Sebastian Sluga


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Video games = art?!?

should video games be considered a form of Art, not just an example of design? If you cant think of an example of Games as Art, then what would that look like? Who is doing it right? What is keeping it from achieving Art?

  • Jun 3 2013: Video games are like movies. Some will be considered art, and others will be considered a commercial product.
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    Jun 3 2013: maybe worth checking a game called "Journey"
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      Jun 3 2013: I followed the link. Have you seen Journey in action yourself? If so, what were its stand-out features to you?
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        Jun 3 2013: i don't have a ps3, but i saw reviews and video footage. everyone that tried had an emotional blast and long lasting impression of loneliness, decay, sadness, joy of meeting someone, grieve of losing someone, and such things.
      • Jun 4 2013: Even if you never played a video game before, you should experience this game. It's beautiful.
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      Jun 4 2013: Journey is one of the games that gets brought up alot, and for good reason....
      Its a prime example of what Indie Games are doing for the game industry... If a game could be considered Art it will probably be an Indie game....

      and while I haven't played it myself, I have sat behind friends while they played it and found my self mesmerized by the styling and soundscape. It is a beautiful experience....

      Another surreal game is a bit more mainstream but if you ever play it or watch someone play it "Katherine" is an amazing game that has a lot of meaning and symbolism mixed into what is essentially a puzzle game... but the way the game plays, the ambiance, the pacing; it leaves your deeply engaged and present as the game unfolds..... If you don't feel like you're going crazy by the end of Katherine you probably were't playing Katherine...
    • Jun 5 2013: Just like films, books and music, video games are starting to get the same categoric division. One end would be the purely entertaining games like Warcraft etc. and the other end would be games like Journey and others which have a deeper dimension.

      I saw a playthrough of Journey on YouTube, it's about 1:30h and it's amazing. The design, the music and the unbelievably emotional aspect of meeting an anonymous companion along the way are clearly an example of how video games can be channeled to present a whole new kind of interactive artistic expression.

      One other game I would point out to is Planescape: Torment. I was very young when I played it but I still remember how fantastic and complex the story was. Ultimately it was a fantasy game but it raised philosophical, moral and ethical issues, relations and self-reflection posing a very interesting question "What can change the nature of a man?" The end was almost reminiscent to that of a Greek tragedy and I highly recomend it to everyone. The story was of course acompanied with amazing visuals for that time and very, very creative ambient and setting (though taken from D&D it was brilliantly adapted and brought to life).

      In a few years I honestly expect to find masterpieces of art among games that don't focus on entertainment but rather on a more complex form of expression much like films, which will integrate a multitude of disciplines such as direction, visual design, interaction design, camerawork and writting.
  • Jun 1 2013: This discussion does not lead anywhere, if we do not discuss first: What is art?

    If we have agreed on a definition of art, we can examine whether it applies on video games.

    As far as my intuitive understanding is concerned, yes of course it is art. It is even like a combination of several art forms, story-telling, graphics, audio, and the composition of all. A lot of artists involved. Is the programming also an art? The software design? Its an interesting question. Also has certain unique attributes, the art of level design? The art of creating an illusion?
  • Jun 4 2013: What is art? I define art as something that can create feelings. So if you play or look at a video game and it succeeds at creating feelings, then it is art. Some games might be considered art by a lot of people, some might be art for a few, but that's not different from literature, paintings, music, films or any other kind of art.

    There are a few ways games used to convince me of them being art. Sometimes it's an amazing story, like for example the Final Fantasy Series, Dragon Age, Baldur's Gate, Half Life or Project Zero. With deep characters, unexpected but believable twists, an incredible narration and well hidden connections to our or previous times. Sometimes it's a new approach to narrating itself. For example interactive movies like Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy, Phoenix Wright or Steins Gate. Sometimes they do it with beautiful pictures like in Shadow of the Colossus, Flow or Oblivion. Occasionally it's a new game mechanic like in Sims, Portal or Crazy Machines. Or a different style for graphics like in Killer 7, XIII or Limbo.

    Art can be found in nearly everything and in my opinion a lot of games have earned the right to be called "art" a long time ago.
  • Jun 3 2013: Personally, I think that some games (as it happens with movies) should be considered art, whether some shouldn't. Some are sold having profit as a goal, when some are made for people to understand, be impressed and love them, to feel emotions while playing and bring back memories. Or you can have a sort of realism, where graphics or the game's physics are designed to be as similar as possible to reality. And some, even, are only raw art, being abstract or with little gameplay at all.
    But what I think games are most important at, and where almost any other type of art fails at, is interaction. When playing some games, you can feel as you were watching a movie: tense, afraid, happy, depressed, melancholic, amazed. But when playing a game, you don't simply watch it, as if you were only part of a distanced audience or an external viewer. When you hold the power to interact with the game and take decisions, move your character, chose what he speaks, chose what to do, and so on, you feel as if you were inside of it. You feel part of it. It is not only looking at a drawing, looking at a movie, listening to a music, but it is taking part in that world. A game called Dear Esther, for example, is a good example of this. Dear Esther is an amazing mix of artistic and realistic scenery, a philosophical and poetical plot about a dying man's writings, including emotional memories and suspense created on who is playing, not to forget a perfect ending featuring it all in a few artistic and incredible unspoken seconds. And you feel like you are really inside of the story because you are the one who controls the walking person.
    Therefore, and I know and accept that my view of 'art' might be different to many people, I believe that games can be a sort of art that can combine and include many other types of art: visual arts, applied and decorative arts (music, dance, film), performing arts (literature, poetry), etc. with the incredible possibility of interaction.
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      Jun 4 2013: Its that aspect of video games that i fell in love with... Since 1st grade i had an affinity for the arts and pretty much knew i would attempt to do SOMETHING with it.... it wasn;t till i saw the Opening cinimatic for a popular game of the time, Final Fantasy X, that i realized Video Games were an option. it was the first time a game, this interactive world was as visually stimulating as a movie or painting. Not only was it beautiful but "I" was running around in it. If i want to explore every inch i could. If i wanted to talk to people i Could.... In that moment I knew i could invite every body into my Imagination... that if I could make a video game i would be able to show people the things i see, the stories and characters i imagine every moment i have to myself....Not only show them these things but let them interact with them and experience them as i get to experience them in my own mind....

      so how could something capable of that NOT be considered Art?
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    Jun 2 2013: I would think some video games are art, and some aren't.
  • Jun 2 2013: "Art is anything you can get away with." - Andy Warhol
    "Art is anything people do with distinction." - Louis Dudek
    "Art is the path of the creator to his work." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
    I'm trying to remember what this quote was (and who said it) I heard the other day... something like, "Art is anything a person buys that he doesn't need."
    Hehe. Got this instead: "art, n. This word has no definition." - Ambrose Bierce
    or better yet, "Great art is horse****, buy tacos." - Charles Bukowski

    But it's fascinating: with Roger Ebert's recent demise, and this topic, yet there's no mention of him?
    In the end he admitted he was likely wrong, and apologized for that clumsily naive statement (he'd been famously pummeled for once saying that video games [unlike movies] aren't, and can't be, art.)
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    Jun 2 2013: Anna Anthropy presents a compelling contribution to this discussion in her book, 'Rise of the Videogame Zinesters'. This text champions video games as an expressive medium, and conveys the importance of games being developed by a wider demographic, so as to contribute more human perspectives than simply that of the desire to 'shoot aliens in the face'.

    Ian Bogost also offers a great insight into the idea of whether or not video games can be classed as works of art in his book, 'How to Do Things with Videogames'.
  • Jun 1 2013: IMO, "real art" reflects the human condition.

    There are millions of pieces in museums that do not fit this criteria, so this is just a personal idea, for whatever it might be worth.

    To me, something is art when it captures something very specific that almost everyone can relate to, because it reflects something that we all share. Also, it must do it intentionally, and with quality.

    It is possible to send out a troop of 4 year old children with cameras and have them photograph whatever they want. Out of the resultant thousands of photographs, a few will look like art. That is not art, that is probability. Some well respected photographers use basically the same strategy..
    • Jun 3 2013: Barry, if you send those children out with cameras, with the assignment to take pictures of something that touches them emotionally, then all of them will be works of art. Art is the creative process, like you say, that reflects the human condition. An adult's snapshot of their holiday in Ibiza is not art either. A person's interpretation of something that can be captured on film, is.
  • May 31 2013: Are we differentiating design from art? I ask this only because, as someone within the design/architecture field, I run into people who believe what we are doing is extremely technical (not art), where as others view it as extremely expressive (art). The same is probably true, I imagine, with video games. There are technical aspects to designing a video games, and non-technical aspects, and it's this amazing blend of right-brain and left-brain that makes the end product. That in itself can probably be considered art.

    I've heard the same debate about script writing for video games. Should writing a story line for a video game be considered below the quality of writing a story line for a tv show, musical, play, or movie? I'm not an extreme gamer, but I've played video games with immensely deep and emotional story lines in them.

    So I am just curious. Is design separate from art? Or should we consider them one and the same? Maybe art assumes operating without constraints, without a specific client or target group in mind. Where as design, we tend to have a client and intended audience in mind, and set parameters and boundaries.
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      May 31 2013: I think there is plenty of difference between art and design.... though in these professional arts the design is as much the medium as the medium itself... for instance i can imagine in architecture you don't think of elements of design as some kind of limiting force per se, but more like different colored paints you use on a canvas, the canvas being the final "design".
      and i would also think that many "Professional " artists find they are more creative and more involved in the work when it has these limitations.... Like a puzzle that must be solved.

      in games, your limitations are simple; is it fun, does it work, is it different... basically your only limitation is what the system your game will be played on is capable. while the "industry" has stagnated in their pursuit of money.... tje Indie community has been experimenting and creating amazing stuff....

      I guess what i am saying is with Video games Sure design is a huge part of the process, especially if your goal is to sell to a specific market, but its not the rule, its a screw driver in our toolbox.
  • May 31 2013: Hi Sebastian!
    I think, in an age where computer technology is advancing faster than we can keep up with it, art is evolving into forms we may have trouble accepting... this goes for any type of art, in my opinion, visual or musical.
    You could consider a video game to be interactive art, a graphic tale in which you yourself play a key role. Just looking at how video games have evolved in the past 40 years is a feat in itself. CGI and 3-D in film is breathtakingly real, and just as much a form of art, to me.
    Have you had a look at Fritzie's conversation about art in museums nowadays? This topic is also touched upon there.

  • Jun 9 2013: I think that video games are generally related to design, not to art - just because of their definition: They want to entertain the player and sell themselves. And when they want to sell they ARE related to design.

    Of course there're blurred borders in all "design disciplines“ and °arts.° So some designs can be defined as art and art can be defined as design.
  • Jun 8 2013: Video game is no doubt a form of Design from the very beginning. Design and Art have different purposes in general. But there is a fine line between Art and Fine Art. If we consider craft work as art in a broad definition, then some high-quality video games could be considered as craft art because of beautiful scenery and smooth navigation design, which is entertaining and functional. However, video game is not capable of becoming Fine Art because of its very nature. Video game is part of the game family including sports, math, cards, and more.

    I agree with many people here: Fine Art is ultimately the reflection of humanity, a mirror to the soul, and sublime experiences of life, which is not necessarily functional, entertaining, or even beautiful.

    So video game is more related to Design.
    Design - Yes
    Craft Art - maybe (it depends on the graphics quality)
    Fine Art - No

    P.S.: Art provokes emotions/feelings. However, whatever provoking emotions doesn't have to be art, such as war, a new-born baby, abusive words, or a rose...
    • Jun 8 2013: Couple of things:

      Are you saying video games cannot reflect humanity, echo sublime experiences of life, and that sort of things? But then again, this will all become subjective in discussion.

      Also, the way you describe the design of video games makes me wonder if film and filmmaking should be design instead art because of its functional approach and mechanical reorganization of reality.

      One more thing, I'm confused with the art/fine art differentiation. Are you saying video games are art but not fine art? Moreover, do we need to make a distinction if the goal of art and fine art are the same (in that case, what is the definition of art as opposed to fine art, is art not a reflection of humanity?).

      • Jun 9 2013: Good questions and there are no Yes or No answers. As I said before, there is a fine line between Art and Fine Art. Millions of people draw and paint, how many Van Gogh and Michelangelo in history? A hand-made ceramic bowl by my 5-year old niece reflects humanity too. Is that art, fine art, or things that only my family likes? Moreover, is Architecture considered Fine Art, Art, or Design? In short, as you mentioned, this would become subjective in discussion. To explain everything in perspective might take hours. (not kidding) Not that I don't want to help, but in order to prove/support what I am trying to convey, the among of research, practices, and theories involved could lead to a conference paper easily. :-) which would be interesting to write.
        • Jun 9 2013: Yea, it definitely would. Though I personally believe video games are art, any sort of perception of video games, like labeling them as a for of interactive design, is always a good thing for the medium, because I am more of a supporter for a better understanding of video games (and more respect) and putting it in the MOMA was a great move by Paola and the way she did it pleased me.

          Art or design, I think video games have limitless potential and, as a gamer of 16 years (so, yea, a lot of bias), I know there are a great number of things people can learn from them.

  • Jun 6 2013: I agree with what a lot of people have said here, that art is something that reflects the human condition, and idea, etc, and that art can be manifest in many different forms.

    For the most part, however, I do not consider video games art. Yes, there are games with amazing scenery, etc, but this is one aspect, and the people designing the aesthetic for the game create art, though the game is not art itself.

    The most prominent example of a game being art that I can think of if most definitely Braid, created by Jonathan Blow. Its imagery and flow are superb, its gameplay mechanics are phenomenal, and its philosophy is outstanding. Everything about the game makes it, to me at least, art. It is the culmination of artistry in all aspects of a game. I highly recommend, and I believe that most people sharing views along the same lines as I in terms of what is art would agree.
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    Jun 5 2013: I absolutely consider it art. I often find myself in the modern landscapes of the games and think to myself how long it took. My favorite game, Battlefield 3, has the most beautiful landscapes I've ever seen, and they are huge as well. I researched how long it took them to make it, and found out that they spent years making an entire new engine (system used to make games) just to match their needs for the game. With all the graphic art in it, I feel like it is definitely art. Same with other games, as well. Out of the 8-bit pixel era now, games are masterpieces and take months, sometimes years, to develop. There are even games solely devoted to just be aesthetically pleasing. A game called Journey comes to my mind when I think that. Not exactly the funnest gameplay, but beautiful art and amazing music went into the game.
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    Jun 4 2013: Never played a videogame, but judging by the comments and links here, it looks fascinating and could see myself becoming hooked!

    It certainly sounds like an art form to me. Anything that has the capability of removing one from the mundane into the extraordinary, is art as far as I'm concerned.
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    Jun 4 2013: In my opinion video games include both the elements of art and design so I consider them as a form of Architecture.

    Video games are Architecture!
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    May 31 2013: and i think i should clarify.
    I agree with the MoMA collection as being examples of interactive design. I understand Miss Antonelli's stance on the exhibit. I am interested in finding what everyone thinks of video games as art... What would a video game look like to be considered "Real Art".

    technology has finally reached a point where video games are virtually only limited by our imagination.... so if i ever want to make an "Art Game" what would that look like?
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    May 31 2013: I think my biggest issue with this is how culturally we don't think of professional production artists (Game Designers, graphic artists, animators) as being "Real Artists". That because they make a living outside of the gallery, their work is less meaningful.
    Ive had many friends, currently working in the game industry, put together a gallery show and if its not some example what they do professionally its ridiculed as a game artist attempting to be a "real" artist...

    and its not really just about video games... I personally have high regard for comic book artists, and 2D animators. And I find it enraging that sooo many people hear Comic Book, or Animation and think its for kids; that an adult who appreciates or views these mediums is somehow immature. This translates all the way up to the art world.... where it seems having a strong sense for anatomy and color theory seem to be shunned.
  • May 31 2013: Yes it is a form of art. I also agree with Lizanne about this. I don't know the process and too old to learn at this point but I do see the art involved.
  • May 31 2013: To the best of my knowledge, anyone can claim to be an artist, and anyone can claim that any product is art.

    Picasso would scribble on a piece of paper, sign it, and his signature would make it valuable. Some of these scribbles were seriously reviewed by serious art critics.

    There have been instances when highly reputed art critics praised the art produced by animals.
    • May 31 2013: You can then argue, Barry, which was actually valuable - Picasso's scribble, or his signature?
      • May 31 2013: When people argue that a scribble is art, the word "art" becomes meaningless.
        • Jun 1 2013: True. In my humble opinion, the meaning of art, is what I consider valuable, because of how it affects me. For some, I suppose the meaning isn't important, it's an investment.
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    May 31 2013: I don't play video games, but I understand there can be both creative illustrations/moving pictures and creative narrative. These dimensions would qualify a game as art.