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'Systems-As-Art' In Games

Soulskill posted about 6 years ago | from the to-frag-or-not-to-frag dept.

Games 106

GameSetWatch has an interesting essay about the relationship between games and art. Matthew Wasteland discusses the difficulty in translating other artistic creations to video games, giving Moby Dick as an example. "If Melville had so much as allowed for any possibility at all where Captain Ahab 'wins,' no matter how remote, the work's message and its interpretation of the world completely changes. Instead of destiny and fate, we would now speak of probability and chance." He then goes on to examine whether the logic systems and rules that define a game can achieve the status of art. "Distancing the work from the 'entertainment' of popular games is fine, but even the most artsy, obscure and difficult works must connect with an audience somehow. I am not sure a system of rules by itself is the best method to achieve that. If rules are art, could not one just as easily publish a rulebook, and leave it at that?"

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Rules are regularly a part of art (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25200909)

There are rules when reading music, or reading poetry. You don't read a book backwards, or watch a movie from the middle.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

corsec67 (627446) | about 6 years ago | (#25200933)

You don't read a book backwards, or watch a movie from the middle.

Is that why my DVD player doesn't have a "shuffle" feature?

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 6 years ago | (#25201363)

Hmm, you're right. I guess movies aren't art then.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (2, Interesting)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 6 years ago | (#25205081)

From TFA:

> "If Melville had so much as allowed for any possibility at all where Captain Ahab 'wins,'
> no matter how remote, the work's message and its interpretation of the world completely
> changes. Instead of destiny and fate, we would now speak of probability and chance."

On the other hand, even mathematical certainty in the invulnerability of a story or person isn't proof against the cleverness of humanity.

And it makes the incident all that much more epic! []

Yes, it's locked into history as solidly as Moby Dick...

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | about 6 years ago | (#25203475)

So you haven't seen Memento [] then?

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 6 years ago | (#25204025)

Wasn't the hook of that movie that the scenes were arranged in a different order? Even scene-shuffled works (Memento is hardly the only one) are designed to be consumed in a certain order because that's how the knowledge is dealt out. If you read e.g. the scenes of the Illuminatus! in chronological order some parts would be nonsense (well, moreso than before) since they expect the reader to know things from scenes placed before them.

Memento... (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | about 6 years ago | (#25204329)

Wasn't the hook of that movie that the scenes were arranged in a different order?

Backwards, yes. The idea was the main character lost track of all his recent thoughts every 5 minutes or so - and so successive scenes would generally fill in information that altered the interpretation of the preceding scenes. (So kind of a fractal Kaiser Sose deal...)

It's kind of a lame gimmick, and it makes the movie really hard to follow - and the overall premise is pretty ridiculous. But there was one bit in there I enjoyed...

Basically the scene starts with the main character frantically digging through a room, when suddenly a woman outside catches his attention. She comes in, upset, beaten, and tells him that some guy did this to her and she needs help getting rid of him, etc.

In the next scene it's revealed that the woman was just in the room with him a few minutes ago - before he arrived she went through the room removing all writing materials. IIRC she taunted the main character dude about his memory condition and his dead wife, prodded him until finally he hit her, then she left. He realized she was manipulating him and started searching for a pen and paper so he could write this crucial bit of information down - and then as she came back into the room he forgot all this...

The rules that made Memento work were, to me, an interesting experiment... Though I'd say once is plenty of that. :)

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

Talgrath (1061686) | about 6 years ago | (#25201001)

As an example, Haiku consists of a rather strict set of rules, but we still consider (good) haiku to be art. Game art isn't just about the rules that you set down, but what you do with them; the games in the Prince of Persia series uses a fairly simple set of rules, but what is done within those rules is not only incredibly entertaining but highly artistic as well. Something that many modern artists and art admirers forget is that sometime the art of a work is in working within constraints to create something moving.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

Skrapion (955066) | about 6 years ago | (#25202027)

But do mechanics of Prince of Persia (the "rules") actually benefit the game as a piece of art? The answer, I think, depends on what you mean by "art".

I generally put art in two categories: art as aesthetic, and it's more pretentious sibling, art as an exploration of the human condition; so called "high art".

(As a quick aside, despite the fact that I called high art pretentious, I think both kinds of art are very important. I also think that the best pieces of art fall in both categories.)

I think we can all agree that games easily count as aesthetic art. In Prince of Persia, the models, textures, animations, music, even the way the prince responds to your input is all very aesthetic. The story is a great representation of the aesthetic of the Arabian Nights. And most importantly, the aesthetic of each component works with every other component to create a cohesive work.

But what about high art? Well, an argument can be made for the story as high art. I don't actually think the games were intended to be more than entertainment, so this is going to require a bit of BS on my part, but let's say that the story is about our tenuous relationship with time. (I'm not going to go any deeper than that, because as I said, I'm just bull shitting here.)

The question is, do the other components of the game support that idea? Well, you can try to claim that the dagger supports the story, by giving the player direct control over time. A counter-argument could be made that the story is more pure without the distraction of the gameplay, but that's alright; the dagger is arguably important, and that's good enough.

It falls apart much further than that, though. The combat and acrobatic puzzles are hard to justify, as are their repetitive nature. Part of the reasons for these things are because of market expectations, but if we're going to take Prince of Persia as high art, then these things only serve to dilute the message.

The fact that we're this close with Prince of Persia (or Ico, or Portal...) is great, though! Sure, we don't have a Citizen Kane of videogames yet, but there's no reason such a thing is impossible. The key is going to be finding things to express that are more difficult to express with any other medium, and interactivity is going to be central to that endeavor. One of my favourite examples of this is the Tales of the Black Freighter portion of Watchmen, and how the story melds with the news-vendor's ramblings. This is a technique which would be, at best, very diluted if attempted in any other medium.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (4, Insightful)

Talgrath (1061686) | about 6 years ago | (#25202219)

"High Art" is mostly bullshit; it's an attempt to say that something is greater than it is and has no clear definition. Art is art, there are various ways that art is expressed but ultimately they all serve to "explore the human condition", generally "high art" is used as an excuse for snobbery. In short, "high art" is a good way of saying "things are this way because I say so"; when Roger Ebert was given ample proof that video games are art, he hid behind the "high art" shield and those with any sense dismissed him as an idiot (which he is).

I'd say trying to isolate the rules of the game is a disservice to games as art; or art in general. If we take the "rules" away from various forms of poetry and just studied them, they're just rules governing structure in writing poetry; by the same token, if we just take the rules of a game away from it, they're just rules as to how the character interacts with the world. Instead of looking at the rules of an artform, we should instead look at the piece as a whole; as we do for any other form of art.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

Skrapion (955066) | about 6 years ago | (#25202525)

Instead of looking at the rules of an artform, we should instead look at the piece as a whole; as we do for any other form of art.

That was exactly my point: if the "rules" don't support the piece of art as a whole, then the piece of art would be better expressed in a different medium.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

rprins (1083641) | about 6 years ago | (#25202623)

It's definately not bullshit, art is pretty simple actually to define:

Anything anyone would call art is art. (In other words, you're free to make your own definition.)
But generally people consider art, that which most people would call art. And this is usually stuff that has no other clear purpose but looking/sounding nice.
Thirdly, people who know a lot of art tend to have a somewhat different taste in art and they are also normally the ones who define "high art" since they will put it in museums or pay a lot of money for it. (Generally they like things that showed a fresh way of thinking, historically. Or sometimes art that requires extreme skill. Or the very, very nice looking stuff.)

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

eagee (1308589) | about 6 years ago | (#25204997)

High art is high art because of the intention of the artist, and the movement that artist was part of or created with the piece. The intention of most (all the ones I've played) video games is to entertain. Any intention beyond that is secondary. That's what separates high art from everything else. Intention. It's what makes otherwise unremarkable pieces (Andy Warholl for instance) truly remarkable.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25207777)

Except all art is for entertainment.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (3, Insightful)

xappax (876447) | about 6 years ago | (#25205277)

If games are made out of rules, paintings are made out of brushstrokes. Nevertheless, an ordered list of brushstrokes isn't the same as a painting. And similarly, a rulebook isn't the same as a game.

Rules are simply the material used to build games, and in both a good game and a good painting, one stops thinking about the materials used and is captivated by the emergent properties of the whole work.

off topic (1)

mounthood (993037) | about 6 years ago | (#25206753)

If games are made out of rules, paintings are made out of brushstrokes. Nevertheless, an ordered list of brushstrokes isn't the same as a painting. And similarly, a rulebook isn't the same as a game.

Rules are simply the material used to build games, and in both a good game and a good painting, one stops thinking about the materials used and is captivated by the emergent properties of the whole work.

Do you know of Searle's Chinese Room? []

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

7Prime (871679) | about 6 years ago | (#25206751)

But what's so bad about snobbery?

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (3, Informative)

utopiandelusion (714882) | about 6 years ago | (#25201167)

Rules are created after the artform has been around long enough to be studied and compared to a large amount of works. Picasso did not define Cubism as a set of rules and then create his paintings, he worked from his ideas which were later defined as Cubism, using him and a few others artists to cite. The same works for music, most emerging forms of music were created in order to make a sound that was different, strange, new, interesting, etc. They were not created because someone followed some set of guidelines. All art forms are a result of someone finding an appealing and interesting idea, a new way of doing things. Would you design a better software algorithm or car engine by following a guide book?

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 6 years ago | (#25204745)

Let's not confuse our rules here, the rules media have are rules about how to design works for the medium (e.g. which frequencies to use in music or how to light a scene for a movie), the game rules are a part of the work that describes how the work works and probably compare more to the script of a play or movie or the instructions on a sheet of music. Complaining that a game is nothing but rules and content is missing the point anyway, a game is as equal to a rulebook as a movie is equal to a script.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (2, Interesting)

game kid (805301) | about 6 years ago | (#25201215)

You don't read a book backwards, or watch a movie from the middle.

...unless, of course, the movie is already arranged as such [] .

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 6 years ago | (#25201553)

See, I was thinking of this movie [] .

(Bonus Question: What blockbuster flick of this summer did the director create?)

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about 6 years ago | (#25201655)

*muttering under my breath*

I will not link to XKCD.

I will not link to XKCD.

I will not link to XKCD.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (3, Funny)

Skrapion (955066) | about 6 years ago | (#25201811)

Oh, come on. Live a little [] .

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201287)

GTFO artfags [] .

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (1)

Asmor (775910) | about 6 years ago | (#25201795)

Actually, I don't know how common it is, but I have a friend who sometimes does read books backwards. Ge reads the last chapter first, and then each chapter before it.

I imagine that works best in books with relatively short and numerous chapters.

Re:Rules are regularly a part of art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201953)

You don't ... watch a movie from the middle.

I don't know about that. It would have made Momento a lot easier to watch.

Interactive art (1)

AlpineR (32307) | about 6 years ago | (#25203707)

A big difference between games and common examples of art is that games strongly interact with the viewer/player. A painting is static -- it might change the viewer but the viewer doesn't change the painting. A symphony is written -- it may be interpreted differently by different orchestras, but the audience listens passively and does not influence its future.

A game in contrast is all about interaction. It may have some beautiful graphics and music, but if all you do is watch and listen then it's just a movie. To be a game you must impose your own will on the game and the game must respond. This makes games more akin to machines. They are designed by a creator, both mechanically and aesthetically. Then the player/operator sees and holds and uses the machine.

Can an automobile be art? Can an MP3 player be art? Can a computer be art? If yes, then the definition of art does not require it to have a plot. A great game could qualify through a combination of appearance, mechanism, and relevance.

you know (4, Interesting)

nomadic (141991) | about 6 years ago | (#25200939)

Games are not only going to be handicapped by their interactivity; they're also going to be handicapped by their setting. After 100 years science fiction still hasn't escaped its literary ghetto, and a large percentage of games incorporate science fiction aspects.

Re:you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201911)

Science fiction is like a western book, or a mystery, or any other kind of genre that places heavy restrictions on its place or setting. If you are putting enough emphasis into the non-critical aspects of a book it cannot be considered an important piece of literature. Plus, the Sci-fi Cons don't help.

Right.... (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | about 6 years ago | (#25201929)

Because none of the many lists of best novels include any science fiction, westerns, or mysteries.

Re:Right.... (1)

Talgrath (1061686) | about 6 years ago | (#25202447)

Oh really? []

#13 1984 George Orwell, all time according to this list. []

If you split up sci-fi and fantasy, then the first on this list is #16 Eclipse, a modern-day sci-fi story about vampires. If you keep them together, then Harry Potter would come in at #11; or for a "pure" sci-fi novel, I Am Legend comes in at #72 due to its re-release for the movie. []

Waterstone took a survey to find what people considered to be the 100 best novels of the past century; #1 is Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, #2 is Orwell's 1984 and #3 is Orwell's Animal Farm.

Finally, the current Amazon top 100: []

As of this writing, the current #1 in book sis Brisingr, a fantasy novel by Christopher Paulini; again, if you consider fantasy and sci-fi to be the same. If you don't, then #5 is Twilight is another vampire novel set in the modern day or #52 Anathem, is a "pure" sci-fi book.

So...which lists of best books or novels were you looking at?

Re:Right.... (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 6 years ago | (#25203245)

He was being sarcastic.

Re:Right.... (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 6 years ago | (#25204187)

The Modern Library 100 list is a prime example of what I said. One or two books out of 100? There are many science fiction/fantasy books that are superior to many entries on that list.

And USA Today is well...USA Today. It's aimed at the

The best example of what I'm saying might be Doris Lessing. Just won the Nobel Prize for literature, and considers herself a science fiction writer. She won the award for her earlier work though, and the literary critics have actually complained that she's writing science fiction. Fortunately she doesn't give a damn for them, but the fact still remains that genre fiction is looked down upon.

Re:you know (1)

aussie_a (778472) | about 6 years ago | (#25202327)

I can't think of any rules for science fiction.

Some science fiction just has a new technology to define it as science fiction.

Some science fiction is just set in the future to define it as science fiction.

Some science fiction just has spaceships to define it as science fiction.

What are the rules again?

Re:you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25203551)

I can think of only two major games set in something approaching the real world - the comic book parody of gangster films that is the GTA series, and the consumer oriented parody of soap operas that is The Sims.

Until game designers stop shying away from real life and realise that you can interact with people by means other that shooting them, of course the medium isn't going to be taken seriously.

Oh yeah and there's all that Tom Clancy shit too.

Re:you know (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 6 years ago | (#25204935)

So how's e.g. Wii Sports set in a fantasy world?

Re:you know (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 6 years ago | (#25209383)

So how's e.g. Wii Sports set in a fantasy world?

I rock at sports in that world, ergo Fantasy.

Re:you know (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 6 years ago | (#25204057)

I don't understand why games need to be 'art' in the first place. As long as they're good entertainment isn't that enough? I don't think it's the least bit important whether a game is meaningful enough that some pretentious art critic is going to declare it 'art'. The fact is that the works of Sid Meier, or Ken and Roberta Williams have had a more profound effect on my life than the paintings of Picasso, or the plays of Arthur Miller. To me, that makes them art.

Philip K. Dick and the Library of America (1)

westlake (615356) | about 6 years ago | (#25204567)

After 100 years science fiction still hasn't escaped its literary ghetto

I beg to differ:

The Library of America [] is a non profit publisher of the best in American literature, classics published in handsome hard cover editions.

The editors quite clearly do not believe that genre fiction is beneath their notice:

Philip K. Dick, Four Novels of the 1960s: The Man in the High Castle - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Ubik

Philip K. Dick, Five Novels of the the 1960s and 70s: Martian Time-Slip - Dr. Bloodmoney - Now Wait for Last Year - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - A Scanner Darkly

H.P. Lovecraft, Tales: The Call of Cthulhu - The Colour Out of Space - At the Mountains of Madness - The Shadow Over Innsmouth - The Shadow Out of Time - and 17 other stories

Re:you know (1)

rtechie (244489) | about 6 years ago | (#25209195)

After 100 years science fiction still hasn't escaped its literary ghetto,

Just because moronic academics who couldn't think of anything USEFUL to learn in college think that retread drama and romance like "War & Peace" and "Gone With the Wind" represent the apex of literature, doesn't make it so.

Simply because these genres (drama, in particular family drama, and romance) do not translate well to video games does not mean video games are not "art".

This makes assumptions about the nature of 'games' (3, Interesting)

Sierran (155611) | about 6 years ago | (#25200961)

...that may not be true. For example, nothing says you can't have a game which forces Ahab to lose. See 9:05 from your favorite interactive fiction archive for an example, or for a more graphical one think about the original 'Postal'. You can make the *gameplay* the point rather than the ending, if you're good enough at it. It does, however, produce a stress on the gameplay designers which is quite different from that of the writer, and it is a mechanic which is not nearly as *common* as the twist ending in stories.

Re:This makes assumptions about the nature of 'gam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201571)

Techmo Superbowl is Moby Dick. Where, if you pick the Raiders, you play as The Whale. QED. Where do I collect my prize?

On a more serious note, play Madden for a number of years in franchise mode. Wait till Kevin Everret or Rae Caruthe or Sean Taylor or now Richard Collier gets auto-picked up by your team.

Re:This makes assumptions about the nature of 'gam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201917)

There are many games where you can't "win". From the original Tetris to Simcity, or even the Sims.

Or, think about never-ending multiplayer games, like WoW. You can't even "finish" the game, in the sense you can finish a book.

Re:This makes assumptions about the nature of 'gam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25202865)

That's part of the beauty of Shadow of the Colossus, say--for many definitions of "win", you simply can't win.

Athiests as a Majority (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25200967)

This is what it would be like, if the majority of people were athiests.
ATHIEST KID: Mom, I'm going to go fuck a hooker.
ATHIEST MOM: Okay, son.
ATHIEST KID: Afterwards, I'm going to go smoke pot with my friends, since it's "not addictive."
ATHIEST MOM: Okay, come home soon!

The athiest kid leaves the room. The father comes home from work several minutes later.

ATHIEST MOM: Hi, honey! I'm pregnant again. I guess I'll just get another abortion, since "fetuses don't count as human life."
ATHIEST DAD: Okay, get as many abortions as you want!
ATHIEST MOM: Oh, and don't go in the bedroom.
ATHIEST MOM: There are two gay men fucking eachother in there.
ATHIEST DAD: Why are they here?
ATHIEST MOM: I wanted to watch them do it for awhile. They just aren't finished yet.
ATHIEST DAD: Okay, that's fine with me!

Suddenly, their neighbor runs into the house.

ATHIEST NEIGHBOR: Come quick, there's a Christian outside!
ATHIEST MOM: We'll be right there!

The athiest couple quickly put on a pair of black robes and hoods. They then exit the house, and run into the street, where a Christian is nailed to a large, wooden X. He is being burned alive. A crowd of athiests stand around him, all wearing black robes and hoods.

RANDOM ATHIEST: Damn you, Christian! We hate you! We claim to be tolerant of all religions. But we really hate your's! That's because we athiests are hypocritical like that! Die, Christian!


Scary, isn't it?

Re:Athiests as a Majority (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25204649)

What is an "athiest"? I imagine it is someone who is "the most athi," but I don't know what that is, either...

Play-balance is optional (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#25200989)

While I would say that there are very few games that have noticeable depth as literature, that doesn't mean that's inherent in the medium.

For that matter, very few movies have as much depth as novels, even novelizations of movies explore areas that the movie simply can't reach, and that doesn't mean movies aren't art. Not all games are "play balanced", and not all books are "Moby Dick".

And speaking of Moby Dick...

There are plenty of stories where the ending would be just as satisfying and meaningful if you got there by a different path, or even with a different character. Getting there can even give you an appreciation of the trials of the protagonist that you wouldn't gain if success or failure didn't depend on your decisions.

And play-balance doesn't mean giving Ahab a chance to live, there are plenty of games where it's impossible to "win" one side, and the "victory conditions" are based only on how well you lose. There are even games where the story is almost completely fixed, and all you can do is spend more or less time exploring the scenery.

Play balance in MMORPGs like Mordor in LoTR (1)

patio11 (857072) | about 6 years ago | (#25201297)

If you're one of 15,000 charging orcs and then run into a single foppish elf who has time to preen as you charge him down, face it, you're "#$"#%ed.

MMORPGs do a lot of play balance vis a vis the other players, but play balance versus the system is making absolutely, positively sure that the system loses the overwhelming majority of encounters.

Play Balance in Paranoia (1)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#25203787)

The Computer is your Friend! If your security clearance is ultraviolet or greater, we can discuss play balance in Call of Cthulhu as well.

Re:Play-balance is optional (1)

SparkleMotion88 (1013083) | about 6 years ago | (#25205921)

While I would say that there are very few games that have noticeable depth as literature, that doesn't mean that's inherent in the medium.

I completely agree with this statement. In fact, I often get excited about the potential for depth in a video game. People are accustomed to spending 20 hours playing through a video game -- that is plenty of time for a deep story with complex characters. The trick is finding a way to expose the story/characters throughout the game instead of just in the cutscenes.

The mechanism used by GTA (conversations while you are driving to/from the mission, shouting conversations during the missions, etc) is really good, but the characters are so one-dimensional that there is not much depth to expose. I would love to see the next GTA introduce more complex characters so we can get a more interesting story.

Another good example is Shadow of the Colossus. The story and themes are fairly simple, but I appreciated how every moment of the game served to illustrate just how lonely and desperate the main character is. This game also shows one way that a video game *can* be like Moby Dick -- the story is fixed, and even if you win, you still lose.

What is art anyway? (4, Interesting)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | about 6 years ago | (#25200993)

This is silly. What is art? Is Beethoven's 9th Symphony not art, simply because its meaning is decided upon by the listener and not by predefined plot elements?

If everything had to have a predefined "plot" in which only one thing could happen in order for it to be art, then things would be rather bleak indeed. One of the best things about art is that it can elicit different emotions and ideas from different viewers.

An artwork is some kind of media tapestry (a painting, a story, a play, or a game or device) that causes the participant to receive external stimuli that elicits a reaction that is meaningful in some emotional or intellectual way. I would argue that a magnificently engineered machine is a piece of art, or at least is so in the eyes of some observers. Who here hasn't look at some amazing code and thought it was just downright beautiful?

How can we not feel like victims of artistic inspiration as we read the fundamental theories of science? The artistry of these elements can be found in the elegant thinking of the men who gave birth to the ideas.

If this guy really lives in a world where art must be a novel that goes from point A to point B, then I'd say he's missing an entire universe of art. Art is multi-dimensional and unique to the person perceiving it.

Like all great artists, I did not read the article. I'm willing to take a break from my homework in order to spout off my casual, possibly ill-formed opinions, but not enough of a break to actually read something and check to see if I'm being a moron. =)

Re:What is art anyway? (2, Insightful)

WDot (1286728) | about 6 years ago | (#25201165)

I think what TFA is trying to do is warn developers about being too "artsy" in their games. If the whole point of their game is to convey a point, rather than be "fun," then he suggests that it is not a very good game. He prefers the artistic level of Portal, where it had character and depth without being completely avant-garde.

I think the whole "games-are-art" debate is silly, because art is subjective. But I think it goes on because some people feel that their hobby will be validated if it's considered an art form. I imagine in a generation or so people will wonder why the debate ever took place.

Re:What is art anyway? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | about 6 years ago | (#25202335)

So wait, if a game becomes art its bad because games aren't art?

Why can't games be art again?

Re:What is art anyway? (1)

WDot (1286728) | about 6 years ago | (#25203401)

Not quite. There was a modern 8-bit style game for the PC I remember playing a while back where you started out as this young man. Really the only thing you could do is travel to the right, and maybe pick up a girl to travel with you. There were also treasures that did good or bad things to you, but you could get by without them. The thing was though, through all this pointless walking right (or left), your characters started to age, their vision got worse, the music started to dwindle, and in the end both of them died. That was it. No matter how you played the game, this was always the end result. The game was called Passage if you want to try, it's interesting.

The thing with Passage though is that there was no real gameplay. No achievement. No FUN. But I don't think any would argue that it wasn't "art." And that's the kind of game TFA warns us against, instead telling us to look to Portal for inspiration on "artistic" games.

I wasn't arguing that games aren't art, I was simply trying to explain TFA's point.

Re:What is art anyway? (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 years ago | (#25201943)

Is Beethoven's 9th Symphony not art, simply because its meaning is decided upon by the listener and not by predefined plot elements?

The ninth symphony has very real meaning, given to them by their author. It even has words, and is in fact, an attempt to give those words meaning in music. Much of Beethoven's music has very real meaning, the obvious example is the pastoral symphony, which portrays peasants and a storm.

The rest of your post is pretty good. Not that I read the article either.

Re:What is art anyway? (1)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | about 6 years ago | (#25206385)

Well, Beethoven's 9th has never meant any of those things to me. It means something to me that is unique to my perspective on it. I can't understand the words anyway. I am inspired by the music, and derive my own meaning from it.

We all take our own experiences into and away from a piece of art. It is not reasonable to assert that someone interpreted an artwork "incorrectly".

Re:What is art anyway? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 years ago | (#25208043)

That's good. It's great you can create your own meaning for art.

Re:What is art anyway? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#25202843)

What is art?

The expression of creativity and imagination.

Nuff said, now apply this to what you wonder what's art or not and you'll see. I think misunderstanding this is dangerous. Reminds me of a movie about a concentration camp. Some prisoner made a painting on the holocaust and conditions in the camp, and when a German officer asked him about it, he asked the prisoner what was art. The prisoner made the mistake to define art as something aesthetically "nice" and happiness inducing, so the officer asked him his dark, gloomy and grim painting fitted that definition, which made him conclude what he did was not art and therefore unworthy to be treated as such.

My point being, it's essential to correctly identify all forms of art as such, and to do so everybody must get the definition of art right.

Re:What is art anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25202933)

"An artwork is some kind of media tapestry (a painting, a story, a play, or a game or device) that causes the participant to receive external stimuli that elicits a reaction that is meaningful in some emotional or intellectual way."

- Mostly the reaction is "huh?" or "what the hell is this shit?"

I'd definitely categorize art as something designed to envoke a specific reaction.

- If we look at the mona lisa, the picture was designed for a rich businessman, a painting of his wife.
- If we look at Moby dick, the piece was designed to envoke a specific reaction (kind of hard for me to express it, so I leave that as an exercise to the reader)
- If we look at Max Payne, it was definitely designed to envoke a specific reaction to the story and gameplay.

Of course, people then attribute other reactions to a piece, for instance, the mona lisa painting has no longer it's designed value, no one looks at it and recognizes the content. They look at it and recognize the artist who made it, thus it's no longer valuable because of it's original design, it's valuable because of who created it, thus the people themselves have changed the "art" in the art.

Art isn't something insubstantial and "anyone can have an opinion" - but there is a personal appreciation towards objects and people around us which we might like to designate as "art" but I'd like it if people could realize the difference between what is "personal art" (things which emote a specific personal reaction for you) and what is "public art" (almost all people recognize the same specific reaction).

Yet more labels to give something... (2, Interesting)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | about 6 years ago | (#25200997)

meaning or definition, or the lack thereof. Art is as much in the eye and sometimes ear of the beholder much as paintings, music, and movies. I myself cant stand art where they paint the obvious or paint splotches of nothing that look like a 5 year old created it, but hey thats just me. I cant stand music where the same drawn out chord is played over and over and over again ad nauseaum because the artist is talentless hack, but hey thats just me.

Ok so maybe its not just me but the point is art has no definition so can't we all just cut the crap and talk instead about the fact that some art is widely acknowledged because it can truly be enjoyable, or because people think they are truly enjoying it.

+5 insightful - who's your daddy

Not now, but.. (4, Interesting)

utopiandelusion (714882) | about 6 years ago | (#25201023)

Video games can be considered as art. It is a form of media, which means that the medium allows itself to be judged as an artistic form. Video games are also an emerging form of media.

How long did it take society, and even more so the high and mighty art critics, to judge someone like Monet or Picasso and consider it art? At the time it was viewed as rebellious and demeaning to concept of "art".

Every medium has its problems. Photography for instance, introduced the concept of "the original" and what people most often saw, the copies. The original was the negative, whereas what most people saw was the photo produced from the negative. The fact that the copies were what most people judged disturbed the idea of considering photography an art. Yet today, photography is studied and is most definately considered a form of art. Video as well has had its problems, on whether to consider video as simply a mashup of sounds and a series of photos, or to consider the elements as a whole and judge the final product as a separate art form.

Video games introduce a new element. There's interactivity. That's where the art comes in. The audience participates within the performance, and that demonstrates the true art form.

There are no rules for art. A study of art demonstrates that the artists that leave the "rules" of what is currently considered art will be looked upon as progress. All art attempts to accomplish is to show further insight into our nature. Video games demonstrate this exceptionally well, as they utilize both performer and the audience, instead of directing a one way message.

Re:Not now, but.. (2, Insightful)

NuclearError (1256172) | about 6 years ago | (#25201305)

Video games may introduce interactivity, but most of the games that I would consider "artsy" are so not because of the interactivity. I think the only game that made step back and think "woah" was Metal Gear Solid 3. However, most of its story and depth and impact were delivered through non-interactive cutscenes, save for pushing a button every once in a while to change the angle. Another game that I consider artful is Max Payne - the dark atmosphere and gritty comics definitely set a distinct mood for the game, but again, this has little to do with interactivity. I guess what I'm trying to say is that games have yet to use their unique attribute - interactivity - in an artful manner, but rather accomplish artfulness by incorporating other artful mediums such as movies/cutscenes, graphic novels, or music.

Re:Not now, but.. (1)

utopiandelusion (714882) | about 6 years ago | (#25201421)

That I can understand. I myself do not play many videos games (pretty much anything after snes I have stayed away from) but from an artistic stance I defend them as an art form. Video games as a whole have introduced something new to the world of media, and that is the ability for the audience to participate within the creation (This is also something seen within street performances, i.e. improv everywhere [] . The thing is, we must not judge the genre based on the current titles that are out so far. The ability to interact with a work is something amazing in itself, and if not already, I'm confident there will be video games that truly exemplify that ability.

If anything by comparison, have you ever watched a movie and wondered what would happen if....? The interactivity allows for this depth, and yes, it is up to the artist to create that. That is what will allow for that specific game to be considered as a true art form. But from what I've watched (and I have watched a decent amount of video games versus playing them) I am hesitant to say that video games have reached their full potential. But that does not mean that someone will come out with something that will truly make you think "woah".

Re:Not now, but.. (1)

thepotoo (829391) | about 6 years ago | (#25209407)

Video games introduce a new element. There's interactivity. That's where the art comes in. The audience participates within the performance, and that demonstrates the true art form.

Bingo! We have a winner!

This is how videogames will become art. Instead of being told, "we have free will" or "don't trust authority" (or whatever deep statement you like), games can present players with different, conflicting, ideas, and let the player be the one who decides which is right.

We've seen a few games which do stuff like this - Planescape Torment, Deus Ex, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, and to some extent The Witcher - but we've yet to see a game that fully realizes the artistic potential of the medium (for example, The Witcher asked you if you thought the quest for the holy grail was a metaphorical voyage, a journey of enlightenment, or a literal quest, but sadly, never made any gameplay changes based on your responses).

If a game actually let you drastically alter the outcome of the story based on your philosophical decisions, it would: 1) develop an intensely loyal fanbase, 2) recieve amazing critical reviews, 3) sell less than 10,000 copies.

A company I know (4, Interesting)

nawcom (941663) | about 6 years ago | (#25201025)

they are working on a few games in where they are integrating what you could call art into games. More experimental than anything. I'm keeping an open eye for when they release their own version of the red riding hood story, the Path [] . []
The Graveyard []
The Endless Forest []

Yah, yah, mod me down if you think this is offtopic. Personally I've found their work linked to art the most. I can think of many other games, but for some reason they came up in my head at the moment.

Re:A company I know (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201197)

Another good example was Planescape: Torment. It conveyed a story almost in a book-like fashion. The gameplay was built around the story, not the other way around.

Re:A company I know (1)

MistrBlank (1183469) | about 6 years ago | (#25203669)

Damnit.... now I'm pissed. I was working up the storyboarding of a modern Little Red Riding hood game and the "Reds" as a group of werewolf hunters.... sigh.

Dance (3, Insightful)

Mr_Blank (172031) | about 6 years ago | (#25201171)

Blah blah blah. Is this art. It is all in the eye of the beholder. The author goes on and on, but if you skip to the conclusion you will find

Citizen Kane is accessible and easy to like. It synthesized much of what was known about filmmaking up to that point into a coherent whole. It married technical innovations with a good story. It showed that a film could be high and low, art and spectacle, serious and entertaining all at once. A medium that can deliver all of that in one package is a great medium indeed.

By that definition, dance is art. Dance has highs and lows, can entertain, incorporate a story, and bring spectacle. If these little swans [] are art then so are these little morons [] . If we want to argue that the first is art then the same applies to the second, even though there is a pretty big quality difference.

For the players of games, each has their own Citizen Kane. Maybe it is Halo. Maybe it is Super Mario Brothers. Maybe it is WoW. The particular game does not matter - some people hate the movie Citizen Kane and no game is loved universally. The point is that games have highs and lows, can entertain, incorporate a story, and bring spectacle - just like every other medium considered to be 'art'.

Let's get past this dumb debate and move on to talking about the merits of the great games. AND! while we are doing that, let's avoid trying to compare games to other art forms directly. It would be insane to compare Citizen Kane, to the Mona Lisa, to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. That is part of the reason games are having trouble getting their art credits: Art is art and comparing it to other art only detracts from the appreciation of what is.

Re:Dance (1)

utopiandelusion (714882) | about 6 years ago | (#25201225)

It would have probably been insane for Leonardo da Vinci to compare his Mona Lisa to something like the Spear Bearer [] . Yet we still consider it all within the realm of art.

Art is something that is remembered as a few pieces within a cultural period. The amount of art created during the time is huge, while the amount of art studied today is minimal. The attempt to find better art only can exemplify what the majority of the society found important. If everyone loves a certain video game to the extent that it basically created a new genre of video games for some odd years, why not remember it?

Re:Dance (1)

Cochonou (576531) | about 6 years ago | (#25201527)

There is little doubt that dance is art in people's minds: the six fine arts classically defined are architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, music and dance. But this doesn't change the fact that you are very right in saying that all is in the eye of the beholder.

games as art (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201245)

if you want to see an artistic game, one that stretches the imagination, and imprints its message artistically, look at Braid.

now there's a well written game.

I guess its important also for a game to carry a message (or anti-message) in the first place.. as all art does.

if rules are art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201285)

If rules are art, could not one just as easily publish a rulebook, and leave it at that?

Yes, and instead of paintings, we should just have coloring books, which give you rules for how to get the same image by coloring within the lines.

Re:if rules are art... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 6 years ago | (#25201417)

If rules are art, could not one just as easily publish a rulebook, and leave it at that?

Yes, and instead of paintings, we should just have coloring books, which give you rules for how to get the same image by coloring within the lines.

You're right. It's funny that the question was even asked. Even outside of art, we value creative solutions that work within the rules. Movies are a big example of this. Sports, comedy, programming, first posts on Slashdot, you name it and somebody's done something amazing yet well within the rules.

The dude you're responding to does have a small point, though. We cannot really solidly and scientifically define what art is. Here's a weird thing: If a computer randomly puts different colored pixels together, that's not art. If somebody writes a program to randomly generate art (fractals, for example... or even Spore, for that matter) then their work there IS considered art. Fun, mm?

Dungeons and Dragons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201519)

"could not one just as easily publish a rulebook, and leave it at that?"

Yes, they can [] .

Of course games CAN be art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201623)

Can rules alone be art? Many think D&D's rules are, or the rules of insert random RPG here.

Movies are considered art, both for the pieces that make them up, and the whole created from them.

Games can contain all the pieces a movie has, and then some. (Accepting text input, gamepad input, reacting to a camera)

The only way it can be said that games cannot be art is if interactivity inherently is in conflict with what art means. But isn't a good argument art? Why should only statements be considered art and not questions?

Also, it's a little silly to say, if there's a choice, the choice IS the art, not the delivery. Both the choice presented AND the delivery are art. Just because you can't take it all in in one go does not make it non-art. (If anything it adds depth)

Now you might state that not all pictures are art, some are just craft, just as not every bit of woodworking is a carving. Some games are just cash-ins not meant to serve any artistic point. (Most any NES movie game) Compare to Ico which shows the art of discovery in exploration. How can I move beyond here? Compare Okage which questions the authority of a creator and the accuracy of labels, including those which are happily acknowledged. Compare the original Sonic Adventure which was fluff plot-wise, but which explored bouncing back and forth between reasoned exploration and over-the-top speed, typically requiring little skill in the speed sections. Any pattern based boss battle has art in the pattern, the desperation before discovering the pattern and the revelation in parts of said pattern.

Rules as art (1)

mikecarrmikecarr (43676) | about 6 years ago | (#25201687)

...if you don't believe that a rulebook can be a piece of art, please see any of the published DND rulebooks. See amazon [] for case in point. I'm aware that has the rulebook online as plain-jane; a large part of the reason that I buy DND rulebooks obsessively is because of the amazing artwork within. Truly recommended if you have not seen.

Re:Rules as art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25206731)


DND is an acronym for "Do not disturb".

ahem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25201769)

You freaking idiot. No one ever said rules are art, and no one ever said that games are purely rules. Cowboy Neal is disgusted. He is so disgusted he can't even pump blood to the various organs in his body. Goodjob you killed Cowboy Neal.

If rules are art (2, Insightful)

Bent Mind (853241) | about 6 years ago | (#25201887)

If rules are art, could not one just as easily publish a rulebook, and leave it at that?

LISP is poetry. But then, I suppose that art is in the eye of the beholder.

An incorrect assumption (3, Interesting)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 6 years ago | (#25202051) least for me.

Most people in the video game industry, and many people who write about them for a living, hope for games to be taken seriously as art or literature.

I've been a programmer in the game industry for 11+ years now. I don't recall ever wishing video games to be taken as seriously as art or literature. I love what I do, but I have no illusions about creating "art", at least as this author is defining it. To me, "art" isn't some lofty goal - it's a department.

I take professional pride in creating the best game I know how to. For me, the best part of this job is knowing that someone is having a blast playing the game I had a small hand in creating. If someone wants to call that art, or a toy, or even a game, that's fine by me. As long as they had fun playing.

Deliberately missing the point (2, Insightful)

xenocide2 (231786) | about 6 years ago | (#25202143)

100 percent of the people who didn't finish reading Moby Dick don't think about fate and destiny versus chance. They haven't read the ending to care. At every point in the book, you as a reader have the choice to stop reading. At every point in the game, you as the player have the choice to stop playing. Failure in a game creates struggle where none would otherwise exist; only art critics choose to ignore the obvious intent of the designer. Your death in Shadow of the Colossus is not some statement about the implausible odds of success. By adding that challenge, it serves to place you in the lead character's role. You are a warrior, who's risked death in combat against beings of colossal scale, and you innately understand the gravity of it all.

A set of rules does not define or exclude art, there's no human element. But two people playing by a set of rules introduces humanity, and the actions they take may say something about themselves or ourselves. Portal is basically super duper excellent, and art. Despite you being the only human in the game, there is engaging dialog that serves to manipulate your own emotions, and that power comes from the struggle you undertook.

Of course, the ethics of video games is so overwhelmingly violent and the plot so irrelevant that people just skip the plot entirely [] .

The Marriage (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | about 6 years ago | (#25202575)

I stumbled across this game a while back, it has a very interesting design philosophy. Basically the guy tried to create a piece of art where the message is conveyed through gameplay alone.

The Marriage []

Can games be art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25202759) has this topic covered [] pretty well actually.

Art (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 6 years ago | (#25202761)

Can games be classified as art?

I say leave it to artists.

I don't think most gamers really care what artsie people think.

A different art form (4, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#25202795)

The Moby Dick example is weak, it's just a case of a work of art that wouldn't translate well into another art form. Big whoop, you can find tons of examples like this between any two art forms. Besides works of art are best when made for the art form they were intended for, and not "ported" between art forms. If all you want in a game is tell a story just like in a movie or novel maybe you're on the wrong art form.

Games as an art form has, just like any other art form, unique advantages, mainly the huge advantage of being more "alive" than any other art form in that it changes depending on your actions and reactions, i.e. it's interactive. Of course you can try to tell a scripted linear story in a game, but in order to use the full capabilities of the art form you'd rather make a story that depends entirely on the actions and decisions of the player. Linear scripted story games are somewhat like a movie in which you'd play a part, you have a certain degree of freedom in what you do but ultimately the story remains the same. Of course it can make up for great games, but it's an under utilisation of the possibilities.

Multiple outcome stories are a step in the right direction, but still an under utilisation of the possibilities, considered games allow you to experience a story that wouldn't occur twice, the "full possibilities" I'm talking about would be a game which would last more than 10 hours in which the whole story would depend on what you do (kind of like real life if you will) and not be a bit scripted. At the end of it you would have experienced a unique story that only your memory would allow you to remember. Of course that's theoretical, it wouldn't be easy to make a game which would allow you to experience very memorable stories, but all the art of it would lie in the algorithm(s) that make up the story, and just like classical story writing it takes a talented writer. Because that's what art is all about, talent.

Games are art when they are games (2, Insightful)

FornaxChemica (968594) | about 6 years ago | (#25202815)

If you start thinking of video games as possible translations for other arts, you're missing the point. Same if you're trying to make your games "artsy". What makes an art an art is the quality of the different works through original and skilful use of the defining materials. A masterpiece in one art category is not guaranteed to become a masterpiece when translated into a different category; actually, most of the time, it doesn't become one and when it does it ends up having its own identity (Kubrick's films for instance, which are all based on books but are all fore and foremost Kubrick's films).

Games making the best use of the core principles of video games are the ones more likely to become works of art. It will not be the ones using movie-like cut-scenes, or novel-like plots, or a famous soundtrack, it will be the ones that look, sound and, more importantly, feel like real video games. That GameSetWatch article questions if video games have already had their Citizen Kane. In one review I wrote in 2001 for my website, I said Super Mario Bros. was the Citizen Kane of video games and was the turning point when games (at least console games) elevated to art.

You may disagree this one specific game did it, but what's important here is when it happened; gaming didn't wait 20+ years for polygons and realistic graphics to become an art unlike what some people would like us to think. Games are art when they were/are true to themselves. Incidentally, there's one word of the video game vocabulary where we hear the word "art", it's pixelart. Again, this isn't about games looking like movies -- and bad ones most of the time -- it's about game's inherent qualities and true nature.

It was already made as a book. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25203175)

It's called Dungeons and Dragons. You may have heard of it, as it was what the geek community did before computers. Role-playing (D&D, Shadowrun, etc), and it has many forms. The fact that a set of rules can be backed up by other forms of art (visual design, audio, etc) does not make it less viable or less pure an artform, it just adds a different layer to it, in the same way that the recording of audio and addition of colors changed film. In literature, the "set of rules" is quite common, and in fantasy and sci-fi writing it can actually be the entire point of the book (Asimov's Robots and Foundation series', Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth, Orwell's 1984, etc). As such, it is not only art, but also a very deep philosophical tool.

The only point you can make against such a thing being art is that it requires direct participation, so perhaps "performance art" would be a semantic middle of the views.

If there was a game for Moby Dick... (1)

dreemernj (859414) | about 6 years ago | (#25203583) would play as Ishmael, Ahab and every other member of the crew would still die just like in the original work, and at the end of the game, despite all the player's hard work, the last scene would be Ishmael alone in the ocean floating on a coffin right as the Rachel comes to the rescue.

I'm not trying to shoot down the whole idea he's going for but I do think a game can be art, even art that resembles literature. But, I'm not sure if anyone has succeeded in doing that yet.

I do think games have reached some level of being "art." I consider the sculptures and paintings of ancient Egypt art. They are extremely formulaic. It's a numbers game to figure out the proportions. And many of the sculptures fit those proportions beautifully. Does that mean it's not art? Or is the beauty of the initial formula and the precision of it's execution enough to count as art? I think the latter.

Not all games are art... (1)

swinginjohn (907770) | about 6 years ago | (#25203845)

... but some games just have all the elements that come together to make a truly artistic experience. Oftentimes, these games are not commercial blockbusters, but are relished by the community or a small loyal fanbase (Okami is the best example I can think of off the top of my head). Then, you take a game like Shadow of the Colossus. The creator had a vision on exactly what he wanted when he made that game, and all elements flow smoothly from one to the next. From a storytelling perspective, the plot is highly subjective. If you asked 10 different people what their synopsis of the plot was, you would probably get 10 different answers. Once again, this was by design, as the director has said he wanted to keep anything "definitive" out of the story and let the player fill in all the holes by him/herself. If anyone asks me if I think video games are art, I will loan them my copy of Shadow of the Colossus and tell them to play it all the way through; THEN we can talk about video games as art. I do think however, that games can be completely devoid of artistic merit. That also doesn't mean that the game isn't enjoyable or fun. But you can definitely tell when there is a vein of artistic vision running through it; it makes the game something completely different than anything you've ever played before.

Ian Bogost wrote a book on this. (1)

HanClinto (621615) | about 6 years ago | (#25203931)

I'm still working through it, but this is exactly the subject matter dealt with by Ian Bogost in his recent book: "Persuasive Games" []

In Persuasive Games, I advance a theory of how videogames make arguments and influence players. Games represent how real and imagined systems work, and they invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. Drawing on the history of rhetoric, the study of persuasive expression, I analyze rhetoric's unique function in software in general and videogames in particular. The field of media studies already studies visual rhetoric, the art of using imagery and visual representation persuasively. Here I argue that videogames, thanks to their basic representational mode of procedurality (rule-based representations and interactions), open a new domain for persuasion; they realize a new form of rhetoric.

I call this new form "procedural rhetoric," a type of rhetoric tied to the core affordances of computers: running processes and executing rule-based symbolic manipulation.

Basically, he looks at rule-based systems as a form of rhetoric, a method by which to artfully and effectively communicate ideas. Just as Melville had a point to make about life in Moby Dick, so too Bogost talks about how you can use rule-based systems to communicate in similarly effective ways through the rule-based systems of video games.

I bought it a few weeks ago and am partway through it -- so far it is really good.

If you're not interested in shelling out $$ for the book, you can get a free paper from MIT Press Journals entitled "The Rhetoric of Video Games" [] , also by Ian Bogost.

Books != Games != Movies (1)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | about 6 years ago | (#25203951)

That's why so few books port well to games, and why so few games port well to movies. When we are being told a story, it usually is interesting because the protagonist screws up and has to cope with the consequences; we are interested in how the screwup comes to be and how s/he copes with it (or doesn't). With a game, it's largely a continuous stream of "gotta get it exactly right", with screwups either being almost immediately terminal, or forced on you deus ex machina.

"Romeo and Juliet: The Game" would suck, despite being definitive great literature. Watching/reading the story, we are engaged by how others destroy themselves in their pursuit of an ideal. Thrusting ourselves into the game, we do not enjoy experiencing the same story arc first-person.

Fail (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 6 years ago | (#25203989)

When you want to demonstrate futility you don't make a game that's winnable, you make a game that will prevent any attempt of the player to avoid the fate (and you better do it in a way that seems natural, like the world wants to stop the player character, not just invisible walls and stopping the game script until the player does whatever stupid thing is expected!). You control all parameters of the simulation, put them to use! This probably works better with less blatant forcing, e.g. a friend of mine had an edutainment game about energy saving that would instantly kill the player with global warming if he turns up the heat before closing the window and things like that. Too many people lack the subtlety required to make a work that has a message without being so blatant about it that the user gets annoyed and with simulations you need even more subtlety.

Of course you can fuck up and leave a bug in that destroys your message but enough people fail at that with static media too, they simply forget that action X contradicts supposed aesop Y.

Also a game has the advantage over a rulebook that it does not reveal everything to the user, rules can remain hidden to surprise him. That comparison is as stupis as complaining about movies and plays because you could just as well publish the script.

Of course IMO art must not fail at the primary purpose of the chosen medium if it wants to be worthy of the title and for games that's interactive entertainment. For most other media it's various forms of static entertainment, for paintings it's being placed in the living room so the owner can use it as a status symbol... Too many people argue a work is art because of secondary qualities (e.g. the graphic style or story on a videogame) when its weakness is the primary quality of the medium (e.g. weak gameplay that feels like they just added it because they were contracted for a game instead of a movie or gameplay that's disconnected from the rest as if they had an idea for a work of art and an idea for a cool game and wanted to make both at the same time) and IMO that does not deserve to be called good art. Choose the right medium for what you want to do, don't add cookie-cutter gameplay that railroads the player just so you can show your pretty FMV cutscenes, make a movie right off the bat! Oh, wait, most of these praised "games" would be considered B grade or worse if they were put into the proper medium and compared with the other works in that area.

We've heard this before... (2, Insightful)

BaronHethorSamedi (970820) | about 6 years ago | (#25204455)

The Moby Dick example is really just a tired rehash of Roger Ebert's contention that games cannot fundamentally qualify as art, since the author doesn't fundamentally control the outcome. My answer to this has always been: nonsense! Maybe a group of people getting together to blow each other up in Halo has no aesthetic merit, but that's irrelevant to the broader question of whether game designers can and do exert control over the outcome of the systems they create.

The average JRPG, for example, involves a limited amount of player control over the technical aspects of character development, but that won't usually affect the outcome of the overarching story in any meaningful way. Similar to the Moby Dick example, there's no way in, say, Final Fantasy X for Tidus to survive at the end. The Half-Life series has a pretty constrained, cinematic style of gameplay, as do, frankly, the majority of story-driven titles on the market. System-type games with truly limitless potential outcomes are probably in the minority, and are usually experimental titles where the system/ruleset is really the main event (Spore, et al).

Where "Wasteland" gets it wrong... (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | about 6 years ago | (#25204601)

Here's the thing: a big part of his argument is based on what happens to the story of Moby Dick if you make it interactive - either you stick to the events of the book, making the player's ability to impact the world just an illusion, or else you open up the story, giving Ahab a chance to win, which defeats the message of the book.

What the article author ignores is that, first, different media are well suited to telling different kinds of stories. Where a fixed, sequential novel might excel at emphasizing the inevitability of fate, an interactive game could deliver an alternate message, showing people how their decisions allow them to make their own fate. (Moby Dick, then, may simply not be a good story to turn into a game...)

Second, if the game allows you all kinds of freedom, but you still ultimately die facing the white whale, doesn't that deliver the same message of inevitable fate that the book does? Or what if Ahab's choices are to run away (but still be tormented by the memory of the white whale) or confront the whale and die?

Anyway, the whole notion of "high art" (or Art with a capital A) is a bit overrated. The notion that games must establish themselves as a viable medium for "real art" is just a red herring... What's really going on is that some people don't take games seriously or think of them strictly as a bad influence... Those of us who feel otherwise are attempting to justify our opinions by asserting that games are art. But this ignores two important facts. First, even if they are truly art (and I believe they are - why not?), "art" does not carry some magical self-legitimizing power. The rights of artists to express themselves freely are not won easily. Second, (and this is the point that I think is important to realize, and one of the reasons this "games as Art" thing is an Ackbarian trap) there's no reason we should have to specifically legitimize games in the first place. The fact that we get drawn into such debates means this point is already lost.

let's get the relationship straight first.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25205045)

art is described by rules, not determined by them or created from them. Rules do not generate art. The greatest artists have not been bound by rules as a framework, but have taken the rules as a way to describe what *has* been done then doing something original that forced the public to adjust and re-create a new set of rules as description.

games are games.

Rulebooks (1)

anomaly256 (1243020) | about 6 years ago | (#25205729)

"If rules are art, could not one just as easily publish a rulebook, and leave it at that?" What, you don't think Dungeons and Dragons was a work of art?

The difference (1)

Kratisto (1080113) | about 6 years ago | (#25205775)

Saying that because games and books are very different is a horrible argument against games as art. Games are unlike books, in that they allow the player a choice, where as books interact with the reader only to the extent that the reader may decide the unimportant details. The key power behind gaming as an art-form is this interaction, and while I hate to bring it up again, Bioshock takes steps in the right direction. The choices you make have an influence over the outcome of the game, and that, to me, is a much stronger way to present an idea, since it involves the choices I made, then rewards or punishes me for them. Unfortunately, games are expensive as hell to produce, and they won't make it as a form of art since they aren't accessible to everyone who would like to write one. Anyone can publish a book or paint a painting, or even compose a score. Not everyone can produce a videogame. Maybe that's where the "higher art" bias comes from.

Just a Rulebook (2, Interesting)

gknoy (899301) | about 6 years ago | (#25205967)

If rules are art, could not one just as easily publish a rulebook, and leave it at that?

While most role playing game books include some non-rule filler, the bulk of such books ARE a collection of rules. How your character advances, abilities/actions you can take, combat resolution, loot. D&D, in particular, is notable for this. While there is a default world, the idea is that someone else (the DM) creates their own world in which to apply the rules. While the default D&D world is certainly a creation, the rules themselves are as well. They shape the way you think about the game world.

Now, more recently game rules tend to be more of an engineering affair, I imagine -- beta testers, etc. But, when you look at some of the very earliest D&D resources (e.g., the little pamphlets that made up 1.0 and such -- not that I was old enough to have them, but I saw them at an old DM's house ;)), they're basically nothing but a list of monsters, rules for conflict resolution, and tables of results/loot/etc.

I think one could consider the creation of that ruleset art, in some degree.

Nethack is Moby Dick (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 6 years ago | (#25209241)

"If Melville had so much as allowed for any possibility at all where Captain Ahab 'wins,' no matter how remote, the work's message and its interpretation of the world completely changes. Instead of destiny and fate, we would now speak of probability and chance."

Nethack is Moby Dick

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