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Thread: Can computer games be art?

  1. #1
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    Default Can computer games be art?

    Played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas last night, which is amazingly fun (much more so than the bloated, stoopid Vice City). Set in Straight Outta Compton era LA, it's extraordinarily rich in observation- one of the characters (Ryder) is clearly Eazy-E, perpetually blunted, hunched up behind shades, nasty and spiky. The music is fantastic, one radio station seems to play nothing but James Brown and his funky people (Think, I'm Coming etc.), and you get Cypress Hill's How I Could Just Kill A Man too.

    But is it art? Many have pointed to the satirical or ironic qualities of the GTA games- a humorous shake-down of unrestrained capitalism. While this is true to a degree, it doesn't seem to really address their essence as games rather than fictions. Games only attain a real cultural importance after they are released, when the audience responds to it. I think if the mileu they create is consistent and provocative enough, it gives a chance to revisit, to reinvent cultural histories. For instance, and this is only a small reinvention, but a G-funk re-lick of The Message suddenly sounded impassioned and vital rather than just a lazy retread, when I was driving around (ahem) my 'hood.

    So computer games are inherently non-auteuristic, but this gives a consequet problem that they keep on pandering to the same violent, macho thrills. How can computer games break out of this comodifying cycle, I wonder?

  2. #2
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    Not to jump the gun on this (since this is my first foray into this entire subverse) or anything, but that question's pretty much over

    yep. they totally are. one of the big questions (still antinomial if you ask me but no one does) is whether they're more interesting in virtue of the narratives they have and that you participate in, or whether the mechanics of the game (the interactions, the engines, the nature of the genre and all) are more interesting. S'a big whole debate in video game academia, the narratologists versus the "ludologists" (ludo = game, apparently. don't know latin here, i'll stick to greek thank you very much).

    matteo bittanti (http://mbf.blogs.com/mbf/) is one dope foolio on the subject, the folks at www.insertcredit.com are also fairly visionary in their approach to these gems. much younger set than some of the blogosphere's greatest, and it shows, but damn if they hearts aren't in the right places.


    incidentally, katamari damashii (aka katamari damacy) is a wonderful video game that is very artistic. it's absurd, funny, gorgeously designed, very simple and absolutely entertaining. you're a tiny little spaceman pushing a ball trying to gather up material for your father to re-make the stars with. oh man it's great.

  3. #3

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    Of course, Out Run was High Art. Particualrly in the arcades, on the machines that swerved like a real car.

  4. #4
    be.jazz Guest

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    I retain a fondness for the insanely difficult (at least, for me as a kid) "Night Stalker" on Intellivision II. At the end, you faced an *invisible* robot.

    As for the thread's question, it seems fairly obvious to me that they can be works of art. There are the cinematic aspects (graphics, design, sound) but also the more purely gaming ones (gameplay) which allows games like "Tetris" or "Pac Man" to be great works of art, in a way.

  5. #5
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    my mates got that new gta. we were up till 5 last night playing it. i dunno if its art but its definitely fun.

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    There was a really funny quote once from Utah Saints which was quite similar- "I don't know if computer games are killing music, but they certainly delayed the release of our last single".

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    Thumbs down

    i picked up black and white a couple of years back under the assumption that it was "art", saw some really self-conciously rough-edged polygonal models theyd used and was sold on the look, first game i'd picked up in ages, and i was really bloody disappointed. actually no i was just bored to sobs.

    much more prepared to swallow the idea that GTA might be art, but when people say art in relevance to computer games, they tend to mean the same thing when they talk about 'art' movies. thats to say ponderous, bourgeois, 'sensitive', 'rich' 'full of meaning' blah blah blah you know what i'm on about etc.

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    yes, i'd say computer games are art. but you have to do the work. I love exploring finding desolate places in games, or just wandering. I loathe killing, or being killed, but i can be completely transported by a game. I get lost, i forget about myself, I become the chatacter. take from it what you want, there is potential for art in games. damn, I'd rather spend saturday afternoon driving around San Andreas than walking from room to room in a gallery I've already seen.

  9. #9
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    the games with the best possibility for being 'art' right now (lord knows this should change) are ones in which the way you play has a meaning that, unfortunately, is only consciously seen by fans of the style: i.e., metal gear solid's narrative and mechanics playing with everything from the the typical storyline of spy thrillers to the actual guidelines required by sony for playstation games (forcing the player to remove a controller triggers an error message in the game, but that is required to get through one particularly bizarre scene), or ikaruga, a space fighter shoot-em-up which seems just insanely difficult but pretty to me, but to fans of the genre, is more or less a beautiful poem about balancing a game for just the right amount of mental and physical torture and reward.

  10. #10
    be.jazz Guest

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    Yes, I really liked the first MGS. Also, the lesser-known Bushido Blade, a samurai fighting game in which one blow could kill and you limped if you got hit in the leg, etc. GTA is somewhat similar. That said, my favourite games are football games. The ISS series in particular.

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    captain easychord Guest

  12. #12
    be.jazz Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by captain easychord
    That's hilarious!

  13. #13
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    ahhhh,...............art...







    what you know about ips, we are the top boys in ips

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    Isn't this question as simple as to say that by the very nature of a game being a creation by humans with the multi-media design of light, colour, sound, texture etc etc - the very fact that it is ARTificial - it is constituted as art? Even if there was a game that paid little attention to sensory, textural detail it would still be classified as art.

    Art doesn't have to be a medium with certain prerequisites of a given context, ie as Matt says with typical 'artistic' sensibilities. Don't we know from the entire history of 20th century culture that anything is basically art? I know you all are probably aware of this but i think it is enough to render this question ridiculous.

    With the question of GTA, of course its friggin' art. Its created by visual design, the creators no doubt had to have some sort of artistic training in order for them to create it etc etc. The definition of 'Art' (notice the uppercase 'A') isn't a merely creation infused with bourgeois sensitivity, it's anything created by humans.The intension behind its creation - be it mind-numbing entertainment (video games) or thought-provoking richness in my opinion is completely irrelevant to its classification.

  15. #15
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    Art is expressing something. Not neccesarily an emotion but at least a feel, a theme. Entertainment and art are two completly different things.

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