Games As Art

I’m so mind numbingly sick of this debate. Can we settle this now? Here:

Games As Art

Examples in Novels:
A – Ulysses, 1984, House of Leaves
B – Harlequin Romance, Hardy Boys

Examples in Film:
A – Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, The Godfather, Primer
B – Steven Seagal movies, Transformers, Barbarella

Examples in Games:
A – Ico, Deus Ex, Bioshock (I guess), Braid (perhaps, haven’t played it yet) It is a very short list.
B – Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Serious Sam, Final Fantasy, Gears of War
C – Skate, SimCity, Electroplankton, Line Rider, Spore (probably)
D – Madden, Tetris, Katamari Damacy, Guitar Hero, Nethack

10 thoughts on “Games As Art

  1. How dare you compartmentalize capital letters into circles and semi-circles like so!

    Also, I’m going to nominate Choose Your Own Adventure Books as toys that can create art, since they are interactive fiction.

  2. This feels oversimplfied. I need more Ascii.
    And Bioshock? Really? Want to throw in FF VII while you’re at it?

  3. If you ignore the third act of Bioshock, sure. It is flawed art in that it has something significant to say and sets up that message, yet executes very poorly in the end. I don’t think you have to be successful to be sophisticated.

  4. Do you have a definition for Art as used here? Does it need a message? Or is it just well-crafted and a dramatic element a step above pulp fiction? Is the distinction for toys “games without a narrative:? Can those not be art without player-generated content? And is it just the generated content or the interactive experience as a whole that’s art? A seems like an empty category.

  5. The problem everyone has with this debate is that it is trying to objectify and classify subjective elements. The closer and more exact you get with definitions, the more it will diverge from having any topical use. That is why my classification is so purposefully vague.

    My personal definition that I used for the examples is that sophisticated art has to ask questions that go beyond the universe in which the game is played. It doesn’t have anything to do with narrative. I think folks get hung up on narrative because that’s where they get hung up on in the written word and film.

    I was about to explain my definition of toys, but I realized I was missing the point. The point is that the _examples_ below the diagrams are my interpretation and should not be used as definition. You may decide that Bioshock belongs in D, where I believe A. That’s fine. The point of the post was to throw the diagram out there so that the debate can be focused on whether or not AuB is an empty set. Most arguments by the Games Are Not Art focus on categories C and D as counterexamples when that has really no logical weight. A game can exist in CuD. That doesn’t mean there are no games in AuB.

  6. Not a bad classification. The one thing I would change is the hard line between AuB and CuD, though. Not just because people will disagree on which category to put a game in, but because I don’t think it’s an either-or situation.

    “My personal definition that I used for the examples is that sophisticated art has to ask questions that go beyond the universe in which the game is played.”

    But that definition would completely exclude the entire modernist movement of art that separates itself from representation (ie. abstract modern art)! Can we really expect only representational art in games to be “real” art when the fine art world has disagreed on that point for an entire century? (This is why I’d find it incredibly weird to classify Electroplankton as a “toy” instead of it art itself – even weirder since it was entirely designed by a Japanese media artist!)

  7. Yes, but even abstract modern art raises questions. It does not have to be representational for that.

    I think there is a distinction between the performance art that ElectroPlankton creates and the game itself. But that is a personal distinction that I don’t expect everyone to agree with.

    But thank you for the comment, it got me thinking a little deeper.

    This is exactly why I created the diagram: to get people asking more relevant questions rather than spinning in circles fellating the designers of Zelda and Shadow of the Colossus.

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