BBC Debate: Games Aren't Art ... Yet

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I think you need two realize two things: While I understand where he's coming from (and would agree that some games are not art... Battlefield 3 is most definitely NOT ART), some games are indeed art. Limbo is a classic example, but I've had other games such as The Witcher, Mass Effect, KOTOR, etc. (mostly RPG series) make me think in ways that he says art should. Games from nonRPG genres would be some horror games (such as Amnesia), Heavy Rain, and there's a few FPS'.

But I also think that the way in which "art" applies to gaming will be different from how it applies to other medium.

As for whether or not games should aspire to becoming art, I think it's something that should be allowed but not every game should care. Saints Row the Third arguably doesn't care (and probably shouldn't). The Elder Scrolls, Heavy Rain, Limbo, and other similarly minded games definitely should.

Sure they are, they convey story, atmosphere and point of view. Through use of multiple elements both audiologically and visually. Games are art, no matter how silly.

The Art label matters for legal reasons that were explained at length during the entire US Supreme Court fiasco.

That said, I've thought for a while that the definition of art needs to be more strictly nailed down.

The guy making this arguement speaks from the perspective that art has to have meaning that causes you to evaluate the world differantly. That's not true, especially when it comes to visual arts, the usage of light, color, texture, or achieving certain effects in new ways are all enough to define something as artwork. A statue of Zeus or a painting like The Mona Lisa are cool to look at, but don't inherantly cause you to question the nature of reality.

Now I agree with him when it comes to stories and how literature can be considered artwork.

I think video games occupy a certain space similar to movies, where the storyline might make it "art" if it's unusually profound or thought provoking, much like a book. A game could also be considered art for how it achieves certain effects, sort of like how various movies that are as entertaining or profound as watching paint peel can be considered high art due to the way they are shot, or the way sound is used in specific scenes. Indeed entire films are created to show off bizzare feats of technical and cinematic wizardry rather than to be enjoyed as films.

It can be complicated, but I think we're getting to the point where what constitutes artistic merit should be somewhat formalized, probably by the medium. I think a book and a sculpture can both be art, but achieve that differantly. The problem with art is that we try and lump it all together and it becomes incredibly nebulous as a result, when it really needs to be more formally broken down into catagories... even if that does lead to some things that were formely viewed as great works of art being reduced to a bit of creative kitsch retroactively. One of the reasons attempts to define artwork have failed is because of a sort of seniority system.

It's really not fair to just throw all games into the same pile and say it's all entertainment and nothing more.

Though I do agree some are there just to entertain. Just like some movies entertain and some tell a deep, emotional, impacting story.

For example - (film) Transformers - This is NOT art. It's just an excuse for explosions and big
robots. Anyone who wants to try explain the story go ahead.

(film) Lord of The rings - This IS art, in every sense of the word.

(game) Mass Effect - ART. So much detail and attention went into crafting
this world and the people who inhabit it. How can you deny
the artistic value?

(game) Call of Duty- I might get some hassle for this but in my honest opinion
this is just created as a base for entertainment. The story
is there, sure. But it's just so forgetable and generic. I
think we all know people want it for it's longer lasting
and more entertaining multiplayer.

Nothing built by Anish Kooper ever made me question my place in the universe but people like calling it art anyways. This whole debate has been going on to long, lets just let people call it whatever they want and move on.

I have to say, he is pretty off on this one. We have had games that asked profound questions since the mid-80's. Sure, there was only 1-2 that did, but they existed, and there numbers have been ever increasing since then. I can name a dozen of the top of my head right now.

Why are we using Minecraft as an example as art? We might as well of pointed at Call of Duty and asked if that was art as well.

We have to search deeper. Think Killer7, ICO, Catherine, etc. I think that the major critics aren't accepting games as art because the games that might actually be art by their definitions are under their radar.

Most of us consumers don't treat games like art regardless if it's technically artistic. That's probably what all the fuss is about. 13 year old boys wouldn't know what art is even if the Mona Lisa slapped them in the face, it's just a tool to them.

If games are not art, neither are movies or books/comics.
Its as simple as that.

zehydra:
that's bull, entertainment IS art

That is a bit subjective.

Some people, (such as my self) that all things made to entertain are art, weather they are bad or good.

However, he thinks that art has to make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. That would make Clock Work Orange art in his eyes, but disallow, say... the King's Speech.

Although, I do disagree with him and their have been games that made us question our selves.

Bioshock on the nature of how much one really has on control in ones life, and Shadow of the Collassus on how far one should go for love.

Grey Carter:
Though the games-as-art debate remains as popular as ever, you do have to wonder if there's any point to it. "Art," both as a concept and a definition, is often arbitrary and nebulous, there will never be any real consensus on the matter. A far more interesting question is why acquiring the "art" label, a label you'd be sharing with such luminaries as Tracey Emin, matters to the gaming community in the first place.

Because the sooner games are recognized as a legitimate medium for artistic expression, the sooner we'll get better games.

Really, I don't think it's the public we need to convince that games are art, I think it's the gaming community itself. There is so much potential within games that is not being tapped because developers are content with just pumping yet another FPS with 'splosions, gore, maybe some zombies thrown in, but never developing those ideas further. Sure, those 'splosions, gore, n' zombie games are fun and all, but there's no reason why we shouldn't demand more from this medium.

To go "oh, why does it matter if they're art? Just have fun!" (on a gaming centric site like The Escapist no less) is just undermining the whole potential that they have to be more than just fun. There are ideas that have yet to be tapped, that have yet to even be considered because developers just end up making your standard fare of games.

It's just a shame when passionless crap like this can be made, and even more depressing when crap like that is blindly accepted as "whatever, just a game." Games can be more than that, and there's no reason why a developer can't put in the effort to at least not put up that kind of stuff.

Therumancer:
The Art label matters for legal reasons that were explained at length during the entire US Supreme Court fiasco.

Of course, he is in the UK, so they would not be in effect of any definition of what is and is not art.

If people would actually adhere to the strict definition of art then we could get rid of this pretentious bullshit about media needing to be cultured, sophisticated or meaningful to be classified as art.

Art is defined in the dictionary as: "Anything arranged in such a way that it influences the senses, emotions, or intellect."

Graphics: Our sense of sight is being influenced by the environment and the characters in the game.

Sound: We hear the music, environment, and the characters.

Gameplay: This requires your input to control so your intellect is being challenged in some sense.

Story: This can obviously affect all 3 and can influence the other elements of the game as well.

With this in mind every video game by the strict definition of the word is obviously art. A great video game is one that challenges all 3 of those guidelines at once. What I am getting at is that art can be average or even bad, truly good art will affect you on a far deeper level than normal art would.

Grey Carter:
BBC Debate: "Games Aren't Art ... Yet"

image

Ekow Eshun, former director of the UK's Institute of Contemporary Arts, doesn't think games are art right now but he sees their potential.

Come on, people. This is art 101 stuff. A drawing on a paper napkin is technically "art" - there is absolutely no question that games are art.

The question is; is it art that is important to you? Is it art that you appreciate? The answer to THAT might be no, but again, as anybody who has taken a basic intro to Art class can tell you - yes, games qualify as art. So does the crayon drawing your 6 year old made and brought home to you, and stick figures cavemen drew on cave walls.

It might not be art that is important to you or art that you appreciate; but by every definition of the word games are definitely art.

Not G. Ivingname:

zehydra:
that's bull, entertainment IS art

That is a bit subjective.

Some people, (such as my self) that all things made to entertain are art, weather they are bad or good.

However, he thinks that art has to make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. That would make Clock Work Orange art in his eyes, but disallow, say... the King's Speech.

Although, I do disagree with him and their have been games that made us question our selves.

Bioshock on the nature of how much one really has on control in ones life, and Shadow of the Collassus on how far one should go for love.

The mona lisa does not make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. I am quite sure that he would not go so far as to say that the Mona Lisa isn't art.

The reason the mona lisa is art, is because it is a man-made thing which is designed to instill emotional feed-back on the viewer.

zehydra:

Not G. Ivingname:

zehydra:
that's bull, entertainment IS art

That is a bit subjective.

Some people, (such as my self) that all things made to entertain are art, weather they are bad or good.

However, he thinks that art has to make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. That would make Clock Work Orange art in his eyes, but disallow, say... the King's Speech.

Although, I do disagree with him and their have been games that made us question our selves.

Bioshock on the nature of how much one really has on control in ones life, and Shadow of the Collassus on how far one should go for love.

The mona lisa does not make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. I am quite sure that he would not go so far as to say that the Mona Lisa isn't art.

The reason the mona lisa is art, is because it is a man-made thing which is designed to instill emotional feed-back on the viewer.

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, WE DO NOT KNOW.

Art's definetion is as subjective as art itself.

Not G. Ivingname:

zehydra:

Not G. Ivingname:

That is a bit subjective.

Some people, (such as my self) that all things made to entertain are art, weather they are bad or good.

However, he thinks that art has to make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. That would make Clock Work Orange art in his eyes, but disallow, say... the King's Speech.

Although, I do disagree with him and their have been games that made us question our selves.

Bioshock on the nature of how much one really has on control in ones life, and Shadow of the Collassus on how far one should go for love.

The mona lisa does not make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. I am quite sure that he would not go so far as to say that the Mona Lisa isn't art.

The reason the mona lisa is art, is because it is a man-made thing which is designed to instill emotional feed-back on the viewer.

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, WE DO NOT KNOW.

Art's definetion is as subjective as art itself.

It is not totally subjective. Nobody would agree that ONLY cheese sculptures are art, and nothing else is. (Anybody who would be is either joking, insane, or high)

zehydra:

Not G. Ivingname:

zehydra:

The mona lisa does not make us look into ourselves and ask deep questions. I am quite sure that he would not go so far as to say that the Mona Lisa isn't art.

The reason the mona lisa is art, is because it is a man-made thing which is designed to instill emotional feed-back on the viewer.

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, WE DO NOT KNOW.

Art's definetion is as subjective as art itself.

It is not totally subjective. Nobody would agree that ONLY cheese sculptures are art, and nothing else is. (Anybody who would be is either joking, insane, or high)

The art world has had some weird things be considered "art." One time, their was a scuplture that was on a plinth. The face was rejected, instead they wanted the PLINTH. Their been such a problem of police throwing away piles of "trash" that turned out to be art pieces that some art filled cities have to train their police forces how to tell the difference. Also Human Centipede.

Hey, he's better than the people who scream games will never be art.

Not G. Ivingname:

Therumancer:
The Art label matters for legal reasons that were explained at length during the entire US Supreme Court fiasco.

Of course, he is in the UK, so they would not be in effect of any definition of what is and is not art.

I would be very surprised if the UK does not have legal protections of artwork similar to those of the US, even if not identical. As a result the label still probably matters which is why it's worth discussing in the UK.

I didn't intend my statement to imply that the US rulings mattered there, but simply to make an analogy to why it's an issue. I'd imagine the same basic logic applies there as here.

I...kind of agree. Not everything has to be high art, y'know. Sometimes it's good to just turn off your brain and enjoy. Granted SOMETIMES is the key word there, but even so, not every game has to be some deep, philosophical issue or the piece that starts the revolution.

I applaud the BBC for actually approaching this maturely. I realize that may not be saying much since they're only being compared to Fox News, but even so.

"Art" is a buzzword that intellectuals who think that they own a monopoly on meaningful thought use to explain why what they find to be aesthetically pleasing is more valid than what you do. No piece of music, no drawing, no writing, and certainly no game has ever actually diminished in quality because some pompous shits who get paid way too much to pontificate about nothing important "aren't ready" to call it art. Just saying that sounds asinine. I'm indifferent towards whether or not games are art. I always will be, but I'll always play them. I frankly don't see any reason to be anything more than indifferent towards these people.

The problem with the "It's just entertainment" line is how it opens the door to draconian censorship as what is to be lost? IAs far as they are concerned. It is after all "just entertainment" nothing of artistic worth is lost by government bodies throwing their weight around making demands of "how they can entertain" rather than the artist's artistic vision.

This is typical of Britain, as opposed to America where the burden is on the establishment to prove that it is obscene - of no artistic worth - to be possibly worthy of any sort of censorship. In the UK it is the other way, only the highest art is immune from censorship and it is the burden of the creators to prove that.

Therumancer:

Not G. Ivingname:

Therumancer:
The Art label matters for legal reasons that were explained at length during the entire US Supreme Court fiasco.

Of course, he is in the UK, so they would not be in effect of any definition of what is and is not art.

I would be very surprised if the UK does not have legal protections of artwork similar to those of the US, even if not identical. As a result the label still probably matters which is why it's worth discussing in the UK.

I didn't intend my statement to imply that the US rulings mattered there, but simply to make an analogy to why it's an issue. I'd imagine the same basic logic applies there as here.

No, since the UK doesn't have a constitution, and only a very weak Bill of Rights that had parts already disregarded (such as the right to bare arms).

MASTACHIEFPWN:
Of coarse they are Art right now, Just not super popular games, look at "The most anticipated game ever." It's call of duty Modern Warfare 3.
*Megafacepalm*

If we just invested our talent into more creative, less repititive media, then hell yeah it'd be better than that goddamn De Venci.

thats like saying films are not art because of transformers

The Great JT:
I...kind of agree. Not everything has to be high art, y'know. Sometimes it's good to just turn off your brain and enjoy. Granted SOMETIMES is the key word there, but even so, not every game has to be some deep, philosophical issue or the piece that starts the revolution.

I applaud the BBC for actually approaching this maturely. I realize that may not be saying much since they're only being compared to Fox News, but even so.

while you do have a point, I think that attitude could be somthing of an excuse to simply turn out a GTA or COD every year...rather than actually "try" at anything more than that

thats why it annoys me, because its a type of thinking that (in a way) discourages pushing the boundries...which IMO is one of the most important things when it comes to whatever "art" is

SwishiestB0g:
Honestly, go play the Witcher for a game that can make you question who you are, the world around you, humanity even. No good, evil, right or wrong.

Is it okay to kill something because it's not like you. Something we're struggling with even today, racial, societal and cultural acceptance. That game makes me think and question how we deal with those issues.

Though that's just my opinion.

Since the witcher is based off Andrzej Sapkowski novels and short stories, which aren't themselves considered art, so why would the game be? What is with the obssession of Games ARE art, anyone who say otherwise is wrong, what is so special to be labelled art? Is it because this is a gaming website and its the favoured media? All games have been inspired by books, films, music and art movements. I can honestly say I have not played a game which was completely original or moving which I haven't already seen elsewhere in another form.

This is a kind of arguement where fans of darts, snooker, curling call their activities sports. I still prefer Clarkson's definition of art "for something to be art, it must have no purpose other than itself, no function"

He's got a point. Of all the games that are out there, Braid and Silent Hill 2 are the only ones I can think of which you can actually debate about.

Jumplion:

Grey Carter:
Though the games-as-art debate remains as popular as ever, you do have to wonder if there's any point to it. "Art," both as a concept and a definition, is often arbitrary and nebulous, there will never be any real consensus on the matter. A far more interesting question is why acquiring the "art" label, a label you'd be sharing with such luminaries as Tracey Emin, matters to the gaming community in the first place.

Because the sooner games are recognized as a legitimate medium for artistic expression, the sooner we'll get better games.

Really, I don't think it's the public we need to convince that games are art, I think it's the gaming community itself. There is so much potential within games that is not being tapped because developers are content with just pumping yet another FPS with 'splosions, gore, maybe some zombies thrown in, but never developing those ideas further. Sure, those 'splosions, gore, n' zombie games are fun and all, but there's no reason why we shouldn't demand more from this medium.

To go "oh, why does it matter if they're art? Just have fun!" (on a gaming centric site like The Escapist no less) is just undermining the whole potential that they have to be more than just fun. There are ideas that have yet to be tapped, that have yet to even be considered because developers just end up making your standard fare of games.

The fact that the industry needs the approval of people who neither know nor care about games in order to improve is quite sad actually.

You know I really think people who believe games aren't art think that all games are like CoD or GTA. They seem to be the only games ever brought up in these arguments. If someone considers movies, novels ect as art then they should consider video games as art.

Grey Carter:
"I'd suggest that the things we really consider art are the things that allow us to ask profound questions about who we are, how we live and the state of the world around us. I think most games don't get to that place, and it's important to set that bar quite high."

I don't agree with this definition at all. Art doesn't have to ask profound questions, and art doesn't need to change lives with every piece. Demanding that is quite ridiculous and really narrows the scope of what can be considered art and what can not. Hell, by that definition I think we would define philosophical literature art more often than paintings. By that definition Discourse of Method (by René Descartes) is more of an artpiece than the Mona Lisa.

Art is subjective. The definition of art is subjective. To me, art can be something that's aesthetically beautiful but doesn't have a real meaning behind it. Concept Art is Art to me. Illustration is Art to me. Rock 'n' Roll is art to me. Entertainment in general is more or less an artform in itself.

RaNDM G:
He's got a point. Of all the games that are out there, Braid and Silent Hill 2 are the only ones I can think of which you can actually debate about.

I don't see how those two are even debatable, that is to say they are both works of art. Especially Silent Hill 2, which obviously neither of those two have played. That game is a work of art like no other I've personally experienced. And it came out ten years ago. Honestly, whenever I see this come up I think this: "Silent Hill 2. /tread"

Silent Hill 2 definitely meets that guys' criteria of asking all the big questions, and then some. Every single argument I've seen against games as art always say some variant of "no game has done X, so games can't be art." Silent Hill 2 has done everything that those arguments claim games haven't done, and did it in a way no other media could hope to ever reproduce. That's why Silent Hill 2 is a work of art, and it's the game that set the example for what games can be considered art. It's the game the proved games can be art, you could say.

Also, this:

Wuggy:

Art is subjective. The definition of art is subjective.

The_root_of_all_evil:
Portal
Audiosurf

"I'd suggest that the things we really consider art are the things that allow us to ask profound questions about who we are, how we live and the state of the world around us.

Which of these games haven't made you question some aspect of your life?

I have played those two games, and neither of them made me question something about my life.

However there has been no movie, painting, sculpture, song or game that ever has. That does not though mean I don't consider those things art, my definition of art is just different...

...which is apparently the case for everyone, so this whole "x is art" thing doesn't make much sense to me.

Has everyone forgotten The Void, Zeno Clash, Cargo! The Quest for Gravity, Pathologic, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, or, hell, even LSD. That gentleman should do some research on the games of actual artistic merit. Who in the hell thinks that Minecraft is art, you may as well say that a black canvas, or the standard square block of marble is art.

The artistic revolution has been going on for years, guys, and you've missed it.

Grey Carter:

The fact that the industry needs the approval of people who neither know nor care about games in order to improve is quite sad actually.

Unfortunately it is these kinds of people who set and enforce censorship and age restrictions, they ARE affecting our industry. We NEED to get them on board if we are to move forward.

We have the situation where the ultra-violent "torture-porn" Saw series have the same age rating as the Halo series.

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