Monday, August 15, 2005

Bloggers Are Not Authors

Take note:
Today's title is sarcasm on my part. Must look up the smiley for that sentiment.

According to some, videogames can never be art, and here's why.

Does anyone know any kind of possible way that people might arrive at what constitutes art and what is simply, um, not-art-but-kind-of-resembling-art?

Here's a hint . . . if something can be argued by lots and lots of different people over whether or not it could possibly be "Art", then it probably CAN be.

Videogames got goals. Paintings don't - or do they? Artist's intent is a goal. The artist wants you to get to a particular epiphany. If you don't, well . . . game over.

Poor analogy? Thickheaded videogame advocacy?

Arguing that videogames can't be art because they are too restrictive, then arguing that paintings are art precisely because they have the intention of restricting interpretation . . . what road is this?

Art must influence the viewer. By whose reckoning? Crucifixes in jars of urine compel no kind of unified view as far as I know.

A pool table - art? While not a hot debate, it is arguable. The design elements which make up its form, the ubiquitousness of tables - artsy, maybe?

Where a game such as pool might diverge from, say, Planescape: Torment, is in the latter's clear intent to evoke specific emotions in players. Pool, on the other hand, is an empty . . . pool . . . reflecting the emotions of its players - and soaking up their beer.

Which might be the divergence - is there deliberate focus to convey specific ideas or emotions? If so, should those be stamped with the Art seal of approval?

Videogames can be repeated, choices can be explored - and that is supposed to be a compelling example to restrict them from the category of art? Videogames do bind people to the consequences of their own actions, just in more discrete moments than some may find comfortable.

In fact, I reckon that these minor moments in which we repeatedly accept seemingly-meaningless consequences, these "little deaths", are a perfect reason to admit to videogames as artforms. By re-casting the notion of moral decision into playable fragments instead of a monastic life-long span, by forgoing rigidity for a fluid, ego-morphing experience, games can provide lasting impact on how people view themselves, essentially generating far-reaching consequence from moments of little consequence.

And what else in this world but Art could allow a statement such as that?

What to make of a text like Finnegan's Wake? I would maintain that content is derived from such a text by repeated explorations, much as a player might navigate a gamespace. The specific content is never actually altered from what is originally coded, but it is the striking interaction of thought that each specific person brings which informs the substance of the book as art. To some the book is a masterpiece of understandable incomprehensibility; To others, merely incomprehensible. Artist intent is notoriously puzzling, and any who claim some kind of ultimate key, to them I say - welcome back, Mr. Joyce, damn your eyes!

Tetris is artistic, in terms of design. Streamlined, simple to learn, immediately recognizable. But art? Impossible to tell the artist's intent. Of course, this makes it "Art" as much as any of Jackson Pollock's spastic paint-splatterings or the "ooh, colored boxes" approach of cubism.

Maybe I just don't "get" it.

A clear hole in the essay concerns gallery showings of art that beg for interaction. There are art pieces which demand buttons to be pushed, which take the viewer's own image and morphs it, which cry for participation and mass-interpretation.

The primary flaw in my argument is that the essay in question is mostly right, but only within its own stated definitions. And it's unclear what would be considered art by those definitions. They're just so strikingly procrustean. So, like, just paintings? But maybe not? Hardly convincing.

The essay's final argument is, well, strange. Games end, hence they are not art. But books end no matter whether we read them "correctly" or not. Movies end. Songs end. Art ends.

I know that this argument goes on and on. There are people that will maintain the stance that videogames cannot be considered art. There are people that maintain rap is not music. What is it to me? Why make a fuss at all?

The videogame industry and the players of videogames suffer from the prejudice of thinking of videogames as art. Maybe suffer is too strong a word. There are negative effects.

Because admitting that, at the very least, certain videogames can be art, provides them legitimacy as a medium. Legitimacy is important if we really care about choice in the industry. I realize that most games are filled with violent content - but do we wish the other extreme, games purged of anything that might deliver offense, stripped of any impact whatsoever?

There are people out there who feel that videogames are just as bad as cigarettes, alcohol and pornography - notably Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Think for a moment what he is saying. The notion is that videogames are poisons. They are devoid of any merit whatsoever. If you think that the stigma such labeling creates will be restricted only as it pertains to children, you might want to give the idea further consideration.

If we can't accept that some games are art, then the censors don't have to stop anywhere.

Keep in mind these are the same people that classify cryptographic materials as "munitions".

Oh, and just for the record, I really liked the site which contained the essay of which today's post was a criticism. So I'm going to put it up on the side.

1 comment:

Casey said...

From Stuart's article:
"It should be obvious to anyone with the remotest understanding of [videogames or art] that not only are videogames not art, they fundamentally can't be art."

Well then, I guess I better not argue with him. I wouldn't want to be exposed as someone who has no understanding of videogames *or* art. Its a good thing he warned me about that.

So let's look at sculpture. One person passes a sculpture on one side, another passes it from the other side. Neither one chooses to see it from the other side. They each have a very different experience. Therefore, not art. Wheee! This is fun.

Oh, but according to Stuart's account of human nature, nobody could possibly resist seeing it from both sides, so everybody's experience would be the same in the end. But that is, supposedly, the downfall of interaction. Now I'm confused :(