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the artistic and communicative function

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  • Lewis Pulsipher
    To me, games are models of something, not a medium for conveying meaning and significance. If, say, the model is history, then the players may learn
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 2, 2011
      To me, games are models of something, not a medium for conveying "meaning" and
      "significance." If, say, the model is history, then the players may learn
      history (a form of meaning). And they can learn a variety of other things from
      games. But this is usually a byproduct of the interest in the game, not the
      purpose of the game.

      My usual response to questions about games as art is, of course games are art
      (though not Art)--but the players don't care.

      Perhaps "Artists" create Art largely for themselves, so that we can think about
      something "meaningful" or "significant". I create games for other people. In
      most cases, the ultimate test is whether people like to play the game. If I can
      make a five hour game that people willingly play more than five hundred times (I
      have), then I've certainly succeeded.

      Ian Bogost is quoted as saying, "Art is about changing the world; entertainment
      is about leisure." In that sense, virtually no games are Art, they are
      entertainment, and in a short definition I would not try to reflect the (rare)
      possibilities for Art.

      Big video games seem to be designed by committee, with all the problems of
      committees. In most cases, the person listed as "designer" has no more than
      (say) 25% influence on the result, the rest coming from the many other people
      involved (up to and including the publisher). Small video games offer a higher
      percentage, and tabletop games enable 80% to nearly 100%.

      In cases where the designer can create the prototypes himself (tabletop games,
      simple video games), there is no formal writing other than to write the rules
      (tabletop). Yes, most designers write notes to begin with, and those notes
      guide the creation of prototypes, but the prototypes are the "meaning", not the
      writing.

      Games existed long before they were software. Long descriptions of a game are
      only required as part of a large software project, and are not inherently
      necessary to creation of a game. The game must speak for itself, the
      descriptions do not.

      Individuals can motivate themselves to create Art, not Product, when making
      their own game; but most people on a large video game project are not making
      *their* game, they're being paid to make someone else's game, so it's not
      surprising that Art doesn't come into their calculations. And when the entire
      team collectively "designs" the game, almost inevitably there is no thought
      about Art, as no one really feels authorship.

      Lew Pulsipher
    • Brandon Van Every
      ... What is the purpose of a book? or a film? ... purpose. A friend of mine recently explained that books are regarded either as literature or genre, with
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 2, 2011
        On Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 8:00 PM, Lewis Pulsipher <pulsiphl_2000@...>wrote:

        >
        >
        > To me, games are models of something, not a medium for conveying "meaning"
        > and
        > "significance." If, say, the model is history, then the players may learn
        > history (a form of meaning). And they can learn a variety of other things
        > from
        > games. But this is usually a byproduct of the interest in the game, not the
        >
        > purpose of the game.
        >

        What is the purpose of a book? or a film?


        >
        > Ian Bogost is quoted as saying, "Art is about changing the world;
        > entertainment
        > is about leisure." In that sense, virtually no games are Art, they are
        > entertainment, and in a short definition I would not try to reflect the
        > (rare)
        > possibilities for Art.
        >
        > The book publishing industry does seem to have boundaries regarding
        purpose. A friend of mine recently explained that books are regarded either
        as "literature" or "genre," with the latter being "merely" for
        entertainment. She has written a work of post-apocalyptic fiction and finds
        that it is falling through the cracks of classification, at least as far as
        publisher rejection letters.

        The film industry does not clearly have boundaries of purpose. I am
        inclined to think that the difference between films and games in this
        regard, is merely historical maturity.

        >
        > Games existed long before they were software. Long descriptions of a game
        > are
        > only required as part of a large software project, and are not inherently
        > necessary to creation of a game. The game must speak for itself, the
        > descriptions do not.
        >
        > That's a half-decent point. The complexity of a tabletop wargame with
        cardboard counters is sufficient to engage many people. Thus, a prototype
        of a computerized version of such a game doesn't require much to communicate
        its substance. However, games have potential quite beyond these simple
        historical models of games. That's why I say it is only a half-decent
        point.


        > Individuals can motivate themselves to create Art, not Product, when making
        >
        > their own game; but most people on a large video game project are not
        > making
        > *their* game, they're being paid to make someone else's game, so it's not
        > surprising that Art doesn't come into their calculations. And when the
        > entire
        > team collectively "designs" the game, almost inevitably there is no thought
        >
        > about Art, as no one really feels authorship.
        >

        Perhaps games are a victim of their flexibility. Too many stakeholders. I
        wonder how the cinematic notion of a "Director" emerged.


        Cheers,
        Brandon Van Every


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • TAZ
        Just to throw a test case or two out there... Is the ending song of Portal art? What about the musical score in the Mass Effect or Uncharted series? -- TAZ
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 3, 2011
          Just to throw a test case or two out there...

          Is the ending song of Portal art? What about the musical score in the Mass Effect or Uncharted series?
          --
          TAZ
        • Brandon Van Every
          ... I Googled for portal ending song and found it on YouTube. My opinion is, musically it s crap. It s totally saccharine and the author wasn t trying to
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 3, 2011
            On Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 11:27 AM, TAZ <tzircher@...> wrote:

            >
            >
            > Just to throw a test case or two out there...
            >
            > Is the ending song of Portal art?
            >

            I Googled for "portal ending song" and found it on YouTube. My opinion is,
            musically it's crap. It's totally saccharine and the author wasn't trying
            to do anything other than the most exceedingly obvious thing that came to
            mind. Lyrically, it's comedic. It satirizes the plot structure and end
            results of most save-the-world games. As such it strikes me as somewhat
            more intelligent than what usually goes into such games. However, I
            personally think any popular Weird Al Yankovic song is better executed. Are
            Weird Al's songs Art with a capital "A" ? I don't think most culture snobs
            think so, but it's probably worth deconstructing why.

            What about the musical score in the Mass Effect or Uncharted series?
            >

            Took an earful of various Mass Effect music on YouTube. It's "decent
            music," but by the standards of classical music it's not particularly
            surprising or remarkable music. Compare to Modest Mussorgsky, Gustav Holst,
            or Antonin Dvorak. So for me this begs a question, does music have to be
            particularly startling, novel, or well executed to be "Art" ?

            The Uncharted theme music is again, "decent music," but it sounds like
            pretty much any generic Hollywood soundtrack. These don't ping my
            Art-O-Meter.

            From the above observations, I propose that "Art" is partly defined by the
            expectations of the audience. Same-old-same-old isn't Art, it's Product.


            Cheers,
            Brandon Van Every


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Brandon Van Every
            ... I would also add to this the verdict of history. http://www.pandora.com/music/composer/Modest+Mussorgsky Although not professionally trained as a
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 3, 2011
              On Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 12:36 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...> wrote:
              >
              > Took an earful of various Mass Effect music on YouTube.  It's "decent
              > music," but by the standards of classical music it's not particularly
              > surprising or remarkable music.  Compare to Modest Mussorgsky, Gustav Holst,
              > or Antonin Dvorak.

              I would also add to this the verdict of history.
              http://www.pandora.com/music/composer/Modest+Mussorgsky

              "Although not professionally trained as a composer, Modest Mussorgsky
              (1839-1881) was crucial in developing a distinctly Russian musical
              style. His lack of formal instruction and his rejection of European
              models led him to create music of such startling originality that
              after his death, many of his works were "corrected" by more
              conventional composers. The difficulties of his personal life
              prevented him from composing full time, and he died young, leaving a
              small but hugely influential body of work. He is best known for the
              piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition, the tone poem Night on Bald
              Mountain, and the opera Boris Godunov. ~ Stephen Eddins, Rovi"

              History may not be entirely fair to the living; for instance, consider
              Van Gogh during his lifetime. However, history raises questions:
              where does this "art" sit in comparison to all that has gone before,
              all that is relatively well known, and all that is valued in a given
              culture?


              Cheers,
              Brandon Van Every
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