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Are Video Games Art?

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Are video games art?

Now, before we can really get this discussion underway we kind of need some background. Art, according to Ayn Rand is a selective re-creation of reality in accordance with the artist's metaphysical value judgments. I have numerous reasons why I say that video games are *not* art (although particular specimens may be an exception to this rule).

1. "Video Game" is a huge catch-all compartment that encompasses everything from Pong! to The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. The latter may be close to being a work of art but the former certainly is not. Thus a proposition such as "Video Games are Art" is an example of improper use of a concept.

2. Most video games aren't made by one person or even a collaboration as small as three people, but by dozens of people all working on different projects at the direction of one or several bosses. So whose metaphysical value-judgments are being reflected, here?

3. Many video games are open-ended. Even if you stick strictly with the games that are most art-like, if you're playing in a game, even if it is very beautiful, in which you can be a vile assassin or a noble warrior or even a personality-less gold-accumulating drone, then how is the video game "selective"? Selectivity in art doesn't mean that you picked a few elements or most elements for the viewer, or offered them a choice of three or whatever, it means you picked everything and they get to experience only the perceptual concretes that you wanted them to experience. NOTHING is accidental. Heck, many video games are so hard that I've only won by "gaming" the system and taking advantange of system limitations which really destroys my immersion, let me tell you. Even if there is a story to the game, most of it still comes down to the interactive elements which are not art: all the elements of a work of art need to be integrated into it. So what is the meaning of that triple-jump-backflip you just did? Is the video game designer saying something about ledges being a metaphor for life?

I've only played one or two computer games that I might (questionably) refer to as "art", most notably the three recent Prince of Persia games, and they were totally linear and story-driven.

Basically, a video game is just that, a game. No one claims that chess is an art form because you can spend hundreds of dollars for beautifully-carved chess pieces from the Franklin Mint. No one claims that even fantastically complicated board games are an art form. I can't even claim that true RPG's are an art form although if you told them as a story (nix the game system and the dice rolling et al) they would be.

Edited by JMeganSnow

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I agree. Video games can certainly be "artful" in a cinematic sort of sense, but they wouldn't be self-contained works of art. Nice analysis.

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I think video games can be art, or at least have artistic elements.

2. Most video games aren't made by one person or even a collaboration as small as three people, but by dozens of people all working on different projects at the direction of one or several bosses. So whose metaphysical value-judgments are being reflected, here?

I think this argument is bogus. The vision in a work of art does not need to be that of a single person. In a complex production, different people implement various aspects of the vision - such as the script writer, director, artists, and producers. The history of video games resembles the development of movies in the shift in focus from the medium to content. Games are vulnerable to the same vision-destroying tendencies as movies - the desire to appeal to everyone, development hell, "design by committe" - none of these things are inherent to the medium.

Selectivity in art doesn't mean that you picked a few elements or most elements for the viewer, or offered them a choice of three or whatever, it means you picked everything and they get to experience only the perceptual concretes that you wanted them to experience. NOTHING is accidental.

Any artwork must leave some elements to the imagination. When reading a novel, there are many unspecified aspects open to imagination, just as a painting leaves the details of its subjects thinking unknown. So we must judge art not on how exacting and detailed a vision is, but how effectively the artwork conveys it.

In a game, a character's actions are rarely totally open ended (such as they are in Second Life) - usually there is a fairly specific plot to follow. The last "artistic" game I played that I would call art is Half-Life 2. While I could choose details such as the order in which to kill bad guys in a level, there was still a specific plot. I had to accomplish specific objectives, keep certain sidekicks alive, and master certain skills. The game presented a carefully-staged illusion of choice, in which the predetermined progress of my character was designed to solicit maximum emotional response and empathy from me. Every word my character said was written by the authors. It wasn't as effective as a movie or a book - but much of this is due to the immaturity of the medium.

Good adventure games often present very immersive visions of the world. Even though you have limited control of your character's actions, the thematic background and the vast majority of rules are largely fixed. I had a distinct impression of the universe depicted in Half-Life 2, and I "lived" in it for the duration of the game.

Heck, many video games are so hard that I've only won by "gaming" the system and taking advantage of system limitations which really destroys my immersion, let me tell you.

I think this is the exception that proves the rule. The game communicated a certain value-framework, and "cheating" made you aware that you were violating it. If the game was not effective at communicating its vision, it wouldn't matter to you whether you followed its internal rules or not.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
grammar

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I think video games do have the potential to become art given how it is defined in The Romantic Manifesto.

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgements

In playing modern video games like Halo, or Final Fantasy series, or the games that David just mentioned, you do get the sense of being immersed in a whole other world. There are many artistic elements in the games in terms of visuals, music, and storyline--all of which must be the result of conscious choice.

What makes a game different from a novel or a movie is that the viewer is able to choose actions that influence the direction of the game's storyline. However, each choice that a character faces as well as it's possible outcomes are determined by the game's creator. In that sense, games are somewhat analgous to the idea behind the audience participation in the jury from Night of January 16th. In that play, Rand had written two different endings depending on the audience verdict with each ending being consistent to Rand's esthetic intentions. Thus it is possible for the viewer choice to be involved so long as these choices are set within a predefined context of options that serves the esthetic purposes of the artist. In other words, the artist still has final control over the work in question. Thus all the elements within the artists's creation are still selective according to his metaphysical value judgements despite the possiblilty of different outcomes.

Take a look at Final Fantasy 7. The game's plotline make it clear that the events in the story are base on the ideas of primacy of consciousness (given it's explicit mysticism regarding Mako, the Ancients, and that the planet itself is conscious) and fate (looking at the events surrounding Aeris's death). It also makes judgements against capitalism and industry (as judged by the presentation of the Shin-Ra corporation which resembles a fascist state rather than a private business, and is said to be destroying the planet through the harnessing of the planet's 'Mako' energy.) There is more or less a consistent visual aesthetic established for the game (at least as much as it was possible in 1997). The musical score is perhaps the best thing about the game as the music almost always evokes the right emotion at the right time, and is in places breathtakingly beautiful for what it is. The plot-theme of the game is a small group of people fighting to save the planet from apocalyptic doom brought forth by the meteor summoned by Sephiroth (who was created by the Shin-Ra). The basic theme of the game is how greed, power-lust, and technology destroy life. Despite my obvious dissagreements with the theme and much of the plot, I must say it is a technically well-made game for its time and could be considered for the reasons above potentially a work-of-art.

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Basically, a video game is just that, a game. No one claims that chess is an art form because you can spend hundreds of dollars for beautifully-carved chess pieces from the Franklin Mint. No one claims that even fantastically complicated board games are an art form.

I am sure a lot of people will disagree with this, but I actually think that a game played at a master level can be art, or at least art-like, akin to any other kind of performance art.

I more or less agree that art is a selective representation of reality based on the artist's metaphysical values, although I have a very loose definition of "reality". Many games when played at an extremely high level certainly reflect something about the player's metaphysical values in terms of how they evaluate certain situations, what they prioritize, the actions they take -- essentially it reflects their unique style and personality. This is all contingent on two things: that the game is sufficiently complex, and that the players' skill levels are high. An addition criteria is that the audience has sufficient knowledge about the game to appreciate and understand the decisions and actions taking place.

The reason that such games are required to to be complex is that as more decision making process opportunities and the more action/execution are involved, the better the game's ability to reflect the player's unique values. In chess for instance, each grandmaster has their own style of play, whether it's fast and loose, direct and efficient, a penchant for elaborate traps and setups, defensive, or offensive.

The reason that it requires a high skill level is that only at such levels are the player's actions a complete representation of the said values -- ie. the player decides to perform an action, and he executes it exactly the way he wants to. Oftentimes novice and intermediate players may not know what they're doing or should be doing at all, or may know but not be able to execute what they want to do accurately or expediently. Such ineptitudes hinders the game played from being a fair portrayal of his values.

The only question here is whether playing a game reflects on some level a selective representation of reality. I contend that the "reality" in question needn't be a literal reality, as is the case in fantasy arts or science fiction novels. It just need to contain the essence of said reality -- at least as the artist understands it. In a competitive game then, the essence of man to man competition is distilled in a pure form, in a controlled environment with understood rules. In a single player game, the selective essential reality may be that of man's mastery over a given task or even some sort of creative usage of his available (albeit virtual) resources.

The conclusion then is that while in and of itself, it may be questionable whether a video game is an art, we cannot judge it in its isolated form the way we would judge a movie, a painting, or a novel. Video game by nature is an interactive media, and therefore you cannot judge it separate from its players. However, more generally speaking, I personally consider that anyone who has perfected or mastered a relatively complex skill to have raised the said skill into an art. A carpenter who built a chair for example might have made just a chair. Then again he might have raised it to an art. In the same sense, a building designed by Roarke might have been just a building, but to someone else it might also be considered an art form.

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I think this argument is bogus. The vision in a work of art does not need to be that of a single person. In a complex production, different people implement various aspects of the vision - such as the script writer, director, artists, and producers. The history of video games resembles the development of movies in the shift in focus from the medium to content. Games are vulnerable to the same vision-destroying tendencies as movies - the desire to appeal to everyone, development hell, "design by committe" - none of these things are inherent to the medium.

This is true. It was a poor point, then.

I did say that I think some games may approach being art, but I still think that the medium itself is still in the stage where the elements aren't integrated enough to call the game a single, unified work of art. It's more like a bunch of works of art that are all happening at the same time or in sequence, but the time you spend actually playing (instead of watching cut-scenes or listening to music) is not art-in-action.

Art may leave something to the imagination in that it doesn't clinically detail everything, but it isn't up you to choose whether the villian and the protagonist will work out their problems peacefully or have a fight, because the meaning of the work is drastically different depending on which option they choose. In novel terms, while a video game (one that isn't totally linear) has both a plot and a theme, what it lacks is a plot-theme that ties those two together. In fact, many times it lacks a theme as well and just has a plot.

As an aside: is it just me, or is anyone else annoyed by the games you can play where if you play "evil" or "good" you get essentially the same plot? Why doesn't your "evil" character pretend to ally with the various bad guys, get them to kill each other off, and take over the world? And why is your "good" character such a pushover?

And furthermore why do they have exactly the same NPC's?! I mean, come on, if you're evil then no way would good people be working with you and vice versa. For crying out loud.

You may be right and this could all be a result of the immaturity of the medium. You will never convince me that internet hearts and Zuma! are works of art, however (given I don't think anyone contests this point). Zuma looks cool but come on, you're shooting balls at a bunch of other balls.

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In most discussions regarding "video games as art", I've noticed that most people bring up the point that you have made: there are too many choices for it to be considered a unified work. Considering this, I'd say that I don't consider certain video games, such as RPGs, MMORPGs, etc. "art". However, for games like Zelda, where the choices you can make are limited, and each item you gain is working towards a specific end, I would certainly consider it art. Gaining items, leveling up... I consider these elements just part of the storytelling.

As for selectivity... all of the elements in a videogame are selected - they are coded, graphically rendered, etcetera. Nothing that happens in a videogame is an accident. Just as we would consider "slice-of-life" literature "art" (albeit, bad art), so you could consider video games art too. Whether it seems so or not, whether the artist wishes it to be accidental or not, someone had to make the choice to put it there.

As GreedyCapitalist said, just because many people work to achieve an end, doesn't mean the end isn't achieved - especially when their vision is unified. I would say the same for Greek sculptors - whose apprentices aided them (in fact, many famous statues that are attributed to famous sculptors were not technically sculpted by them). Also, see the movie example he brought up.

I also want to mention that a work of art can draw from multiple mediums and still be considered a work of art. It's very similar to film and other performing arts in this respect. In fact, I can seriously respect anyone that unifies sight, sound, concepts (through scripting), and even moreso - interaction - to achieve a single end (and does it successfully, that is). (Actually, I have heard that Rand wrote a play herself, where the audience, who acts as a jury, chooses a verdict. I haven't read it myself though, so I can't say for sure.)

I think the comparison between a chess game and video games is a poor one. True, there are strategic video games that are just meant to exercise certain skills you have - but there are also games I would consider more cinematic (and I'm not referring to cut-scenes either) in their nature, in that they focus on characters, plot, and theme, while you simply move through the game. To say that all games are about strategy is a false generalization, as it only refers to a small amount of games (such as RPGs, which I do concede, are not art).

Whether or not there are any videogames yet that qualify as good art, I have yet to know (I really don't play very much). They CERTAINLY, however, have the potential, I think. (I will elaborate on why I think so... once I finish studying for my Japanese exam!)

Edited by Catherine

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I think the comparison between a chess game and video games is a poor one. True, there are strategic video games that are just meant to exercise certain skills you have - but there are also games I would consider more cinematic (and I'm not referring to cut-scenes either) in their nature, in that they focus on characters, plot, and theme, while you simply move through the game. To say that all games are about strategy is a false generalization, as it only refers to a small amount of games (such as RPGs, which I do concede, are not art).

Yes, there are video games that are specifically about strategy, although I am not sure why RPGs (role playing games) are one of those. If anything RPGs are more similar to the sort of games you're talking about, one with a plot, characters, and theme.

It isn't a false generalization though to say that most games require some sort of strategy, even in a linear progression game. Generally you get to choose what items you use, what route you take, how you fight the boss and the minions, etc.

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Yes, there are video games that are specifically about strategy, although I am not sure why RPGs (role playing games) are one of those. If anything RPGs are more similar to the sort of games you're talking about, one with a plot, characters, and theme.

It isn't a false generalization though to say that most games require some sort of strategy, even in a linear progression game. Generally you get to choose what items you use, what route you take, how you fight the boss and the minions, etc.

Yeah, they require strategy, but their sole purpose is not to hone one's strategizing skills... as is the purpose of chess and other similar games. Chess doesn't have a plot, theme, or characters (I mean, I suppose one could argue that they do, but really, they don't). To say that all video games are made with the same goals as chess is untrue.

Now that I think about it, I do agree with you that an RPG could be a work of art. As for MMORPGs, I still do not consider them a work of art, as they don't seem to be created with an end in mind really. But, that's just going off of the MMOs I know of, so I could be proven wrong.

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To say that all games are about strategy is a false generalization, as it only refers to a small amount of games (such as RPGs, which I do concede, are not art).

Whether or not there are any videogames yet that qualify as good art, I have yet to know (I really don't play very much). They CERTAINLY, however, have the potential, I think. (I will elaborate on why I think so... once I finish studying for my Japanese exam!)

I picked up on that generalization as well. I was going to post about it earlier but I wanted to see some other responses first.

Just because a game like pong may be considered less artful, and someone may consider it art (especially the innovative programmers at that time), it doesn't mean all games are not art.

I also don't agree with a point some people are making that interactivity and uncertaintiy makes something not art. Why? Many times enviroments are purposefly composed to allow different outcomes, this is not an easy task to do and generally requires more hard work. Some games are designed on what we call emergent gameplay, this means allow the user to create a totally unpredictable outcome, this is very hard to debug and achieve especially if the designers want to control the outcome following unpredictable events.

Some example games that are purposely designed to have unpredictable outcomes:

* Sim City (PC)

* The Sims (PC)

* Spore (coming soon)

* LittleBigPlanet (coming soon PS3)

As for games I consider works of arts, masterpieces, and are extremely well directed and unified see:

* Resident Evil 4 (GC, Wii)

* Zelda: Ocarina of Time (you can purchase it on a Wii if you have one)

* Metroid Prime (GC)

* Okami (PS2)

* Zelda: Link to the Past (you can purchase it on a Wii if you have one)

* Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

* God of War I (PS2)

* Mario 64 (you can purchase it on a Wii if you have one)

Edited by Dorian

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(Actually, I have heard that Rand wrote a play herself, where the audience, who acts as a jury, chooses a verdict. I haven't read it myself though, so I can't say for sure.)

Here it is: Night of January 16th.

It's also in book form.

Edited by RationalBiker

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If you're playing in a game in which you can be a vile assassin or a noble warrior or even a personality-less gold-accumulating drone, then how is the video game "selective"?
I think an answer here is that a video game can have one selected theme, and allow the player to implicitly choose different plots under that singular theme. So long as the theme isn't altered, a video game could (theoretically) present a theme from different plot perspectives, perhaps allowing the artist's metaphysical value judgments to be presented in a unique way. Hypothetically, a Fountainhead game where Wynand can realize his error and change his ways before it's too late, or Keating can decide to follow his dream of being an artist, or playing a Toohey storyline in which his ideals inevitably can't beat Roark, or Dominique ...

Granting that a lot of games with diverging storylines don't have an overarching theme, and that most games don't even particularly have themes in the first place.

Even if there is a story to the game, most of it still comes down to the interactive elements which are not art: all the elements of a work of art need to be integrated into it. So what is the meaning of that triple-jump-backflip you just did? Is the video game designer saying something about ledges being a metaphor for life?
I think this might be a bigger difficulty than the selectivity issue. Conveying the artist's metaphysical value judgments through plot/theme isn't hard (even in a video game), but does a video game have to present its metaphysical value judgments through gameplay to be art?

Artistically, I think that the triple-jump-backflip oughtn't contradict the aesthetic intent... but otherwise I don't think that the gameplay has to specifically convey the aesthetic intent. OTOH...

I think the biggest problem in widespread acceptance of video games as art is that the gameplay of most games is of the punch-drive-shoot mechanism, and the "artsy" stuff is usually presented as cutscenes separate from the gameplay experience. If gameplay were expressive of those metaphysical value judgments, there'd be less talk that video games aren't/can't be art.

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Yeah, they require strategy, but their sole purpose is not to hone one's strategizing skills... as is the purpose of chess and other similar games. Chess doesn't have a plot, theme, or characters (I mean, I suppose one could argue that they do, but really, they don't). To say that all video games are made with the same goals as chess is untrue.

Yeah you're absolutely right that not all games are made with the same goals as chess. But then again, no one actually said that on this thread. The real question is does something have to have a plot, theme, and character in order for it to be considered an art? I mean, obviously a painting can be an art. A building on the other hand, that can be considered an art too.

Realistically, it seems like according to Rand's definition anything that can express the artist's metaphysical values can be considered an art. I mean, can growing a bonzai be considered art? Can say, Chinese calligraphy be considered art? Sculptures are obviously art, but what about say, forging a beautiful sword? As I said, anything that is sufficiently complex and done with a highly level of skill can possibly express values if the audience is knowledgeable enough about the activity.

So in that sense, designing a game can be an art, and playing the game can be an art, depending on the perspective of the audience. It's just contingent on how well it is able to communicate meaning to the audience.

Edited by Moebius

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Realistically, it seems like according to Rand's definition anything that can express the artist's metaphysical values can be considered an art. I mean, can growing a bonzai be considered art? Can say, Chinese calligraphy be considered art? Sculptures are obviously art, but what about say, forging a beautiful sword? As I said, anything that is sufficiently complex and done with a highly level of skill can possibly express values if the audience is knowledgeable enough about the activity.

No, because it doesn't fulfil the other requirement of the definition, that of being a selective recreation of reality. Anything that has a purpose in and of itself, even if it's highly decorative and decorated, is not a "work of art" . . . it's "artistic" or maybe "decorative". You kind of have to keep in mind that we're not talking general idiomatic English (in which it would be okay to say, "that chair is frankly a work of art") but formal philosophical esthetics. You can't have a sculpture of a chair . . . it is a chair. Well, I suppose that some modernist might make a chair the size of a building and try to call that art, but it's not art, it's a con job.

For some more clarity: Picasso's weird paintings are art even though they are terribly distorted because they are definitely paintings of something: smears on a canvas are not art. Video games often win out in the "realism" aspect because you couldn't play a game where everything was a bunch of unidentifiable blobs.

It is important that a work of art be a whole, however, because that's part of how you judge its efficacy. If you had a beautiful sculpture portraying Man the Hero, it'd be quite incongruous and possibly even horrifying if you slapped on a tentacle for an arm or something. He'd look like a He-Man villain. A good novel is always a whole, a good movie is a whole, a good sculpture, painting, piece of music, dance, etc. is always a whole. Even a good building!

The games I think that come the closest to being unified works of art are usually FPS's or Action-Adventure games like Prince of Persia. There is a storyline and it is often engaging and interesting. Additionally, it's usually a single, unified storyline. Most (but not all) RPG's progress by means of a series of "quests" that may or may not be related to the overall plot, to each other, or even to the theme of the game.

That's not to say it isn't possible to design a game that would be totally integrated like that, and frankly I'd like to see it. However you also would have to integrate the various gameplay elements because every part of a work of art has to tie back into it. How weirded-out would you be if you were watching a movie and suddenly a message appeared on the screen saying that you had to solve a puzzle before you could see the rest of the movie? That's what the gameplay elements of a game are: puzzle-solving. In a lot of games I start to find them tedious after a while.

The puzzle elements, however, regardless of the form they take, are the part that makes it a game instead of a movie or a novel. In the old days, (you know, before computers), games didn't have a plot or anything like that. Then along came RPG's, which took the puzzle elements of games and elevated it to an appalling level of complexity (you think bridge is complex? try a game in which you need 3-5 books of rules just to begin playing) while adding (depending on the group playing) a plot and (potentially) a theme. Now we have computer games with plots.

The point is that I don't think a video game could be considered a work of art until it's possible to integrate the puzzle elements to the point that they are invisible. Once that is possible or someone figures out to do it, you've got the birth of an entirely new art form, an interactive one where you can play a game start to finish and make all kinds of choices yet never spend three hours sitting there going "where is the damn blue key to the third level gate?!" or "I died again, now I have to go back and re-load!" No other art form that involves a story includes lengthy pauses where you go off and kill a bunch of stuff so you can get a level so that now you can wear the big suit of armor and kill a bunch more stuff.

I'm not saying the game has to be totally linear, I'm saying that it shouldn't proceed in jerks and stops. Currently, even the best games have this kind of stuff so the video games are, at best, proto-art.

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I really think this thread has degenerated to the point of arguing opinions.

So here is my opinion:

I grew up playing video games, from as early as I can remember, and decided I wanted to create video games at a young age. I wanted to create art, an experience, that I can share with the world. My own virtual worlds.

To me it's like writing a good book, but instead having much more control over what the viewer will see and be able to present what other people may not be able to imagine. I am able to present what can't be describe in words or a 2D painting/animation.

When I play a game and die and I feel upset about the flow of the game or about a bad puzzle I think it is just a flaw in the art. I find many flaws in different forms of art, or at least what I consider flaws, others may not. I don't reject the entire medium and claim it is not an art form because I see these flaws.

I guess what I'm getting at is that isn't enough to define something as art if just one person believe it is. I think the definition of art is very open. Some people are willing to pay for blotches of paint on a canvas because they enjoy the color or simplicity or rage or chaos, doesn't that make it art? I don't like that kind of art but it's still art whether I think it is or not. I think anything that inspires emotion or thought can be art. It can be joy, respect, admiration, hate, a memory, anything. This could be a song, a dance, a car, a book, a movie, a painting, or a video game.

I also think art is a variable. Some art can inspire great emotion & interest, change lifestyles, end relationships while other art may capture someone attention for a few second and they will move on.

If Ayn Rands definition of art disagrees with my definition or reasoning than fine, maybe I'm not a true objectivist, but I would not use that as an argument to claim an entire medium is not art. It's an appeal to authority. I have a lot of respect for her, but even great people can make mistakes.

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I really think this thread has degenerated to the point of arguing opinions.

So here is my opinion:

I grew up playing video games, from as early as I can remember, and decided I wanted to create video games at a young age. I wanted to create art, an experience, that I can share with the world. My own virtual worlds.

To me it's like writing a good book, but instead having much more control over what the viewer will see and be able to present what other people may not be able to imagine. I am able to present what can't be describe in words or a 2D painting/animation.

When I play a game and die and I feel upset about the flow of the game or about a bad puzzle I think it is just a flaw in the art. I find many flaws in different forms of art, or at least what I consider flaws, others may not. I don't reject the entire medium and claim it is not an art form because I see these flaws.

I guess what I'm getting at is that isn't enough to define something as art if just one person believe it is. I think the definition of art is very open. Some people are willing to pay for blotches of paint on a canvas because they enjoy the color or simplicity or rage or chaos, doesn't that make it art? I don't like that kind of art but it's still art whether I think it is or not. I think anything that inspires emotion or thought can be art. It can be joy, respect, admiration, hate, a memory, anything. This could be a song, a dance, a car, a book, a movie, a painting, or a video game.

I also think art is a variable. Some art can inspire great emotion & interest, change lifestyles, end relationships while other art may capture someone attention for a few second and they will move on.

If Ayn Rands definition of art disagrees with my definition or reasoning or opinion than fine, maybe I'm not a true objectivist, but I would not use that as an argument to claim an entire medium is not art. It's an appeal to authority. I have a lot of respect for her, but even great people can make mistakes.

Edited by Dorian

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If Ayn Rands definition of art disagrees with my definition or reasoning or opinion than fine, maybe I'm not a true objectivist, but I would not use that as an argument to claim an entire medium is not art. It's an appeal to authority.

Logically speaking, you are wrong here. Taking a definition, any definition, whether it's Ayn Rand's or someone else's, and then applying reasoning to determine if something fits that definition, is a logically sound method. Appealing to authority would be "It's not art because so-and-so says it's not art" while leaving out any other reasoning. If your "appeal" conclusion were true, every argument would be based on an appeal to some authority because someone came up with the definition for (insert word here).

Your apparent assumption here is that people have not independently considered what they think art is and then determined that it was consistent with the definition that Ayn Rand gave.

Edited by RationalBiker

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Some people are willing to pay for blotches of paint on a canvas because they enjoy the color or simplicity or rage or chaos, doesn't that make it art?

So, your implicit definition of art here is "whatever people are willing to buy"? What on earth is the use of this definition?

The only argument you've put forth for whether or not video games can logically be considered art is an emotionalistic appeal that amounts to: I want to produce "art", I want to produce video games, therefore video games are "art".

Refusing to call video games art because they fail at fulfilling the definition is no more a rejection of the medium than it is a rejection of a single-engine Cesna to refuse to call it a Jumbo jet. Calling something "art" isn't bestowing an accolade, it's simply applying a label. A label that, by the way, has a very specific technical meaning. If you go around slapping the wrong label on things, you look like a fool, much like you would if you persist in calling dolphins "fish" and fungi "plants".

I am still somewhat iffy on the issue because I'm not a professional esthetician and I think it could go either way: video games may be a borderline case. If you just take storyline and visuals and music and so forth then what you have is very close to a movie and could certainly be called a work of art, however a video game is still a game and that portion of it is not art. So it may just be that you have is a piece or several pieces of art that are presented in a unique interactive fashion, like an art gallery where you have to solve puzzles to move from one exhibit to the next.

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Art, according to Ayn Rand is a selective re-creation of reality in accordance with the artist's metaphysical value judgments.
A video game is still a game and that portion of it is not art.
I still don't get that part. Is a game a selective creation of reality? Can a game be based upon its creator's metaphysical value judgements?

Chess, snakes and ladders, poker, and 52 pickup certainly evoke different metaphysical value judgements, at least as I understand things.

While it might be rather... unorthodox, I would think some games (including video games) could qualify under the definition of art.

If you had a beautiful sculpture portraying Man the Hero, it'd be quite incongruous and possibly even horrifying if you slapped on a tentacle for an arm or something.

Every part of a work of art has to tie back into it.

The first statement implies that art shouldn't give messages contradictory to its intended theme (with which I agree).

But I don't agree that every part of a work of art has to tie back into it e.g. does Roark's orange hair and Rearden's blonde hair have to tie back into Rand's themes?

No other art form that involves a story includes lengthy pauses where you go off and kill a bunch of stuff so you can get a level so that now you can wear the big suit of armor and kill a bunch more stuff.
True. But that would merely mean video games as art would be different from other art forms. As long as video games meet the definition of art, I don't think they have to be further judged by the additional standards of literature, sculpture, music, etc.

I'm saying that [art] shouldn't proceed in jerks and stops.
Dif'rent strokes?

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Is a game a selective creation of reality? Can a game be based upon its creator's metaphysical value judgements?

Um, I don't think so, and remember also that a definition isn't exchangeable with the thing it defines. While man is the rational animal, if we encounter another animal that is also rational we don't just call it "man" . . . especially if it has tentacles or flies, because the definition is just the essentials but man is also a bipedal less-hairy ape creature (although the less-hairy part may be debatable in the case of some individuals), not just "rationality" plus "animality".

A game isn't so much a recreation of reality as practically a redefinition of reality: it sets up a bunch of artificial parameters and an artificial goal and says the equivalent of "off you go now". The rules may have no bearing on or relevance to anything that actually happens in reality. For an example of this I recommend a card game called "Flux", where when you start the game it's actually impossible for anyone to win because there isn't a victory condition out yet. Very interesting game.

But I don't agree that every part of a work of art has to tie back into it e.g. does Roark's orange hair and Rearden's blonde hair have to tie back into Rand's themes?

What do you mean, do they have to? They do, because of the way she talks about their hair and eye color etc. In art, if you have a character that is tall or short or blond or dark it means something, even if the meaning is only very minor and contributory (or even subconscious on the part of the artist). However, in a video game if you have to solve a particularly nasty riddle or find a particularly well-hidden key it doesn't mean anything other than this part of the game is a little difficult. Maybe that you're out of the tutorial now or that the quest instructions that the game writer thought were self-explanatory turned out to be anything but.

My suggestion is this: take your favorite, I mean absolute favorite, computer game, the best one you've ever seen, and ask yourself a few questions about it:

1. Is there a theme?

2. What is it?

3. How do I know?

Even bad Naturalistic art has a theme, even though it may not be a conscious intention on the part of the author.

Then look at the majority of the smaller events in the game, the "subquests" and "subplots" (if there are such) and ask:

1. Do these sub-plots illustrate anything?

2. Does it relate to the main theme in any way?

You can even go one step further and ask the same questions about the myriad puzzles involved in the various sub-plots. Basically, my point is this: a collection of short stories is not a novel. At the moment, all I've seen in computer games are collections of short stories (or, if you prefer, short movies) with some puzzles thrown in. Some games may be closer to being a single story or a single movie, esp. the more linear ones presently, but the story of the game is still distinct and separate from (most) of the things that you do in the game.

Think of it this way: the nominal plot of Diablo is that you're there to rescue the village from the evil demons coming out of a hole in the ground. Okay. Yay. Ninety-nine percent of what you do is killing things and taking their stuff so you can buy stuff and outfit your character. The point of the story is this titanic battle against evil. The point of the game is to make a cool character. Are these two related? Not on your life.

I don't think there are any artistic elements in video games that would let you say it's a totally different art form instead of, say, movie cum puzzles.

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So, your implicit definition of art here is "whatever people are willing to buy"?

Not just what people are willing to buy but any creation that anyone values.

The only argument you've put forth for whether or not video games can logically be considered art is an emotionalistic appeal that amounts to: I want to produce "art", I want to produce video games, therefore video games are "art".

Yeah, it does come off as an emotionalistic appeal. :\ I left out an important point, I was inspired to create video games, art, based on another video game that I consider art. It created an experience that I shared and I know several other people had. It inspired emotion, creativity, and adventure.

I also agree calling a Dolphin a fish is incorrect, but that fails the commonly accepted definition. A is A. The definition of art is vague and general.

Just a few examples:

thefreedictionary.com

dictionary.com

Google

I view interactivity as a tool to entertain the audience before introducing new elements of content and/or story. Just like a writer will use time tested methods, common methods, to capture the attention and entertain his/her readers. I don't understand how the game side invalidates something as art.

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No one has still addressed the following issues:

- Why videogames cannot, apparently, express a creator's metaphysical value-judgments

and

- Why they can't be considered a recreation of reality

Whether or not there are games that do (or don't), the fact is, they certainly have the potential to. Despite many of their false "parameters" and fantasy-like elements, many videogames, especially the ones containing plots and characters (be the characters humans, animals, or humanimals) may still have themes and other elements that link it back to reality.

The point is that I don't think a video game could be considered a work of art until it's possible to integrate the puzzle elements to the point that they are invisible. Once that is possible or someone figures out to do it, you've got the birth of an entirely new art form, an interactive one where you can play a game start to finish and make all kinds of choices yet never spend three hours sitting there going "where is the damn blue key to the third level gate?!" or "I died again, now I have to go back and re-load!" No other art form that involves a story includes lengthy pauses where you go off and kill a bunch of stuff so you can get a level so that now you can wear the big suit of armor and kill a bunch more stuff.

The gameplay, as I've already mentioned (i.e.... gaining an item) is not so random as many seem to make it out. It's simply a part of the storytelling. Items don't appear out of nowhere, and neither do skills, or levels - they have to be earned. What may seem a pointless quest may actually help you reach the end of the game, the point when everything is ultimately tied together.

(As for sidequests and subquests... I'll admit they may get pointless, distracting, and may ultimately detract from a game's artistic merit, but they are not inherent elements in a videogame).

That's not to say it isn't possible to design a game that would be totally integrated like that, and frankly I'd like to see it. However you also would have to integrate the various gameplay elements because every part of a work of art has to tie back into it.

You say here that it's POSSIBLE, and isn't that what our entire discussion is about? To say that videogames cannot be art simply because none have fully and perfectly integrated interaction (though it is possible), is like saying that Rand's books are worthless because the world is not as perfect as Rand paints it to be in her novels. It IS possible for videogames to be art, even if none have proven themselves to be fully-integrated, completely unified and consistent YET.

What everyone has still failed to answer, without using hypotheticals, is what about the videogame MEDIUM keeps it from being a work of art? It's thus far proven a great medium for storytelling, plot and character development, theme presentation... I'm not saying it's been implemented perfectly YET, but there is certainly the potential for it to.

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Exactly, but potential is not an actual, and it remains theoretical potential at best. I haven't encountered any games that jump the bar from movie cum puzzles to being another distinct art form and I doubt anyone else has either. Maybe in the future this will not be the case after the medium continues to grow and develop. Maybe movies and video games will become more and more similar. Who knows?

A lot of the game play elements in video games aren't actually necessary, they are a psychological ploy based on the fact that people feel good when they've accomplished something. (Not necessarily an intentional ploy, but that's what they are.) The psychology for why video games are so addicting is actually pretty interesting.

The definition of art is vague and general.

Um, no it isn't, as you would know if you'd read The Romantic Manifesto. You're free to decide that esthetics is not part of philosophy and contains no technical terms, but in that case you have nothing whatever to add to this discussion, as any point you make has no basis.

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- Why videogames cannot, apparently, express a creator's metaphysical value-judgments

and

- Why they can't be considered a recreation of reality.

I'm not saying they can't, I'm saying they don't. Although, as I said, I'm iffy about the "game" parts of the game because those aren't a selective recreation of reality but, instead, a redefinition of reality. In fact, the interface between the two aspects isn't often handled very well. I'll give you an example from Neverwinter Nights 2, but this sort of thing is endemic, in RPG's especially.

In NwN2, a major plot circumstance depends on one of your party members being killed by her own grandfather in a rather spectacular way. So, what's the problem? In the game-world of NwN2, you can bring people back from the dead. So, I ask you, are these elements integrated when you can't just say "oops, bring her back, okay now let's get on with things!"

In most games they give you all sorts of mechanisms for getting past doors, traps, stealing stuff from people, etc. But almost always you still wind up encountering the door that you cannot get past using any of the typical methods but must find a specific key for or answer a riddle or convince the invulnerable NPC when under the normal game rules you could just kill them and take whatever it is. The rules of the game aren't applied consistently to the plot, which in effect means that you do have two separate things that are going on at the same time. Or it could just be that the people that write the games are lazy, I don't know.

I'm just being cautious about saying whether video games constitute a new art form now because it's still in its developmental stages. It certainly looks like there's potential there, but I couldn't say that it's definite. Back at the dawn of man when the first people were scratching out symbols on rocks I'd have been tentative about calling it the birth of painting. . . because it might have developed into writing. Same thing here.

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Is a game a selective creation of reality? Can a game be based upon its creator's metaphysical value judgements?
I don't think so... A game isn't so much a recreation of reality as practically a redefinition of reality: it sets up a bunch of artificial parameters and an artificial goal and says the equivalent of "off you go now".
I admit that I don't get the distinction between a recreation of reality and a redefinition of reality. Is chess a recreation or a redefinition? What about a novel like Snow Crash or Animal Farm?

Flux does sound interesting. I'm checking into it some more.

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