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[P]
Are Games Art?

By tmenezes in Culture
Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:27:39 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

"For Arp, art is Arp." - Marcel Duchamp

Here at the small game development team where I work, we are prone to inane and never-ending debates about such relevant topics as whether computer games are art or not. This could very well explain why we have not made it to the top of the charts. I can not leave my fellow kuro5hiners out of all the fun.


Is Everything Art?

Most people involved in computer games, in both the users and developers sides tend to agree that games are indeed art. I believe this is due to the fact that modern pop culture created the general notion that "everything is art". In fact, Arthur Danto, a philosopher of art and professor of philosophy at Columbia University, states that today [1] "you can't say something's art or not art anymore. That's all finished." In his book entitled "After the End of Art", Danto argues that "after Andy Warhol exhibited simulacra of shipping cartons for Brillo boxes in 1964, anything could be art. Warhol made it no longer possible to distinguish something that is art from something that is not". Superficially Arthur Danto seems to be supporting the claim that "everything is art", however he is only stating that "anything could be art" and that a formal definition of art is unattainable nowadays. This incompleteness in modern day formal art theory could very well be at the root of the generalized misconception that "everything is art".

The fact is that most of us are able to decide if something is a work of art or not. What we do not have is the ability to provide an objective definition. As Richard Wollheim - another philosopher of art - states in his Painting as an Art [2]: "So, there are house-painters: there are Sunday painters: there are world-politicians who paint for distraction, and distraught business men who paint to relax. There are psychotic patients who enter art therapy, and madmen who set down their visions: there are little children of three, four, five, six, in art class, who produce work of explosive beauty: and then there are the innumerable painters who once, probably, were artists, but who now paint exclusively for money and the pleasure of others. None of them are artists, though they all fall short of being so to varying degrees, but they are all painters. And then there are painters who are artists. Where does the difference lie, and why? What does the one lot do which the other lot doesn't? When is painting an art, and why?"

I will argue that the former affirmations of Richard Wollheim still holds true if you replace painting with game development. Well, maybe there are no politicians developing games for distraction, but certainly there are psychotic patients making games. The main idea here is that the medium does not make the art. The artist does. If the computer game is the medium, the game developer may or may not be an artist.

So What is Art?

As you may have guessed while reading the former paragraphs, I am not going to give you a definition. At this point in history, that would be the same as asking me to give you the momentum and position of an electron at the same time. What I can give you is an insight into what I "feel" to be art. Obviously I did not develop this "feeling" out of nothing, but rather from the cultural context of nowadays western world (because and just because I live in the western world). What I "feel" to be art is perfectly expressed in the following citation from Edgar Allan Poe [3]:

"Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul. The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of Artist."

While you could easily argue that my feeling is totally flawed and useless in determining what art is, you will probably agree that the set of things that are art is distinct from the set of things that are not. If a painting may or not be art, so may a computer game.

Another generalized misconception is that of art and artisanship being the same thing. People tend to say that doing something is art just because it is artisanship. Artisanship is a process based on human intuition, experience and heuristics. Manually creating a vase out of a pile of clay is usually an act of artisanship. Developing computer games is still very much a process of artisanship mainly due to its lack of maturity as an engineering task and the absence of well defined formal rules. This however, as nothing to do with the result being a work of art or not.

So What?

So basically some computer games are art and some are not. In fact I believe that most games fall in this latter category. This is probably due to the fact that computer games are becoming a mainstream high profit business, very much like Hollywood productions. Naturally the investors are not interested in taking high chances, so they tend to favour projects that use tested formulas and highly recognizable pop culture icons. Also, what the large majority of players expect from a game is to be entertained. Nothing wrong with any of this, it is just not an environment that will foster the production of games as works of art, the same way that Hollywood tends not to produce films that are works of art and the mainstream music industry tends not to produce music that is a work of art.

Here in Europe, old machines like the ZX Spectrum influenced the infancy of generations of programmers like me. Similar examples can certainly be found on the other continents. Being one of the few redeeming aspects of the 80's, the Spectrum culture spawned thousands of exciting ideas and original game concepts which are now completely forgotten, in favour of yet another first person shooter or yet another real time strategy game. I am not saying this is a Bad Thing(TM), just that in the Spectrum era you could code a complete game in 2 weeks and publish it almost directly from your bedroom with no greater financial risks. Naturally the degrees of creative freedom were higher, and very simple work of art games indeed appeared.

The big irony in my opinion is that the more the game developer community uses the buzz words "games are art", the more they tend not to be.

Bibliography

[1] Danto, Arthur C. (1998). "After the end of Art". ISBN 0691002991.

[2] Wollheim, Richard (1990). "Painting as an Art". ISBN 0500 275815.

[3] Poe, Edgar Allan (1849), "Marginalia". Southern Literary Messenger (reprinted in Essays and Reviews, 1984).

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Are computer games art?
o Sure 28%
o Sometimes 55%
o Never 3%
o Get a Life! 13%

Votes: 114
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Are Games Art? | 128 comments (120 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Where do we draw the line? (4.33 / 3) (#1)
by redbatszu on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 07:53:29 AM EST

Art, craftsmanship, whatever..it's all the same, really. Drawing a line between things that are not art and things that are is a bad idea, partly because it doesn't serve any purpose at all and partly because the word 'art' lacks a proper definition people can agree on. Saying that everything is art and separating bad art and good art tends to lead to a lot more interesting discussion, in my experience, since the subjective aspect of it all will be covered by the words good and bad. Discussing what is and isn't art implies that there is some sort of final answer, and there doesn't seem to be one.

Re: Where do we draw the line? (none / 0) (#3)
by tmenezes on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:05:16 AM EST

I don't agree at all with you fist statement. Art and craftsmanship are quite orthogonal concepts. Something can be art and craftsmanship, but it can also be just art or just craftsmanship. I also don't agree that you gain objectivity by shifting the discussion to good vs. bad art. I belive you will be discussing exactly the same concepts with other names.

[ Parent ]
Sorry (none / 0) (#13)
by redbatszu on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:36:52 AM EST

It's been a while since I've engaged in discussion such as these, so I'm having some trouble expressing myself :p. My point is that by doing the "good art"/"bad art" thing we embrace the inherent subjectivity that *will* pop up during a discussion on art. I don't believe it's possible to be objective when it comes to this subject, but by arguing over what is and what isn't art, it's too easy to believe that there actually is an answer.

[ Parent ]
"Interesting discussions"............ (none / 0) (#6)
by gifrancis on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:11:00 AM EST

So, in your opinion, the concept of good and bad is defined. We don't know what is art, so we assume every thing is art. And we know, for sure, what "good" is and what "bad" is, so we can judge what "good art" is and what "bad art" is. And, still, in your opinion, this "discussion" is a valid one....?
I most strongly desagree.

There is no "bad art", or "good art". Art is art, but not every thing is art. Regardless of every thing else!

And by the way, don't be silly by saying that art and craftsmanship is the same... Doesn't show much inteligence.

[ Parent ]

Uhu (none / 0) (#12)
by redbatszu on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:33:39 AM EST

First of all, I'm not saying that the concepts of good and bad are defined at all. That's precisely the point. Good and bad are relative concepts and most people can agree on that. Any discussion about art needs to keep in mind that opinion *will* matter at one point or another. The article claims that most people are able to tell the difference between art and craftsmanship, but the thing is, they never agree on where the difference lies! All I'm saying is that the conversations that begin with "How the hell can you consider games (or whatever) art?" tend to devolve into stupid little arguments a bit too quickly. OK, so "good art" and "bad art" is probably a bad choice of words, but the point is that arguing whether something is art is a lot less rewarding than discussing its merits as art, as craftsmanship or as whatever. Anyway, what *is* the difference between craftsmanship and art? The old "I know art when I see it" line isn't going to work on me, sorry...

[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#14)
by tmenezes on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:37:50 AM EST

The article claims that most people are able to tell the difference between art and craftsmanship, but the thing is, they never agree on where the difference lies! No, that's not at all what the article says. I suggest that you read it a bit more thoroughly before debating.

[ Parent ]
OK, then get rid of this... (none / 0) (#15)
by redbatszu on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:40:24 AM EST

I realize it's not the main point of the article at all, but it's still in there. "The fact is that most of us are able to decide if something is a work of art or not."

[ Parent ]
why? (none / 0) (#16)
by tmenezes on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:42:13 AM EST

Well it is to the point in my opinion, because the point constructs from:
  1. It is impossible to provide an objective definition for art.
  2. It is possible and common to have a "gut feeling" for what is art and not.


[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#17)
by redbatszu on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:44:24 AM EST

This gut feeling is a lot less than universal. What I think is art, another person will consider pure craftsmanship. When the line between the two concepts is so blurry, I don't really see the point of keeping the line there at all.

[ Parent ]
They can be. (3.75 / 4) (#4)
by Bad Mojo on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:08:19 AM EST

Well, that was an easy question. NEXT!


-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

O'erhasty dismissal? (none / 0) (#9)
by Irobot on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:26:23 AM EST

I find your dismissal of the topic interesting, especially given your .sig. Bill Watterson had a wonderful way of ridiculing pretentious "art" (i.e., Calvin's snow sculptures) in much the same way the quote in your sig ridicules bad writing. The question is, what qualifies? I think it's only superficially easy...

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

My response. :) (none / 0) (#20)
by Bad Mojo on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:21:12 AM EST

Is X Art?

-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

[ Parent ]
Still... (none / 0) (#26)
by Irobot on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:14:15 AM EST

Your rant is a non-answer. And don't get me wrong - that's fine. You feel that "Art" is a subjective term that everyone decides for themselves. I certainly have no desire to discuss (much less debate) it with someone who takes such a position.

The thing is, I still think it's a too-hasty dismissal of an interesting question. If one were so inclined, your answer could be applied to almost any term. I put "Art" in a class with the "Tao" - as soon as you give a definition, it's fairly easy to find a case where it's violated. That doesn't alleviate the fact that the term "Art" has an understood meaning; if it didn't, it would (literally) be a senseless term.

Yes, definitions make the world easier to discuss - but they're almost never fully descriptive, and are often used as a cheap way of discrediting worthy discussions. It's not that "the English language is stupid," paraphrasing the linked article, it's that definitions are insufficient for full conveyance of meaning. Here's an applicable quote:

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.
-- Henry Adams
Quick dismissals of such discussion are simply lazy and unproductive. (But of course, one could say that the discussions themselves are unproductive. Which, as I said earlier, leads me to simply not engage in discussions with people who feel that way.)

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

The point ... (none / 0) (#30)
by Bad Mojo on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:43:20 AM EST

... is that games CAN be, thus there is room for a discussion as long as everyone agrees that you can never say "Games are art" or "Games are not art". Every individual is going to see art where they want to see it.

I can see that you are someone who like the discussion more than finding the answers. That's fine. Just don't ruin any forums doing it or you'll cause me to write more rants with spelling errors. My problem stems from people who are going to call all games art (or free speech or crappy wastes of money or NOT art) until they turn blue in the face and die. Arguing two static, inflexible sides of an ongoing issue with (clearly) no real definitive outcome often degenerates into a waste of time for everyone. Accepting that games exist in an undefined state of art-ness is a much more interesting concept and unique viewpoint, IMO.

-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

[ Parent ]

Ah... (none / 0) (#34)
by Irobot on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:13:35 AM EST

OK, so I was talking at a semi-different angle. Glad we got that cleared up. With your last comment, I find we're in agreement - just from different points of view. It's not so much that I'm someone who like the discussion more than finding the answers as it is that I've found actual answers to be almost completely elusive. I only *wish* that they weren't. Hence, my desire for discussion (and my avoidance of people who "argue two static, inflexible sides of an ongoing issue").

Somehow, however, these discussions *do* take place with some sort of common understanding about what is being discussed. With many of them, I find myself gaining perspectives I wouldn't have reached on my own - which, to me, makes the discussion of "why a game is considered art or not" valuable. But you're absolutely right - the question of "can games *universally* be considered art?" is uninteresting because it is so obviously subjective. I would, however, like to read comments on why people feel one way or the other, rather than simply dismiss the question.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Escaping the tomb (4.71 / 7) (#7)
by Ranieri on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:16:07 AM EST

This topic shows up once in a while. This is the best comments on this topic i read so far. I thought I'd share it with you.
It's about breasts, Max Payne and cinematography. Go read it.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
Games are not art. (3.83 / 6) (#18)
by i on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:12:05 AM EST

Games fool with your testosterone, arts fool with your serotonin. They are different classes of drugs.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

Steven Seagal (none / 0) (#19)
by Ranieri on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:20:18 AM EST

Video games appear to be stuck in the the gaming equivalent of a Steven Segal film. But just as there's more to films than shallow action flicks, there's no reason why someone couldn't step up and make a game that will be remembered in ten or twenty years as the Casablanca of computer games.

Maybe we need to reach a technological plateau first, where games will keep their value longer than the current infinitesimally small useful life. I am however confident that eventually we will reach a point where computer games will be able to express ideas more complex than "go there and kill the green guys".
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

Well, they do already... (none / 0) (#69)
by Eater on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:52:05 PM EST

If you really look, there are a few games out there that really DO express fairly complex ideas. These would probably be better described as interactive narratives, and in general the interactive part seems to be very sepperate from the narrative part. So the game basically serves as an illustration of sorts for the story. Of course, some ideas expressed are not very good, but that doesn't mean they're not expressed. If you want examples, take a look at Deus Ex (yeah, it's not exactly original, but it DOES express ideas.. well, OK, maybe bad example), I-War 2: Edge of Chaos (interesting plot), and probably a few others I can't think of right now. But the really obvious art/idea here is not actual in the game - it's in the game's story.
Then again, paintings don't really express ideas either.

Eater.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps not interactive literature ... (none / 0) (#82)
by Ranieri on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:26:17 AM EST

While I'm not sure i have encountered any "interactive literature" yet, I have played quite a number of games whose plot I rate above 90% of the dead tree crap I tend to pick up at the airport.
While of course there no accounting for taste (or generation :), I would like to give a special mention to Sierra's original Gabriel Knight and Lucas' Day of the Tentacle.

But the really obvious art/idea here is not actual in the game - it's in the game's story.

Similarly, rarely are literary works praised for their editorial or typographical merits. Usually what we value in books is the story they tell, the ideas they express and the thoughts they provoke.
With cinema the situation is similar. Good photography and special effect will help your film become this year's blockbuster. However, when all is said and done, nobody watches the old classics for the special effects. It's again all about plot, characters, ideas.

It is my hope that video games (and computer programs in general) will ascend this technically focussed phased they are caught in at the moment, will transcend this status of novelty, and will move into a phase where both designers and consumers will pay attention to the actual content of the game. Plot, characters, the whole works.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

My problems with "interactive narratives" (none / 0) (#119)
by Eater on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 06:29:33 PM EST

Although a good game with a good story is certainly a great deal of fun (and you do have a point - film has the same exact issue), the reason I (hopefully) make it sound like a bad thing is that I think games can be so much more. What I mean, of course, is non-linear story telling. I don't mean to sound like the typical gamer screaming "I want more cool graphics, non-linear story, and uh.. big robots that shoot stuff, yeah!" (although that may not be a bad idea...), but it just seems to me that there is a lot of potential for games if the interactive part could somehow be combined with the story part. I admit, I have no idea how it could work, but until that happens, games will continue to just be interactive movies/stories, not the interactive worlds they aspire to be. Of course, there is really nothing wrong with a good interactive story, but an interactive world, if done right, can be much better. It's like with sails and steam engines when the steam engine was first invented - perfected, long used sails performed better and were more reliable than the new steam engines for ships, but not because the concept better, simply because they were much more developed. The current attempts at non-linear storyline are pretty pathetic, but with time they could develop and "outperform" ordinary, hand-crafted story.

Eater.

[ Parent ]
Ideal... (none / 0) (#121)
by Ranieri on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:15:26 AM EST

Ideally you would want the game designer to set up an interesting world with interesting characters in it, and sort of let you run with it. If the world's properly crafted there will be plenty of adventure, drama and suspense.
Early attempts at this recipe however were a tad boring (elite/frontier, daggerfall etc) and were quickly supplanted by more traditional scripted counterparts (like privateer).

My hopes are high that we will soon see a reversal of this trend however. Scripted games require the designers to foresee every possible development and author code to deal with every occasion. This quickly becomes impractical when the choices available to the player become large. Already we see games shifting to a hybrid model where main events are carefully planned, but minor encounters are handled on-the-fly using generic scripts, as for example in the Baldur's gate family of games.

Computer games are already quite a bit more than than simple violence dispensers, and i think this trend will only get stronger as the technology (and the audience!) matures.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

Testosterone (none / 0) (#21)
by sien on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:24:28 AM EST

Quick, someone should tell all those Sims players to stop playing before they all go testosterone crazy !

[ Parent ]
Testosterone? (none / 0) (#32)
by mirleid on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:48:31 AM EST

Is that a sexist comment?



Chickens don't give milk
[ Parent ]
No. Both sexes have testosterone [n/t] (none / 0) (#33)
by revscat on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:53:12 AM EST



- Rev.
Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
[ Parent ]
Should I have added a smiley to the post? [n/t] (none / 0) (#35)
by mirleid on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:18:28 AM EST



Chickens don't give milk
[ Parent ]
Remember the idea of craftsmen? (4.66 / 3) (#22)
by memfree on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:31:57 AM EST

It used to be that beauty was incorporated into all sorts of things -- mantels of fireplaces, wall cornices, carved chair legs, all sorts of things were ornate and artistic, but were not considered art. I don't remember the old definition, but I believe that in previous times, if it provided a function but was ornate, it was not art. Art was something that existed merely to be itself.

As such, I think game developers should consider themselves highly skilled (and valued!) craftsmen. Games *could* be created witrhout all the artistic flourishes -- but the aesthetics are a big factor in whether people buy a particular product.

Artist vs. Artisan (none / 0) (#36)
by graal on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:19:12 AM EST

This is venturing a bit into the deep water, but I always sort of separated the two according to the intent of the worker.

For example, (and this is strictly my opinion) an artist creates a work of art that is self-attested, provokes an emotional response, makes a statement or otherwise interacts with the viewer/recipient on both a visceral and intellectual level. Picasso's Three Musicians works well as an example: it's visually jarring (to me, anyway), but after a few minutes of study, 'pleasing to the mind' as the various shapes sort of come into focus.

An artisan also creates a work that is formed by it's intended use. The beauty of the thing is part and parcel with the goodness-of-fit with its utility. Certain hand tools I've used fit the bill: the elegance with which they were designed is a significant part of their aesthetic for me.

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

When did games become utilitarian? (none / 0) (#61)
by hardburn on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 06:33:41 PM EST

A game is pure entertainment. Sometimes they are simplistic jumping games (Mario) and sometimes they are massive worlds with a complex plot (Chrono Trigger), but they are still entertainment. Chairs, tables, and lamps have a specific, utilitarian function beyond any artistic merit. Games don't.

Further, most of the peices of a game are also considered art. The music is just like music anywhere else (though choosen to reflect the certain part of the game you're at, just as movies do). The graphics are just a modern way of doing a painting. With a few exceptions, games that are worth playing have an excelent story (or are books not art?) There are arguments for and against computer code as art, which is another discusion entirely. In any case, the players generaly don't see the code. They only feel its effect on other parts of the game.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
utilitarian? (none / 0) (#114)
by memfree on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:59:05 PM EST

Hrm.   "Utilitarian" is a fair synonym for "providing a function", but I'd like to look the whole thing a little more.  Are toys like "Sit 'n'Spin" utilitarian?  They aren't providing transportation -- they just entertain kids.  Does that make them art?  In my original thought, I'd have said that entertainment was the *function* of games (and most TV shows, and a variety of other time wasting activities), but entertainment is not particularly utilitarian, so perhaps I shouldn't bring that up.

I consider Ansel Adams to be an artist, and his photos to be Art.  I do not consider news photos to be Art even though they may be artistic.  Their purpose is to give information about a news story -- regardless of artistic merit.  Heck, I don't even consider books of Rembrandt paintings to be Art -- I think of them as tools to view Art.  

The above logic falls apart if Ansel Adams took a picture, and it happened that some news event occurs as the shutter snaps closed.  It is silly to presume the photo would only be Art only until published with a news story -- or that if Ansel Adams had purposefully taken a photo FOR a news item, that the photos would be of less quality than his pictures of mountains, or such.

I think of music in video games as something akin to Muzak in elevators (but much, MUCH better).  Not sure I'd call Muzak Art -- it is a rehash of art for commercial purposes.  All in all, I still feel like games incorporate many artistic elements, but are not Art in and of themselves..... yet I am absolutely convinced that all the best games contain boat loads of creativity.  

Maybe we need another word.  Maybe we spend too much time assuming that 'Art' only refers to 'excellent art'.


[ Parent ]

but why ? (4.20 / 5) (#23)
by forthwith on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:43:44 AM EST

in the first paragraph of your second section, you say that you are not going to define what is art. but it is exactly what you are doing a couple of lines below.

the question of the ontology of art has been debated and relatively well resolved more than 10 years ago. i do believe that it even has been discussed a couple of times here before.

you do not explain your statement on the 'generalized misconception that "everything is art"'.

then your whole article is based on a citation of Wollheim that is logically flawed: essences do not exist (or at least, are not the consensus anymore). thus art cannot be seen as an essence, an ideal object existing in a higher plane of existence that we have to infer through the knowledge of our soul to perceive art (much like the "idea" in Plotin and the neo-platonician's philosophy, a concept that was widely popular in the italian renaissance.)

basically, an object cannot be or not be "art". this would be an essentialist definition. however, people widely think that art does exist. for something to be considered as art, it must pass through a legitimation process (kind of like the voting queue here). when it has acquired enough credibility/consideration (through being shown in galleries accepted in the art world, through having scholars write about them, etc.), then the object is considered art.(this is, i concede, an oversimplified explanation, but it seems to work this way...)

why is it then so important to decide if computer games are art or not ? like danto said, the notion of art is not pertinent anymore to our era.

i am not saying that everything is art. the point that i would like to make is that nothing is art, but that nearly everyone thinks that it can be.

some interesting readings concerning that idea (if you are interested, and if you have not read it yet) could be found in nelson goodman's work as a philosopher of art.

so if you are continuing on this way, it would be vital for your article to define:
1. why does art exist as an essence (how can something be or not be art) ?
2. why is 'Artisanship [...] a process based on human intuition, experience and heuristics' (which is irremediably linked to the first question)
3. and finally why 'The big irony in my opinion is that the more the game developer community uses the buzz words "games are art", the more they tend not to be.' (which does not seem to be backed by any argument)

amitiés,
forthwith

Nothing... (none / 0) (#46)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 01:47:43 PM EST

...sounds sillier, on the lips of a philosopher, than the phrase: the issue has been resolved.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
The question of intent (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by dnix on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:02:26 PM EST

As I recall (and correct me if I am wrong, it has been a while), one of Goodman's concepts was that intent matters. However, by "intent" he did not simply mean the intent of the artist, but also the intent of the viewers perceiving the art; this is where the legitimation process comes in: if enough people consider something to be art, then it is art (provided, of course, that the consensus is that the word of the persons making who hold these opinions matters). That is why things created long ago by craftspersons or artisans as functional items are often considered objects of art by later generations.

The interesting thing here is that, unless his or her pronouncements are given enough weight by enough people, having someone simply say, "My work is art" does not make it so. On the other hand, having someone say, "No, really, this is not at all art" does not make that a true statement either. Also, whether you like something or not does not necessarily drive your own decision on whether or not something is or is not art. Plenty of people hated Warhol's works but agreed that his stuff was art (and a smaller number thought it sucked and was absolutely not art, but that faction has obviously lost out with respeect to Warhol).

This is an interesting democritization of the theory of art (and is of course ony a part of what Goodman has to say on the subject). We find ourselves, in our effort to decide what is or is not art, swept up by the collective nature of world-making, where we all together and individually create and evolve the worlds (or spheres of activity or whatever you would like to call them) in which we live.

So, are games art? If we take Goodman at his word (at least his word as I half-remember it), the question is a mistake. Others on this thread have pointed this out as well, in other ways. Making a judgment about a category is wrong-headed simply because the concept of assigning the status of art to a whole class of things is not something that makes much sense. The question must be applied to specific games, for that is where the judgment will be made by each of us.



[ Parent ]
To me (none / 0) (#65)
by trane on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:48:21 PM EST

Art is something that I cannot think of any way to improve upon.

If a piece of code does what it's supposed to with no bugs and is easy to read, that's art to me...

[ Parent ]

Clearly the only art exists in SNES games (3.50 / 4) (#24)
by natael on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:47:39 AM EST

I believe what you are feeling is nostalgia, not art. For the majority of your story you can't even agree on what art is, or how to really define it. You say it is something you just know, and when you list some examples, you praise games like Chaos. Is it art because it is unique? The entire game is basically real-time D&D combat. In turn, the ideas in this game have evolved into the combat systems for every major RPG in the last ten years. Most of these modern games have made dramatic improvements to the graphics, such as Final Fantasy X, or to the gameplay, as in Golden Sun.

I think you miss the days of the Spectrum, where games didn't require years to make, and the graphics and sound were simple enough that even a programmer could make them. These are the games you grew up on, and you will always see them as greater than they really were.

Just because a game is produced by a large company, doesn't mean it is just another first person shooter. It doesn't mean that individual creativity is lost in a large team. Just because most games now take place in 3D worlds does not mean they are all based on the same game concept.

If you really feel that American games have lost their status as art, then please import some games from Japan. You'll find a lot of original, fun, artistic games that they feel would never sell in Europe or America. If you miss the days of simple game development, why not look into shareware games, or work for a company creating portable game solutions for phones and PDAs.

"And now you're apologizing, not for insulting and denigrating people you don't

I agree (none / 0) (#27)
by bowdie on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:14:27 AM EST

>I think you miss the days of the Spectrum, where >games didn't require years to make, and the >graphics and sound were simple enough that even >a programmer could make them. These are the >games you grew up on, and you will always see >them as greater than they really were.

Yeah, I recently stumbled upon a CD with 5,000 Spectrum games and about 2,000 C64 games. Having played all the games I was addicted to in my youth, I was left with a curious feeling of dissapointment.

Like any form of nostalgia, it's not so much the actual game / single / book / film but all the other things you were doing at the time it came out. Jet Set Willy felt amazing twenty years ago, now it feels like a overly fussy, badly thought out, pixel perfect jumping nightmare.

I think games can be considered as art. Just like anything, art is in the eye of the beholder.(pun not intended) I'd kill for a gamecube powered version of Nights into Dreams from the Saturn, I still play that. I wonder what it'll look like in twenty years!

[ Parent ]

You are assuming to much (none / 0) (#37)
by tmenezes on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:21:23 AM EST

I clearly state that I do not consider the current state of affairs a bad thing. I also only use the Spectrum examples because they serve my purpose of ilustrating the point I am trying to make and I am very familiar with them. I also don't see why you get the impression that I want to antagonize American games. Because I say I grew up in Europe? Come on, you're just being paranoid. I even make fun of a Japanese game in the article...

[ Parent ]
What? Antagonize? Huh? (none / 0) (#41)
by natael on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:35:15 PM EST

What point are you making then? Based on your examples, you seem to feel that the current state of affairs is a bad thing, or at the very least not art.

Why would I have the impression that you want to antagonize American games? I don't think I said anything like that. My point was simply that you seem to feel that current games lack creativity, and that maybe you should look at the Japanese market which still publishes a number of innovative and non-conventional games which are not marketable to Europe and America.

"And now you're apologizing, not for insulting and denigrating people you don't
[
Parent ]

To cite you (none / 0) (#45)
by tmenezes on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 01:08:15 PM EST

To cite you:

If you really feel that American games have lost their status as art, then please import some games from Japan.

I am not even saying that art is a good thing. I just want to debate the issue of computer games being art or not. I am not advocating art in computer games. Just debating. Period.

[ Parent ]

Tone of the story suggests otherwise (none / 0) (#55)
by natael on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 03:59:03 PM EST

I read over the story again to see why I got that impression. I noticed several places where the language you used would imply an opinion, but you would append "I am not saying this is a Bad Thing" in an effort to stay neutral.

For example, consider this; "Spectrum culture spawned thousands of exciting ideas and original game concepts which are now completely forgotten... yet another [game]." By using the adjectives exciting and original, you suggest that these games are good. When you say forgotten, the reader might believe that these types of games no longer exist. Your repeated use of "yet another" suggests that modern games are not as good, or original.

Forgetting the topic of art for the moment, and going back to the parent message, I think it is reasonable to say that you expressed a dislike for modern commercial games pushed out by large companies. My point remains that unique, artistic games exist, although they are uncommon in English. The argument you make at the end of your story is based on the lack of originality in the game industry today. Considering that this originality still exists, you should rethink your argument.

If you are really not advocating games as art, then you might consider rephrasing those last few paragraphs if the story gets voted down.

"And now you're apologizing, not for insulting and denigrating people you don't
[
Parent ]

Better question (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by hardburn on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:51:56 AM EST

Can a game be art?

As you mention, the definition of "art" is way to broad these days. Some people think a mangled statue in a park is "art", while the Mona Lisa is "just a nice painting".

It isn't any good to ask if video games are art. We need to ask if video games can be art.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


Appreciating the process, Subjectivity (3.33 / 3) (#31)
by mmaster on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:47:19 AM EST

Being involved in a gamer's community, I'm aware of the difficulties in accomplishing some of the tasks. When I see an elegant, concise solution, the programmer's experience and familiarity with environment and goals bleed through. This is why a particularly experienced engineer may be able to conquer a chemical plant startup with relative ease and little need for the 'tools' that a fresh graduate has just been armed with.

While you didn't state this explicitly, art and subjectivity are clearly tied. That's why we'll never have an objective definition of art. If you say that art is useless for this reason, then you missed what art can do when an individual authentically defines art for oneself. Art has a transformative power because the individual recognizes the artistic struggle to create and identifies with the struggle and the solution.

Finally, the Edgar Allen Poe quote, while elegantly stated and quite definitive in its view, lacks a recognition of humans being part of Nature. When we touch that source in all our actions, we can be nothing but Artists.

Mitesh Master

"Listen lady, I don't come down to where you work and slap the dick out of your mouth."
--Mr. Show, Season 1 Episode 2, Consultant Skit

Geeks with grandiose delirium, again. (2.62 / 8) (#38)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:10:48 PM EST

A few signs to recognize art:

a)The artist looks for originality (that is why Brittney Spears is not an artist, Andrew Lloyd Weber may aspire to be one).
b)The art object is valuable by itself and not in reference to its functionality (that is why artists normally can't make a living from their endeavours, while artisans can manage better).
c)Any human being can recognize the art object as such (which is why anybody can relate to a Kabuki piece, a Picasso painting, or the paintings in the Altamira caves).

Games lack badly in all points:
a)Save a few examples, most games lack originality. Andy Warhol exhibiting soap boxes was original. Me doing it today would be not. The artist was him, I would be just a cheap plagiarist.
b)This is the most important point: a game that does not fullfil its function (to be played) is dumped in the bin or in the $2 CD aisle. The game to exist has to fulfill a function not realated to pure aestethic appreciation. Cinema and photography, two of the most recent additions to human arts, can stand by themselves without any utilitarian ulterior motives.
c)The people that find any aestethic value on games, are normally limited to, oh surprise, gamers and game developpers. Any other person watching a game can not help it but to feel immense pity or desdain for the gamers and their endeavours, but certainly does not normally relate to a game as an object of art.

Finally, the time machine test (which I have explained when programmers, of all people, were claiming that their obfuscated code is art): put a painting, a poem in a langauge likely to exist for long time, a photograph of the Casasola archive and your favorite game, with instructions to play it, without which it becomes a pointless thing, in a box, bury it and reopen in lets say 1000 years.

Can you put the hand in your heart and say that the game will be recognized with the others as a form of art? I can't. Most probably it would be recognize for what it is: a fad of the late XXth century (that may takes us to virtual reality, where the artistic oportunites may lay in the future).
---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

Your arguments are weak (4.00 / 1) (#42)
by krek on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:40:12 PM EST

They are all based on your subjective opinion.

I will only pick on two of them:

"c)The people that find any aestethic value on games, are normally limited to, oh surprise, gamers and game developpers. Any other person watching a game can not help it but to feel immense pity or desdain for the gamers and their endeavours, but certainly does not normally relate to a game as an object of art."

Gee, how many hillbillies do you know that enjoy going to art galleries? Art is not universal, what appears to be art for one person may just be junk to another. Most people would not agree that Atari Teenage Riot is art, they would say that it is just noise, it takes a bit of training to recognise that particular form of art. My point being is that the aesthetic value of music is recognized only by musicians and music lovers. Ballet is appreaciated soley by ballerinas and ballet enthusiasts. Your argument holds no weight.

"Finally, the time machine test... put a painting,... and your favorite game... in a box, bury it and reopen in lets say 1000 years.... Can you put the hand in your heart and say that the game will be recognized with the others as a form of art?"

No, can you say the same about the Mona Lisa? The Raven? Beethoven's Sixth? Not that it really matters of course, we find pots and vases left over at various archeological sites around the world and classify them as art. Why? Because it looks like art to us. Chances are the people from the future that you are talking about will be more interested in the box that you used than the "art" that was in it.

[ Parent ]
another weak arguments (4.66 / 3) (#44)
by Phelan on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:51:35 PM EST

b)This is the most important point: a game that does not fullfil its function (to be played) is dumped in the bin or in the $2 CD aisle. The game to exist has to fulfill a function not realated to pure aestethic appreciation.

re-written: "b)This is the most important point: a DVD that does not fullfil its function (to generate profits for the studio) is dumped in the bin or in the $2 DVD aisle. The DVD to exist has to fulfill a function not realated to pure aestethic appreciation."

A game, a DVD, a Tape/CD/Album, or even a book are all dumped in the $2.00 aisle or trash bin for the same reasons: they fail to generat profits for the studio that produced them. Go to Blockbuster or a Cinemark movie and tell me that if movies are priced based upon their cinematic value. Think Sound Warehouse prices CD's based upon the artistic value of the music? Most books are priced similarly/competitively, and when they don't sell, they get dropped from print and existing copies get put in the "$2.00 aisle". Just because something is sold as commodity or good doesn't mean that it may not have intrinisic aesthetic value.

[ Parent ]

Who is talking about art galleries? (none / 0) (#88)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 08:06:52 AM EST

I am talking about ART. Painting, writing. We humans relate to those and other activities at an aesthetic level. All humans paint, sing, and tell histories (that is why cinema and photography are arts now: they are more refined forms of human painting or story telling).

A game says nothing, the plot 99% of the time lacks any artistic value whatsoever (no originality, no incisive questioning of the worl around us nothing. Shoot them up, win a rcae, solve the puzzle).

The only posible artistic value would be the graphics. But graphics being also so repetitive and formulaic remind more of Britney Spear than of John Lennnon.

And finally the intention: how many game programmers are intending to make art? Few, if any.
---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

[ Parent ]

paint by numbers (4.50 / 2) (#90)
by Phelan on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 08:26:00 AM EST

And finally the intention: how many game programmers are intending to make art? Few, if any.

And, finally, the intention: How many people who buy paints/colored markers/crayons/what have you are intending to make art? Few, if any. For every one you could name, I could easily find a hundred that got 'art supplies' to make paint-by-numbers, to color in coloring books, or otherwise make 'unoriginal' works. Whoops. I guess painting isn't an art after all.

[ Parent ]

You said 99% (none / 0) (#102)
by krek on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:03:03 PM EST

ART? Writting? Are you claiming that your comment is art? Presumptuous, aren't you? Are you claiming that this comment is art? How flattering. 99% of the timegames lack artistic content? What about the other 1%? Is it art?

I don't paint or sing, and I rarely tell histories, am I not human?

Your arguments remain weak. 99% of all paint bought is used for non-artistic uses (I have pulled this number from the same place you pulled yours, by the way), most paint is used to paint walls and bridges and such, does that mean that paintings are not art? And in the same vein, most painters are not looking to create art, they are just painting the wall, it's their job.

[ Parent ]
self-referential argument (4.25 / 4) (#43)
by Phelan on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:44:36 PM EST

c)The people that find any aestethic value on games, are normally limited to, oh surprise, gamers and game developpers. Any other person watching a game can not help it but to feel immense pity or desdain for the gamers and their endeavours, but certainly does not normally relate to a game as an object of art.

How bout: c)The people that find any aesthetic value in music, are normally limited to, oh surprise, musicians and people who listen to music. Any other person has trouble trying to understand the artistic value.

You've basically said "Well the only people who value the thing are the people who do it, and the people who value it". Well, no shit. Peopel who don't value a thing likely won't see any aesthetic value in it. I don't see much aesthetic value in traditioanl chinese opera music. It sounds all twangy and gongy and makes my head hurt. It must not be art, because the only people who think it is are those that perform it, and, well, those that like it, and I'm not included in those categories. Heh.

[ Parent ]

Furthermore... (none / 0) (#67)
by benDOTc on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:19:15 PM EST

Furthermore, the same argument could be made for other things which i think most of us would agree are art.

c)The people that find any aestethic value on cubist paintings, are normally limited to, oh surprise, cubists and art patrons. Any other person looking at a cubist painting can not help it but to feel immense pity or desdain for the cubists and their endeavours, but certainly does not normally relate to a cubist painting as an object of art. ben.c

[ Parent ]
Everybody can relate to paintings as art. (1.00 / 1) (#87)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 08:01:14 AM EST

Not so with computer games.
---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

[ Parent ]
Exactly my point (n/t) (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by Phelan on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 08:27:21 AM EST

n/t

[ Parent ]
Small difference: (none / 0) (#86)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 07:59:59 AM EST

Everybody relates to music. Only people with a veiled interest claim games have some artistic value.
---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

[ Parent ]
No difference; (4.00 / 3) (#89)
by Phelan on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 08:22:46 AM EST

Everybody relates to music. Even the deaf? Even those that can hear often only relate to a small subset of music. Many people claim pop isn't art, for instance. It occurs to me that every game I've played in the last 3 years or so has had music in it.

Now, for your statement that only game players and game designers relate to games: False. Often when we do LAN gaming at my house, several folk will show up who don't play games. They are mostly interested in the socialization and comraderie from hanging out with friends, but they just don't play games. But those same people will often comment on the graphics design, music, or other aspects of the game. They're 'relating' even if they aren't playing.

[ Parent ]

Britney Spears: artist or art (none / 0) (#54)
by dr k on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 03:55:53 PM EST

I'm not sure if Brittney Spears [sic] is much of an artist, but as a media sensation she is certainly a work of art. Hundreds of people are involved with the creation of her image, her songs, her torso. She is a living movie.

That doesn't mean she won't start doing lots of coke and have a breakdown at some point. But as a media icon, she is vastly more interesting than Andrew Lloyd Weber, who is an automaton.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Painfully dumb. (none / 0) (#60)
by jmzero on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 05:44:15 PM EST

(that may takes us to virtual reality, where the artistic oportunites may lay in the future).

So you can have art in "virtual reality" but not in "video games".  Great.  

Similarly, I'm sure I could not create art with a crayon... if only I had a paintbrush!

a)The artist looks for originality (that is why Brittney Spears is not an artist, Andrew Lloyd Weber may aspire to be one).

Ms. Spears is an artist.  She's just a poor one... and attempting to distinguish between her and Mr. Starlight Express seems sort of a waste.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

What does originality have to do with art? (none / 0) (#62)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:51:50 PM EST

So if I copy Warhol's art what I produce isn't art? Tell me - what's the difference? Clearly, by your definition, whether its art or not doesn't depend on what the piece is itself but what the sales person tells you as it was sold to you "Oh yes, it's a genuine Warhol, I've got a certificate to prove it".

And the ironic thing is that Warhol's work was frequently nothing other than a copy of the work of commercial designers!
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]

I'll debunk point "b"! (none / 0) (#68)
by benDOTc on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:37:48 PM EST

b)This is the most important point: a game that does not fullfil its function (to be played) is dumped in the bin or in the $2 CD aisle. The game to exist has to fulfill a function not realated to pure aestethic appreciation. Cinema and photography, two of the most recent additions to human arts, can stand by themselves without any utilitarian ulterior motives.

Wait!  For games to be art, they should be appriciated without being played?  Is the purpose of a game "to be played" any less noble than a film's purpose "to be watched," or a book's purpose "to be read?"  Is the measure of art the amount that people are willing to revere a work without actually observing it?  (Is Citizen Kane art because people who have never seen it think it's good?)

Please, i'd like to hear an explaination or a better argument.

ben.c

[ Parent ]

Bad arguments (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by lukkk on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:36:04 AM EST

a)Save a few examples, most games lack originality.

Yes. So do most paintings, movies, photographs, sculptures, books and music.

The game to exist has to fulfill a function not realated to pure aestethic appreciation. Cinema and photography, two of the most recent additions to human arts, can stand by themselves without any utilitarian ulterior motives.

Exactly why can only pure aesthetic representations be art? To enjoy music you must listen, to enjoy a game you must play.

a)The artist looks for originality

Oh? If you think art must be able to completely stand by itself, then the artists motives and philosophies surely can't matter?

c)The people that find any aestethic value on games, are normally limited to, oh surprise, gamers and game developpers.

People that find any aesthetic value on underground artycrap movies, are almost always limited to moviemakers and artfag^H^H^Hpersons. So?

Any other person watching a game can not help it but to feel immense pity or desdain for the gamers and their endeavours, but certainly does not normally relate to a game as an object of art.

I don't know about you, but I certainly don't automatically feel pity or disdain for somebody doing something I don't completely understand. If I did, however, first in my list would be people in some exhibition of modern arts watching a bowl full of sperm and blood, and relating to it as an object of art.

[ Parent ]

Very ambiguous (5.00 / 4) (#39)
by krek on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:25:34 PM EST

An artisan is similar to a craftsman, where they are both interested in using their expertise to fabricate something by hand, where an artisan is concerned with form, the craftsman is concerned with functionality.

Art is the deliberate creation of thoughts, ideas and emotions in other people.

In the past art has been restricted to proper artistic outlets, paint on canvas, dancers on a stage, musician with instrument. Today we have discovered that anything, once effectively employed, can ellicit the required a response that would qualify it as art.

To quote Wm. S Burroughs's reply to "What is (4.66 / 3) (#40)
by Conspir8or on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:32:15 PM EST

"Art is a three-letter word."

Conspir8or

What is art? (none / 0) (#50)
by Arevos on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:45:34 PM EST

"Art is anything you can get away with."

I forget who said that though.



[ Parent ]
Tree != Art; Tree + Ansel Adams == Art (4.66 / 3) (#48)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:05:35 PM EST

I'm going to jump in this morass although I think this conversation is ultimately pointless. We have no agreed definition for art, which means that anything or nothing could qualify. Still, irrelevancy hasn't stopped discussion before.

I take a bit of a Heideggerian definition of art, although I modify it as it suits my purpose. A work of art is one that works. When it ceases to work, it is no longer art. What then is this work? Well, we know what it means for a thing to be, to exist, but we have a hard time in explaining that to others. We are so immersed in existing things and existential matters that, just like the glasses we forgot on top of our heads, we don't know where it is. Does space exist? Does time exist? How can we use this word in the same way we say a dog exists, or that I or you exist?

Art aspires to escape from this. It does not say, "This woman, Mona Lisa, exists." We simply recognize that she does. We even think of that particular painting (oil & wood) as feminine, and of having qualities beyond the mere mixture of color and texture. In other words, art transcends the questions of existence, and permits us a vista by which we may examine it.

We pass by a tree everyday and think not a bit about what it is. A guy like Ansel Adams comes along, snaps a shot through a filter, and all of a sudden we see that tree for the first time. We recognize its existence. And from that, we derive meaning and appreciation.

When you gaze at the ocean, is not that a form of art? Do we need a camera or some instrument to capture that view and the subsequent recognition? That seems unnecessary. I climbed Mt. Fuji once and on the way down, I was above the clouds looking down on the setting sun lighting the clouds up in the most amazing colors of reds, oranges, and yellows, like little heaps of ice cream. No camera could capture that, and I've preserved that memory for seven years. I'd say that moment was art, both for the tremendous beauty of the moment and also for the stirring in my soul.

The consequence of this is that an object may be art for one person but not another. Nordic poetry may work for those that understand it, but I can't. It can't do anything for me. It just doesn't work and it's difficult for me to have a transcendent moment. Medieval peasants were probably greatly moved by paintings of the Christ child with his face like a little man. It doesn't have the same impact for me, and the impact of that artwork has diminished over time. I often wonder whether the impact of Venus de Milo has increased because she has no arms. Her permanent decay speaks to us more than if she were whole.

So, are games art? Not if they are played properly... or perhaps only if they are played properly. A spectator of a tennis match may see art in the movement, like a John Nash imposing formulae over their movements. But, I suspect that most of us don't seek transcendence while watching a sports event. What then of the player? At times, I'm sure they do have sublime moments, as though they have found the crack in existence and they are one with it, experiencing a satori that the spectator can only imagine. However, it takes time to achieve that moment and it is more of a personal experience than an expression of the game although it results from the game. I face that occasionally when I bike for a long distance, I don't need to compete in order to experience it; the game is not required.

I would say that computer games are capable of artistic aspirations but that it has to overcome its Monopoly-like nature. There are rules and challenges, and overcoming those challenges merits a reward. At all times, the game seeks to distract and generally, it doesn't present itself in a way that permits or encourages its own recognition. Games with good storylines succeed a little better, but it is technically possible to remove the story component. Although this weakens the overall impact of the game, we see that the game itself did not have artfulness except in the presence of the story.

-Soc
I drank what?


Gave it a +1 but (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by tichy on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:33:08 PM EST

Would have liked an actual argument made for games being art, or not. As it is the piece is more or less "We can't define art. Games maybe are art. I think they can be art, except they mostly aren't because game development is driven by market forces". Well... ok, I guess.

To me the most interesting facet of games are always the 'visionaries' like Sid Meier and Civ 1, or the ID people and Wolfenstein 3D/Doom 1. I don't think those games fit into any useful definition of art, but they are Games-with-a-capital-G. And those people are genius game makers, which in my book rank as high as great artists. Games aren't some peripheral thing, they've been created and played since the dawn of civilization, and if you look closely, good games aren't Hollywood-like disposable entertainment. They are the kind of entertainment that happens because the brain (or a substantial portion of it) is being kept engaged (else you would get bored) and relaxed at the same time. Very strange indeed.

So to me, you don't need to 'make' games into art to elevate them to their proper place. They are a different phenomena, IMHO as interesting as art. And like in art you have your Picasso vs. your Hollywood blockbuster, in games you have your chess/ Civ1/Wolf3D vs. your utterly unoriginal 1st person shooter or car simulator.



there is no such thing as bad art (4.16 / 6) (#51)
by logiterr on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:53:27 PM EST

ONLY unfashionable art. the perception of good art will be confined to our perceptual capability further constrainded by our physiology. but even superceding that ability is the group judgement. if a group of people who call themselves experts say that something is art, then society often tends to follow. of course that group needs to be in the good graces of social perception. but social perception is very different from personal perception. what you think is art might not at all be what is culturally defined as art. i hope we all see the inherent problems in trying to judge what is good art.

what is worse is making art a science. it is entirely possible to make science an art due to the level of skill and determination required to crack the implementation of a particular physical implementation. art should never be called a science. the day that happens either humanity as evolved into such a supreme being or we have just stepped into a new puddle of our arrogant doodoo.

now to contradict my subject. there is a possiblity for the existence of bad art. it is when everyone involved and their grandma agree that a particular piece of art is bad. now given how many diverse views there are on this planet you can see just how hard it would be to actually find universally accepted bad art. danke.

objective definitions (3.33 / 3) (#52)
by dr k on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 03:43:54 PM EST

There are no objective definitions - language is subjective. So of course it is a fruitless task to find a definition of art that is correct, concise, and easy. The same can be said of "science", or "culture", or "objective".

And not all art is good, just as not all games are good. Don't try to overload "art" with some notion of quality. If games are an artform, but some games suck, then some art is bad.


Destroy all trusted users!

Once again falling into the pit of definitions (4.33 / 3) (#53)
by X3nocide on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 03:50:48 PM EST

Is a game art? Well, what is Art? What is a Game? This type of thought process falls into the pit of definitions, mistakenly hoping to dig its way out. Even the paper admits at the beginning that anything may be art, but not everything is art. The most important argument to be made here is that whether something is art or not is a futile question; to call one piece a work of art and not similar work art reeks of more intellectualism than application.
Art and Profitablity are not mutually exclusive. Forest Gump certainly had many trappings of the "art" concept: metaphors, layers of interpretation, yet it also grossed many dollars. And certainly the opposite can be said about a movie like "Surf Nazis Must Die."
I suspect a growing movement about games as Art exists because of a recent ruling stating that games were not speech and thus not entitled to 1st Amendment protection. Which everyone in the audience will agree is untrue. In order to mature  as a medium this protection is required; the freedom to create a The Birth Of a Nation, to say unpopular things will propel them forward. To explain what game that might be, and how it might shape future gaming, is a topic for an article in its own right.

pwnguin.net
Disposable Products (3.75 / 4) (#56)
by DeadBaby on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 04:32:22 PM EST

Games today are treated as a disposable product.

You release a game in Q1 and by Q4 it's already in the bargain bin most of the time.  Instead of focusing on making works of art, game companies are focusing on creating technical demos that will be flashy enough to sell the maximum number of copies in the 6 months their game will be sitting on store shelves. I've been playing video games for a very long time and, while there are exceptions, the majority of modern games are just cookie cutter tech demos that will be replaced in 6-12 months by another cookie cutter tech demo with better graphics.

Hopefully graphics will get to a point soon where a 3 or 4 year old game still looks pretty damn good and game companies can start using a development schedule that allows them to work on games easily for years to really create a great work of art instead of being pressured to shove something out the door as quickly as possible so it's glitzy enough to catch people's attention.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan

But how is that any different than films? (none / 0) (#63)
by jw32767 on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:54:13 PM EST

Hollywood does the same thing with movies. They try and maximize their profits in the first year, after that its gravy unless its a really popular film in which case they may re-release it (game of the year edition anyone?)

--
Krups, not only can they shell Paris from the Alsace, they make good coffee. - georgeha

These views are my own and may or may not reflect the views of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Many films aren't really "art" (none / 0) (#66)
by Pseudonym on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:08:07 PM EST

Now that I have your attention with the subject...

"Art", IMO, is not binary. There is a continuum between "art" at one end and "not art" at the other. Just about everything has some artistic aspect, and just about every "work of art" has some non-artistic aspect.

I think it makes sense to talk about games, films etc which are "more artistic" or "less artistic", or perhaps deconstruct "artistic" into a few more variables.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Disposable products (2.50 / 2) (#83)
by bithir on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 04:18:37 AM EST

Why is a disposable product not art?

Cake makers make extraordinary artworks of their cakes and it will be disposed of shortly.

In northern Sweden, sculptures made out of ice is a real example of art that also will be "released" in Q1 and by Q4 they are long gone, and all that remains might be a few images that few looks at, because in just a little while, new ones will appear.

Games are not just graphics, most of them also tells a story, altough it is a story marked by your ability to influence where it is going, the composition of the graphics, music and story would if it where a film definiatly be marked as art.


Rot13 for email.
[ Parent ]

Objet d'art (5.00 / 9) (#57)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 04:51:21 PM EST

Very generally speaking -- so much so, that I run the risk of speaking of nothing meaningful at all -- aesthetics can be divided into to two opposing methodological camps: the classic and the interpretive.

Classic:

The classic approach to aesthetics is usually grounded in Aristotle and can be said to take the view, to some greater or lessor extent, that 'art' is a quality possessed by an object; it inheres in the object, and it is therefore theoretically possible to determine whether or not an object is, in fact, a work of art. This view of aesthetics persists -- usually in some fashion ostensibly freed of the Aristotelian metaphysics of essence, substance, and quality -- wherever 'art' is used as term of qualitative judgement.

This perspective is deeply implicated in our everyday use of the term 'art', and may therefore be said to constitute our common sense notion of what 'art' is. It is common to speak of any accomplishment attaining some measure of excellence as being a work of art; to be skilled at something is synonymous with the term 'artistry'; and it is quite common that someone opposes, as adduced by this article, plain 'entertainment' with true 'art'.

Interpretive:

The interpretive or hermeneutic approach to aesthetics holds that 'art' is not a quality possessed by an object, but is rather a disposition of the subject. That is to say, 'art' bespeaks a particular mode of interpretation of or engagement with an object. In this view, it is not strictly possible to determine whether or not an object is, in fact, a work of art.

This perspective is usually recieved contentiously by the general public, owing no doubt to the fact that it contradicts our common sense understanding of the term as evaluative, but is the prevailing view among contemporary theorists.

In the words of the ever insightful Frank Zappa:


The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively--because, without this humble appliance, you can't know where The Art stops and The Real World begins.

You have to put a 'box' around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?

If John Cage, for instance, says, "I'm putting a contact microphone on my throat, and I'm going to drink carrot juice, and that's my composition," then his gurgling qualifies as his composition because he put a frame around it and said so. "Take it or leave it, I now will this to be music." After that it's a matter of taste. Without the frame-as-announced, it's a guy swallowing carrot juice.

So can video games qualify as art? Having learned the lesson of Duchamp's toilet, I see no reason why not, but properly speaking the real question should be: can gamers cultivate within themselves an aesthetic orientation?

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


hole in one (none / 0) (#59)
by moron on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 05:19:22 PM EST

That was one of the most elucidatory posts I have read in a while on Kuro5hin.org, thanks for your thoughts as they have helped me coax my own further along.  

Cheers

--
culture: http://industrial.org
music: http://deterrent.net
code: http://codegrunt.com

[ Parent ]

who holds the classic view these days? (none / 0) (#78)
by Josh A on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:02:53 AM EST

I just don't see how anyone can take so much Aristotle seriously these days. Woah, there, enough with the Aristotle. Don't overdose.

Like that question, "Is good art good because art lovers love it, or do art lovers love it because it's good art?" To me, it seems pretty obvious that art can't be art (good or bad) without someone around to call it that.

The entire question is so hung up on the Law">http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Index.html?http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Metaphysics_Identity.html">Law of Identity that I can't stand it. I bet if we tried having this discussion in E-Prime it'd take all of 5 minutes.

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
whoops (none / 0) (#79)
by Josh A on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:04:12 AM EST

Messed up my link :(

Law">http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Index.html?http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Metaphysics_Identity.html">Law of Identity

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
E-Prime (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by luserSPAZ on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:16:21 PM EST

Horribly off-topic, but I had never heard of E-Prime before, and after reading some of that link, I find it fascinating.  I think that an article on E-Prime would entertain many readers here, if written well.

I even managed to write this comment in E-Prime.  :)

[ Parent ]

A few choice lyrics... (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by kevsan on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:57:46 PM EST

I hate to post two lyric-quoting comments in a row, but Ani Difranco in her beautiful song "Out of Habit," writes about art:

Art is why I get up in the morning
But my definition ends there
And, y'know, it doesn't seem fair
That I'm living for something I can't even define...
And there you are -- right there -- in the meantime.


This fits in very nicely with Warhol's theory of art, but it adds a touch of wistfulness at the same time. Oh, Ani. *melts*

-K
An Instance (none / 0) (#70)
by xs euriah on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:57:43 PM EST

Not art, perhaps, but more enveloping than some:

Rez.

No (3.00 / 3) (#71)
by kholmes on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:59:53 PM EST

First, I want to cut out the postmodern nonsense. The answer is no.

Second, I want to avoid some of the modernist pitfalls, an obsession on definitions.

But the answer is that games are not art. Of little importance is the question What is Art? With art, I know it when I see it. Simply that most of us agree on what we see as art we must conclude that art is an objective property. But I digress...

A far more important question is What is a Game? From here, we are far more closer to an answer, I believe. But I am not interested in what properties a program must have for it to be considered a game. Nor am I interested in whether the games have to be computer games or console games or board games or olympic games. These are probably important questions though.

But the problem is when producing a statment "Are Games Art?" you are asking if the ambiguous subset of one statement can be included in the ambiguous subset of the other. So the ambiguity must be settled before the use of logic.

And thats what I have done. By choosing "No" I made the ambiguity less ambiguous. I have said that if you consider a program so highly of acclaim to consider it a work of art, then it can not be a game. But if it offers a wide degree of amusement and entertainment (gameplay), then it can not be art.

But what if I said "Yes"? What would that answer mean? It would make both statements of both art and games more ambiguous. It would kill the "I know it if I see it" advantage. It would make game development a form of mysticism. For what?

And I think that is the real contemplation. Why do gamers want to consider themselves artists? Do they want critics? Do they want students to study their work in schools? Do they want to earn prizes? If games were suitable for such, they would already have it.

But I am all for playing games for my school assignments. As long as I don't have to win. :)

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

I don't get it (none / 0) (#76)
by carbon on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 01:53:43 AM EST

And thats what I have done. By choosing "No" I made the ambiguity less ambiguous. I have said that if you consider a program so highly of acclaim to consider it a work of art, then it can not be a game. But if it offers a wide degree of amusement and entertainment (gameplay), then it can not be art.

Why are these states mutually exclusive? I don't see anything intrisincly preventing them from existing in the same work.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
because... (none / 0) (#85)
by Ward57 on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:53:23 AM EST

they want their jobs to be more than just a job. Because they create something, rather than just following a set of rules, and you can't do that if it's just a job to you.

[ Parent ]
Not significant (none / 0) (#113)
by kholmes on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:53:06 PM EST

Game developers, of anyone, I doubt see their job entirely as "just a job". A certain amount of it must be fun too.

But if they see it as "just a job" then how can it be art?

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]

Counterexample? (none / 0) (#100)
by X3nocide on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:49:07 AM EST

What about Giant Doshin? You play as a giant in a situation similar to Black and White, except as the people's faith in you as a benevolant giant grows the giant grows too, and your footsteps must become ever slower to avoid crushing those below. It sounds like a statement to me; if thats not a valid argument for art, then art is a dead concept. On a side note, something doesn't cease to be simply because you wish it so or because its easier.

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]
Innovation (none / 0) (#111)
by kholmes on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:49:58 PM EST

I'd call that more of an innovation.

But the point I was trying to make was that we can't make games art by adjusting our definition of a "game" or relying upon loopholes in our understanding of "art". By making our notion of art more inclusive (more loopholes) we make it more meaningless at the same time. If everything is art, then art is a dead concept altogether.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]

So... (none / 0) (#116)
by X3nocide on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:04:15 PM EST

Is anything art that isn't an oil covered canvas?

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]
Here's another question: (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by LilDebbie on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:10:25 PM EST

What benefit do you get from defining something as art? I think most people here would agree that, say Michelangelo's David is art, including myself. However, this means very little beyond mere linguistics. Apparently, there does exist a large group of people devoted to the definition of what art is and is not and they seem capable of making a living this way. Fuck 'em. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and "art" should be defined as whatever it needs to be for communcation purposes, just like any other word.

Hell, if you want to get into the etymology, art comes from artifact, which is anything natural modified by human hands. Given that definition, almost everything you would encounter in your daily routine is art.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

Art is expression. (none / 0) (#73)
by Skywise on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:34:38 PM EST

Games contain art.  Notably Music and Images.  But together, these things don't equate another level of art.  (For instance, I have a desktop wallpaper of one game, and like to listen to music of another.).  It depends on the medium to evoke the level of expression.
In my opinion, Elite is a perfect example of a game as art.  The graphics were 3D wireframes, the music was passable, the "universe" was nothing more than 255 randomly generated dots that you could get close to...  But the simple fact was that the game came "alive" for me and the universe felt real enough that I was proud of my accomplishment of docking with a space station, yelling at the crowded space lane traffic trying to trade their warez, becase that prevented me from hitting hyperspace and getting to the station that much faster.
Does that evoke the same level of deep meaning that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet does?  No.  Games are an "interactive" expression. What does that mean?  I don't think anyone knows yet.  But Elite and GTA3 are pretty darn close.

Movies? (none / 0) (#81)
by Wulfius on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:05:15 AM EST

Movies then are not art?

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]
Yes...Now. (none / 0) (#122)
by Skywise on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:48:43 AM EST

Because movies have now been used to express whole concepts and ideals.  But this is because it's still a form of passive entertainment.  The viewer must submit to the narrative.
Games can't do that right now, because they're interactive.  You can't force a player to confront a certain idealistical state.  You can get close with the use of cut scenes but that's not truly representative of what interactive "art" can do.
Closer still is forcing the player into a conundrum.  There was a controversial sequence in one of the Ultimas (4, I think) where you stumbled upon a bunch of babies who started attacking you, and your only recourse was to kill enough of them to get away.  Later you find out the they weren't babies at all, but demons.
But with most games centering on running down a corridor and fragging your opponent with the rail gun... you don't see much of an artistic expression.  (Just as there's not that much artistic expression in Sylvester Stallone movies.)
(And I like Stallone movies)
(some of them, anyway.)
But that's because games are in their infancy as an art form and need time to be expanded upon.  Like movies were.  Early movies were fixed cameras while people put on plays.  Nothing really artistic there.  But now there are better techniques at the artist/filmmakers disposal to get concepts across.  

What's a good example of a movie as art in your opinion?
Citizen Kane?  Gone with the Wind?  Pi?

[ Parent ]

Art is finished (1.00 / 1) (#74)
by Perianwyr on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:38:24 PM EST

Art is what ends up in the museum- its era is over, done with, and we're at the point where we understand the era from which the art came enough to dissect it and boil it down to whatever we want to.

If the artist is still alive, it's hard to define. However, if the artist has rich fans, the likelihood of the product of his labors being art drastically increases whether he is alive or not.

Games are far too new to be art. We haven't mastered them yet.

Not true (none / 0) (#80)
by Wulfius on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:04:28 AM EST

The following everyday items disprove your asertion;

A public sculpture is art.
A body of an expensive car is art.
The billboards you see everywhere are art.
A large number of every day items (kettles, saltshakers, chairs) are art.

An object of art is something that enriches
our everyday existance by uplifting us
from the mundane and taking us, for however
briefly into where dreams sleep when we are awake.
.

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

My definition is no less valid than yours (none / 0) (#97)
by Perianwyr on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:15:41 AM EST

Mine certainly has more popular support.

Go down the street with two items: a print of the Mona Lisa and a kettle. Show them to random people on the street, and ask, "which is art?" Chances are, the majority of people will say the print is.

If you want some real fun, try to convince the person that they're wrong, no matter what they say.

[ Parent ]

To promote the progress of science and useful arts (1.50 / 2) (#75)
by dipierro on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:37:51 AM EST

Are games art? No. Are games science? No. Does the Supreme Court agree? No.

Why does this matter? (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by Rainy on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 01:58:33 AM EST

Even if we settled the question of whether games are art, there'd still be plenty of other questions like whether it's a good kind of art, or whether art is a good thing, or whether all kinds of art are equal... and so forth.

Let's step back for a bit and compare games with such an established art form as books. There are masterpieces that most agree are majestic - brothers karamazov, othello, alice in wonderland, etc. There is surreal druggie prose like naked lunch that some people would say is worthless and disgusting while others rank high up on the scale of literature. There are mounds of shlock that nobody says a kind word about - your pulps chewing over old serial killer scenarios, romantic dreck.

Now to games.. this field has not yet produced any masterpieces that could match the depth and monumentality of the ones I mention above. There are a few issues at hand here.. obviously, there's much more effort involved in making even a low-end game than just sitting down and writing a book. You have to be good in a few fields - in graphics, in coding, in story development, in sound and optionally music. Great books were written typically by one author, even though there were many collaborations, as far as I know none of the products of such made it to the masterpiece level.

This one detail alone perhaps explains a lot.

A game artist can draw some beautuiful sprites but he typically won't match a regular-type artist: the medium is much more primitive, you have size limitations, you have your resolution limits, and you have to draw thousands of these little pictures in a year, or even tens of thousands if you count animation frames.

Story developer is likewise facing some limits : story will have to change depending on actions of the player, imagine that Dickens had to write two branches of David Copperfield: one where he runs away from workplace, and the other where he stays. Oh, and where he runs to his aunt and another where he jumps a ship to Bombay. And so on. The solution? Stories are made primitive and one-dimensional. Characters are all boiler-plate. You feel like you're free to do anything but whatever you do, you're still locked up in the same pathetic universe of ironed-out plot twists.

Yes, games are art - they're crappy art. And yet I have a feeling something new and fresh may come out of them. I think I'll be checking back every 10 years or so, as I advise you do as well.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

Art is a retroactive classification (none / 0) (#99)
by Perianwyr on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:35:44 AM EST

You don't make art. It either happens when you make something else, or it doesn't. You have little control over this. Also note that you can't call your own creations art any more than you can call your own children pretty. It only means something when someone else says it.

You can increase your chances by artifice, but since art isn't something you make, it's a ridiculous idea to aim for that from the get-go. Just make things, or do things. They might be art, they might not. This should not be your primary concern.

If being a "true artist" is important to your self-image, you're going to:

a) be disappointed

b) end up a highly shallow, pretentious "art-fag" whose idea of a stage performance is running around in drag, banging pots and pans, and screaming meaningless garbage that is instantly forgettable.

c) have to come to terms with the fact that you may think your children are cute, but that's just your opinion- and it's really all that matters, as long as you keep it in your own pants.

Take pride in your artifice and in your own creations. It's all you can depend on. Don't require that mystical, life-changing, personal infusion to be part of what you do, because it just won't be.

[ Parent ]

Maybe it doesn't matter, but... (none / 0) (#101)
by merkri on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:01:13 PM EST

I'd agree with you that whether games are art or not might not matter in the long run, for a variety of reasons. Although I would hold that games are art, whether or not they are actually art can be asked somewhat distinctly from the question of whether or not games are currently intellectually sophisticated or engaging. I would argue that some of them are, and some of them are not. I would like to see games become more sophisticated, and I believe they are, but could be even more so.

I'm not sure that we have to reach consensus on a canon of gaming, however, to come to some consensus about whether or not any particular game is intellectually sophisticated or inspiring. Moreover, I would argue that there are games that, whether or not they are intellectually inspiring, are actually regarded as masterpieces of gaming. Games like Collosal Cave [Adventure], Pac-Man, Doom, Half-life, King's Quest, and so forth are probably games that would appear in a canon if one were to be compiled (and if you count various gaming magazines' lists of "Best Games of All Time" as canons, generally do appear). There are many reasons why these games were achievements, not all of which have to do with being intellectually sophisticated. The achievement of some of them, like paintings, has more to do with visual complexity or gameplay per se.

Your argument that things collaborative are generally "lesser art" doesn't really make sense. Many films--most films, actually--are highly collaborative efforts, and you would have a difficult time arguing that cinema is not an art form, or a "lesser" art form of some sort.

It seems to me that this "are games art" debate often derives from another, sort of psychosocial phenomenon. There are many that feel that gaming could become more intellectually challenging on the whole, even more enriching than it already is. These individuals often make arguments for "games as art" as a way of justifying their position that we need a game that has, e.g., a richer storyline, more ethically or emotionally challenging plot elements, etc. On the other hand, there are those that like games "for fun", don't want to face ethical dilemmas--just want to play, so to speak. They resist the "games as art" argument because they feel that if games were thought of as Art, it might introduce certain elements that would destroy playability. Many of these individuals feel the whole idea of a plot, etc. is completely irrelevant as long as a game is fun.

What the games-as-art debate misses, is that art can be--and indeed, in many ways, should be fun. Conversely, because something is fun, doesn't mean it's not art. It seems to be the whole games-as-art debate is a cover of sorts for more fundamental issues, such as the standard socio-intellectual class struggle that has existed since the dawn of man, and "should games be more emotionally or intellectually challenging?", or "can a game be good if it is not emotionally or intellectually challenging?"

[ Parent ]

If you think that some movies are art... (none / 0) (#103)
by steveftoth on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:20:59 PM EST

then video games also have the chance to be great artisticly.  Certain movies I would classify on the same level of art as the better books in literature.    Unlike books, movies are the result of dozens perhaps hundreds of people.  Movies have a single unifying director, but so do video games (at least the good ones).  
I don't think that we are there yet.  OR maybe Super Mario Brothers is in fact one of the best games ever, I don't know.  

[ Parent ]
I don't know much about defining art... (none / 0) (#84)
by andymurd on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:21:11 AM EST

...but I know what I like.

My naiive, personal definition is that art is some human endeavour that serves no practical purpose whatsoever, except that it makes life a little more bearable for some people, justifying the resources spent on that endeavour. Thus buildings are not art, but the cornices, gargoyles etc on them are.

There are lots of entirely purposeless things in the world, some of them add value to peoples' lives, some are just poopy. Which one is a computer game?

As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself talking about a purposeless item in the pub, its art.


the remainders of old times! (none / 0) (#92)
by phym on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 09:14:36 AM EST

art is irrelevant! who cares about it?

Not what you're thinking, but... (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by Dolohov on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:20:03 AM EST

Many Go players will agree that a well-played game of Go is certainly an art. There's something incredibly aesthetically pleasing about two experienced and subtle players playing a simple, elegant game.

In a roundabout way, I think I'm trying to say that it's not so much the game that's art, but the gameplay. I remember a friend in college who was really damn good at Quake. Watching him play was an amazing experience (Though playing against him was an exercise in frustration).

that's interesting (none / 0) (#94)
by tmenezes on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:31:03 AM EST

Yes, that's interesting but I don't agree. Meeting aesthetic standards or creating an interesting experience is clearly insufficient to consider something to be art. If only it was that easy... As a side note and from what I have read in comments to this story I realize that many people can't distinguish art from aesthetics. They are different concepts. Nevertheless, game play as art is a very interesting idea.

[ Parent ]
What about a go game that was played by an artist? (none / 0) (#98)
by X3nocide on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:34:00 AM EST

After all, if Andy Warhol played the game, it must be art. I contend that nothing meets your definition of art as a definition of what art isn't.

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]
art is art ... (none / 0) (#96)
by dvchaos on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:52:24 AM EST

sorry, I had a well thought out, well planned answer to this, but when It came to posting it, the connection was fried and had to hit my back button :-( all data lost. But yeah, basically ... Art is art to whomever percieves it as art. Their is no one single neatly rounded definition.

--
RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
Another Ten Cents (none / 0) (#104)
by Nandeyanen on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:26:55 PM EST

People have needs. Basic needs, food, shelter, warmth, etc. More complex needs, friendship, companionship, love, motivation, etc. Most of the people alive spend their time supporting some aspect of one of these needs.

Art is above these needs. It exists because its maker had the motivation to make it. Art for pay is still art because the maker chose to be a person who makes art, a person who wants to make art. People want to make art, people want to see art, but life could go on without art- it would just be less pleasant.

The word "art" encompasses many things- it's a broad term, like "tree" or "dog", as opposed to "Dougls Fir" or "Miniature Schnauzer", but it is also an abstract term. As anyone who speaks a second language can tell you, if you think it's hard to understand boundaries of meaning for a broad abstract term, try doing it between two langauges. It's futile. Once you see how there is no comparison between seemingly similar concepts, you see that it does not matter whether a foreign-language speaker has a different concept of something... and it doesn't matter if someone who speaks your language does either.

Let semantics freaks squabble over specifics- the rest of us have lives to live. (of course, squabbling may be an art to them. in which case, they are making art.)

As with everything some of it is art & some is (none / 0) (#105)
by Argel on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:14:56 PM EST

Quite frankly, I'm not seeing the issue here. There will always be people who have a natural talent for their craft who poor their heart and soul into and there will always be people who suck at it, care only about making a fast buck, etc. The former will likely create art and the latter likely won't. So Pool of Radiance II isn't art but Thief: The Dark Project is.

Barbican Art Gallery. (none / 0) (#106)
by bigbtommy on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 05:48:47 PM EST

As you may or may not know, the Barbican Art Gallery in London have had an exhibition all about computer and video games called 'Game On', looking at game development, platforms, future technology, graphics, characters, music, the people who play games etc.

Exhibition home page
Slashdot review, plus comments
squigly's K5 diary entry talking about the exhibition

Anyway, I'm taking any and all comments on this subject with a pinch of salt. Mainly because the people who worry about "Is this art" are either critics or luddites.

If you enjoy it, great. If you don't, that's alright - find something else you do enjoy.

The word "Art" (with or without a capital A) is a subjective word. So don't even try and write a function to work out what art is!
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up

Like Kandinsky? (none / 0) (#117)
by tmenezes on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 07:23:37 AM EST

the people who worry about "Is this art" are either critics or luddites. Like Kandinsky? Was he a critic or a luddite?

[ Parent ]
Case By Case Basis (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by exZERO on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:13:16 PM EST

Games as art must be determined by inspection, in much the same way as film.

For instance, while there are certain classics which nearly everyone will agree on as being art, some will never be seen in that way.  "MYST" and "ICO" are definitely art in gaming, the same way films like "Leon" and other films are.  Even within genres movies and games can be grouped together in the artistic category, like "Grand Theft Auto III" and "The Godfather", or "Metal Gear: Solid" and "The Thomas Crowne Affair"*, or even in a more bizarre category, you could say that "Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem" should be grouped with David Lynch's artistic films.

But not all games are art.  There are tons out there that are nowhere close.  Even series of games that are normally very 'artistic' can falter.  While most people will say that Final Fantasy IV through IX are very artistic, in both style, sound, and story, some may say that simply because of the storyline and characters that Final Fantasy X bring it to a slightly less than art level.

Even pure simulations such as "Gran Turismo 3: A-spec"  can be considered art, because the purpose of art is to hold a mirror to reality, and games like GT3 certainly succeed in that respect.

Gameplay also affects artistic value.  The author of this post links "Halo" as an example of "just another first-person shooter".  I would disagree.  The story is there, the interaction with NPC's is there, the AI is there, and both graphically and aurally it is beautiful.  So why does one person see it as "not art", while another sees it as "art"?  

Stereotyping of genres can occur.  Yes, its easy to say that Unreal and Serious Sam aren't art, and that they are simply "just more FPS's", but what about "Half-Life", or "Halo"?  Are they not FPS's? Yes, they are First-person view games where the purpose is to use a firearm against swarming foes, but do they not also have a story, a plot?  Yes, and while Unreal(at least in its original form) and Serious Sam may have as well, it is public opinion that these stories are on completely different levels.

Anyway, not all games equal art, but some do.  It's the same with films, and it's the same with paintings.  As for me, I'm going to be attempting to create art in gaming...

"Every Generation Shines Its Brightest in Its Darkest Hour"
 -The "DM" Concept
<<Zero_out>>

Asterik!!! (none / 0) (#109)
by exZERO on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:17:00 PM EST

Forgot to tack on the asterik at the bottom of that post!

*-The ORIGINAL "Thomas Crowne", not the recent remake.
<<Zero_out>>
[ Parent ]

A different question (none / 0) (#110)
by epepke on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:43:26 PM EST

Are games a viable medium for art?

It makes little sense to say, for example, that painting is art, because painting is merely smearing dirt on cloth. Someone once compared a piece by Beethoven to the sound of a horse's tail being scraped against a sheep's intestines.

The conflict is not between those who think that games are art and those who don't; it's between those who think that the game as a form is inherently unsuitable for doing art (except, perhaps, inasmuch as the visuals may be art) and those who think that it holds some promise.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


Viability & Semantics (none / 0) (#123)
by exZERO on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 12:56:39 PM EST

Great point about music and paintings.  All paint is is just ink and pigmentation splayed out across canvas.  

All a symphony is is instruments made from polished dead wood, strung with some animal's intestinal lining, quivered into sound by a bow, a slat of wood with hair pulled tightly across it; shaped and forged metal with human breath flowing through it, piped and pinned like sewers for accoustics; metal and wood stretched and latched into circular shapes, with dead anime skin stretched over the top, beaten on rhythmically with short wooden sticks.

Games are nothing more than coding, endless lines of text written in a format loosely based on actual linguistics.  

But all of this leaves out the designer, the writer, the painter, the composer.  Just as Heisenberg states that we affect everything we touch, the creator and the writer(and in music and games, the player as well) change and modify these simple bizarre instruments, and give them life, beauty, substance.

When music, books, art, or games are written purely for money, the creator will never be as concerned as an actual artist would.  Instead they search and strive for the simple or the vulgar, something to easily please the masses.

Cult games, Television, books, films, music, art; this is where artist lie.  When you see a game that is critically acclaimed but underplayed, you are looking at ART("ico" for PS2).  When you look at something critically hated, but fan loved("Myst", "Metal Gear Solid 2"), you are looking at ART.  When you look at trash created simply to milk a cash cow, you are looking at SHIT("Britney's Dance Groove", ANY "Mary-Kate & Ashley" game, "Who Wants to Be/Beat up a Millionare?", the original "E.T." for Atari).
<<Zero_out>>
[ Parent ]

The crux of the biscuit (none / 0) (#125)
by epepke on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:05:25 PM EST

But all of this leaves out the designer, the writer, the painter, the composer. Just as Heisenberg states that we affect everything we touch, the creator and the writer(and in music and games, the player as well) change and modify these simple bizarre instruments, and give them life, beauty, substance.

The artist is someone who sees in the piece of dead wood, the smear of dirt, the soup can, or even the lines of code, an opportunity to move people.

I'm one of those nutcases who beleives that the computer game, the interactive experience, has the potential for being to the 21st Century what film was to the 20th (whatever the hell that means). I'm trying to facilitate this, in my own small way, by developing an open-source game engine.

What I see as the problem is that a lot of people seem to believe that games cannot be art, just because of the medium. The way I see it, though, the medium of computer games has just been too inaccessable to would-be artists.

When music, books, art, or games are written purely for money, the creator will never be as concerned as an actual artist would. Instead they search and strive for the simple or the vulgar, something to easily please the masses.

Yet this is fine. The ratio of schlock to art is always pretty low, but art feeds off the droppings of schlock, and you can't get rid of the schlock without preventing the art. So, hurray for schlock! Let it prosper and drop a fertile lot.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Is the Apostrophe [n/t] (none / 0) (#126)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 11:20:50 PM EST


---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Hmm hmm... (none / 0) (#112)
by WWWWolf on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:50:27 PM EST

Like many others, I was inclined to say that "it depends", but then came to conclusion that yeah, that's true.

I've often thought that all products of creativity can be called art - how good the art in question is is an entirely subjective matter, though. After all, not all people even consider some forms of art as art, while others do.

And this story is, of course, the proof. =)

-- Weyfour WWWWolf, a lupine technomancer from the cold north...


Shenmue 2 (none / 0) (#115)
by jeanlucpikachu on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:04:25 PM EST

If you've played Shenmue 2, the part where you finally meet Shenhua, you know "Are Games Art?" is a rhetorical question. They can be, if the creators care enough.

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
Games are part of visual culture. (none / 0) (#118)
by Lemmy Caution on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 03:33:16 PM EST

A far more useful term than "art" is "visual culture." Game-making is a practice that produces artifacts that are rich in visual images. It contains a discourse about visual aesthetics and in turn both participates in broader aesthetic discourses and contributes material to other practices (artists that make references to video game art; the conventions of games used in film and television).

The underpinnings of games as a visual cultural practice make it as revolutionary a field as any since film. From sculpture and painting, in which images are approximated by masterfully dabbing paint onto surfaces, to recording-depictions such as photography, film, and video (and it's little coincidence that painting was freed from the burden of representation once the technologies of visual recording matured), we come to a synthetic-depiction strategy - either mimetic or symbolic or some combination of the 2, although never completely abstract (even Tetris recapitulates the expecatations the player has of solid objects moving through space) - where the image emerge or is built up from libraries and algorithms.

Game ontology is distinct, also. Unlike other depiction-practices, where a picture of a wall, or a photo, only behaves as a picture, a wall in a game will actually have some 'existence' as a wall for the sake of the game. At a certain point, the old distinction between standing-for (the wall in the game is derived from our experiences of a wall - it might have a texture on it to simulate a brick or stone wall, even though it exists as only pixels) and being-original (the game wall is a wall - it participates in the game-physics and constrains behavior) are now ambiguous.

"Are games Art?" (none / 0) (#120)
by mcgrew on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 09:12:13 PM EST

"Most people involved in computer games, in both the users and developers sides tend to agree that games are indeed art" A few years back, when George Broussard (#DRealms CEO and father of Duke Nukem) used to haunt Planet Crap, there were often off-topic discussions on this topic. Oddly I, a gamer who isn't in the gaming business but who has an art degree, argued incessantly with George, head of one of the world's biggest gaming companies and without said degree, who was of the opinion that what he and his staff do is definately NOT art. "after Andy Warhol exhibited simulacra of shipping cartons for Brillo boxes in 1964, anything could be art. Warhol made it no longer possible to distinguish something that is art from something that is not". I disagree with this assessment. The key word here is "simulacra". These were not shipping cartons, but representations of shipping cartons. We must remember that Warhol was a shoe salesman (actually, he made ads for shoes) before turning to "serious" art. IMO Warhol's art was squarely in the Dada camp. Bringing us, of course, to the Duchamp quote. For if "anything could be art," that could be attributed to the dadaists in general and DiChamp in particular. Dada was "anti-art art", or at the very least, anti-art establishment art". Duchamp placed a urinal on a gallery wall as a statement about the state of Fine Art in the world at the time (1920s), and the critics did not disappoint him, praising the urinal for its form , color, and the way the lights gleamed off of it. One Dadaist show was raided for public indecency and a few people were jailed. The exhibit was a young woman dressed only in high heel shoes and a hat, reading poetry. As a Dadaist, Warhol was a Johhny-come-lately. Who, IMO, caused the world of art to progress signifigantly. "a formal definition of art is unattainable nowadays" Funny, I can find one at dictionary.com, and an even better one at nearly any university. "The fact is that most of us are able to decide if something is a work of art or not." That's certainly NOT what I was taught. In fact, one of my instructors was fond of twisting trite old sayings into new forms, said "I don't know what I like, but I know what art is." It's a lot easier to spot notart than art. Notart is often pretty, and you will find a lot of notart hanging on people's walls. A lot of notart thinks it is art, and is parodied very well by the Dead Milkmen song "You'll Dance to Anything!" Said instructor (whose name, alas, I can't remember as it's been a quarter of a century ago), a minimalist (like most of my instructors) also liked to say of a work, "there's less here than meets the eye." "What I can give you is an insight into what I 'feel' to be art." It sounds like you have little or no training in the field. "Another generalized misconception is that of art and artisanship being the same thing." This is true. All artists are artisans, but few artisans are artists. Art has a synergy that other artifacts lack. As I mention in the "School" page (which, BTW, is most definately NOT a serious work), if it doesn't make you feel or at the very least THINK, it isn't art. If it takes your breath away, like an Audry Flack painting, it is art. If it makes you ponder or makes you feel uneasy, it may be. "So basically some computer games are art and some are not. In fact I believe that most games fall in this latter category." This would be an accurate statement. "Also, what the large majority of players expect from a game is to be entertained" True as well. However, the same goes for movies and music, and I would posit that many movies produced in teh 20th century ARE art, nevertheless. Spielberg's "Private Ryan" comes to mind- that movie IS art. There is no disputing that. "The big irony in my opinion is that the more the game developer community uses the buzz words 'games are art', the more they tend not to be." This holds true for painting and sculpture as well. And is one reason why I think Duke Nukem is art, and why George insists it is not. Duke Nukem- Dada for the 21st century.

Paragraphs. (none / 0) (#127)
by vectro on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 04:19:07 PM EST

Paragraphs are your friends. They make your text easier to read. You can add them with the <P> tag in HTML mode, or the ENTER key in Plain Text mode.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Art? What about free speech? (none / 0) (#124)
by skintigh on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:35:39 PM EST

Before we even get to art, we have to decide/prove that games are speech, and therefore should be free from censorship. After that, we can decide what art is. However, I have a feeling most people here are techies. Asking techies what art is would be like asking artists to invent to technology. We'll get some very interesting answers, but none too useful... Anyway, my stab: I always though Art was something that conveyed an idea or emotion. I doubt Frogger would fit this, but how about Sim Earth? Fallout?

Do you have other examples of artistic games? (none / 0) (#128)
by yannicklerestif on Sat Nov 09, 2002 at 09:25:01 PM EST

First of all thank you M. "tmenezes", I felt quite... released reading, at last, something relevant about video games and art; i'm especially shocked to see so many (cultured) people around me confusing art and entertainment, art and technical prowesses, art and "good work", art and "what people like".

I would like to underline the importance of the size of a team. I actually have seen very few convincing art works made by a huge team, be it movies or games, and especially animation movies I know better. It has definitely something to do with risks a big team takes in case of a failure, but the reason is also the levelling, averaging, of people's personalities, and also of their impulses, when working in a big (say, more than 10 persons) group. A well known example is the "writers teams" in the movie industry.

Another important issue, sorry if I am stating the obvious, is the impact of playing on the player; I feel exactly the same finally reaching level 13 of a game as I feel watching crap TV: not only wasting my time, but worse, regressing, isolating from the world and feeling a pleasure i consider unhealthy doing it; how can one compare this unhealthy pleasure with the awakening you get when you understand a piece of art you didn't understand before?

Sorry if I have been too long, I am now coming to the reason I have posted this comment for, the reason is this question:
-What games do you consider art?
In M. "tmenezes" Story I saw two Spectrum games (thank you again; don't you have any others? especially more recent? - maybe made by 10 persons on their weekends? maybe using 5% of the computer CPU...?) In other comments I saw Ico and Myst.

There can't have been only 4 artistic games in 20 years can it?

Are Games Art? | 128 comments (120 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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