Se magnifique!

Art is one of those words that just can’t be defined, or, rather, as a million different definitions.  A visitor to the Art Institute of Chicago, gazing at the “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler,” would surely not protest if I called it art.  On the other end of the spectrum, a football fan would heartily agree if I described Barry Sanders an artist.  Scores of outsiders, however, would.  And there is the beauty of art.  Every individual can, and is expected to, describe it for themselves.

I present, for your consideration, the following screenshot from the wildly popular 2010 Game of the Year, Red Dead Redemption.

Are you kidding me?  That’s gorgeous.  Just try and tell me that’s not art.  I WILL FIGHT YOU.  Alright, chance to redeem yourself…try this.

That’s what I thought.  These two games, RDR and the Assassin’s Creed series, have taken my breath away on multiple occasions, as have plenty of others.  The amount of time the designers put into these games is staggering, as are the results.  Can we please show the respect deserved?

Deathly Hallowed


(Movies vs Games)=Art

Movies and games have a lot in common: the genres are largely the same (action, horror, thriller, etc.), the quality varies enormously on a case-by-case basis, and typically the costs to produce the final products are enormous (the time, effort, and number of people involved). A major distinction, however, is that movies have long been considered to be an art form while video games remain controversial, which seems rather unfair. When movies first appeared as a media the films were just things you could see in person but recorded so they could be viewed by anyone: that is not art as we know it, just copying and pasting. It took a long time for directors to develop the tools to engage an audience. In the same way the video game industry up until now has been occupied with making games that perfect mechanics, not with engaging players and leveraging the unique aspects of video games as a media to create a truly enthralling experience. Only recently have games like that begun appearing, and they are still infrequent. Regardless, video games will soon be art just as movies are, and while there will certainly still be bad games designed to make money just as there are bad movies designed to make money, the number of video games that are art is sure to rise.

An important distinction to make is artistic and art: artistic is a style while art is a product. I will elaborate on this with an example. Fable 2 (or even Fable 3) is an artistic game: the designs are varied and just out-of-reality, the story is well crafted, and the whole universe is woven into a grand experience. However, the game is not, as I understand it, art. The experience is riddled with annoyances that take you out of the experience, like an inventory and health bar system. The character interactions are incredibly limited (compared to real life, anyways), and the combat is repetitive. The concept is great and amazing but the execution is only average, and thus it does not feel like art. It just feels artistically done.

Geometry Wars is, by contrast, an impossibly simple game with an incredibly simple idea: stay alive. You play as a shape and shoot at other shapes which chase you. There is no plot, no characters, just mechanics and graphics. However, the controls are fluid, the experience is intense, and the whole game is incredible clean: it just works. It might not be artistic (despite the pretty colors it is still just a bunch of shapes that follow your shape), but the game is art. It is refined, brings a concept to life incredibly well, and is a blast to play.

For a game to be art, like a movie, the experience must be great. Unlike a movie, however, the experience is composed of more factors, including mechanics, graphics, gameplay, etc., and not all of these and the movie factors have to be great for the experience to be incredible: games can be great with just mechanics and graphics, gameplay and plot, or any other combination of factors. This is my conclusion: games can be art, but the industry needs time to understand how to make games that are art. It is similar, but not the same, as movies. The experience is still what matters, but the formation of the experience is so much more complicated when making a game, but the possibilities are, appropriately, much greater.


Child Of Eden: Electronic Art

Video games have transformed from the days in the arcade. They have moved away from the 16bit blocky graphics to fully immersive 3D worlds, where a player can get lost in for hours at a time. Art, if done right, should elicit emotion in the viewer; art should enthrall and entice as well as satisty.

Recently, a game came out that can only be described as “trippy”; not only was it based in space, but was controlled by your body motions through the Xbox Kinect. Child of Eden is the kind of game where if you play it for long enough, you might lose touch with reality. You use your hands to control your ship, which blasts through artistic forms and enemies, often creating something visceral and beautiful at the end.

In this game, one controls the stars in space as you create incredibly artistic forms and images. You’re blasting stars for points, but you’re also a cosmic painter; your hands are your tools and you traverse multiple galaxies. It enthralls and excites, and leaves the player feeling better for playing it. Certainly not all video games are art, but some are certainly striving to be considered, and I believe Child of Eden is one of those games.


-Spencer Smith

Are Video Games Ever “High-Class”?

When we think of “art”, the images that come to mind are usually high-class galleries in the city, intricate sculptures displayed in the park, and eclectic painters living in their fancy loft apartments. Art appreciation is thought of as a cultural activity, reserved for those with intelligence and a discerning eye for beauty.

However, gone are the times when only paintings and sculptures were considered true art forms. These days, our society has come to accept a wide variety of media as works of art, from cinematic masterpieces to breathtaking works of literature. We have no trouble seeing the artistry in a beautifully written sentence or an artfully crafted scene in a movie, any more than we would in a Renoir painting or a Rivera mural. How then do we continue to turn a blind eye to the artistry of games?

Of course, video games have not always been prime candidates for the “art” category. One could hardly argue that the pixelated graphics of the first Space Invaders game are worthy of the same awe and respect as Beethoven’s 5th, yet the rapid development of graphics and technology as a whole has suddenly brought this question into the forefront of gamers’ minds. Can society ever accept video games as a valid art form? And, perhaps more importantly, should they?

As far as I’m concerned, yes, they should. WE should. While not all video games qualify as works of art, there are a choice few that may have reached the level of passion that art evokes in its viewers. To use one of my favorite games as an example, a player traversing the world of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess cannot help but wonder at the beauty of the digitally rendered landscapes, filled with carefully created characters and a compelling storyline. Just like a film, the game uses a mixed tale of adventure, love, and pain to draw the player into the artists’ intricate world.

The designers, exactly like dedicated painters, spent months creating every single detail, from towering castles to a single ray of sunlight glinting off the surface of a lake. If a painting of a rural scene can be called a work of art, why then can the same respect not be given to a digital rendering of the same type of landscape? The game did not take less effort, nor less creativity. The tools may have been computer keys instead of paintbrushes, but the result is not less refined simply because it is displayed on a screen.

Perhaps the obstacle blocking us from recognizing video games as art is not a lack of beauty, nor a lack of passion, but society’s simple unwillingness to call mere games “high-class”. Something about the word “game” makes the art community cringe. Society doesn’t want to give video games the title of art because then we’d have to stop blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in our world (violence, crime, rebellious teenagers, etc, etc, etc….)

Honestly, though, the time has come to stop tossing video games to the side in disgust. Their creators may not be as well-known as Michelangelo and Matisse, but the beauty of their creations should not be labeled as childish decoration for an immature pastime. Video games are here to stay, and the sooner we recognize their artistry for what it is, the sooner we can give their talented, dedicated designers the credit and respect they deserve.


–The Humblebug

Creature Consumed by Creativity vs. Addictive Alien Annihilator – The “Artsy” and the Gamers

They will rot your brain. They will make you lazy. They will demagnetize your moral compass and turn you into a sociopathic monster. They will sabotage your ability to function in the real world. Sound familiar gamers? I think so.

Artists aspire to create, and create differently. They differ from engineers only in that their creations are not tangible and thus have no clear physical benefit on the world at large. Blessed with incredible talent, artists are able to create creatively, meaning that they have the ability to construct, draw or recreate things right from their mind. These powerful aesthetic or sensory experiences are utilized by the artists as a from of expression, but also to stimulate a different part of the appreciator’s mind, the creative aspect. We exalt the masters of creation and re-creation for their abilities to understand what we would like to see, or piece together thousands of sounds into a brilliant symphony that makes us recall a powerful memory.

Why then are video game designers not artists? They too create worlds with no tangible benefits. They too have the unique talent to take what is in their mind and recreate it in a medium for us to walk and adventure through. These worlds provide powerful and often enjoyable experiences through music, narrative, graphic design and interactivity. As those of us who have tried game design, and all of us who will later this semester, it is hard- very hard, and there is a huge difference between an excellent game, and a really bad one. Video games stimulate a fantastical part of our minds, one that allows us to escape reality and play by rules in a “safe magic circle”. We encounter creatures, quests and lands that have been brought to life from people’s minds and feel strongly emotionally invested in our character’s successes and failures.

Just as artists used to have studios, with hundreds of apprentices working on one sculptor, does the chief game designer, who delegates but sees the full completed picture of his game not deserve the adjectives, creative, brilliant, or a master of his art? Are the intellectual challenges posed by a new rule, or a newly introduced ability that change the game and make we gamers think differently not stimulating? No, I do not believe that the person who writes code to create the bird nest behind one of Bilbo’s Trolls’ ear is an artist. However, the person who chose the music, envisioned the light poking through the trees, and a challenge worthy of being proud while passing through the area is. LOTRO may not be the best example because it is based off of a book, but the same holds true for may games such as World of Warcraft and even the creator of chess. That to understand human nature, the power of variables, rules, fiction, tone, setting and story is an art, and that this new art has champions who deserve to be famed as artists.

But who are those people who fame artists. The twenty year olds with the tight, off colored jeans, strange facial hair, tight shirts, cigarettes and some sort of hat, that we call “artsy”? Or the straight laced doctor, who hasn’t rhymed or drawn since mandatory 5th grade art class who through his pervasive knowledge of art history, is considered an expert appreciator? Or is it the kids like me, who have a full outline for a fantasy series but without the god-gifted talents of composition who reveres those legends like J.R.R Tolkein? All of our opinions should be considered, but only those culturally accepted are heard.

Some people do not like video games- they are a waste of time, physically. Some people do not like art- it is just as much a waste of time, physically. We as humans need to waste time in creative ways. We appreciate what humans can do besides build sky scrapers and powerful calculators and realize that there is more to life than procreation and financial success. What is scary is when people like Steve Wiebe or ambitious artists aspire to be the best at wasting time or allowing us to waste time. When gamers sabotage one another’s scores or rich kids from NYC spend hundreds of dollars to look like poor rebellious artists, we have a problem. Gamers and artists who try and escape the competitive world, actually play the game of relative power (see Kintex’s Theory of Relativity Part One) and do not embody the essence of creative entertainment.

People need to look at video games and art in a similar way. You may wear some article of clothing from the 1860’s that looks absurd to most, to make a statement about who you are- an appreciator of the creative arts, but me wearing a shirt with the sigil of the horde (my faction in World of Warcraft) is just as much a statement of what I appreciate and should be treated as such. Yes, video games are addictive and serve no tangible benefit, but a binge museum goer is also no way to live life. Society still looks at them differently though.

Most of us are not artists, most of us are not video game designers. We are the appreciators and gamers who facilitate the furthering of these arts. What games we play are just as reflective of our creative processes as what art we like, and if done in moderation, games can be a stimulant for, critical and creative thinking (rules and fiction). To create these games is an art form and we gamers are not less sophisticated for appreciating them. Why I love this class is because I can have a lengthy talk about Master Van Goh followed by a lengthier one on Lord Voldemort.

I am an artist. I am a gamer. I am an appreciator of the arts.

“Humans are body and soul. Brains are pragmatic and creative. We are judged and classified by our bodies and pragmatism to fit an ideal. We must stop judging and classifying soul and creativity. There are no ideals just perceptions. In art, majority should not rule.” – Kinetix

– Kinetix


People have long debated the idea of videogames being a form of art. Many have strong opinions one-way or the other. I on the on the other hand, believe that videogames are both.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” In my opinion, it is hard to deny that the creators of a game like LOTRO were artists. It takes true artistic vision to be able to create a world so beautiful and so detailed. Purely by the definition of art one can see the fictional world of LOTRO is artwork. Creating it absolutely took creative imagination and it is quite aesthetic. It has become pretty widely accepted that video is a form of art of why would the LOTRO world not be considered as such?

Is the playing of a videogame a form of art? This is where the question gets trickier to answer. When a game has very specific rules, and the player strictly follows those rules, the player is not an artist.  If anything, they are more of a mathematician. Simply doing moves like they are inputs into a formula. However, when the gamer decides to go beyond the basic necessities to complete their task, they can become an artist. When they invest themselves in the quest and the different ways they could go about their tasks the gamer becomes the artist.  And what of art’s ability to bring about an emotional response in the gamer? That too is dependant on the gamer and how much they invest in the game. In fact, in some cases games can change a gamer’s total outlook. War games can make a gamer view real life war in a different way. Playing can give gamers a new appreciation for the job of soldiers. War for trivial reasons like seen in games can make real war seem pointless. However, when gamers are only invested enough to fulfill the minimum requirements to advance, there is no chance that they are affected emotionally by the game.

So are videogames art? In their basic form, as they stand without the gamer, I would say no.  Despite the fact the imagery is art, the rules and coding in the game make the game too stagnant and inflexible to be. If the game becomes too much about the science that makes it work, it takes away from the artistry. However, with the right gamer, the videogame can become more than the coding. It can be appreciated emotionally and for its imagery and therefore becomes art.


It’s impressive, but still not art

With the game industry expanding at an incredible rate, it is now a challenge to identify how much respect the creators and designers get in comparison to people who create other forms of media.  Some may argue that the designer of an immensely popular game should get as much respect for his work as James Cameron gets for his blockbuster films.  In reality, however, there is still an impression with the general public that video games are a somewhat juvenile form of media.  This is why they do not receive as much exposure as some other forms of media, and as a whole are not considered “art” in the same way a captivating movie or a classic novel is.

The definition of art is very broad, and can stretch to encompass many things such as: painting, sculpture, architecture, writing, film, etc.  When I look down this list, however, I am not inclined to put games in with the rest of these examples for the following reason.  Let’s take Assassin’s Creed II, set in renaissance Florence, Italy.  (I apologize for continuing to bring this game up in my posts, but it’s just a great example of everything).  A beautifully done digital reconstruction of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) is part of the world within the game:I think you’ll agree that it’s incredibly well done.  Some may say that this is art, but when you consider the effort and the time required to build the cathedral in real life (approximately 140 years), it is obviously a much more impressive feat than constructing something digitally.

I do realize that countless hours are put into the development of a video game, but the problem is that the general public do not universally respect the gaming genre, making it difficult to call it an art form when the group of people that it appeals to is still so small.