I cannot help you - the two are NOT mutually exclusive EXCEPT when concerning the application of behaviour both directly and perceived of and by the same person.

A football match is DEFINED as a game based on the behaviour of the players. BOTH the players AND anyone watching the match can therefore also perceive it as a game based on such a thing. ONLY someone else PERCEIVING the match, however, can view it as a work of art, based on its subjective application, because of what they see in ADDITION to it being a game!

Art is COMPATIBLE with EVERYTHING WE CREATE, including our (suitable) behaviour, but only that which is perceived or intended to function as/by such a thing can be labelled by it. If it has no other function by which it must be defined instead, THEN it can even be DEFINED by it.

Games and art are compatible, but NOT the same thing - along with puzzles and art, competitions and art, cars and art, tables and art etc..

'Creative story telling' only APPEARS to be too broad, because you, along with MANY, MANY people on this planet, both now and in the past, mistake such a definition for how it is APPLIED.

Only when you learn (if possible) to SEPARATE the applications from such a definition of the word when it is used - to learn about WHAT is it that is being APPLIED in the first place, when we use the word art - a basic exercise in linguistics - will you begin to understand the word for what it represents, and also understand WHY people have so many problems with it - both because they're not obeying the rules of English grammar, but also - legitimately, because of the very nature of what it represents.

The legitimate reason why art will ALWAYS be argued about - is because the INTENT of someone when creating a work of art, will not always be consistent with the PERCEPTION of such a thing - precisely BECAUSE what it represents is so basic, simple and general. But as I've said before that is exactly HOW the language is SUPPOSED to be USED - because it reflects the basic nature of humanity itself. Some other words, because they are defined in a more limited, specific manner, may not have such a difference between such intent and perception, but it can, and will vary, depending on each individual word.

For example - the word RED - does not have an exact, objective, DEFINITION, upon which people can base their intent and perceptions upon and within its use.

We have an APPROXIMATE definition of the word - (light with a wavelength range of approximately 630–700 nm - (Wikipedia)) - but it is still open to SUBJECTIVE interpretation and therefore use and application. Not everyone will therefore agree that the same colour will be red - depending on the nature and application of colour itself, some may perceive or define the colour as being pink, brown or purple... But this is the nature of humanity itself, and it's the language's job to reflect that - even enable and promote such a thing BY its functionality - not FIGHT it. It therefore allows people to use different words to represent the different colours they see and perceive - and other words in COMBINATION (such as light or dark) to represent more limited applications thereof.

Game, art, puzzle, competition(s), work and play all represent DIFFERENT applications of DIFFERENT behaviour that allow people to describe what they see in both their own behaviour AND other people's.

The problem we HAVE is that people are NOT BEING INFORMED about WHAT such words must represent - their DEFINITIONS - based entirely upon HOW the words themselves are actually USED - instead being told in a manner also based on what such words are PERCEIVED to represent irrespective of such use.

This breaks the very rules the language itself uses to exist.

We do not define the word table as the word metal. Why? Because they exist separately without the language - they are merely COMPATIBLE in their use - (metal can be used to enable and promote - make - a table). For this reason - the English language treats the two words SEPARATELY, and therefore they need to be used in COMBINATION to describe such an application of a table being metal - (metal table).

Art and game function the same way. Art may be used to enable and promote a game, but does not DEFINE a game for what it is, because they both exist separately even without the language. Unlike metal with table, however, art is NOT a MEDIUM for games to exist. A COMPUTER is the medium for BOTH art AND GAME when applicable, that allows them to be used in a COMPATIBLE manner, without affecting either DEFINITION. 'Video' game is a misnomer.

ONLY the word game is currently used in such a manner in relation to art when using a computer - NO other similar type of thing - in this case software - is treated the same way - even if used in a similar fashion, and for good reason. (I use a computer with the software Cubase and Reason to compose music - and its certainly not considered to be 'video music' - even though the software and the computer itself uses video to enable and promote such an activity in exactly the same way as it would a game - but instead called 'computer music.' (ALL other software is treated the same way, EXCEPT games - which is why such a LABEL is INCONSISTENT)).

"The difficulty with this argument stems from the width and breadth of one's definitions. For instance, the categories you've established do not contain the simple game "20 questions." That's not a race, or structured combat, or a competition for accuracy/distance/time, but most people would agree that it's a game."

This is NOT a game. Why? Because it is not consistent with how the word game itself is used within the rest of the language. The language has another word that is used to represent such similar activities instead (competition(s)).

If you don't mind - I'd like to dip into something that, again, I'll be covering later on in my blog:

As I said - this is a matter of, and therefore a problem with, LINGUISTICS - the study/education/information etc. of the language itself BASED upon its USE - (especially FOR WHAT it represents).

The word game, did NOT originally represent that which it does now, based upon its use, both then AND now. Again, like art, it represented a basic and general concept - far more general and fundamental than it does now.

O.E. gamen "game, joy, fun, amusement," (etymology online - I've seen more specific information than that but I've no additional references atm - (have not been THAT interested in the specifics of the etymology of such words - it's how they're used NOW that matters to me)).

However, it then changed and evolved:

Meaning "contest played according to rules" is first attested c.1300. Sense of "wild animals caught for sport" is late 13c. (etymology online).

Then, later on (~17C) it crossed paths with another concept, that left their mark on each other - gambling/gaming.

But they've since diverged again. The main the reasons WHY the word game has since changed to represent the concept that is consistent with what I've been describing it as, are:

a) The concept I've described the word game as representing is extremely old. Since the English language had no word to represent such a thing, the word game has become used to do so instead.

b) The English language has gained other words, or other uses of words to represent other, similar or the same concepts to/as what the word game had BEEN used to represent previously, or even some concepts that it evolved to represent or affect - some of which are even derived from the word game itself - (such as gambling). Two such uses of the word game, even still remain in addition to its main use today.

The problem we have is that the PERCEPTION of the word game - BECAUSE the people who should be studying the language and then informing us of such changes, HAVE FAILED TO DO SO - hasn't caught up with its USE.

But the word game's USE has now been fairly consistent for the past couple of CENTURIES. There are a number of activities that are now mislabelled as games - because they are not/no longer consistent or COMPATIBLE with what the word game must NOW represent, based on its use and the basic rules of English grammar - but that's only because people are not being taught or informed about the language based upon such use and rules as they should!

It starts with recognising that the words game, art, puzzle, competition, (and work and play (as nouns)), along with event, state etc.. ALL belong to the same type and sub-type of word, (type of noun), and ALL therefore represent a similar concept:

An APPLICATION OF BEHAVIOUR. Some of these words can then have an additional, related use and therefore definition, that is DERIVED from such a thing - (as representing 'things' that can be used to enable and promote such a specific application of behaviour, for example).

The reason WHY all these words are now used - such as puzzle - is because they represent DIFFERENT applications of (often) DIFFERENT behaviour - MANY of which would still be consistent with the old use and definition of the word game itself - but NO LONGER would all of such words now do so.

Because of the problems with linguistics - people are not being INFORMED as to WHAT APPLICATION OF WHAT BEHAVIOUR these words MUST represent based upon their general USE - either in ISOLATION, OR in RELATION to each other - which, considering how some of these words are related and what they represent, is a big part of the PROBLEM.

However, BECAUSE these words have now been in use for some time - it should be easy - (as I have done) - to derive their meaning BASED upon such use, and therefore allow everyone to fully understand how and WHY the words are now USED in such a manner, and therefore allow the language to do it's JOB - by removing a lot of the subjectivity that is now surrounding most of these words.

'20 questions' is not (any longer - (for a couple of centuries)) consistent with what the word game MUST represent based upon its use - it is instead consistent with ANOTHER word, therefore being (a) competition instead.

ALL that has happened is that the people using the English language - in general - (there are always a number of stragglers, but far more than there should be due to the failure of Linguistics :( ) - have recognised that there are a number of DIFFERENT concepts the English language needed to describe. A number of DIFFERENT words - (game, art, puzzle, competition, work and play etc.) - are NOW therefore used (in general) to represent such things.

Until the people involved in studying the language actually DO THEIR JOB - (or someone hopefully realises that everything I've put in my blog is correct and acts upon it) - such problems WILL REMAIN.

But I'm here to try and help you lot out - to try and teach you about this particular problem - to try and help you understand not just WHAT the word game is now used to represent, but also to try and help you understand WHY it has changed to represent such a thing - WHY what it represents is important - and therefore why understanding and recognising this will help you to make games that reach their full potential AS games, according to its definition - and why its important that NO OTHER WORD is used to represent such a thing - (which is why the word game has changed in the first place) - and therefore HOW and WHY these other words and what they represent are RELATED to the word game itself, and not DEFINED by or as such a thing.

My blog hasn't gotten all that for yet - I'm still putting the basic foundations in place - the basic definitions of the words to recognise the basic concepts involved, and being affected and confused for each other, and how and why they cannot represent the same thing based upon such definitions and use).

But READ IT - and you might understand the problem a little better.

Mark Kreitler
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My apologies for incorrectly paraphrasing your definition of game. I did so based on this quote:

"Games are about people competing in a structured environment by doing something for themselves - (WRITING their OWN stories). They therefore EXIST independently of art, and are represented as such within the language."

which I interpreted to mean games required people (as opposed to a single person). I see from later posts, though, you explicitly write 'player(s)', which I had forgotten.

"You simply do not understand language at ALL. How you manage to use it to communicate I really do not know - since you do not fully recognise one of the most basic rules which allows it to function AS a language in the first place."

You may find more success advancing your theories if you treated your audience with more respect.

"Language is NOT philosophy..."

Agreed. I did not claim it was. I said your debate is not a linguistic one, but a philosophical one, based on your claim to have derived objective definitions for 'art' based on linguistics use. Interpreting usage is inherently subjective because it is based on perception. The act of establishing an "objective" definition -- one that exists independent of perception -- is an act of philosophy.

"Philosophy is about understanding... "

I'm aware of that -- I've had plenty of philosophy courses as an undergrad, and I'm married to a woman with a degree in philosophy.

"And by doing so you have changed it into something that is no longer consistent with what I described, and therefore its USE, and so it's now meaningless. You have limited it to multi-player, which I have never done,"

See apology above.

"...and you left out the behaviour it is an application OF - which is the most important ingredient of all - so it's meaningless, as I said. You have changed it from an objective definition based upon its use, to your own subjective PERCEPTION and APPLICATION."

But we've been through this, and you haven't sufficiently answered the issues raised on this front. To reiterate, quoting directly so as to avoid incorrect paraphrasing:

"Art is DEFINED by the BEHAVIOUR of its CREATOR.

Game is DEFINED by the BEHAVIOUR of its PLAYER(s)

Puzzle is DEFINED by the BEHAVIOUR of those interacting with it - ('doing' it)."

In order to recognize art, I look at the behavior of the creator.

In order to recognize a game or puzzle, I look at the behavior of the consumer.

But, in order to know whose behavior to examine, I must know if I'm considering art or a game/puzzle. That implies the existence of a definition _independent_of_the_behavior_itself_ that allows me to distinguish art from non-art.

Setting that wrinkle aside, I will say your "definition of red" analogy helped me understand your thinking a little more. It is the best example you have so far given. Unfortunately, it works against you, somewhat. Yes, the accepted wavelengths for red are only approximations, but how did we arrive at that fuzzy range? By asking people, "does this look red to you," recording the values, and averaging over the test population.

This is identical to back-solving the definition of art via usage: we ask a bunch of people, "is this art?" and average the results. If enough people say, "games are art," our definition will reflect that.

Similarly, it calls into question the difference between application and definition. If I call something 'red' and the light falls outside the accepted wavelength, there's something wrong with my eyes, but if enough people do it, there's something wrong with the definition.

Nevertheless, I think I understand what you're trying to say. If there exists an objective definition for 'art,' a person could decide if any particular game exhibited those qualities and declare it art, but doing so, or not, would not affect the definition.

Unfortunately, any definition derived from linguistic use, just like any definition derived from visual perception, necessarily yields subjective results.

[This post heavily edited]

Lastly, as for the video game vs computer game debate, I completely agree with you. However, at no point have I considered 'video games' salient to this debate. I'm talking about 'games,' independent of medium. In fact, mostly, I picture board games as I write.

Mark Kreitler
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All right -- I get it.

Each of us carries a definition of 'art' inside us. When we read a book, or see a film, or play a game, we evaluate the experience against our internal definition and decide, "Was that art?" This is the process of applying our definition.

Generally, we are capable of recognizing art independent of its impact on our senses or emotions, which means our definitions don't depend on the properties of the works themselves. For example, paintings don't move me, but I recognize many masterful works as art. Similarly, I dislike heavy metal, but I'm prepared to say some of it could be art. This implies the definition must reference something beyond the works themselves and the impact they have on me. That leaves the intention of the creator.

(@Darren, I know you also include the behavior of the audience, but that introduces the problem of having to distinguish between art and game before you know whose behavior to evaluate. Also, I think it's unnecessary -- for me, at least.)

If the creator intends to move me, he is making art (@Darren, I realize this differs from your definition, but what's important to me is understanding your overall structure, not your individual details).

If the creator intends for me to enjoy following a set of rules to resolve a conflict, he's making a game or puzzle (not sure how to distinguish those -- like you say, it's tricky).

And so on. (These definitions aren't sufficient, but serve to illustrate the structure of the aesthetic theory put forth.)

In this sense, games don't have any influence on the definition of art. Instead, we look at each new game, apply our definition, and declare, "yes, it's art" or not. Deeming a particular first person shooter as "art" doesn't cause us to expand our definition of art to include first person shooters.

Mostly, I agree. However, it's possible that debating "are games art?" can force us to confront our definitions and make them explicit. It's possible that we could change our personal definitions as a result.

Also, it seems plausible that a creation could be both art and game, depending on one's definition. I believe Ueda intended players to have an emotional reaction at the close of "Shadow of the Colossus," and I also believe he intended players to enjoy the game play leading up to the end. By my definitions, at least, that makes it qualify in both categories.

@Darren, your taxonomy has a more nested structure, with "creative story telling" encompassing almost everything else, yet you're striving to make your categories mutually exclusive. You handle this by culling out sub-categories by introducing exceptions like, "games are races or combat or contests for time/distance/accuracy." I wish you luck with that -- that approach invites challenge, as we've seen.

I appreciate you sticking with this debate through the end. It did help me see things in a different way.

By all means, get to Uni. Also, think about writing less. Long sentences with multiple parenthetical asides and lots of capital letters deter readers. Feynman said, "If you can't say something simply, you don't understand it." I don't believe that's true in your case, but others may. Either way, more people will read your stuff if you can say it simply.

Good luck with your studies.

Darren Tomlyn
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Unfortunately, I still don't think you get it at all.

This whole matter is nothing more than a simple, logical extrapolation of the rules not just of the English language, but of language in general, based upon how some specific words are used to communicate.

The problem is that the PERCEPTION of what some words represent conflicts with how the words are actually used, based upon both the basic rules of language in general, and the more specific rules of English grammar too.

The people who (should be) study(ing) the language in order to help support it and help keep it consistent enough to be used, have therefore failed to do their jobs properly.


Imagine that lots of different people started to perceive all the different colours in different ways - and yet NEVER changed how they USED the words that represent such things themselves, but the dictionaries/encyclopedias reported on such perceptions rather than the use, because the people involved didn't understand the role of colour in determining what such words represent in relation to each other...

And then imagine that, due to the inconsistent education and information supplied by such linguistic study, such perceptions then started feeding back into how the words themselves were actually used...

What do we wind up with?

A subjective language that cannot function properly.

This is the situation we have at the minute, as it has existed for the past couple of centuries, although only in regards to a small collection of words rather than the language itself - (though the symptoms of the underlying problem do appear to be spreading - and is now getting WORSE - (due to computer games/internet etc..)).

It is, as I've always said - a failure of LINGUISTICS - nothing more - and as such is COMPLETELY ARTIFICIAL, and simply should not exist.


The purpose of language, using either sounds or symbols, is to communicate information between people. If the perception of the meaning of such sounds or symbols is not consistent between people, the language cannot do its job.

The primary concept upon which all such language is built, is therefore using sounds/symbols to represent the 'things' that we see, touch, interact with etc..

Such things, and the words that represent them, (in this case, a specific type of such a word we call noun in the English language), exist in ISOLATION, and are therefore treated as such by the language itself.

Every other type of word therefore exists in relation to such things - and type of word. However, some things, can be LABELLED not just for what they are, but also by their properties and (potential) behaviour, in relation to some other types of word, even though they can, and do, still exist in isolation themselves - (narrator/stonghold/(a) safe etc.). All things, however, are usually defined for the function they are intended to fulfill, though people's perceptions of such things may and can differ from that - such is the nature of the human race. This generally, however, mainly affects how things are labelled more than defined. (This is what I feel you have trouble with).

We then have Verbs, that are used to represent behaviour as related to such things.

And we have Adjectives, that are used to represent the properties/qualities/attributes that such things possess - (can't think of an equivalent to the word behaviour for this description, which would be very useful).

Adverbs are then used to represent a further, but soft application, of such verbs and adjectives - (in quite a few ways, which is why it's hard to describe adverbs precisely in a single, simple sentence). HighER, very and quickLY etc..

Unfortunately, we currently have a problem. The language we use to describe what verbs and adjectives represent, are not doing their jobs.


Because both verbs and adjectives represent concepts that can also be applied in a much 'harder' manner, and are used by the language as nouns.

THIS is one of the main underlying problems affecting the words we're looking at here (art/game etc.).

There are two main other types of noun - (not all nouns would fit within these types) - one related to what we consider and use verbs to represent, the other related to what we consider and use adjectives to represent.

The problem, is that the descriptions of nouns, verbs and adjectives, currently - NOW - fail to recognise or are even compatible with the existence of such types of word!

As I've said - a failure of linguistics.

So, we therefore need another method of describing - a way of using the language to describe what these words in the language represent - nouns, verbs and adjectives, that reflect and describe, or at least allow such a description, of such a relationship.

Again, the basic problem comes down to how we use the language itself to describe what other words in the language represent.

Game, art, puzzle, competition, event, state, occurrence, action, activity, party, economics, flight, speech, movement etc. are all the same TYPE of word - belonging to the same TYPE of NOUN.

These words are either directly, or abstractly related to what we consider verbs to represent.

Agile, strength, intelligence, colour etc. are, again, the same type of word, belonging to the same TYPE of NOUN, this time related to what we consider adjectives to represent.

The first group of words - which is what we're interested in here, therefore need to be described by how they are related to verbs.

But we have a problem - the language we use to describe verbs themselves, is usually of or includes this type of noun. Since nouns and verbs cannot be the same thing - we have a problem.

We therefore need a better method of describing both verbs and this type of noun that shows what they represent in relation to each other.

How this type of noun is related to verbs is pretty obvious:

Flight is an application of fly.

Speech is an application of speak.

Movement is an application of move.


The problem we have with both this type of noun and verbs, is that the words we use to describe them at present ALL come back to the same, basic, description:


This is why we're having problems - because of the way the language is used, this type of noun is viewed as representing 'things' that happen, and verbs are viewed as representing things 'that happen' - neither of which show what these words truly represent in relation to each other.

And you want to know why I say you're having problems, when you leave out such 'happenings' in your descriptions?

This is a symptom of another problem, (whether you'll understand this or not I do not know - it took me a while to figure out that is was happening myself) - confusing 'things' with 'things that happen'.

For this reason, we need another method of describing these types of word that replaces the phrase 'things that happen' in a manner that shows how they are related:

Verbs - things that happen

This type of noun - applications of things that happen

My suggestion, based on how the word is used for what it represents in ISOLATION, is the word BEHAVIOUR:

Verbs n. A type of word that is used to represent (describe) behaviour

(This type of noun). A type of word that is used to represent (describe) an application of behaviour.

Words such as state, event, etc. are all used to represent applications of behaviour in themselves so cannot be used to describe EITHER type of word for what they represent - (state is used for BOTH at this time!).

Because of the nature of what this type of noun represents - such words CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT THE BEHAVIOUR THEY REPRESENT AN APPLICATION OF.

This is also why you're having problems.

Unfortunately, I have no idea at all how to solve the problem with the other type of noun/adjectives - but at least I've recognised that it exists...

This is all PART of the first post in my blog!

As I said - READ it!

Mark Kreitler
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"And you want to know why I say you're having problems, when you leave out such 'happenings' in your descriptions?"

I didn't leave them out. They are implicit. I wrote:

"If the creator intends to move me, he has made art."

I will explicitly include the behavior, as you seem to have missed it:

"If one creates something with the intention to move others, he has created art."

The verb -- that you call "behavior" -- is 'to create with the intention to move others'. I know that differs from your own definition: "to tell a creative story," but the definition is irrelevant to the current discussion.

My point -- and yours, I think -- is that there exists a fundamental chicken-and-egg problem: do you define the verb in terms of the noun, or the noun in terms of the verb? Through this debate, I've become comfortable with the latter, because it helps me explain the existence of art independent of my experience of the art object. For example, if I dislike all heavy metal, it's unlikely I'll perceive it as art, but I might still recognize it as art. Therefore, the music itself doesn't determine the "artfulness" of the experience.

That's an insight for which I thank you.

Beyond that, though, I haven't taken much else from the conversation. I don't think this debate will result in better games or better art: people will create what they want, regardless of how we classify the objects linguistically. Nor do I think the "problem" you identify is a problem, practically. We continue to function as a society, we produce art, games, etc, in as much abundance as ever before, and debates rage -- which is a good thing, as they make us all think. Finally, I don't think it's possible to posit objective definitions from linguistic use, because language itself is subjective. Objects may indeed exist independent of our perceptions, but we'll never know, because we can only experience them via our senses. Those perceptions form the basis of all information we convey via language, all data is subjective. The only exceptions concern purely abstract concepts (like mathematics) -- which aren't objects.

As I said, I wish you luck refining your theory. You may find it illuminating to read some Hume, as well as "Godel, Escher, and Bach." Certainly, both are good reads for anyone interested in this type of debate.

Darren Tomlyn
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I'm sorry but such a PERCEPTION is inconsistent with how the word art is USED.

You are getting mistaken between things people do FOR others with things that happen TO people.

Art is NOT DEFINED by the behaviour of its audience. As I've said time and time again, you are mistaking your own APPLICATION of such a definition FOR its definition in the first place.

(EDIT: you do understand that BECAUSE art has been around and so consistent for so long, that most dictionaries and encyclopedias are actually CORRECT and CONSISTENT with (at least most of) what the word art represents in the first place, yes? They do, unfortunately, tend to a bit too far, however, and have a tendency to turn it into an application, but the basic behaviour is something they tend to get right - and it precisely what you are arguing with.

Most dictionaries use words such as 'expression' to describe the behaviour itself - which, guess what, is entirely consistent with how the word is used! (But not your own PERCEPTION - which is NOT consistent)).

The whole point about linguistics is to be able to understand words FROM their applications by digging deeper into figuring out WHAT it is that is being applied in the first place.

This is what you have failed to do.

Art is NOT about WHY anything is created - but the BEHAVIOUR of HOW and from that, what.

The audience has NOTHING to do with the DEFINITION of art at all whatsoever. ALL the audience does is subjectively APPLY such a definition, based on their own subjective opinion.

If that WASN'T the case - if the audience mattered for the DEFINITION of art - then you'd see that in the way the word is used and applied - especially different types of art - even within applications such as 'improvised' etc..

The different forms of art - the basic applications of what it represents, have nothing to do with the audience. The basic media it uses, have nothing to do with the audience.

Based on how the word is USED - it should be obvious that the ONLY person/people who's behaviour the word art represents an application of, are its CREATOR'S/PERFORMER'S and/or TEACHER'S.

ALL the audience can do, which is what makes them an audience, is subjectively APPLY such a definition when thought applicable and appropriate upon such behaviour of these people based on their own subjective perceptions OF such behaviour.

How are makes you 'feel' has nothing to do with it's definition at all - because it is NOT behaviour - it is a subjective condition of such behaviour which the word art itself does not represent. ANYTHING that HAPPENS TO US, can change how we feel, but the words that represent such feelings are NOT verbs - therefore NOT BEHAVIOUR, and art is not about such things. Art is about something we do for others that THEN becomes something that happens TO people, that then MAY cause some particular properties/qualities/attributes to appear - but only the former defines it as art - because that's the BEHAVIOUR the word art represents an application of, based purely upon its use.

Behaviour = things that happen.

Creative story telling = creating something that happens FOR others - (that THEN becomes something that happens TO others, but is not defined as such because it's conditional, SUBJECTIVE, and doesn't matter).

Art is something we do FOR others - not TO - because it can, and does, exist in isolation of such a thing, both within and without the language.

Puzzles, however, for example, are about a person/people interacting with things that happen TO them - and which may involve art in doing so. But it's only art because of the behaviour of its creator - the person perceiving it as art has no impact on it's definition - merely the application of such a definition upon what they perceive - even though their interaction with it - their behaviour - is what defines it as a puzzle.

Like I said - you're mistaking your own subjective application of a definition, (of the word art), for the definition itself. DON'T - it's not how language works.

Since art != game and they do absolutely nothing for each other, then of course such a discussion isn't going to matter much for either in isolation.

If you honestly think that we've seen the full potential of games - all that is possible for the stories that can be WRITTEN - however, then think again...

All we've done so far is figure out some of the basic types and forms such stories may take based on the media being used - nothing more. But the nature of what games are - allows for far greater power over such stories than has been seen so far, especially when concerning the specific medium of a computer...

(P.s. if language was THAT subjective it could not, would not EVER function).

Alexander Jhin
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I'm glad the NEA separately calls out "interactive technologies" from "games." For example, Facade was a great, artistic example of "interactive technology". But it was not a game.

Felipe Budinich
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If you are unsure about what is art, and what is not art, I recommend you to follow this link, and research a little about the institutional theory of art*, is the most complete and useful definition I'm aware of:

*Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field by Pierre Bourdieu is a pretty good book that deals with the subject.

Darren Tomlyn
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That line of thought about art - is linked to a subjective application and perception of the differences between art and "art" - which really doesn't matter.

The reason it doesn't matter is precisely because such a perception only exists because of the lack of recognition of the relationship between art as a process of creation, and art as a work that has been so created, and defined by functionality consistent with and of such a process.

It's in their interests to define "art" as being something they can control and influence - not as an application of such a basic form of behaviour that everyone and anyone has some part to play in such an application and perception thereof.

art = creative story telling.

Everything related to and derived from that is an application, and therefore subjective.

Gerald Belman
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If people thinking videogames are not art keeps douchy artsy people that stare at paintings of red circles all day away from videogames, then I am happy to convince everyone that videogames are NOT art. Because we don't need those people designing our videogames.

Videogames got along fine without douchy artists. And they will continue to get along fine whether or not artsy douchbags think they are art or not. In fact, I think part of the reason they have acheived so much is because they are in the realm of the "nerd" and not in the realm of the "pop".

The moral of the story: you don't need anyone to legitamize your art. Be selfish and keep it to yourself.

Darren Tomlyn
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Saying "video games != art" is the equivalent of saying "oak table != wood"

Video is merely a condition of the use of the medium itself, for BOTH art and games - a computer.

Computer games merely use the art that a computer enables (video/animation/sound fx/music etc.) in order to exist. Just like a board game uses (at minimum) a picture to exist too.