'Games as art' is a tired conversation, says writer and designer Ian Bogost, who instead proposes 'proceduralism'
as the new phrase to describe innovative independent titles from Braid
Using as examples selected games from Jason Rohrer, Jonathan Blow, and Rod Humble -- three figures whose names have been frequently mentioned in recent discussions of games and art -- Bogost suggests "proceduralism" as a name to describe titles that embrace "simplicity of representation bent neither toward the pixellated pang of nostalgia nor the formal austerity of abstract emergence."
He details several shared properties present in their games, some related to desired effect, some related to method of creation, and some related to form. He counts "Procedural Rhetoric," their process-intensive nature, as a common bond:
"In these games, expression is found primarily in the player's experience as it results from interaction with the game's mechanics and dynamics, and less so (in some cases almost not at all) in their visual, aural, and textual aspects.
These games lay bare the form, allowing meaning to emanate from a model ...
In artgames of the sort in question, the procedural rhetoric does not argue a position, but rather characterizes an idea. These games say something about how an experience of the world works, how it feels to experience or to be subjected to some sort of situation: marriage, mortality, regret, confusion, whatever."
Bogost also says that proceduralist games encourage introspection over both immediate gratification and external action:
"The goal of the proceduralist designer is to cause the player to reflect on one or more themes during or after play, without a concern for resolution or effect.
[Jason Rohrer's] Passage, for example, is a game about life's choices, lessons, and inevitable end. Because it is abstract in its representation of partnership and the passage from youth to old age to death, it inspires, quite naturally, consideration of this process.
[Rod Humble's] The Marriage is about the push and pull of maintaining a relationship, but the significance of that theme sits in the ambiguity between its title and the behaviors it implements. These game pose questions and simulate very specific experiences around those questions, but those experiences rarely point players to certain answers."
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