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'Systems-As-Art' In Games 106

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-frag-or-not-to-frag dept.
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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'Systems-As-Art' In Games

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29, 2008 @10:47PM (#25200909)

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

    • by corsec67 (627446)

      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?

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

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          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! [wikipedia.org]

          Yes, it's locked into history as solidly

      • So you haven't seen Memento [wikipedia.org] then?
        • by KDR_11k (778916)

          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.

          • 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 thr

    • by Talgrath (1061686)

      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 somet

      • by Skrapion (955066)

        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 a

        • by Talgrath (1061686) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @03:42AM (#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.

          • by Skrapion (955066)

            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.

          • by rprins (1083641)

            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 l

          • by eagee (1308589)
            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.
          • by xappax (876447) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @11:43AM (#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.

            • 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?
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Room [wikipedia.org]

          • by 7Prime (871679)

            But what's so bad about snobbery?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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 guide
      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by game kid (805301)

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

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

    • by Asmor (775910)

      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.

    • 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

  • you know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday September 29, 2008 @10:54PM (#25200939) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      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.

      • The reason why being "art" is important is because of the issue of legitimacy [ign.com]. (That's a link to an article I wrote to explain the issue more.) As a game developer, being considered a legitimate medium is nice because it means I don't have to lie and say I'm a crack dealer to get any respect from other people. ;) It also helps because then we wouldn't have to put up with so much government B.S. about "protecting the children" from the evils of video games; we wouldn't put up with politicians banning books

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

      I beg to differ:

      The Library of America [loa.org] 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

    • by rtechie (244489) *

      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".

  • by Sierran (155611) on Monday September 29, 2008 @10:58PM (#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.

  • by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Monday September 29, 2008 @11:04PM (#25200989) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • What is art anyway? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Forrest Kyle (955623) on Monday September 29, 2008 @11:04PM (#25200993) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WDot (1286728)
      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 conside
      • by aussie_a (778472)

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

        Why can't games be art again?

        • by WDot (1286728)
          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 b
          • by aussie_a (778472)

            But let me guess, you started the game thinking you'd get fun and instead discovered art. If someone went into it expecting art and got art, I imagine its quite possible they'd appreciate it and think it worthwhile playing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)

      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.

      • 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".
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      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,

  • by PrescriptionWarning (932687) on Monday September 29, 2008 @11:05PM (#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.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by utopiandelusion (714882) * on Monday September 29, 2008 @11:09PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NuclearError (1256172)
      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
      • 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 [improveverywhere.com]. The thing is, we must not judge the genre based on the current titles that are out so far. The abilit
    • by thepotoo (829391)

      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

  • A company I know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nawcom (941663) on Monday September 29, 2008 @11:10PM (#25201025) Homepage
    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 [tale-of-tales.com].

    Tale-of-Tales.com: [tale-of-tales.com]
    The Graveyard [tale-of-tales.com]
    The Endless Forest [tale-of-tales.com]

    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: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • 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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr_Blank (172031) on Monday September 29, 2008 @11:42PM (#25201171) Journal
    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 [youtube.com] are art then so are these little morons [youtube.com]. 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.

    • It would have probably been insane for Leonardo da Vinci to compare his Mona Lisa to something like the Spear Bearer [wikipedia.org]. 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
    • by Cochonou (576531)
      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 (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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 you don't believe that a rulebook can be a piece of art, please see any of the published DND rulebooks. See amazon [amazon.com] for case in point. I'm aware that wizards.com 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.
  • If rules are art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bent Mind (853241) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @02:04AM (#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.

  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @02:53AM (#25202051)

    ...at 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.

  • by xenocide2 (231786) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @03:15AM (#25202143) Homepage

    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 [penny-arcade.com].

  • 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 [rodvik.com]

  • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @06:58AM (#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.

  • 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 fil

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

    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

  • 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 su

  • by KDR_11k (778916)

    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

  • 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
  • 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

  • "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?
  • Just a Rulebook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gknoy (899301) <gknoy@anasazi s y s t e m s .com> on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @12:30PM (#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.

  • "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

  • As a longtime fan of Moby Dick the novel, I would have no problem with Moby Dick the game, even if it allowed a way for Ahab to win or for Starbuck to jump ship and invent coffee. Not only are the novel and the game different art forms, they are different creations -- just as a film "based" on a book or a play is a distinct creation, and I don't expect it to adhere faithfully to the original. I just want it to be good. (My favorite Macbeth film is Throne of Blood, which takes great liberties with The Scott
  • I posted this once in here already, but I think it's important for nerds as a whole to get this.

    What sets a truly great piece of art out from all the rest is the intention of the artist when it was made.

    The reason the vast majority of science fiction and video games will *never* be high art is because the intention of the artists usually are: 1. To Entertain. 2. To make a buck.

    As long as that's the intention of the industry, it can be a *very* cool bit of software/writing/painting, but it won't be

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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