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Default Jeff Vogel - Video Games are better than Art

September 8th, 2016, 10:02
On his blog 'The Bottom Feeder' Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software shared some of his thoughts on videogames. The premise is that video games are better than art and aiming for video games to be art is aiming low.

I used to argue passionately that video games were art.

Then I stopped arguing about it, because why bother? Of COURSE video games are art.

Now I see that it's a waste of time thinking of video games as art. Why would we game designers ever aim that low?

I Don't Want Art. I Want Transportation.

I just finished playing DOOM. Like many, I was amazed by how awesome a game it turned out to be. Penny Arcade had the perfect description for it: "Playable sugar."

DOOM had three of the best boss fights I've ever seen. Punishingly tough and yet scrupulously fair. When I died, I could say, "OK. I know what I did wrong. I won't do that again." When I fought those bosses, I was utterly transported. The rest of the world vanished. When I won, I was sweaty, wrung out, and completely satisfied.

I love literature and theatre. I love great movies. Yet, I can't remember any work of art, no matter how good, that consumed and drained me as much as the Cyberdemon in DOOM.
[…]

We're Doing Fine Without You.

It always peeves me when some blogger says, "Video games are OK, I guess, to the simple-minded. But they're not enough. They are unworthy. They're [string of negative adjectives], and it is up to me, hero that I am, to FIX them at last!"

Get over yourself. Video games are fine. No, they're not fine. Theyíre doing GREAT, by every possible metric.

Number of titles? The market is gruesomely flooded. (Gruesomely for developers, I mean. For fans, it's an overwhelming embarrassment of riches.)

Number of fans? Video games are popular to the point of global invasion. Find me a human, and I will find a game that can addict them.

Financial success? We're a 100 BILLION USD a year industry. We're huge and getting bigger every year.

Artistic accomplishment? Creativity? Look up any Best Games list from 2014 or 2015. Video games are breaking new barriers in craftsmanship and artistic expression every year and turning profits while they do it.

Diversity? Pick any demographic group, and someone is making games to cater to them personally. It's one of the great advantages of a gruesomely flooded market. (Of course, not every game will cater to you personally, but that's not possible or desirable. Other people get stuff they like too.)

Video games are taking over the world, and they're doing it in style.

We're winning because we offer something better than art. We offer Experience.
More information.
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September 8th, 2016, 10:02
Itís an interesting read and I have a lot of respect for Jeff Vogel but I personally donít agree with what appears to be his fundamental point - that video games offer more than traditional art. I have been passionately playing video games for more than 40 years and enjoy them immensely but I have yet to have a video game experience that comes anywhere remotely close to the gravitas that the best pieces of literature and philosophy have had on me. Works that make me question my fundamental beliefs and thoughts about life and what it is to be human. Or pieces of music that still make me weep and feel things that can only be described in music. Or paintings that continue to amaze and confound me. While I hold many fond video game memories and experiences, none of them changed who I was or how I saw my place in the world - something art has done for me.

That said, video games may get there. They are still relatively young and it is interesting how he rails at the criticism they garner as compared to art or other more established forms of media. Thatís just to be expected in my opinion. It took photography many decades to achieve a certain degree of validity in the art world. The advent of non-representation painting was widely derided in many circles too. So video games may achieve what he describes - I just think theyíre no where near that yet.

Of course, Iím sure there are many people - like him - who do feel video games have had that sort of effect on them. So be it and good for them. Although - and I realize this might even come across as arrogant - in those cases I often wonder what other works of art these people are experiencing that come come up so shallow against a video game?
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September 8th, 2016, 22:14
I think you've captured my thoughts in a more elegant form that I could have done, SSIGuy. Emotionally, at the moment I rate the typical video game experience as equivalent to a half way decent TV drama series or movie. Games rarely stir my mind like a masterpiece of music can do, for example.
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September 8th, 2016, 22:27
Closest they've come was with the Last of Us, IMO. It's still genre stuff, but up there with a good movie or decent thriller.
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September 8th, 2016, 22:34
Originally Posted by SSIGuy View Post
Of course, Iím sure there are many people - like him - who do feel video games have had that sort of effect on them. So be it and good for them. Although - and I realize this might even come across as arrogant - in those cases I often wonder what other works of art these people are experiencing that come come up so shallow against a video game?
Bruh, appreciation and quality of art is subjective to the individual. There is no good art or bad art. Whether it's a video game, a piece of classical music, a cartoon someone drew on a paper plate or graffiti on a train car, etc. etc.

I certainly think video games are a form of art and just as good as any other form. A good RPG stirs my imagination in a major way, just like a good song, sculpture, painting, photograph, etc. etc. But I don't see the need to say some form of art is better or more important than another. I can play a video game or admire a Dali. It's literally all good. Be versatile.

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September 9th, 2016, 01:01
Originally Posted by Fluent View Post
I certainly think video games are a form of art and just as good as any other form.
Thatís coolÖ they just havenít passed that same litmus test for me yet.
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September 9th, 2016, 03:01
I think of some of the most stirring artistic experiences of my life. There are a couple books that stick out to me, that have utterly engrossed me, changed the way I think, and have left me drained. On a different level, there are films that have created characters that I strongly identify with and have left me emotionally drained. I have experienced games that have engaged me intellectually, engrossed me, and left me emotionally drained as well. I would rate my experience with Fallout nearly as high as some of my literary/film experiences.

I believe video games can be either the next evolution or perhaps a bridge between literature and film. Right now the focus is on entertaining, but the indie explosion has led to titles that stimulate intellectually as a focus. Just think of how far we have come since Mario. After all, great literature did not appear the moment ink was put to paper either.
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September 9th, 2016, 03:02
Probably because the thing you're seeking and the thing that Jeff didn't say explicitly is "sublime". You seek the sublime because you recognized it in particular works that moved you in a way that even a very good TV series didn't quite match. Often that's because you have to do some work to meet with the creator (sometimes a lot) and communicate a high thing. Even if the creator put a toilet on a pedestal (which for me requires a *lot* of work to find the sublime).

I would say I've had a handful of moments in games that reached that level; the kind of moment that caused me to quietly turn off the system, grab a jacket, and walk outside for awhile because I needed to process things and hopefully close my slack-jawed mouth.

Maybe that's a fair fewer moments than I got in movies and far fewer than in museums or books of poetry where I'm already prepped for the experience. And that has nothing to do with the 'high-ness' of the art, but with the nature of the medium. As with the work required to meet the art's creator at the point of sublime, games require skill *plus* often the same kind of work to meet the creator. So you naturally get fewer of these moments as a natural part of the art's flow. And that's perfectly ok.

Also games do so many things. Finding the sublime in them is only one of those things. It's like putting your Sudoku volume up next to Dostoevsky. They're both good things, but they do different things. I'm sure it's possible that for someone, the moment of sublime has been found in Minecraft, perhaps while making their own creations. But for most people it's simply a creative engagement of flow just as everyone does with Lego.

So yeah. That's where I think Jeff pulled his punch because he wanted to make a different point.
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September 9th, 2016, 04:17
I can see the last of us and life is strange as both art. Both really up the ante.
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September 9th, 2016, 04:43
I could write pages about this topic, but I'll keep it brief. The interactivity of gaming has made a select few games far more memorable and personally special than any movie or novel could dream of being. Kotor, Gothic, Elder Scrolls, Vampire: Bloodlines, Thief, Deus Ex, The Witcher, Arcanum - there isn't a movie or book that could even remotely hold a candle to how involved and invested in the experience that those games offered.

I think it's arrogant to view "games" as inferior to other media. For me, it's the interactivity - the feeling of truly being invested and having agency over the experience - that makes those truly special games a transcendent experience.
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September 9th, 2016, 05:10
This is one funny article and even more funny nerd/writer…but I'm not sure what revelation he's bringing here. It's common sense that despite inferior writing, art and direction, video games grant immersion and make us experience everything on a more personal level.
The best aspect of video games is their presentation of themes that mirror our world in a context that we could never experience from any other form of "art", but they're still not "mature enough" to fully deliver on this. But they're slowly getting there.
Will be very interesting how Cyberpunk 2077 holds up to as the whole world will be presentation of same modern problems we're afraid to face.
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September 9th, 2016, 06:00
Art comes from technology. Games are the highest form of technology.

Yesterday you could paint with a brush made of animal hair and play Pong, today you can buy a $10,000 castle in Shroud of the Avatar and render high detail 3D scenes in realtime and have thousands of others playing near you, tomorrow you can appreciate low technology art without distraction from inside high technology art without escape.
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September 9th, 2016, 06:50
Originally Posted by SirJames View Post
Art comes from technology. Games are the highest form of technology.
No, your implied syllogism is flawed:

1. Art derives from technology.
2. Games are the highest form of artistic technology.
3. Therefore games are the highest form of art.

#1 is simply not true. *Any* artist with skill will tell you that a good artist can work in any medium. "Better" mediums will not create "better" art. That is dependent on the vision and skill of the artist.
Last edited by Bedwyr; September 9th, 2016 at 09:37.
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September 9th, 2016, 08:35
Interesting subject!

Well, I am not sure if visual novels are to be counted as games or not. But those are the ones which has affected me the most, because some of them really had a well thought out and amazing story. People are different, but for me nothing beats an amazing story, be it movies, books or games. Still the best stories are in books, but it is only a matter of time before someone will be writing an amazing story for a video game I guess.

If music can move us greatly, text can move us greatly and graphics art can move us greatly, probably it makes sense that a combination of them along with choices would immerse us even more. Also for a 3d-world you could explore by yourself…. is hard to beat by a movie. In a book you often create you own world in your head, so if you have a good imagination it might be able to compete.
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September 9th, 2016, 11:14
Some very few games have given me the experience that Bedwyr describes, when I had to power the computer down and take a walk. The only one that come to mind is PS:Torment. And that's having played several hundred games.
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September 9th, 2016, 13:28
These days, an increasing number of people no longer write or speak for their readers, their audience.

They write or speak for their peers, other writers, speakers in a kind of contest to see who of them is able to push it the farthest and getting people to swallow it.

This article is that, a bit that could be bragging material to be used around a bloggers table, the author laughing loud, showing off how far he managed to push it.

After reading that stuff, it is hard to see what it is about.

Video products are supposed to provide transportation, drain and consume, be addictive and as a byproduct, generate a large economic activity.

Thrown like that, it looks like properties expected from drugs, providing users with trips, living them drained, consumed, sellers expect them to be addictive, and also lucrative.

Art comes in all forms. Some of them for sure do not rely on external causes, do not address people who look for transportation because they desire escapism.
On the contrary, they want the art receivers to be in the moment to view the art.
They do not want to hook on people using psychological tricks that work as a result of profiling customers.
As to making money, some have the ambition of going beyond that dimension.

Onto this, despite listing the characteristics, the article claims that those video products exist on themselves. They are fine by themselves and do not depend on their targets.

Video products achieve their drugs effect because they are centered on their targets.

All those video products barely exist without being associated to their intended targets.

After all the fuss on representation in video products, article still claims some power of transportation independent of the player when video products are only supposed to transport a certain kind of players.

They are addictive because they provide a certain environment for some people to write their own success story. MMORPGs are addictive to a certain kind of people. They are not to others who could not bear the waste of time.

In a time when so much is spent trying to figure out people's tastes and desires, the article tries to force the idea that a product meant to cater to some specific tastes can be dissociated from their target audience.
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September 9th, 2016, 14:12
Originally Posted by SSIGuy View Post
Itís an interesting read and I have a lot of respect for Jeff Vogel but I personally donít agree with what appears to be his fundamental point - that video games offer more than traditional art. I have been passionately playing video games for more than 40 years and enjoy them immensely but I have yet to have a video game experience that comes anywhere remotely close to the gravitas that the best pieces of literature and philosophy have had on me. Works that make me question my fundamental beliefs and thoughts about life and what it is to be human. Or pieces of music that still make me weep and feel things that can only be described in music. Or paintings that continue to amaze and confound me. While I hold many fond video game memories and experiences, none of them changed who I was or how I saw my place in the world - something art has done for me.

That said, video games may get there. They are still relatively young and it is interesting how he rails at the criticism they garner as compared to art or other more established forms of media. Thatís just to be expected in my opinion. It took photography many decades to achieve a certain degree of validity in the art world. The advent of non-representation painting was widely derided in many circles too. So video games may achieve what he describes - I just think theyíre no where near that yet.

Of course, Iím sure there are many people - like him - who do feel video games have had that sort of effect on them. So be it and good for them. Although - and I realize this might even come across as arrogant - in those cases I often wonder what other works of art these people are experiencing that come come up so shallow against a video game?
Have you played Planescape:Torment? IMO thats the closest an RPG has gotten towards art. As for shallow art, i think that the rush of playing games are greater than what you can get out of art in some areas, like the pleasure you get when you beat something that has taken you 5+ hours of continued attempts to do. That is lost in many games today.
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September 9th, 2016, 14:22
He can sit there and stare at that art as long as he wants. I'll be gaming.
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September 9th, 2016, 14:47
Video games definitely have a potential to be more than art. Interactivity makes them in principle different than other forms of art, such as movies, novels or music. The fact, that the player can shape to story or actually live the story, creates enormous potential. I think that a good game can create an experience which is somewhere between a good novel and actual real life experience. And this is something no other art form can do. So yeah they are more than art.

Whether video games have used this potential or not is a different story. Well, some of them for sure have. I've been researching for years what makes a great RPG and have been working hard on my own RPG Sacred Fire to use this knowledge in practice.

UPDATE: I've posted an update in the old Sacred Fire thread: https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/show…7&postcount=11 Perhaps you'll find it interesting. I think it's related to this discussion.
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September 9th, 2016, 15:02
What a load of rubbish.
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