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Default The Art of the Game @ RagnarTornquist.com

September 27th, 2007, 16:09
Ragnar Tornquist's (Dreamfall, The Longest Journey) blog has a guest entry from "Shoeless Wayne Santos" on games as an artform. It's a loooong post and even though I don't know Shoeless Wayne, Tornquist is very highly respected and it should be worth a read:
Is There Hope for the Medium?
I think itís safe to say that this is a question that is going to be debated for at least the next 30 years: ďCan video games be art?Ē
Itís something Iíve given a lot of thought to over the years, and it was something I already wanted to talk about even before Roger Ebert made his latest volley on the ongoing argument. This just makes it even more relevant since people are once again thinking about the subject and getting very passionate about it.
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September 27th, 2007, 16:09
I liked that essay quite a lot. Even though I don't necessarily agree with the last part about GMs, it's quite an interesting analysis overall. My favorite quote is this:

Originally Posted by Wayne Santos
In the simplest possible terms, people that donít believe or understand the potential of games will grow old and die. When that happens, games as art is going to be a much more receptive concept.
The sad part about it is that it's probably true. There's always some new part of a culture that young people grow up and are very comfortable with, which at the same time scares the older generation, particularly the ones in power. I wonder if it is at all possible for the guardians, for any future generation of guardians, to do a leap of faith and openly accept something new they donít believe or understand yet, instead of condemning it relentlessly until they are replaced…

"Mystery is important. To know everything, to know the whole truth, is dull. There is no magic in that. Magic is not knowing, magic is wondering about what and how and where." ~ Cortez, from The Longest Journey
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September 27th, 2007, 17:01
[emp. mine][Ebert's] criteria for defining art… is invested in the auteur, in authorial control, in having a "central intelligence" as it were, that directs the audience to a deliberate, conscious conclusion. The interactive element of games, since games are about choice (or at least the illusion of choice) defeats this purpose since it takes control away from the author/storyteller, and puts it squarely in the hands of the audience. He uses the example of a typical gamer being in control of a Romeo & Juliet game and says, "If next time, I have Romeo and Juliet go through the story naked and standing on their hands, would that be way cool, or what?" In other words, messing around with the intent of the author destroys the art.
Ebert has a valid point here, but ironically - and sadly - it's one that doesn't apply to many video games. 'Playing' an on-a-rail shooter like Call of Duty is much the same experience as watching a movie; it's a linear sequence of events which neither requires nor provides meaningful choice.
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September 27th, 2007, 18:08
I'm sure that video games CAN be art - but in most cases it's not, imho.

The Longest Journey is one of the few examples where I stronmgly believe that this *can* be art after all.

And I believe that game producers who are defending extremely violent games with the argument "because it's ART" are practically dumb. IMHO.

ď Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius Ė and a lot of courage Ė to move in the opposite direction.ď (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 27th, 2007, 18:19
Lots of good points in this article, a very thoughtful presentation.

This is I think one of the better explications I've come across of the limitations imposed by the focus on graphics :

… The videogame, like film before it, needs to stop evolving technologically and start evolving conceptually and ideologically. Right now, I liken games to be in the same state as film was when it first discovered sound; we just got into the ďtalkieĒ era of games…When EVERYONE wins the best graphics contest, whatís left? They will be forced to innovate on their design, their gameplay, their compelling stories, their engaging characters, their unique experiences, their level of interaction. They will be forced, in other words, to rely on the art of game design, rather than the nitty gritty craft of it, as they still do today.
The point Arhu mentioned is also interesting re: the old resisiting the new;but it has it's place. People who cling to the past as their definition are the resistance against which innovation has to strike a spark. It's almost a necessity for something new to be created—that struggle.

Arhu wrote:
I wonder if it is at all possible for the guardians, for any future generation of guardians, to do a leap of faith and openly accept something new they donít believe or understand yet, instead of condemning it relentlessly until they are replaced…
I think it's possible and it happens, but those older ones who do so are always in the minority. But part of being young, and part of innovating, is having that cause, that desire for change resisted. It's like a crucible that refines and strengthens ideas and people, so it's not entirely a bad thing—unless the old guard always wins. The old can be very crafty and also cheat.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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September 27th, 2007, 18:45
What confuses me about all this is how many modern "artists" (sorry, but I don't have much respect for a lot of what they call art these days) praise art that "involves the viewer" in some way, thus allowing each viewer to take away a different interpretation/experience, but then they laugh at the idea of games being art. For example, with many modern "works of art" that involve glass elements, the "artists" claim that the viewer seeing their own reflection in the glass (and a different environment on the other side of it) is part of what makes the "art" great, because it is a little different for everyone and everyone takes away a different meaning. Because the viewer takes part in the art.

So why not with games? Certainly it's the same idea!

Personally, my opinion is simply this: considering some of the meaningless garbage that is considered great art today, I think the word has pretty much lost its definition anyway, so why not include games? I certainly think some games are far worthier of the name than a lot of other "art."
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September 27th, 2007, 22:44
IMO, Shoeless Wayne Santos and Roger Ebert both have the right idea, but neither is familiar enough with art on the one hand and video games on the other to reach the right conclusions.

Having majored in Theater Arts in school, I’ve read and heard more definitions of art than I can remember. But the best was by Brenda Ueland in her incredible book, “If You Want To Write.” In it she describes how Van Gogh, in London in his early twenties while studying for the clergy and with no thoughts of being an artist at all, sketched the view from his window on cheap ruled note paper while writing a letter to his younger brother, and by doing so, created a wonderful work of art. Her analysis of that is perfect.

Though Ueland would disagree with all three of Shoeless Wayne Santos’ criteria, hers would actually make a better argument for video games as art. I won’t describe them here, but I highly recommend her book.

Ebert never really got it – his former partner, Siskel got it – but he was always the one who was better at selling it. He’s right this time, though, but he’s both under- and overestimating what the medium is capable of achieving. Essentially, he feels CRPGs would have to be completely story-driven and not influenced in any significant way by the player in order to become art. As we already know, some of them actually really are like that.

The best part of the article, and where Shoeless Wayne Santos was absolutely right, was his point about the Game Master. I made a similar point in my thread about reinventing CRPG. Shoeless didn’t go far enough with it, though. He said, “Imagine a game where the story that is being told is told your way, at your pace, affected by your decisions.” That’s pretty good, but I would say, “Imagine a game that’s unique each time it’s played because it’s influenced by the character you choose and the way you choose to play him. Imagine wonderful adventures set in incredible places, all embedded within and waiting for you to discover and experience your own unique way.”

Myself, I think storyline-based CRPGs can already be considered art. Sandboxes are the better approach but need to be reinvented to commit less processing power to graphics and more to the stuff I think is really important and already described in the other thread.
Last edited by Squeek; September 27th, 2007 at 22:51.
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