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The Art Of Games

February 29, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next

[Following Jim Preston's controversial Gamasutra feature on games as art, Crash Bandicoot, Gex and Uncharted designer E. Daniel Arey responds with a fired-up, in-depth piece on why the art inherent in gaming matters.]

I am not in the regular habit of writing wordy rebuttals to developer opinions on game forums about our industry’s place in the world. Let’s face it, there are ten thousand myriad points of view on any one subject in this biz, and many are mostly right (to varying degrees) at least some of the time. But I was deeply moved to respond to a recent Gamasutra installment from EA producer Jim Preston’s essay “The Arty Party."

It wasn’t the overall philosophy of Mr. Preston’s essay per se that upset me, and I’m sure he is an outstanding producer and game developer. In fact, his final assertion that we are moving toward a promising future is correct.

What did concern me was his overall seemingly static vision for our industry, and the almost jaded approach to the current value of what we call art. You can add to this the Gamasutra editors' choice of title for the related news story, 'Forget Art, Let's Game', which - while serving its purpose as a provocative siren’s call - seemed to once again proudly proclaim games as nothing more than they are, or ever will be, as an entertainment pastime that is limited and unable to evolve or adapt.

Before I continue, let me make it clear that I do not intend for this to be a semantic debate about what is art and what isn’t? Nor do I care where the line between art and entertainment is drawn, or by whom.

Shakespeare certainly walked that line well. Books and films trip over themselves often to become something like art. Theater will gladly tell you they are art. What I do know is that every entertainment medium must push its boundaries to evolve and survive, otherwise they become static and irrelevant.

Is that too bold of a statement? I think not, when you pull back and look at the wide evolutionary timeline of entertainment as a continuum. One simple example of this Darwinian struggle was the new discovery of the photo camera - which challenged the artists of that time in their ability to recreate a landscape in perfect fidelity.

It took bold action from the Impressionists to respond and evolve painting to a new and wonderful form by saying - “we are not simply trying to represent a thing, we are trying to capture its light and the feeling of the moment.”

That was art responding in a powerful way to a simple and mundane circumstance, and this response, however misguided some thought of it at the time, created a thing wholly new and beautiful.

Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next

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Michael Baker
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Isn't this conversation over yet? the question of games as art is meaningless.

games are a form of cultural currency - just like visual arts, film, theater, dance, literature, philosophy, music, etc.

the value of this currency varies according to context, use, accessibility, extension, etc.

can we be done now?

E. Daniel Arey
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Thanks for the clarification, Jim. I believe you are right that debating this issue has no ultimate bearing on progress (as referenced by the 'pithy' comment above from Mr. Baker), but I think it is valid that we continue to address, reconsider, challenge, attack, and demand more from ourselves and push the bounds of our art. My biggest hope and dream is that we continue to strive to expand both the reach of games and their relevance (and that by doing each, we expand both), even if accidentally. Games have already shown their magnificent potential to grab people and give them enjoyment. And if we continue to evolve this entertainment form, by always adding a little art and a lot of craft every chance we get, who knows... I do know this, 20 years from now we will continue to be amazed at where games have gone, and where they can take us.

Lorenzo Wang
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There is no controversy. Where Roger Ebert went wrong with his premise was that he said video games are not capable of art... well just because no art has been created in the medium does not mean it is incapable of such.

In fact, games, as a species of interactivity, has by extention already become art. If you follow any forum of digital/new media, you'll find interativity is widely accepted as a form of modern expressionist art. There are countless digital interactive works in museums across the country. They may not be soldshrinkwrapped at Best Buy, but they ARE games, they ARE digital, and they ARE art.

John Germann
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Spoiler Alert! I'm totally in the middle of God of War. Otherwise, interesting read.

I'm as excited as anyone about the potential of the future of art in games, but just like all forms of art, there are always going to be shiners and stinkers no matter the vast potential of the medium. There will also always be that stupid person who disagrees with my consummate critique of everything, but to each his own I guess.

You'd think +100 years of film would breed out piss-poor composition and poorly timed cuts... or thousands of years of storytelling would eliminate big plot holes and uninteresting characters. I feel I know what the overall future of art in games has in store for us: more of the same, but just a little different this time. As in, there will always be an awesome and a poopy, but on a slightly different scale that is constrained by the medium's limits.

Steven An
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"In truth, video games have always grown beyond the bounds we try to impose on them. The people that make games are always pushing back to surprise us and surpass our expectations, and - yes, they will always continue to do so. Thatís what makes working in games so exciting!"

Thanks for putting this in words! How about putting it into a game?

Steven An
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As Preston has pointed out, it seems that both authors are actually in agreement. Games are quite obviously art. Anyone who disagrees has a narrow view of the medium (and the industry itself is to blame for this). And I think both will agree that the industry needs to keep pushing, exploring, and expanding its scope in terms of, well, everything. Mechanics, stories, themes, technology, etc. etc. Otherwise, the medium and industry will stagnate and die out.

Yet, Avery makes a very classic observation that disruptive innovation almost always comes from the fringe. It is not EA's responsibility to innovate. They are paying salaries with Madden, and as a business, it is their legal and moral obligation to do what is most likely to succeed financially. It is up to students (Portal), independent developers (Introversion, Dave Gilbert, etc.), and smaller studios to push the boundaries.

Of course, the smartest industry players will recognize this. Valve took a chance with Portal. Nintendo took a chance with the Wii. Sony has been taking chances left and right with ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. Even EA has taken chances with the Sims and Spore. All of these were good things for the industry.

At the end of the day: games can be art and the industry needs to incorporate this into their strategies, so let's stop discussing this and get back to making said games.

Michael Baker
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since we all agree that games can be art, where are these boundaries that need pushing?? what have games still to do? what have they yet to offer?

Lorenzo Wang
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Well Michael if traditional art is our guide to what constitutes art, I would say that games right now lack the personal element, with few exceptions. An important aspect of most art is the unique style or idiosyncrasies of the artist really characterize a body of work. Since most games are made by committee, very few games give us a feeling of a conscious and "expressing" director's eye.

Richard Irwin
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Games today are THE highest form of art in that they encompass every form of art. Just like the great masters of the past, artist working within the field are paid to do a job - to improve and develop aesthetics of a thing. Whether that thing, in the past, was a palace (think music and physical art), a church, or even a hidden cloister of monks, these artists made a living in whatever was popular or important to the culture at the time.

Today, games are that culture and the business that pays. In music, narrative, traditional drawing and painting art, and even programming (yes, programming is an art), games are the finest examples ever created on Earth.

Any company that does not see the value of art in their games should take a look at the top 10 movies on IMDB, for example. These films are incredibly artistic (think of the complexity of narrative in Chinatown). And they are the highest grossing films.

I can't help but compare the film industry to the games industry. Both require a large team of people from a huge array of disciplines. And they demand a lot of art to be successful.

Since my interest was perked in the art of games, I have begun writing and drawing ideas for a world. Working full time has prevented me from spending the time that I wish to spend on it, and I hope to begin work in the 'field of dreams'. I wish to build it.

Where should I start?

Typhon S
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Daniel says: Great masters didnít set out to do ďart.Ē

Exactly so - games can only be 'art' if they set out to be games in the first place. Which makes the question not just useless, but counterproductive. It can be irritating to hear because it behaves like a virus which infects and chokes out actual useful discussion.

What I think: Games are not 'art'. They are not story. They are *language* - or at least something structurally similar. A good game is a language powerful enough to mimic the normal cut and thrust of social fencing - the original game that everyone plays.

Richard Irwin
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Let me rephrase, because Typhon S is absolutely right. Games are not 'art'. They aren't even necessarily narrative. They are interactive.

During the interplay between player and narrative (or even lack therof), is it possible that the player creates her or his own story? This, in a way, would create that 'personal element' that Lorenzo mentioned.

I very much enjoyed playing 'ICO'.

It had many unanswered questions, a multitude of quandry and absolute lack of spoken word (other than a few mutterings in an indistinguishable language). What a great form of narrative! This is one where the player creates his own story, derived by the level design, character design, and the player's own imagination.

Allow me to return to my question.

It IS possible that he player creates his own story. And it is the art that motivates. It is the art that guides. It is the glue that holds kickass games like ICO to become so popular.

I think it is a shame that the game wasn't popular initially.

Why is it that the Japanese developers are so able to do this?

Examples from my past:


Old Final Fantasy games!

Well, thats another thing entirely...

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"I enjoy watching the movies of David Lynch or Peter Greenaway, you can't find anything like that in games today."

The movie analogy is hard to get away from, and I'd agree with Christian that whether games are art or not, maybe the question is whether they have any cultural staying power. We all have fond memories of our favorite Atari 2600 cartridge, but ironic nostalgia isn't the motivation that causes us to watch The Seven Samurai repeatedly.

I think it was Warren Specter that made the point that gaming is stuck in a perennial summer blockbuster-mode, and like that kind of ephemeral cultural product, a game like Bioshock, while having great art design, is still essentially an FPS, with all the tedious violence, linearity and level-conquering that goes with the genre.

Peter Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures is actually a good read for game developers. In his description of why movies are generally crappy, he also may be describing the financial and managerial environment that ends up churning out forgettable video games. The most ambitious attempt I've seen a video game make at being emotionally involving was Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophesy, but its Dragon's Lair-style play of well-timed button pressing was a typical reversion to form.

Michael Baker
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To summerize,

Games are stylized interactive language systems. These traits in combination are considered a Medium. This Medium has yet to be fully explored.

Sounds a lot like early 20th century art practice - perhaps this is what draws the seemingly inevitable comparison with "art". The process and culture which lead to Fountain by Duchamp, was that of questioning the nature and capacity of the medium. It seems to me that the full potential of video games can only be found by a similar process.

Shane Whelan
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We have to be careful when it comes to debates like this, that we don't fall into the trap of binary arguments. To say that games are either art or not, or to say that are completely one thing and not another is to paint your argument in very broad strokes. There are aspects of individual games that can be seen as artistic, while other aspects of the same games can seem perfunctory and mechanical.

One example that springs to mind is the old SCUMM adventure game format, where the gameplay was endlessly recycled, but it didn't matter -- some great stories were told.

I'm definitely in the camp that views games as something akin to language. There are many failed attempts to define the "language of [insert medium here]", most notably the language of film. Where the theorists go wrong (Christian Metz especially) is to pre-suppose there is a single hidden linguistitic structure inside the medium, when actually a medium can be far bigger and more flexible than a language. To illustrate the point, try to answer this: what is "the" language of speech? And Michael, you're right -- there's much exploration to do.

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in my opinion, what we need in order to get a better answer, is a better question.

First let's apply what we already know to be art:

Games today include art within them: If writing a story is art for novel or a movie script, then it's also art for a game. If painting and sculpting is art, then so is modeling and texturing. If choreography is art, then so is animation. If music is art, then so is writing up a game's musical score. If architecture is an art, then so is world/level design.

So the pieces games are made of already fit classical definitions of what art is. I'm not saying most of it is "good art" by my personal standards or any standards i know of, but these pieces are already within the realm of art.

So the real question is: Is game design art?

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And noticing there's no editing option and I clicked submt prematurely:

The idea that game design can be art really does push the boundries of what we consider to be art, because gameplay systems are tools with which the player can create art, they are not the painting, they are the brushes and the canvas we let the player express himself in them.

And this is a big deal: while it's certeinly a craft, saying brush-manufacturing is an art sounds absolutely redicules by what we're used to think of as art. Game designers don't come up with the music, they create new musical instruments. so let's loose the game stigma and further refine the question.

is the creation of instruments for expression a form of art?

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Alrighty then, this is now offically a 3-fragmented post and i need to think before i click... deeply Sorry people. I promise i'l get used to this.

Is the creation of instruments for expression a form of art?

yes, undeniably yes. when game designers craft new instruments of expression, they are free to embody ideas, messages, rebbelious questions, and deep emotional expressions into those instruments. More free then any medium that has come before.

The financial reality however does currently force most game designers to copy already existing instruments (game design schemes) for the safty of the investment and for an already existing fanbase of shooters/RPG/RTS formula's. game designers that push game design into art seldom get funded.

Well guess what people? that's why art scholerships exist in the first place! good art has never sold well. Indies, yes, your games are art, and i can tell you that percisely because your having design sessions in your living room rather an office building. Welcome to reality:

Your an artist. Your broke.

Michael Baker
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Commercial Art

Conceptual Art

Expressionist Art

Minimalist Art

Modern Art

Pop Art

Action Art

Body Art

Constructivist Art

Earth Art

Post Modern Art

Utopian Art

Photographic Art

Formal Art

Abstract Art

Distopian Art

Vernacular Art

Space Age Art

Performance Art

Poetic Art

Political Art

Primitive Art

Representative Art

Video Art

Most of these terms align with specific historic moments in Western 20th Century Art History - a period during which many notions of "art" were challenged. Among many key aspects of this period was a distinction between craft and concept - if a highly skilled representational painter chooses to paint a canvas in a single color and titles it "Napoleon at Waterloo" - a conceptual rift has occurred.

It would appear from this evidence that intentions matter, and further, that the product of those intentions can embody alternate conceptions about the world. There is much ground yet to be tread beyond pure profit driven commercial entertainment.


Peter Park
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I think game can certainly be art. One work that makes this utterly obvious is "Passage" by Jason Rohrer, in which a simple game mechanic (timed maze) and presentation (narrow, horizontal view) were used to make a statement about our lives.

However, I think we are confused of WHAT "GAME" IS, and what IT IS NOT----this is a bit off-topic, but I think it's more important than "is it art?" question (which is obviously yes).

Game is gameplay; it is rules and objectives. It is not long, numerous pages of texts, 5-hour-long dialog, cutscenes or anything static. Those are language of other things. Game's language is the very mechanic that players interact within. (Play "Passage" I mentioned above, and you'll know what I mean.)

In that sense, I don't think game is a viable medium for telling a "story." Well, they may, just as BioShock did, however, when devs start talking about letting players create their own story, or be in someone else's shoe...I say they're confused. Games make players run through pre-set, almost linear storyline while performing same actions over and over. By inducing specific presentation and storyline to this, they may make a statement about something. However, I really don't see game enabling players to BE someone else, to LIVE a world as someone else. All decisions (valuable, the most important ones) are definitely in the realm of devs, and the world in which players run around is dead--they're not simulated at all. All players can do is be the pawns of devs and play the game while story unfolds around them (without players' direct involvement).

What I'm getting to is the need to distinguish interactive story and game. Interactive story is WHAT WE WANT (unless you are happy with games with tacked-on linear story). It is where a player may LIVE in a world, where as a game is where player do grunt work to progress to next event to see what happens next in the storyline. Interactive storytelling is what I think will provide what we are looking for; to actually BE a character in another world.

Damn, I try not to sound like know-it-all, cocky no-name, but I guess I ended up being one. But just wanted to make a pitch.

Glenn McMath
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Great article and subsequent discussion.

Now this is probably just arguing over semantics, but the debate on whether videogames are art is really bizarre, as stating that any medium IS art is kind of missing the point. Nobody can claim that the written word is art, as one look at my home theater receiverís instruction manual (for example) would refute that there is artistic merit inherent in the medium.

Claiming that a medium is art lends nothing to its credibility or worth, and even cheapens the artistic works of that medium by implying that it is the method of expression that makes art, not what is expressed. As has been stated before, a medium is more like a language. It can be used to express or create any number of things.

So in my mind, the only thing that could possibly be debated is whether the medium of games allows for creative expression, and that can be broken down into two sub-questions: Does the addition of interactivity somehow negate the expressiveness of existing media currently found in games (visual arts, writing, music, etc.)? Does the crafting of interactivity itself (programming and design) allow for authorial expression?

There have already been many debates over similar questions, but for what little its worth, my opinion is that the answers are No and Yes respectively. Interactivity does NOT negate the expressiveness of existing media, but it does change the effectiveness of some techniques (both positively and negatively). And though weíre only just starting to figure out how, I believe interactive systems CAN make statements based on how they are designed.

As such I happen to believe that the medium of videogames can be (and HAS been) used to create works of art. But thatís just one manís opinion.

While I donít expect that weíll be able to agree on what videogames can or should be in the near future, can we at least agree to stop saying what they cannot be? The medium is young, and its growth has been stunted by economics and business practices, and technological limitations and instability. It is way too early to put limitations on this mediumís potential.

Jan Kubiczek
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There is games art. Period. How big an impression a certain game piece has on you is dependent on the game and yourself. And as games are you cannot judge them without playing.

Why would Shadow of the Colossus not be art? Why would Super Mario 64 not be? What about Psychonauts...

Master pieces are rare in any art form. Just because really good games are rare and often overlooked because of mainstream pressure, it does not mean that there aren't any...

Glenn McMath
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As if I hadn't talked enough...

I just want to respond to what Peter said right before me. While I appreciate him saying it in a non-abrasive manner, this is another example of people saying what a videogame cannot (or should not) be. It doesn't accomplish anything other than narrow our options. He makes some good points about the inflexibility of a linear narrative, but to say that they are the antithesis of games because games are all about gameplay is limiting their potential.

This attitude is largely due to the name Videogames, which brings with it a lot of the baggage and stigmas that haunt what we create. The bottom line is that we create experiences. Interactivity is a tool which we possess that no other medium has, but it is one of many, and the degree of its prevalence should always serve the nature of the experience we are trying to create. To say that games are all about interactivity is like saying film is all about moving pictures.

There is no reason that game creators shouldn't feel free to create a linear story if it is what they want to express. Interactivity can enhance a linear story by giving the audience a sense of empathy for the protagonist as they have shared a common struggle (and can therefore share in the emotion of triumph or defeat). The problem only comes in how interactivity is applied to this method, as the way linear stories are handled now does lead to people feeling shackled or stifled. That's more a symptom of us not yet knowing how to best integrate gameplay into a linear story, than the nature of a linear story itself.

And to be clear, I do look forward to the days of true interactive storylines, and sandbox games and MMOs are already showing us potential for expressive open ended experiences, but they are a different type of experience. I doubt I will ever see as well defined characters, or as skillfully crafted plot twists emerge from a dynamic system as can be found in a linear (or semi-linear) story. There's merit to both types as they each have their strengths and weaknesses. And (to tie this back into the original discussion) this parallels the art debate in that the dialogue surrounding these elements is unnecessarily divisive. It shouldn't be linear vs non-linear, art vs frivolous entertainment, interactivity is king vs different mixes of the elements of our medium. It should be all of us creating different things and learning from each other. Because if you can think of a possible path to take with this medium, there's probably some merit to it.

Sorry for the digression. Just so the actual debate around this great article doesn't get (more) sidetracked, if you want to respond to me you can reach me at shadesofgreymatter "at" gmail "dot" com


Peter Park
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@Glenn McMath:

I'm just going to post a hopefully quick response here instead of emailing you, partly because I can't access my email account here, and also because I think it's a shame no one seems to address this openly, except in one of Chris Crawford's book. There he makes a clear distinction of the two.

To respond to your comment, I'm all to being flexible. But reading articles, stories, listening to podcasts and such, I hear alot of people speaking with confusion and in disagreement to eachother. As interactive medium is in such a infant stage, I think there needs to be a clarification and categorization.

Ryan Batten
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This was a great article. I know many people are growing tired of the "are games art?" debate, and it is true that it seems to go in circles, but I think it is important that the debate continues, because if nothing else it fuels us to push games forward. Games are art without trying, and rather than trying to make our games into art, we should keep doing what we do: come up with great new ideas and visions, and push to get them made. That's what makes it art.

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Art is dead. Games are life.

Amir Taaki
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I agree with the previous article. I rather took the spirit of it to be saying "fuck the academics, let's just do our own thing". Stop arguing this as it's pointless. Games are a medium, and art is expressed through many mediums.

Chris Rock
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Many of these discussions of games as art, whether for or against, try to differentiate between the "art" of other mediums and the "everything else."

By calling some art and others "other," we're falling into the same pattern of pretentious and arbitrary judgment as the snobs such as Ebert, who attempt, in their ignorance, to muddy the role of games in the world of communicative expression.

No one ever said art was good, let's get that out in the open. There is art. Some of it you like, some of it you dislike, most of it you have mixed feelings about. Donatello, Kinkade, Orson Welles, John Waters, Ansel Adams, Hugh Hefner; all of it is art, accept that, then judge it as you may.

The only thing silly about discussing whether or not games "count" in the art world is that there is no reason to say they don't. They ARE art. If Ebert thinks they are bad art, he can say so, but claiming that they are not art only demonstrates his ineptitude. An ineptitude that has tormented the psyches of too many in the game community. A torment that evidences a sad insecurity among us. An insecurity shared by the innovators of all great art forms.

Time will rot Ebert and his words like every other forgotten critic and games will have won their inevitable victory. When Ebert has joined the ranks of the silent film stars and century old politicians and businessmen as an obscure man that once prized a shred of relevance among the American upper-middle class, as a memory for cinema specialists and no one else, games will still be cherished the world over.

The pre-gaming generations know their sun has set and immutable as time itself, the world will soon be ours. Obsolescence is punishing.

Glenn McMath
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Good point, Chris. I think the point that being Art doesn't necessarily mean something is good (as the quality of expression is subjective, and the quality of the product is another matter all together) is one that needs to be made more often. I think that widely recognizing games as being capable of artistic expression is an important step, but it doesn't mean that it will make our games good in the eyes of everyone. In fact its quite the opposite because as you pointed out, art usually has a somewhat polarizing or conflicted effect on people.

As for the comments about Ebert, while I wouldn't give his comments much more respect, I think they're born more of ignorance than ineptitude. It seems rather obvious to us as people who make and play games, but among the non-gamer community there is a lot of confusion over the amount of control that a player has over the game experience. Most people don't realize that many games are closed systems with a finite number of possible actions, all of which were intentionally authored by the game's creators. And even within more open and dynamic games, the player's actions through which they interact with the world are predefined. Since this is completely lost on so many people, and they assume that what a player experiences is completely dynamically generated in response to player input (which, ironically enough, is an direction that a lot of people are striving for), and that games merely enable and encourage troubled teens to live out whatever sick fantasy they can imagine. I can see how with this lack of understanding about what games are, people could assume that there's no way of using the medium to make any sort of authorial expression.

Which is of course not to say that their comments aren't stupid, its just that they are born more of a (usually strictly maintained) ignorance of the medium, and how it works. Like you, I can't wait until time makes this sort of ignorance a non-issue.

Shane Whelan
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Something for the cynics:

Even if you don't like the idea that games are an art form, you should say they are anyway. When a country's government officially recognises games as art, you can get all sorts of grant funding and tax breaks you couldn't get before. As in France.

Brandon Van Every
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An anonymous person said:

Art is dead. Games are life.

Wiser people said:

Life imitates Art.

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The same anonymous person said:

What is more beautiful than Life? Certainly not art.

Chris Rock
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@ Glenn McBath

". . . games are closed systems with a finite number of possible actions, all of which were intentionally authored by the game's creators."


@Richard Irwin

"I wish to build it."


Lior Messinger
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This brings to mind the definition of 'art' as something that isn't useful. When a guy pisses on a urinal which is situated as an art piece in a museum, it made it useful and took from it its artistic essence, and that's part of why we are shocked.

Same usefulness definition could be applied to games, of course.

Jonathan Lindsay
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@ Lior Messinger:

If something is not useful then it has no function. The idea that art has no function is a little unpalatable don't you think, and also not true.

Also, a condom with a hole in it is not useful, so does that make it art? I guess if you put it in a gallery and provide a suitable narrative it would be recognised as art. Sad.

Jonathan Lindsay
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I am certainly not a philosopher, but Arthur Danto's view is that art is anything with meaning which also embodies that meaning. There are not many games that have a meaning and if they do they are often not worth knowing. I guess the 'meaning' doesn't have to be delivered via story, i guess it could be via gameplay. Can't think of any games which also embody their meaning either, maybe ICO? Any other games? Got a gut feeling that 'Beneath a Steel Sky' may be another example, but I haven't played it.

Here is a link to one of Danto's books on google.books , the only bit I have looked at is 'Art and Meaning', it was certainly interesting, especially since he doesn't seem to be a pompish snob.

Mickey Mullasan
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I think the mere existance of a Marla Olmstead shows that the art institution is a bit desperate. Ebert has been said to believe that Marla did not paint the paintings and that it was her father. Which goes to show that Ebert himself is desperate for the idea of high art culture. The paintings are said to be too complicated for a child to make. The paintings look cool, but isn't the intention of the artist part of the product. I'm pretty sure the little girl's intention is something like, "I like to paint. Pretty colors are nice." Only a very determined person could make a lengthy art critique out of those motives.

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"I took strong issue with Mr. Prestonís analogy that we are on the outside looking in (along with comic books) to a so-called ďArty Party.Ē"

Am I wrong, or wasn't Preston himself saying (in fact, wasn't the whole point of his article) that this was a fallacious analogy?

This article was confusing to me, because the author seems confused.

Ian Williams
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I agree with, and commend this article a lot; I think, that while there is a need for balance in views, we've become a little bit too much like the democratic party in feeling we are required to constantly justify the very existence of our medium, make concessions to opposing viewpoints(especially ones filled with blather and ignorance, like those on tv, or the mom that blames everquest for her son's suicide, or the columbine coverage), modify our definition of what "is" is, and then try to argue a point; it's like shooting yourself in the foot in a footrace against a cheater who starts before the shot is fired anyway, it just doesnt work.

While I think its important to continue to redefine what things like Art and Games essentially "are" in a Plato sense of the word, it's also time to let us off the hook a little on feeling obligated to grieve for the mother whose son committed suicide over everquest, or patronizingly and halfheartedly agree that there is some kind of future-shock type "Just Cause" for the demonization of things like comic books and video games in modern culture. F*** that.

As to the general discussion, are Video Games Art?

I think you'll find if you dont try and attach any extra definitions of 'Video Games are art if they...' or 'Video Games are hampering themselves by trying to be movies' you'll find that the answer is obviously yes for anyone with half a brain.

And while I agree that Video Games do need to mature a little, and stop trying to be, as a forumer at Gamespy(my original haunt on the net) said about MGS:Twin Snakes, "a great movie with a shitty game attached to it", we'll all be better off, I couldnt disagree more that we should go the way of mostly games like Tetris or Bejeweled; most games I remember at all had at least memorable characters, if not a great story altogether, and I think the most valuable things of books and movies that pretty much double the value of most games(soundtrack, immersion/mood, dialogue, monologue, etc) serve to generally enhance games as a whole.

That said, I think we do need to move more towards "worlds" in a lot of ways; why are RPGs fundamentally unchanged since D&D first started in the 70's?, why are there games like Metal Gear Solid II and Twin Snakes, when they would've obviously been better as just plain ol' CGI movies? why do all shooters disregard most anything in the way of characterization and such, and barely even change up the weapons? The point is, Video Games as a whole have let themselves become a little too stuck in their conventions, in their "focus group" testing, and in trying to be movies, and they need to stand on their own as a medium if they're ever gonna be taken seriously. I especially hate the strategies of some of the bigger companies like EA(I think the irony of their name's not lost on anyone) churning out a crapton of crap every year, and glutting shelf space for gems, and also sometimes hamstringing a potentially great game, like in the case of Vampire: Bloodlines, with an unrealistic deadline or underfunding because of risk. I realize there is a reason and purpose for marketing execs and the sort, but in the games industry they really need to just largely find out which companies have real talent and realistic goals for a game, then sit back, give them the reins, and the funding, and give it time to become a full-fledged product before subjecting the whole thing to corporate logic.

As for what is Art? Well, there are as many definitions of Art as there are pieces of it, but I'll tell you this: if anything is, gaming is.

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I once read: "Video games are art, but we don't play art we play games".

I believe anything practiced while aiming perfection can be called "ART".


"Wiser people said:

Life imitates Art."

Well, if you consider this as being true: "You cannot create anything new, everything already exists, you are only playing with what already exists."

Making art is simply the action of using life mecanics to create something interesting. I truly doubt that Life imitates art.

But I could be wrong.