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Games as Art

ScotGaymerScotGaymer Member Posts: 526
edited January 2013 in Off-Topic
So this is a topic I see coming up more and more across the internet, this ever burgeoning pretentious assertion that gaming = magnificent great art.
And given that I called it pretentious you guys can gather my feelings on the matter.

Had you asked me back in march last year in the post Mass Effect 3 world if games were art, I would have angrily and categorically shrieked at the top of my lungs that games were not art and to claim that they were would be nothing more than breathtaking arrogance.
Can you tell that I was bitter? lol.

It was my position then (and prior to ME3's release) than games were not art. Games are a form of media designed to enthrall, captivate, and entertain but at the end of the day they remain a form of media that is intended to be consumed. At a pretty hefty cost as well.
IE: They are a product to be sold.
So for me, Game = Product = Not Art. It was fairly simple really.

Now that the shock of Mass Effect 3 and it's "artistic integrity" defence has worn off, I found myself softening on this subject.

I realise now that my hostility to the Games = Art point of view is that too often douchebags like Colin Moriarty @ IGN use it as a blanket statement. That all games are automatically Art, and thus all games are thus somehow immune to criticism (because you know, art can't be criticised ever); and people who disagree are nothing more than self entitled whiners.
And I find that it is arguable at best.

What changed my mind you might ask?

Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition changed my mind. That's what.

Now the original BG (and it's sequel) and it's enhanced edition had and have it's problems. BGEE is nowhere nearly as comprehensively enhanced as many people might have hoped it was going to be.
But overall BGEE reminded me that BG1, and its sequel BG2, were lovingly and painstakingly crafted games that were IMO nothing less than works of art. The beauty of both games, and of BGEE, is such that they are still after all these years considered amongst the best games ever created for any platform and of any genre. No mean feat, to be sure.
It reminded me how much I love RPGs, and how much I love gaming. Which I needed after such a horrible year for gaming that 2012 was. Seriously, every new game I bought this year was a huge dissapointment, except for BGEE. Honestly it says something that for the first time ever several indie games were in contention for GotY on many many sites across the internet in 2012.

My problem now with the Games = Art thing is that I feel sometimes like I am the only person who does not automatically think that all games are examples of this awesome art; that some games are just products to be sold to make money. And that the application of the art descriptor to a game is used far too liberally and far to indescriminately for my tastes.
I find it hugely irritating.

Example:
Developer Silicon Knights stole parts of source code from the Unreal Engine 3 from Epic Games which they used in the creation in a number of their games, including Too Human. A collection of, IMO, some mediocre to decent games that really didn't amount to anything that was world shatteringly special.
That isn't to say that their games sucked. Most of their stuff manages a solid 6.5 to 7.5 out of 10 in most review sites, and with most user reviewers on metacritic. Decent to good like I said, but not world shatteringly awesome.
Silicon Knights lost their court battle over the copywrite claims regarding the Unreal Engine 3 and have now had to recall, at their own expense which sucks for them, all existing copies of all their games that use the infringed material to be destroyed.

I saw this being discussed in a forum somewhere, and I saw someone lamenting the fact that these games are being gathered up to be destroyed as a "massive loss for the art of gaming".

And I literally "wtf"ed.

Seriously, a collection of games that together amount to a collective "meh" from the gaming universe counts as art? Games that were literally built using stolen materials are art? That them being destroy is "damaging" to the "art"? Really?

I just don't get it.

Am I the only person who doesn't automatically think games are ALWAYS art? That games as art is something that is rare and special and all kinds of awesome when it happens?
Am I the only person who has to physically refrain from face palming when I see people rattling on about "omg, games are like art dudes!"?
Am I the only person who thinks that douche's like Colin Moriarty and their assertion that games are art and thus immune to criticism is probably one of the most irritating and damaging things to happen to gaming ever?

ElectricMonk
«13

Comments

  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,250
    edited January 2013
    It depends on how you define art. Oscar Wilde said that 'all art is quite useless', and that seems what many art critics go along with. For something to be considered art, it has to be created by human beings, but have no useful purpose, no reason to exist other than for itself... certainly on that basis, games do qualify. As do a lot of people I know, but...

    Of course not all games are great art, but that's true of everything; 90% of everything is crud. And of course, art can be criticized; it always has been.

    Teflon
  • Dr_AtomicDr_Atomic Member Posts: 50
    Made a post about this topic on my blog (Shamless plug).

    The TL;DR version: No, games are not "art." Throwing a bunch of cutscenes and pretentious wankery into a shooter doesn't make it art.

  • EdwinEdwin Member Posts: 480
    When trying to distill the essential nature of art, you might find yourself regressing thusly:

    image

    TJ_Hooker
  • ScotGaymerScotGaymer Member Posts: 526
    edited January 2013
    Obviously I realise that qualifies as art varies from person to person. Thats why I said in my opinion that BG was a work of art. Others might disagree.

    I just find the whole thing frustrating. This idea that games = art = awesome = you idiot if you dont get it = game immune to criticism is just appalling.

    @Dr_Atomic

    Your blog is how I used to feel. Lol. Changed my mind tho. Some games can be art I think.

    I find I can't disagree with a lot of your points though.

  • O_BruceO_Bruce Member Posts: 2,761
    edited January 2013
    You know, I can't reallty be surprised that people are considering games as art, since nowadays even something like this is considered to be art:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist's_shit
    If literally shit is art nowadays, then my dog is an artist.

    As for me, I don't consider ANY game as a form of art, thought making those often requires creativity. But, creativity itself is not art, as creativity is just a helpful trait that can be used in multiple of ways. People are using their creativity, when creating adverisements. They're doing that because that's their job, not form inner need. Same with people making games. It requires creativity, but it's just a job. Nothing more, nothing less. Whatever game is good, or not, it doesn't matter. Baldur's Gate is awesome, but it's a game. Huge replayability and immersion doesn't make game a art.

    Games are just tools for entertaiment, something like a toys. They are just mean to waste our time in pleasant way. Time, which we could use to make something constructive with our lives. Who knows, maybe if it wasn't for games and computers, I would be great martial artist by now. Who knows.

    Post edited by O_Bruce on
  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,250

    Obviously I realise that qualifies as art varies from person to person. Thats why I said in my opinion that BG was a work of art. Others might disagree.

    I just find the whole thing frustrating. This idea that games = art = awesome = you idiot if you dont get it = game immune to criticism is just appalling.

    I don't get immune to criticism part. I mean, of course people have different tastes and not everyone likes the same thing, but that doesn't mean some things can't be criticized. If someone writes a story where a character that's supposed to work for NASA suggests just building a giant vacuum cleaner to clear away space debris... that's something you could validly criticize, or anything where the writers haven't bothered to do any research whatsoever or where characters behave in ways that are at odds with their background.

    That's just novels. If games are indeed art, then there may be different criteria for what makes them good or bad art. I'm not sure what all of that would be.

    But then, I thought Colin Moriarty was just a character in Fallout 3. I'm a bit out of touch.

  • Kitteh_On_A_CloudKitteh_On_A_Cloud Member Posts: 1,629
    Basically what @Coutelier said. It depends on how you define art. Not all games are art, of course, but I have seen games that come really close to what I consider to be art. For me, art is a natural and very personal skill a person has, a skill consisting of creativity and the unique way in which this creativity is expressed. I'll give an example. Personally I thought that Alice: Madness Returns, came very close to being art. This might be weird to some, as it was a game full of bugs rendering it essentially broken. (I could go on a rant about EA being partially responsible for basically shoving out a product that at least needed another 6 months before being released, but I won't). The gameplay in itself was not creative either, as it was a repetitive platformer. What WAS creative, though, was the art style. With this, I mean the environments, characters and underlying story (which you basically had to assemble yourself and for which you also needed some prior knowledge from American MC Gee's Alice, the first game). Those three elements, purely on their own, make the game art to me. Does everyone have to think this game is 'art'? Of course not. Art, as I said, is something you define for yourself. I wouldn't call CoD 'art', while it might just as well be art to someone else. And that's fine. I think Baldur's Gate is 'art' too, because of the unique story and environments, combined with interesting characters. Another important factor for a game to be 'art' to me, is when I feel the game world is 'alive'. When I can immerse myself, get sucked into the game. Therefore, I also consider Skyrim as 'art'. Because the world felt so alive. Of course I'm aware a lot of textures, characters and maps where re-used. But that didn't make the world feel less alive to me. Of course, if you compare this to what I said earlier, the three elements I named (environments, characters and story), Skyrim wouldn't be defined as 'art' to me. As I said, the environments were re-used often, many characters were flat and there's basically no real story to the game, as you can play it without ever touching the main quest. So what makes a game 'art' to me? I can only conclude it is very personal and that it depends from game to game. I also consider Don't Starve to be 'art', just like I consider Dragon Age: Origins 'art'. All of these games have in common that I love playing them and that they inspire me. Maybe I can take that as a common factor in determining games as 'art'.
    In short: A game being considered as 'art' is a very personal decision and it takes into account a lot of different and often subjective factors with which not everyone may agree at all times.

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,203
    Well, if it were Art ... it would be bad Art.

    Contemporary artists, ones you can consider to be legitimate , use their talents to discuss the problems of society . In fact , it has always been that way.

    However, artists can also make games, and sell stuff that will look artistic =D

  • Troodon80Troodon80 Member, Developer Posts: 4,110
    edited January 2013
    Well, just about anything can be considered art.

    What is considered art by one person may not be considered as such by another.

    Quotes from the OED:
    The application of skill to subjects of taste, as poetry, music, dancing, the drama, oratory, literary composition, and the like; esp. in mod. use: Skill displaying itself in perfection of workmanship, perfection of execution as an object in itself. Phr. art for art's sake. Hence in many allusive phrases (see quots.).

    The application of skill to the arts of imitation and design, painting, engraving, sculpture, architecture; the cultivation of these in its principles, practice, and results; the skilful production of the beautiful in visible forms.
    For example, I consider this art to be art, but not this. The first is aesthetically pleasing to me, it looks nice to me, it is appealing to me, and it's significance is that I wish I could do equally as well. The second is... a couple piles of soil. I can go out into the garden and get that, it's not exactly pleasing to look at, and it doesn't really have an meaning or significance.

    Now, in modern terms, both are considered art. But the subjective ways of looking at it mean that I consider the first to be good art and the second to be bad art.

    Objectively: the first image has had a great deal of skill involved, great imagination, great eye for details, etc. The second is a common thing that can be found in just about building site.

    I did some research into what art was some time ago for a debate elsewhere, and was astounded at what can now be considered art.

    Warning, link contains turds-as-art:
    This is a typical example of 'art' going crazy.


    I guess by comparison, games as an art form is much more appealing.

    @Edwin, further regression leads to "wat," "wut," or "meh."

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,203
    @Troodon80 , painting isn't art. Sculpture isn't art. Illustration isn't art.

    They're means to an end , and it might only become art when it has a sensible/poetic/political/non commercial motivation.

  • ZeckulZeckul Member Posts: 1,031
    It's hard to say, I think it depends on the type of game. Nobody would say Poker is art, it's a deck of cards and a simple set of rules, nothing else. At the other end of the spectrum, something like Myst IV: Revelation is almost pure contemplation of highly creative scenery; I wouldn't hesitate to call this game a work of art.

  • O_BruceO_Bruce Member Posts: 2,761
    @DJKajuru
    Art and political motivation? Stop mixing politics with art. It's insulting, to artists that is.

  • Troodon80Troodon80 Member, Developer Posts: 4,110
    edited January 2013
    @DJKajuru, I wouldn't have actually included non-commercial in the line, as many times artists can be commissioned in order to make something that someone else deems to be art; has a sensible and usually symbolic, poetic, or political motivation.

    Someone could commission a singer to sing in anti-war campaigns, or the singer themselves may decide to sell their anti-war music in the hope of applying a message about the futilities of war. Or someone could commission a painter to paint something of significant symbolic importance to them.

    What I consider art is what I have been taught: skill in a trade, the ability to produce something that is aesthetically pleasing -- even the 'deeper meaning' part is secondary, but is certainly a must, even if it is only symbolic in nature. Then again, I am old school and I still maintain that not everything should automatically be art. For example, I can write a poem, prose, or limerick with absolutely no meaning, I can draw a picture, or sculpt something, but to some it would still be considered art even if I don't consider it to be. That is the way society has gone.

    Literature (including movies and video games, on top of books, poetry, theatrical performances, etc.), painting, dancing, music, etc., they can all be considered art. It is entirely up to the individual to determine whether they like it or not, thus being good or bad.

    That's all my opinion, however, so it is entirely subjective. What I consider to be art is not what the next person will consider it to be, and vice versa.

    @Zeckul, though one could say that the ability to flourish cards is an art. The desk itself is not art, but without it the flourishes would be a rather poor show :D.

  • roboticsunroboticsun Member Posts: 42
    No, games are not Art. To me Art has to be a pure individual work; while it might be inspired by others but the core work has to be done or expressed by the artist himself. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry nowadays requires too many collaborations in order to make quality products. That is to say the individualism usually is neither celebrated nor possible.

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,203
    @ZelgadisGW , art is supposed to create discussion and promote solutions. You don't pile up a bunch of garbage in a creative way just for the visual effect. Artists do that to discuss the use of space, what garbage represents in our society, how much we pollute etc. Thus, it is political . Even ancient art is political.

    @Troodon80 , if you paint/write/sing something well, that makes you a good painter/writer/singer , that's for sure. But art itself is something that promotes change and solution , the goal of the artist has always been to provoke the public into reflecting about themselves or their enviroment, you can confirm it by reading about any artistic movement.

    However, all artists must be good enough on their technique, cause that's what will protect their content.

  • O_BruceO_Bruce Member Posts: 2,761
    @DJKajuru
    Art is much more than that. First of all, art equals peronal growth in certain area. Without this, there is no artists or art. Second, while I agree that message may be important, your particular example is invalid. I personally would categorize pollution as an problem of society as a whole, rather than political. That's because this particular problem can be solved without parasites' (politicians) influence and because politicians don't give a damn about such causes.

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,203
    edited January 2013
    @ZelgadisGW

    When I say "politics" , I don't mean "politicians". All of our decisions are political, even buying a game . It is more than that , of course, that's why I said "sensible/poetic/political/non commercial" . Name a contemporary artist doesn't do it.

  • O_BruceO_Bruce Member Posts: 2,761
    edited January 2013
    Then again, I'll say that buying a game is economical decision... But suit yourself.

    Post edited by O_Bruce on
  • NonnahswriterNonnahswriter Member Posts: 2,520
    If we're going to place video games into the same category as movies, music, visual art, literature, etc., then yes, video games are a form of art.

    Whether or not you agree that a certain game is worthy of being art is a matter of opinion.

    Similar to someone's earlier example, I would consider this, this, and this to all be art. Whereas, I would not consider this, this, or this to be on the same level as the earlier pieces mentioned.

    However, as far as our society's concerned, all six of these works are considered "art." And thus, because they are all "art," they are more than capable of being heavily criticized and praised by the general populace.

    What you describe as "games = art = awesome = you idiot if you don't get it = game immune to criticism" just sounds like somebody going fanboy-mode over a particular game (and yes, even critics do this too), rather than a huge debate about whether video games as a whole are considered art. That's my first impression, anyway.

  • DrugarDrugar Member Posts: 1,566
    Games are as much art as writing is art.
    An article about lipgloss in Vogue is not art. The works of Shakespeare can be considered as such.

    A video game *can* be art, but the bar is set quite high. Games that are stunning to behold, enriching to play and fill a person with inspiration when they're done count as art, since it does everything a beautiful painting, impressive movie or thought provoking book does.
    However, due to the video game market, the high production costs and immaturity of the medium, very few games fall under this category. Which ones do, is up to every person's own opinion. My personal list is v. short.

    TJ_Hooker
  • Kitteh_On_A_CloudKitteh_On_A_Cloud Member Posts: 1,629
    Drugar said:

    Games are as much art as writing is art.
    An article about lipgloss in Vogue is not art. The works of Shakespeare can be considered as such.

    A video game *can* be art, but the bar is set quite high. Games that are stunning to behold, enriching to play and fill a person with inspiration when they're done count as art, since it does everything a beautiful painting, impressive movie or thought provoking book does.
    However, due to the video game market, the high production costs and immaturity of the medium, very few games fall under this category. Which ones do, is up to every person's own opinion. My personal list is v. short.

    Totally agreed! :)

  • ScotGaymerScotGaymer Member Posts: 526
    I just wanted to know that I wasn't alone in hating this whole video games are art thing. lol.

  • Kitteh_On_A_CloudKitteh_On_A_Cloud Member Posts: 1,629
    @DJKajuru: Art doesn't always have to carry a political meaning. Art can also just look nice. I also disagree that even ancient art carried a political meaning. Thus far I don't see how prehistoric drawings on walls represent anything political. They rather represent the lives and values of the people who lived back then. Ancient Egypt was more about art representing religion and various gods, next to the representation of fertility and death. In ancient Rome and Greece you had various forms of art which where mostly about aesthetics and decoration, such as the mosaics on the floors and paintings on the walls. These art forms also usually carried a rather mythological or religious meaning, as many art forms represented images of gods, and heroes. And so on. Through the ages, the tone of art shifted from religion/mythology to aesthetics and finally to a more provocative/political approach in the last couple of centuries. So I certainly wouldn't say that art has ALWAYS been about political statements. Not every aspect in life has to do with politics. I don't see how buying a certain game is also a political choice, to be honest. It's not like some politician is telling me what kind of game to buy. Hah, that would be hilarious! :p

  • Kitteh_On_A_CloudKitteh_On_A_Cloud Member Posts: 1,629
    @fitscotgaymer: I personally disagree that games can't be art, but I do agree it is a difficult genre to define as art, because there's such a wide variety of games and it is a very personal choice.

  • NonnahswriterNonnahswriter Member Posts: 2,520

    @fitscotgaymer: I personally disagree that games can't be art, but I do agree it is a difficult genre to define as art, because there's such a wide variety of games and it is a very personal choice.

    But the same can be said about all forms of art. There's a wide variety of paintings, literature, music, dances, plays, movies, sculptures, poems... I see no reason why video games would be any different.

  • ajwzajwz Member Posts: 4,122
    In defence of games not being considered as art, many works of art could in no way be considered video games either.

  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,250
    ajwz said:

    In defence of games not being considered as art, many works of art could in no way be considered video games either.

    Indeed. The only thing that really seems to have been established in this thread is that 'art' is a very broad term that can be applied to all manner of things that are very different from each other.

    In conclusion... meh.

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    edited January 2013
    I think there's a logical disconnect occurring here, which also occurs on the other end of the spectrum, which is this:

    If something is art, then it must be valuable or noteworthy or immune to criticism or somehow "important" to the growth and evolution of society as a whole.

    At its core, however, art doesn't have to be all or any of those things. Art, in order to be considered art, must be a form of expression created by an individual or group of individuals to convey an idea, story, or emotion to another individual or group of individuals. A play performed in a theater is art despite being a collaboration between dozens of artists; it's not a collection of arts that is gathered together, but rather a single piece of art that is comprised of the work of many artists.

    A television show is art in the same way. Even sports commentary is a form of art, albeit a less "creative" form of art, because to create that sports show requires the collaboration of artists who design its logos, set, lights, make-up... even the commentators themselves are artists of communication, using skill with words to convey the description of events that occur or have occurred in a game.

    A film is art for the same reasons. A documentary is no less a work of art because it depicts real events.

    A video game, for all of these same reasons, is a work of art. It is a form of expression created by a group of individuals to convey a story to the individual or individuals playing it. Whether you have a dozen or five-hundred people working on it, whether you give it away for free or charge fifty dollars to play it, whether it's an RPG with an engrossing story or another in a long line of Call of Duty shoot-em-ups, whether it's Zelda or Mario or Sonic or Baldur's Gate or Skyrim or Mario 2 (I know, I know), it's still art that's being created.

    That's not a matter of opinion. It fits the criteria, which means that video games are art by their very nature. The question is whether a particular video game is good art, which is up to the individual to decide.

    A lot of people make statements like "That's not art", which is really more a judgment of the art's quality rather than whether it is or isn't art. An absurdist deconstruction of Hamlet where the actors roll around on stage naked might make you say, "This isn't art", but what you're really saying is, "This is really bad art."

    I agree that being art does not make something immune to critique. There are plenty of bad artists out there, and there are plenty of good artists who make bad art occasionally. There are also plenty of artists who focus more on the product than the artistic value of the piece, but although you could say that those people aren't "true artists", you couldn't truthfully say that they aren't artists. They're just artists who are more concerned with making money than they are about making good art.

    NonnahswriterBoozilla
  • ajwzajwz Member Posts: 4,122
    Aosaw said:

    I think there's a logical disconnect occurring here, which also occurs on the other end of the spectrum, which is this:

    If something is art, then it must be valuable or noteworthy or immune to criticism or somehow "important" to the growth and evolution of society as a whole.

    At its core, however, art doesn't have to be all or any of those things. Art, in order to be considered art, must be a form of expression created by an individual or group of individuals to convey an idea, story, or emotion to another individual or group of individuals. A play performed in a theater is art despite being a collaboration between dozens of artists; it's not a collection of arts that is gathered together, but rather a single piece of art that is comprised of the work of many artists.

    A television show is art in the same way. Even sports commentary is a form of art, albeit a less "creative" form of art, because to create that sports show requires the collaboration of artists who design its logos, set, lights, make-up... even the commentators themselves are artists of communication, using skill with words to convey the description of events that occur or have occurred in a game.

    A film is art for the same reasons. A documentary is no less a work of art because it depicts real events.

    A video game, for all of these same reasons, is a work of art. It is a form of expression created by a group of individuals to convey a story to the individual or individuals playing it. Whether you have a dozen or five-hundred people working on it, whether you give it away for free or charge fifty dollars to play it, whether it's an RPG with an engrossing story or another in a long line of Call of Duty shoot-em-ups, whether it's Zelda or Mario or Sonic or Baldur's Gate or Skyrim or Mario 2 (I know, I know), it's still art that's being created.

    That's not a matter of opinion. It fits the criteria, which means that video games are art by their very nature. The question is whether a particular video game is good art, which is up to the individual to decide.

    A lot of people make statements like "That's not art", which is really more a judgment of the art's quality rather than whether it is or isn't art. An absurdist deconstruction of Hamlet where the actors roll around on stage naked might make you say, "This isn't art", but what you're really saying is, "This is really bad art."

    I agree that being art does not make something immune to critique. There are plenty of bad artists out there, and there are plenty of good artists who make bad art occasionally. There are also plenty of artists who focus more on the product than the artistic value of the piece, but although you could say that those people aren't "true artists", you couldn't truthfully say that they aren't artists. They're just artists who are more concerned with making money than they are about making good art.

    I have a friend who is an art critic and he gave a response similar to what you have written when I asked his opinion.

  • TJ_HookerTJ_Hooker Member Posts: 2,438
    Aosaw said:

    At its core, however, art doesn't have to be all or any of those things. Art, in order to be considered art, must be a form of expression created by an individual or group of individuals to convey an idea, story, or emotion to another individual or group of individuals.

    Doesn't that make almost anything art? For instance, I am expressing myself in this post, and trying to convey an idea. Does that make this post art?

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