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Video Game Screenshots As Art 16

bbretterson writes "A community writer on Bitmob recently stumbled across a website filled with hundreds of images that blur the line between video game screenshots and legitimate photography. Using screen capture software, Dead End Thrills frames shots in PC games that could hang on the wall of any SoHo gallery."
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Video Game Screenshots As Art

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  • by TheSambassador ( 1134253 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:31PM (#32927606)
    Are still frames from a movie (that someone else made) art? I'd probably argue not so much... it's the creation of somebody else. Now if you were able to edit those pictures in a way that communicates something, then maybe we can start talking.

    I'd say that taking a "cool looking" screenshot can't really be art in the sense that this article wants it to be. Sure, with video games you have a bit more freedom of where to "take your picture" from than you would with a film, but it's the same idea. That scene from Bioshock was created by the developers, and it's THEIR art, not somebody who's just found a cool place to take a shot. The developers set up the lighting, made the textures and models, and provided the entire atmosphere.

    Of course, once you get into modding and/or things like Gary's Mod, where you can actually create some really cool things, maybe those "screenshots" would be a bit closer to "art." But simply taking a cool screenshot of a game doesn't (IMO) constitute "art."
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's the same argument used against photography being art. You're capturing someone else's art, so your photograph isn't art.

      Yes, the game artists created the meshes, the light sources, the particle effects. The programmers built the game engine that puts those together. However, the game player actually gets a lot of say in the "still" image created just like a real-world photographer. Do I stand here or there to grab that image? Should I squat or stand on a garbage can or move something here I can stand

      • by yoyhed ( 651244 )
        Good points, and being a photographer I do support photography as art obviously, but hitting PrintScreen in a game is not quite as artful as photography. There's so many more things to be considered when taking a real photograph - ISO, exposure length (and thus motion blur or lack thereof, and over- or under-exposure for artful purposes), aperture (influencing depth of field), choice of lens (influencing perspective and framing).

        Taking screenshots is akin to walking around with a point-and-shoot camera o
        • by Rayonic ( 462789 )

          There's so many more things to be considered when taking a real photograph - ISO, exposure length (and thus motion blur or lack thereof, and over- or under-exposure for artful purposes), aperture (influencing depth of field), choice of lens (influencing perspective and framing).

          In PC games at least, there are a lot of things you can tweak or hack. Either with the game or with your display drivers. It's a different skillset, and probably easier overall, but here's a few real-life examples off the top of my head:

          • Increasing foliage density - this is often just a slider that can be turned up or overridden
          • Turning on or off light bloom, motion blur, etc.
          • View distance (how far you can see)
          • Alternate rendering styles (cel-shaded, watercolor, etc.)
          • Filters like film-grainyness or sepia, th
  • No doubt there are similarities between real world photography and carefully-arranged game "screenshots," but I think you haven't seen much fine art photography if you really think these are in the same category.
  • It is 98% someone else's work, 2% you posing what amounts to dolls.

    In any other medium, this would not be considered art.

    If anything, a really good screen cap gallery should show how important atmosphere is to a game, especially one that is supposed to have any emotional depth. It should not serve to show off the shot-taker's (I loath to use the term "photographer") artistic sensibilities.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SleazyRidr ( 1563649 )

      Well, arranging dolls artistically could be considered art.

      The example shown above is basically just showing what a great job the game designers did, rather than adding anything of value.

      I see the artistic value in the old skool approach, we've had "Hey look, if you do this it looks like these two guys are doing it!" for as long as we've had screenshots.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well now - this is where the discrepancies come in. I agree, what we've seen isn't exactly art, but that's not to say that if someone actually did pose something, that it couldn't be art?

      I mean, it's not like the artist invented a new colour or a new shape, he just put them together on a canvas to create art. It's not like the photographer crafted the bowl or the fruits, but when decoratively posed it can be understood as art. So where do we draw the line?

      There are artists who work just in a digital environ

  • Here are some pretty cool ones that someone made from Street Fighter 4, took a lot of timing/coordination to get correct. []
  • Artists has already for quite some time been using videogames to make art. For example, Miltos Manetas ( is a wellknown artist using videogames (and technology) as tools and subjects for prints and videos, etc. The question isn't whether games can produce "pretty" (as Daniel Sims puts it) images but what those images can say about our lives. And video games are a vital part of many people's lives.
  • Missed the boat on this one but better late than never. The problem with some of the arguments here and elsewhere is that they have very rigid notions of what photography should be, and often what modern videogames are. Comparing screenshots to still frames from a movie assumes that games are just cutscenes rather than virtual worlds, and that the shot-maker has no influence on the subject or its treatment. This is obviously wrong. Going on to say that just because the textures, models, environments and atm

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