Amph Are Video Games an Art Form?

Discussion in 'Community' started by Likewater, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

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    I have that and still need to play it. The graphics still look really good for a last-gen game.

    I would also say Okami is another good example. It successfully mimics Legend of Zelda's style while finding its own at the same time. It's truly one of the most underrated/underappreciated video games of the last generation.
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  2. MarcusP2 Games and Community Reaper

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    4 of my favourite games mentioned in consecutive posts. I have taste.
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  3. solojones Force Ghost

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    Rogue, some of my favorite films are from the 30s-50s. Just as there are some absolutely amazing games that were made before the current gen of consoles and this millenium. I'm not at all demeaning that. However, it's also true that the studio system in existence at that time was restrictive and also pumped out films at a much, much faster rate than Hollywood has ever done since then. It was much more a strategy of making as many films as possible and having a tiny percentage of them be good. This is more akin to the attitude of early gaming. So in both cases, you have some legitimate masterpieces and geniuses at work. But you also had an overall system that didn't really take its own medium that seriously.

    FWIW, we've seen the same thing happen to television in the last 20 years, although that is conversely now that there's much, much more TV than ever before... so you do have a lot of crappy shows. But also an undeniable golden age as that medium began to really grow up about 40 years after its inception, roughly the same as with cinema and gaming.

    Eh? I didn't see anyone saying anything bad about the art direction of games. I didn't mention it merely because it seems incredibly self evident that the art direction and execution in modern day games is fantastic. I agree that it is, to me, some of the very best art with the best artists going. I completely agree about them being better or at least producing better work than a lot of people considered 'fine artists'. I feel the same way about a number of cinematographers (in games and film) as well as cinematic production designers.

    This is part of what I mean by the technical abilities of modern gaming consoles and computers making it possible for people to stop just focusing entirely on graphics. Because there were fantastically designed games in the past, but they were bound by much stricter technical limitations. Now that they aren't, we're seeing things that are both more realistic and more artistically impressive (whether or not they are realistic). As I said, I think the visuals in games are on par with films, and I think that's allowed the storytelling to expand in a really impressive way. I just personally tend to comment more on story, direction, and acting because that's what I know the most about.


    Hey, I've written ecphrastic poetry, and all of mine did tell stories. :p But then, they were based on representational paintings, so that makes sense. I haven't studied a ton of abstract art, but obviously that can be art without telling a story... however, I think art with story is much more interesting, to me anyway. But I'm a storyteller so that makes sense :p I think the thing is, as human beings, story is how we understand the world. Our own opinions and POVs are really in a way just the story we tell ourselves about the world and life. So it makes sense that a great deal of art has some sort of narrative involved, and that people tend to think of narrative when they think of art.
    Last edited by solojones, Dec 5, 2012
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  4. EmpireForever Jedi Grand Master

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    If movies are art then video games are art.
  5. Sith-Lord-Gunray Ex-Mod

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    O I just meant in general to the question. It just seems like a silly question to me. Video games as art.
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  6. DarthLowBudget Jedi Master

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    I think that Video games have art in them, absolutely. But I think its still up to debate whether or not the final result of the use of those pieces of art constitutes art itself. I'm not sure a game meets the general criteria of art in terms of its relationship to the audience.
  7. solojones Force Ghost

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    Right. Perhaps the question is more whether they're a valid narrative art, as the visual art part is indeed pretty self evident.

    And DLB, is there really such a confined set of definitions to qualify as art? What would you say is the requirement in terms of relating to the audience?
    Last edited by solojones, Dec 5, 2012
  8. DarthLowBudget Jedi Master

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    If I'm being really unfair I'd say that the interactive nature and the necessity of repetitive goal-oriented structure precludes video games in general from being art in the way that literature or paintings or film are art. That isn't to say that individual games can't achieve the level of art (that is to say, an individual game can be an art object) but the general category of video games is not necessarily an artform itself. Which is totally fine, because game is a totally worthy category as well just a different one than art, and with a different set of goals.

    As to the question of visual art and and narrative art, I'd ask these questions: 1)What does a video game's narrative achieve? 2) What does the sum total of all the artwork employed in a video game achieve as a whole, in the sense of other visual artforms?
  9. solojones Force Ghost

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    To me, what some of these games have achieved for me as the player is pretty much the same as what I would experience as a viewer in a film or show, only I'm engaged in a different (and sometimes even more connected) way because I'm the one making the decisions.

    Out of curiosity, have you played Heavy Rain?

    Also, I don't think it's necessary to divide things up so distinctly. Why can't something be both a game and an artform?
  10. EmpireForever Jedi Grand Master

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    The question is "are video games an art form" not "are all video games art". Could someone, if she so wished, express herself artistically through video games? Yes, absolutely.

    Video Games are an art form.
    Last edited by EmpireForever, Dec 6, 2012
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  11. Ender Sai Chosen One

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    Well SJ, as someone who got ME1 on the day of release based purely on the love of BioWare's narratives in the past (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, KOTOR) I certainly think that people need to appreciate the stunning depth of the narrative in some games. But...

    One game I've been playing a lot of lately is Codemaster's F1 2012. It's a simulation of the 2012 Formula 1 season, and whilst it allows you to progress through the ranks to the front teams, it's nonetheless allowing you to simulate a real world sport.

    Does that fit the bill?

    I'd agree that narrative has thankfully made a resurgence in games (Call of Warfighter Ops is still of course a bastion of lowbrow penis jokes, sexism, racism, and testosterone but you know...) and I love that you get such variety and depth (even FarCry 2 presented weighty choices to players) but there's got to be a line drawn at some point, no?
  12. DarthLowBudget Jedi Master

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    I gotta be lame and go to bed, so I'm gonna take a raincheck on discussing this in depth (maybe tomorrow once the bulk of my schoolwork is done), but I think there's definitely a lot of interesting avenues for discussion. I guess the question I'd ask is what video games have achieved thematically compared to movies? One trend I've been seeing is that as games try more and more towards being "art" what they're really doing is becoming CGI movies with occasional gameplay put in in-between to get you from one cutscene to the next, and possibly to monkey with your emotional investment by association.


    EDIT:
    Tell me Luigi, how exactly does one express themselves artistically through a video game? What can be expressed and what has been expressed? It's a pretty extraordinary claim so the burden of proof is on you. What have games done as a whole to make them an artform? The question of whether or not games are an artform is exactly the question of whether or not games are on some level inherently art.
    Last edited by DarthLowBudget, Dec 6, 2012
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  13. jp-30 Manager Emeritus

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  14. solojones Force Ghost

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    This is exactly what I mean. And Billy, as far as what they've achieved collectively.. well again, it's a much younger medium. It's having fantastic and exciting and interesting growing pains as a medium. No medium is ever going to be all art. But there have been instances.

    Though I will say one thing video games can do as an artform is involve choice. Yes, ME3's ending let us down a fair amount on this point, but that doesn't negate the real, weighty choices the player had to make throughout. When you have to choose to do something altruistic that will make your gameplay harder, it's its own kind of artistic experience.

    But I think Heavy Rain does this even better. No, you don't customize your character there. But because you can't, the writers know exactly who these characters are and it's simply up to you to insert yourself into their choices (as a side note here, I wonder how many people are like me and tend to make choices in games according to how they think that character would react, not how they the player would react...). But there are 22 different things that can happen in the ending in something like over 500 different combinations therein.

    And it's not just the ending. Your characters can die during the course of the game due to your actions or inaction, and once they're dead, they're dead. You fail split-second QTEs and that person is just gone. And all of these characters' stories are deep, serious, thoughtful, and introspective. You play that game and you really feel the weight of being a bereft father trying to save his second son from dying or an FBI agent struggling with addiction as he attempts to fight the system and solve a case. There are still moments of video game formula, sure. But every movie has formulaic aspects as well. I always come back to this game as an example (and it's my favorite game, next to perhaps Uncharted 3) because it shows precisely what a game can do artistically that really no other medium can. You can become involved in a character's life in a book or a film or a show or a play. But you can't become that character. Once game developers really start embracing this notion, there's no limit to the sorts of things they could do.

    Which isn't to say that games which are basically just playable films (like Uncharted) aren't themselves an artform. They're perhaps less unique since they don't differ from film as much. But why must a medium offer a totally unique experience to be valid? Obviously it's great when a work does take full advantage of the medium, as with Heavy Rain. But still, it doesn't make the more linear games any less valuable. It just makes them sort of like long, playable animated films.
    Last edited by solojones, Dec 6, 2012
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  15. jp-30 Manager Emeritus

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    The lack of Grim Fandango in this thread is breaking my heart.
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  16. EmpireForever Jedi Grand Master

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    Do you mean besides through the writing/directing/art design etc.? Game designers express themselves through storytelling or creating vivid worlds and characters the same way that a movie director does. They share their ideas or philosophies or visions in a way that they know how; games, in this case.
    I think there have already been great examples shared in this thread about what games have done, artistically. Every movie is not a work of art, does that mean that cinema is not an artform? Just because you have a camera doesn't make you an artist. Movies are not inherently art, and yet movies are an artform. Just because games exist that are absolutely without a doubt in no way art does not exclude the medium. I believe a lot of game designers are artists; they want to create an experience or share an idea that elicits some kind of response out of their audience that is more than simply pushing buttons or getting to the next level, and I believe many have succeeded at this. What do you want? A comprehensive list? I'm not going to do that; there have been great examples already.
    Last edited by EmpireForever, Dec 6, 2012
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  17. Life Jedi Knight

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    @GrandAdmiralJello, my post about storytelling was meant at the outset to be somewhat tangential, as I agree that art doesn't need to be narrative to qualify as art. How many sculptures tell a story?

    As to the main question of the thread, I didn't delve into that initially, because to me it's self-evident that games are art. As much as films, novels and performed plays are art. I once read a definition of art that defined art as something that is created purely for enjoyment, and has no practical function. Surely, that would apply to paintings and sculptures, as well as narrative artforms. They exist purely for our entertainment and pleasure. The same applies to games. Another definition is that art must be a medium through which the creator expresses themselves. Art must be expression. That definition is a bit more narrow and through that lens, it's debatable whether a lot of movies are art or not, as well. Or even sculptures and photography and paintings, which in many people's minds are automatically thought of as art. If you are painting a landscape, trying to recreate it as photo-realistic as possible, are you really expressing yourself? Using that definition, it really boils down to the creator's intent. But even if all games, or even all movies etc, are not art, both movies and videogames certainly are an art form. Which is to say they are mediums through which art can be expressed.
    Last edited by Life, Dec 6, 2012
  18. Billy_Dee_Binks Jedi Master

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    BAM! Thread solved.

    While I am only a casual gamer, I don't think whether video games are an art form or not is even debatable- they simply are.
    Problem is, unlike movies, TV, books and paintings the observer sometimes isn't given the time to soak up what went into the game, because generally they are forced to interact with the medium constantly in order to survive.
    There are a lot of pros and cons to this major difference when compared to a more passive art forms. Personally, I prefer the latter. However, I do believe that within this decade or the next, gaming will rise to a higher appreciated art form.

    Anyone doubting that games are an art form should check this site out.

    Recent games that visually struck me are "The Journey" and last year's "Limbo". Two beautifully unique games.
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  19. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

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    Don't worry I mentioned it.
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  20. Life Jedi Knight

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    I think The Unfinished Swan deserves a mention here as well. In addition to that, Outland also is visually striking and, IMO, deserves a mention for the art style of its backgrounds. Even more mainstream offerings can be included, like Rayman Origins, whose backgrounds are a visual treat.
  21. Billy_Dee_Binks Jedi Master

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    Oh yes, The Unfinished Swan definitely has one of the most original gaming concepts in recent years. It did give me motion sickness playing it on a large projection, though.
  22. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    I've always said that the key component to art is that the work creates a genuine emotional response in the viewer. That's why an abstract painting can be just as much art as a representational one. It's all about that emotional response. Any ideas or philosophies contained in a work of art are basically useless unless they are able to be communicated via the emotions to the viewer.

    Obviously, under this criteria, games are definitely art. Because there are certainly games that can convey extreme and intense emotional experiences, whether that emotion be terror or rage or heart-pumping suspense or even just pure joy. The debate about games as art seems to me to be basically about whether or not games can convey the "higher" emotions, like sorrow or grief or compassion. As someone who views, in the realm of art at least, all emotions as equal, it seems like a pretentious debate and rather echoes the debate about genre works in film and literature. Some people will never accept that a movie that genuinely evokes pure terror is as good as a movie that evokes some sort of high flown compassion for the world. But they're both genuine emotions and that is what art is about. I don't make value judgments based on what type of emotion an artwork is evoking. So, yeah, games are art.
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  23. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

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    What about survival horror? Which games would be classified as "art" in that genre? For me, I would have to go with Silent Hill. The first three games are haunting and beautifully nightmarish at times. They find a great blend of unrelenting terror and tremendous sorrow. The characters are fully fleshed out.
  24. Life Jedi Knight

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    Games can definitely convey compassion, grief and have characters that you have empathy for. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are both outstanding games in that regard, that managed, despite their minimalist narratives, to convey compassion and grief, respectively, in me. I might be an overly sentimental person, so it probably doesn't have that effect on everybody, but I am evidence that it certainly has the potential to. Recently I have heard great things from several reviews about the The Walking Dead game about its ability to make you empathise and care about the characters presented, to the point where every major decision you make in the game has emotional weight. Obviously, having not played it, I have no personal experience with that game, but I take their words for it.
    Last edited by Life, Dec 6, 2012
  25. Boba_Fett_2001 Force Ghost

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