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The Art History... Of Games? Games As Art May Be A Lost Cause
The Art History... Of Games? Games As Art May Be A Lost Cause
February 8, 2010 | By Charles J. Pratt

February 8, 2010 | By Charles J. Pratt
More: Console/PC

At the Art History of Games conference, Tale of Tales, the indie studio behind The Path, argues that "games are not art," and "largely a waste of time." Meanwhile, one professor examines where art and play have collided.

Tale of Tales: Games "Not Art," Largely A "Waste Of Time"

Tales of Tales has never been shy about making bold statements. At The Art History of Games conference in Atlanta, GA last week, Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey, who also worked on The Path, which many pigeon hole as an "art game," laid out their case for why video games are not and never will be art, and why games are never going to evolve.

"One thing need to be said first, we're not trying to not fit in on purpose," said Samyn. Instead, he maintained that they had tried to carve out a place for Tale of Tales in the game industry but room was never made for them. Samyn and Harvey listed the problems they have with games. Games, according to Tale of Tales, were not beautiful enough, or immersive enough, or welcoming enough for a large audience.

Harvey announced, "some of the members of the audience are confused," as he displayed a presentation slide that boldly said: GAMES ARE NOT ART. Samyn then argued that play was driven by a biological need, and that over time play had been turned into games. On the other hand, art was not created out of a physical need but in a search for higher purposes.

Unfortunately, according to Harvey, art is dead. After the rise of Modernism art has been co-opted by capitalism and restrictive forms of government. The speakers maintained that the real artists were no longer working in the art world, but instead were experimenting in the less explored corners of the internet.

Samyn then dug in further, intoning, "Beside a few noble attempts, video games are overwhelmingly a waste of time." Video games have stopped evolving, Samyn continued, and the reason that games could not get their act together was that they lacked guidance. Those that controlled the game industry weren't interested in changing, they were too comfortable with the way things were.

However, they said, old media that featured one-way communication was not enough. Computers offered the way forward for art, but at this point it is being held hostage by the video game industry. The speakers then switched from addressed to audience to a tone that implied that they were talking beyond the room.

Samyn announced that they, Tales of Tales, could not be stopped. They would continue to take games and rip out their "stupid rules" and goals. He promised that after eviscerating games they would breathe new life into the carcass, creating something new.

"Our time has come." Samyn said.

Harvey responded: "Make love, not games."

The two creators also announced that they were starting a project to organize all the people all over the world that were creating what they called "not games." The movement would be maintained on a series of blogs and forums, featuring conversations, screenshots of projects, as well as festivals with particular rules to guide the production of these new, 'not games'.

Tale of Tales' work to date includes The Path, the unreleased project 8, its first "anti-game" Endless Forest, Fatale, and its first iPhone project, the in-development Vanitas, commissioned by The Art History of Games conference.

When Art And Games Collide

While the subject of art and games has a lot of discussion that surrounds it, often it's without doing the hard legwork of actually compiling a list of the different instances in which the two worlds have collided. At the Art History of Games conference, professor Celia Pearce attempted to do just that, giving a long and thorough survey of participatory and game art from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

Appearing in several lectures beforehand, Pearce clarified the connection between the famous artist, Marcel Duchamp, and games. Famously obsessed with chess, the French artist also made art as if it was a game, often playing with constraints, such as doing on entire painting while cross-eyed. Pointing to Duchamp's readymades -- already-manufactured pieces that simply bore Duchamp's signature, including a bicycle wheel and even a urinal -- Pearce pointed out that "the procedurality of the readymades was more important than their status as objects."

Touching on the Fluxus movement, Pearce talked about the composer John Cage, who would often give himself rulesets for how to perform his different pieces, even going to the extent of physically modifying the pianos he would play. A friend and collaborator of John Cage was David Tudor, who would build musical instruments out of electronic devices that were never meant to produce music.

"This is playful art," Pearce pointed out, "not necessary games, but structured play."

Pearce touched on more modern perspective in game design, such as the New Games Movement, which created outdoor games that were not directly competitive. She connected this to the work of Frank Lantz, the co-founder of the game studio area/code, who created games such as Pac Manhattan, in which familiar video games and types of games were scaled up to the point where they became something like performance art pieces.

Parallel to the New Game Movement and Lantz's Big Games is the beginning of video game art, such as the game Alien Garden, which was designed by Bernie DeKoven and programmed by Jaron Lanier. Mods and hacks also played a huge role in early video game art. One of the first exhibitions of game art was actually an online show called "Cracking the Maze" which featured, among other pieces, the modification of different games to add female characters.

Interestingly, Pearce said, at the same time Counter-Strike, a mod of Half Life that is not considered game art, was showing the mods could actually be more popular than the games they were modifying. The two perspectives on moding collided however with the game art piece "Velvet Strike", which allowed the player's gun to fire graffiti all over the walls during a Counter-Strike match.

Pearce finished by pointing the audience towards latest wave of game art, such as Mary Flanagan's piece Giant Joystick. A recreation of an Atari joystick scaled up to 8 ft. 9-11 Survivor is a game that lets the player explore the terrible choices of a person trapped in one of the damaged Twin Towers.

Finally, Pearce pointed to the recent and strong overlap between the art games and indie games. Works like Unfinished Swan, Gravitation, Moon Stories, and The Path, are all the inheritors of a long tradition of both art and games. This meeting of the art game movement and the indie game movement is important in bringing art games to more eyes and finding more possibilities to explore in indie games.

[Charles J Pratt is a freelance game designer and a researcher at NYU's new Game Center.]

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adam wolf
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'As far as general content of the conference went, most of it was peripheral to the mindset I have when it comes to designing games or evaluating games. I have never been one to try to quantify a game’s essential artness or care about it’s claims to such. I see games like Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, Katamari, Braid and many, many others as “artful” games while others like Passage, September 12, or The Marriage I see as “art” games. I like having all these games and think that they are all important milestone for our game development community but I have absolutely NO interest in arguing their artistic merit to anyone from the art community.

I think Ian Bogost brought up a good point about games being more than art and art being broken anyways. After this conference and my research since I am finding myself agreeing more and more with this sentiment. I honestly thought this “Are Videogames Art?” question was over with and this conference was going to be more of a retrospective. I know the question of what is the value of even asking whether videogames are art was brought up, but I don’t feel like I ever heard a substantive answer. Maybe if it’s the archivist point of view like Romero’s, then I can understand that but I’m just tired of trying to prove to people that we are part of a system that’s broken anyways.'

As far as what Tale of Tales had to say, I found it interesting and I respect that they come from an entirely different discipline thane myself and that this was a stirring of the pot type speech they gave. I don't agree with what they said and what their professed views are but I am glad to hear what they have to say. I want to argue with their points but in the end I feel like that's why they say what they say; to get us to have a dialog about where we can take games.

With John Romero as the keynote speaker, I thought it was an interesting contrast to a lot of what was being said at the conference. I posted most of what I had to say about this so far already:

Charles, I think this is an interesting time to be in where the wild and wooly indie game scene and the wild and wooly art scene are overlapping.

Jen Bauer
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Games without rules, indeed. Isn't that a sort of presumptuous thing to say for a medium that revels within inherent constraints? As long as you have an environment in which people move, even that threadbare interactive experience contains rules/restraints/choices.

I have to agree that there are many "stupid rules" as Samyn suggests, but I don't believe that is due to games themselves - place it on the creators who continue the same sets of overused rules (think of your expectations for common gameplay genres).

I suppose my concern is that art-gamers are throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Brian Handy
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Jen, I agree wholeheartedly. Rules are no more a limitation to games than a canvas is to a painting. One may think they are doing away with the canvas by painting on the street, or the rules with an objective free game, but really, it's just changing what becomes the canvas or the rules into something much bigger, broader, and less specific than the current trend.

Rules are the backbone of interaction, it's what we can and cannot do when we interact. We cannot do everything, because we do not know what everything is, but we can always do more, and currently in video games, we do very little. Usually, it's just a lot of shooting, but it would be much more interesting to fondle the petals on a flower and see them slide off your fingers, especially with a fictional type of flower we've never seen before that's beautiful in its own way.

Indie games and art games is right though, and indeed, we are very lucky to be living in the thick of this.

Emile Frank
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Tale of Tales gave some nice red meat for journalists with their theatrical presentation, but their sentiments went over like a lead balloon in the room. Frank Luntz summed it up best on Twitter (check #AHoG for "real time" response to the talks as they happened): "Tale of Tales tells Brenda Brathwaite she's not an artist. Braithwaite responds by showing them love and respect [by praising The Path in her talk]. That's rhetoric vs. conversation."

I respect their position, but not the way in which they delivered it. Particularly exploitive was the parade of tragic images in the middle of their talk, which was all but forgotten after Brenda Braithwaite showed a single tragic image she used to inspire her when she was making her game "Train".

Adam Bishop
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While reading the remarks from Tale of Tales, I'm reminded of a comment made in a music review I read a few years ago - "Obscurity requires no special talent", or something to that effect. It sounds an awful lot like they showed up to the conference essentially to troll it, which strikes me as childish, not daring or progressive. The whole thing has a very Kanye West "Imma let you speak . . . " feel to it.

Tyler Glaiel
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Tale of Tales is stuck in the mindset that only their games are real art, so naturally they'd feel this way when there are very few people out there who actually like their "not-games".

I'd have a little more sympathy for them if they didn't come off as huge trolls every time they speak about games.

Josh Green
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Oh man. I love "What is art?" conversations. Honestly, art is whatever you think is art. Art has always been in the eye of the beholder, which is why it is so ridiculously hard to define.

That said...

@Adam: I agree that Tale of Tales showed up to troll the event. But they definitely have a purpose to their trolling. They're academics who put out products based solely on pure idealism and theory. They purposely fail to connect with any potential consumer audience. There are plenty of games out there that push boundaries and find audiences who enjoy them. They choose to selectively ignore such products.

I also believe that what best defines art is RULES. Orson Welles said it best: "The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." Any interactive experience has to be a closed one. Think about this. We already have an open interactive experience. It's called "real life". How many limitations one wishes to put into his or her interactive project is what helps define his or her art. But to claim that removing those pesky rules and limitations from an interactive experience is the only way to create art is patently false. Such statements show ignorance at a level that is simply breathtaking.

Robert Schmidt
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I'm getting tired of the "Games are/aren't art" articles that seem to crop up here every month. They always seem to break down into a semantic distinction. Here is the definition of "art" according to wikipedia (I know, I know, but it's not a bad place to start); "Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions." And here is the Oxford English Dictionary definition, "the expression of creative skill through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture," I don't believe that this necessarily only applies to a work in its entirety. For example a piece of industrial design can be created to fulfill a function while its interface could be designed for aesthetics. Do we ignore the artistic quality of the form because it also has a practical function?

I find that those that say games aren't art usually do so because they have defined art in some sort of romanticised context, "real artists were no longer working in the art world, but instead were experimenting in the less explored corners of the internet". Harvey seems to be implying that art is impossible if it is created within a market economy or within governed societies and that the only real art is that which rejects all conventions (except the internet for some reason). It is rather self serving to narrowly define terms so that they can only agree with your hypothesis. Harvey's interpretation also makes the concept of art entirely subjective, which he seems to believe he is uniquely qualified to judge.

If instead one takes the approach that art is the degree to which choices are made based on aesthetics rather than simply fulfilling a functional requirement (though much can be said for the art of reducing an object to it simplest form), games then tend to fall somewhere between the two extremes with some games being more artful than others. This is no different than in the film industry.

So, what is the point of the distinction? Who cares if games are art or not? One can say that "Art" is given much more latitude in its freedom of expression. A sculpture of a nude woman standing in an art gallery is viewed differently than one standing in an adult entertainment store window. Entertainment tends to have more government oversight than art. By claiming that games are not art Harvey may be working against his own purposes by making it more difficult for artists to use games to create without governments placing limits on their expression.

Finally, I think it is important to discard the elitism that some would have the term Art represent. Commercial Success, Rebellion and Beauty are not measures of artistic merit (depending on how you define beauty!?). Art is simply, anything skilfully created primarily for aesthetic appeal. Can we move on?

Roberto Dillon
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Videogames should get the same considerations as an art medium as movies. Not all movies are artistic (there's some difference between "Citizen Kane" and "The Hottie and Nottie"!) still most people consider movies an art form since they can (potentially) evoke emotions and make people think. Same for games. As simple as that.

Andrew Spearin
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I think the primary (annoying) issue with the debate is people are viewing it as an attempt to define an absolute objective positioning of games either way: They are or they aren't. The answer is entirely subjective.

I blame the Internet for the debate, but I also celebrate it.

Tim Carter
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Games aren't art.

But they are important on their own terms...

Mr. Zurkon
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"Waste of time" is extremely relative, regardless of how you define it; if you call games a waste of time you have severely misunderstood the main purpose behind it. Is recreation a waste of time?

The Path and its developers strikes me as the kind of game that goes pretentiously out of it's way to act like something it's not. The path still (mistakenly?) falls into many of the elements which qualifies it as a game, whether it likes it or not. In addition to this, The Path is not a good game nor does it have any artistic value. How these developers think this game have attained them the status of cognoscenti is beyond me.

Whether games are accepted art or not is something I couldn't really care less about. It actually annoys me to read about certain people putting this term at a pedestal, a sort of divine state that is the highest of existence. As for what it is, I agree with Robert^.

Bernardo Del Castillo
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As its been said before, I believe this debate is rather pointless since defining what is art by itself is impossible. Clearly their intention was to provoke debate on the subject, but personally I find their reasoning a little too basic. Mainly, considering that art responds to a higher purpose than game is a very questionable axiom. Creativity and Communication, are abstract concepts that are present in most human activities, and in many ways are the defining founding elements of games.

In a similar line, what is not a waste of time then? I don't think that this question has much of an answer. If we go to the philosophical extreme, its quite possible that life itself is a waste of time. But lightening up a little, I don't understand why fun wouldn't be considered "useful" time. Is it possible that they consider happiness and fun as a useless part of life?

Like with Marcel Duchamp's urinal, as a comment on the structure of art, and a reinterpretation of the conception of art as an isolated erudite fabrication, divided from reality. Arguing that games are devoid of art would be a huge lack of insight. Of course, as in most areas of development, most games tend to follow common lines.

True, some genres have been over-exploited, and lots of games feel generic. But if you analyze the construction of culture, it is generic. Very few ever break the mold, and commonly this impact does not provide success or recognition, since it normally doesn't fit in with social expectations. And for that reason, it takes time and several tries to go through this process.

On the same way, art -is not- simply "anything skilfully created primarily for aesthetic appeal", that is decoration. Especially after Bauhaus, its been clear that art is more about purposeful communication rather than Beauty, and even now, its still impossible to define.

Personally, I do believe that games could benefit greatly from having a more artistic goal. And by that i don't mean more colorful and pretty assets, as some people seem to think. I mean a focus towards interactive communication and expression, rather than the next money making sequel.

Well i think this is a good thing though, this debate. But its always better to have it as a constructive dialogue.

Sean Currie
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@ Bernado

I have to agree with you. Any debate surrounding the "Games are art" question presupposes that the word "art" is clearly defined. Until philosophers of aesthetics come to some sort of agreement on the definition of "art" the debate as far as games are concerned is meaningless.

If you agree with the statement that "all film is art" or "all literature is art" then yes, games, without a doubt, can be classified as art. As far as a single game reaching the heights of the best literature, film and music have to offer than I would say, "No, we haven't achieved that yet." But assuming that the medium itself disallows any possibility for the creation of high art... well that's just absurd. The limits of the medium haven't even begun to be explored. We are less than half a century old. And the intentionally artistic elements of the medium are less than two decades old. Will we create works on par with Kafka or Joyce? That remains to be seen. Is there something inherently deficient in the form that prevents such a feat? Of course not, and any attempt to argue otherwise is at the very best ignorant and uninformed.

Tom Baird
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This seems more like an advertising ploy. If people don't pay attention to them, they just give off as many useable quotes as possible. And I generally agree with many of the above about 'Games with no Rules'. Not only is it impossible sentiment, but rules guide everything from movies, to plays, to books, to sculpture and paintings. And if games ever do get added into the general list of art forms, it will be through their rules(gameplay) and not their assets.

Art is on a piece by piece basis. No genre is purely all art. And art can be created in just about any medium (some easier than others), so it's just a big 'Hey, look at us' advertising speech.

Mark Tran
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It's been done a lot, but comparing games to film is actually not so bad a thing to do. For example, if you think of "artiness" as a sliding scale, things become a lot better. For example, at the daft end of film, you have something like "Hotel For Dogs". Nothing but trash. I suppose this would be comparable to your oft hated upon "Space Marine" or "Madden" game.

On the other end, in the world of film, you have a 3 hour shot of a dying potted plant, backed with nouveau experimental electronica classical noise. Again. Trash. But pretentious trash. The difference is "Hotel For Dogs" knows it's not up for Sundance, but the pretentious trash thinks it's too good for Sundance. I think it'd be useful to draw a comparison to something like "The Marriage", or maybe even "The Path". It's all too personal and contrived.

People like to polarize things, but there is a middle ground. Yeah sure, so this middle ground is what appeals to us plebes, proles and hoi polloi, but guess what, widespread appeal doesn't mean that it's automatically crap. We have films like "Slumdog Millionaire" or "Up" that received wild successes, yet weren't termed as commercial cash-ins or whored out junk films. It also wasn't trying to dig too deep. It wasn't clawing at metaphor and meaning that just wasn't there. It was simply a good film. That's it. And there are a lot of games out there that are just "Good games". Those are the games I like best.

Yeah, so what if "play was driven by a biological need, and that over time play had been turned into games."

On the other hand, isn't "the search for higher purposes", nothing more than a "biological need" for us as well? People chase enlightenment through various ways... but don't you think play is a valid one?

Jasper W
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If play, as according to Samyn, is restricted to a "biological need" than what is viewing (paintings) and hearing (music)? Our entire body and senses are designed for biological need, so this statement eliminates the possibility of art. As long as paintings and music are seen as art, games are definitely art as well. The discussion about which games are art and which are not art is useless anyway. Every game is an artistic expression, even those with highly commercial purposses. Every creation is done within boundaries. Commercial games take mass-appeal as another boundary but its just one extra. Why would something stop being art when it's commercial? Its just another set of boundaries. But anyway, as Bernando and others mention, this is more a "what is art" discussion. Bottomline is; if paintings and music are art, so are games.

kP09 HI19
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OMG! Gimme a break! This guy is just jealous of rich video game guys. "Higher purposes" what? I prefer Socrates approach that says that if an amor fits on its owner, protects him from damages, is comfortable, is durable then the forger is an artist. But if an armor is made with gold just for god and soul, then the forger is a dumbass.

Dragos Stanculescu
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It is shocking how many look at video games as a medium and only see it for what it is now, not what it can be.

It is obvious that there are a lot of products made out of necessity and marketing decisions, and not out of love for the craft. Made to make money rather then communicate. It is obvious that many games out there are not art but just entertainment. However the potential is there from them to have a serious artistic payload.

It seems to me that thefolks at Tale of Tales have simple labeled as "games" the interactive software that they do not like, and "non games", the interactive software that they do like. It's semantics really. I say both are video games, just different flavors.

The ludic part of the human psyche is not something that stems from a biologic need alone, I find that to be a limited view on the matter. It is not something recent and is not something that is going to go away. People want to play and be entertained. The trick is using that hook to connect to other people and deliver one's message as a creator. Not using it, denouncing that need as a waste of time is isolating oneself in an elitist niche. Art should be about communication, not isolation.

Glen M
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"...tried to carve out a place for Tale of Tales in the game industry but room was never made for them..."

Isn't it your job as a studio to carve out a place for yourself, it is not the job of the game industry to make room for you. Really with the Internet, the iPhone, and X-Box Indie Games, the options to carve out a place is there. These guys even had a lot free press as well, so sorry a whole industry didn't make room for you. And if you were misquoted please let me know and BioShock was art.


My little place I carved out for myself:

Michael Samyn
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Here's the text and slides of our presentation:


kP09 HI19
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I don't know, this presentation is too.... generic... look:

Art is born out of a desire to touch the untouchable. To explore the unknown. Or pay tribute to it. Art is born out of a desire for transcendence. A desire for superhuman understanding. But above all, art is a journey made by a person.

I may say:

Religion is born out of a desire to touch the untouchable. To explore the unknown. Or pay tribute to it. Religion is born out of a desire for transcendence. A desire for superhuman understanding. But above all, religion is a journey made by a person.


Fantasy RPGs are born out of a desire to touch the untouchable. To explore the unknown. Or pay tribute to it. Fantasy RPGs is born out of a desire for transcendence. A desire for superhuman understanding. But above all, in Fantasy RPGs there are a journey made by a person.


Jeet Kune Do is born out of a desire to touch the untouchable. To explore the unknown. Or pay tribute to it. Jeet Kune Do is born out of a desire for transcendence. A desire for superhuman understanding. But above all, Jeet Kune Do is a journey made by a person.

Too generic.... I would like to know if you have some more technical specifications of what art is...

John Petersen
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I'd really like to see videogames go beyond what they are now. It does seem like they're stuck. Most of the videogames I ever see is what the developers think will sell the best, just once i'd like to see a game made exactly how I wanted it to play. Just once...Well maybe more. But I'd like to see it.

kP09 HI19
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I think tale of tales wants just to create new types of screen savers:

Jake May
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"Dickens, the work of the Bronte sisters, Edgar Allen Poe, are all examples of literature that is now venerated but at the time of creation and subsequent publication were considered nothing more than low brow pop culture fiction. Go back further to the Renaissance and you discover that even the most celebrated artists were constantly working for commissions and Shakespeare’s plays were considered fodder for the lower class."

Doesn't this line of thought run counter to the rest of your position?

On the one hand you recognise that ultimately history has the last word on what is and isn't art, yet on the other you seem to be saying that we can make that judgement here and now. I suspect your first sentiment is correct; only time will tell whether videogames were merely a prolonged burp in the cultural Zeitgeist or of greater significance. Neither creators nor critics can really declare one way or the other until sufficient time has passed to shed light on the merit of the work.

Besides, as others have already mentioned in this thread, the main problem with the 'are games art?' debate is that it denigrates the inherent value of games in and of themselves. We can recognise the cultural value of chess, backgammon, Texas hold 'em or pretty much any sport, without needing to declare them art. Why should the art critic's stamp of approval be necessary to validate our output?

Robert Schmidt
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@Jake May, I really don't agree that history has the last word on art. Future generations just bring a different perspective and set of values. If one were to look at the work of pre-industrial artisans; in their time the things they created were just that, things; furniture, flatware, tools, etc. In the post industrial age we look at hand crafted works in a whole new light and venerate those people who, in their time may have just been your average working Joe. It doesn't mean that retroactively their work has greater artistic merit.

One must also separate the "value" of art from the determination of what constitutes art. That someone would pay tremendous sums of money for an ancient antique does not imply that it always had that intrinsic value. Nor does it imply that it was more artfully created than a less valuable piece. Similarly, that we may consider a piece of renaissance literary trash more “literary” than a modern piece of literary trash, does not change the original motivations of the author, to make money quickly by appealing to the lowest common denominator of the day. The same as today’s trash novelist. In both of the above examples what is being appreciated is perhaps the antiquity and rarity rather than the artistic merit.

We need to be careful in assuming that future generations will be better judges of today than we are. In a court of law, the further we get from the moment of the crime the less reliable the evidence becomes, the more impressions start to override recollection. Future generations may have a better “big picture” view but they will lack the cultural perspective of the time in which the work was created. Ultimately, the decisions we make today about how we craft our games will not be made based on future judgements; they will be made based on today’s judgements.

Jake May
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@Robert, I don't think we're entirely talking at odds here - I agree that future critics may not have any greater insight about what may be considered art than those today. My specific point was that you can't have your cake and eat it, citing artists whose work was unknown or discredited at the time, then using that to justify recognising games (or some class of) as art now and damning those that don't; the great majority of "artists" and their works, both past and present, heralded at the time or not, have faded into obscurity - so if history tells us anything it is that statistically most videogames are unlikely to be considered art in the long run, maybe even the entire medium.

I suppose where we may differ (and apologies if I've misinterpreted) is that I do not believe any work has intrinsic value - there is no "essence of artiness" permeating select creations, only that which is conferred upon them by individuals. If a videogame is hailed a work of art at the time of its release but five years later lies unloved and forgotten then it's no longer art, or at least what constitutes art in the new age. However, it *is* culturally significant that at one time it was considered art, and there may be interesting reasons why that was so that are worth exploring.

Josh Foreman
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Here's my art game submission:

1. Emulate Super Mario Bros.

2. Insert a splash screen at the beginning that says: "Hug every angry mushroom and turtle."

3. Upon Mario's death bring up excoriating message about player's unquestioning rule conformity.

Robert Schmidt
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@Jake May, agreed, the fact that there have been people who have not been viewed as artists in their day but are subsequently viewed as great artists by future generations does not imply in any way that that is the case for games today.

I also agree that nothing has an intrinsic value. At the same time I don't believe that the determination of whether or not an artefact is a work of art has anything to do with value or even values.

I agree with a more "objective" view of art. As I said in my earlier post, art, as the word has been defined, has three elements;

1. Its primary purpose is aesthetic appeal, rather than fulfilling a functional requirement. So even though the inner workings of an antique watch can be beautiful, they don't qualify as art.

2. It must be "created" or "original", implying that a well painted forgery of the Mona Lisa is not art.

3. It must be skilfully done. This is the part that will generate the greatest debate but its immediate implication is that nature is not art, paintings by zoo animals are not art, the creations of computer and mathematical algorithms are not art and sadly, the paintings of infants are not art (but I would never tell my nephew or niece that).

As social policy is influenced by the artistic merit of a work it is important that the term "art" be somewhat definable. For that reason I don't agree with those that assert that the issue of whether or not games are art is irrelevant; it’s just boring. Game ratings are an example what happens when games are considered entertainment rather than an art form. You wouldn't find paintings in an art gallery "rated".

The other thing I disagree with is the notion that popularity is a measure of art. Someone who creates a work that connects well with contemporary society does not cease to be an artist when his works are no longer relevant.

As I implied in my first post, the debate about games and art seems to have nothing to do with games and everything to do with how one defines the term "art". I think when one takes an objective approach rather than a romantic one in which art resides on some higher plain, then the subject becomes less academic and more tractable.

…sorry about the long post but I guess I really didn’t want to work on my taxes tonight…

Sebastian Sonntag
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Well, it's been some time since that post and I just re-stumbled over it - but after re-reading it and the comments I just can't go on without commenting again.

I'm not sure if megalomania is the right word, but otherwise, it's the first thing that pops into my head when I read that presentation. The whole thing is just so generic, its actual purpose is more focused on marketing their games and way of thinking than on the theme of games and art. Giving statements like "Art is Dead" and "has been co-opted by [...] governments" seems kind of close-minded, if not incompetent, and sounds like a wish for more attention. "Games are a waste of time" - wow, who would've thought that? It's the definition of play.

Why not try something completely new?

No goal.

No exploration.

No interaction.

No power.

No efficient control.

NO GAME - ah, crap, what did we do?

Hm, maybe we should give it another try next time. What about writing a book - but let's take the reading away.

Will Barry
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When I was a kid, I liked to draw He-man. I enjoyed watercolors, and oil, and pencil crayons. Each had their merits. I had no clue what "Art" was. As far as I knew, art was drawing and painting (Which I liked to do). "What are you going to be when you grow up?" Someone would ask. "An artist." I would reply. Not knowing exactly what that entailed, but that it had to do with drawing and painting.

As we grow up the concept gets deluded, and the innocence of it gets rearranged. Video games are filled with art. Art is a doodle. Art is impressionism capturing light. Art is a Grecian statue. Art is a rainy day. Art is an expression. Art is art. Art is lost when art becomes math. When art becomes restrictive, and creativity is replaced by "productivity". Expression is replaced by "deadlines", and categorization becomes more important than the actual work . That's when art is dead. Art is an expression. A human instinct. Something that we have been doing since the dawn of time on cave walls by fire light.

I don't know about you, but there are many art websites out there devoted "only" to game art. Are we not calling that art? Are we not calling a creation of a character, or building art? I see a lot of talented artists in this industry, creating a lot of impressive art. Some are just "doing the job", and some are really making something unique, original, or creative.

Of course the final product is what is being talked about here. The final "product". Make art for money? What? What happened to "Starving artist"? Unless Tale of Tales is ready to give their games away for free, then they can keep their "ideas" about "Art" and "Not art" to themselves. Stop whining. And stop trying to convince everyone you are "Les Artiste".

The final product is the final product, but don't forget about all the "artists" working on that product. Just as designers design wardrobes or makeup for movies. They are artists in their own right, or maybe "craftsmen" is a more suitable term, but where do you draw the line?

Walk into any major "Art" Gallery, and you will see figure studies along with experimental modernist sculpture "in the same building. Traditional, and contemporary. Whether both are art, doesn't even need to be asked. Who would even question it.

From the building to the character, to the story, it's all art: some more pleasing than others, some experimental, some irrational, some traditional, some technical, and so on. It's "point of view" that clouds the obvious.