A more serious look at video games

Posts tagged art

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'The Year in ADHD' gaming

To be more specific: This is the first year that playing videogames has made me feel like I have ADHD. Nesting in front of the TV for a 40- to 80-hour run through The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword sounds more like exile than an excursion. The thing is, I no longer want to escape. I want to be fed a steady stream of data through a Wi-Fi antenna that is positioned as close to my brain as possible-which often turns out to be on my phone, a download service, or linked to in a blog. The stream has even infiltrated the way I play.

Wow. Reading this was kind of depressing. Why? To me, the art of video games is still in an embryonic stage. I personally see this trend of programmatic pandering that the author alludes to harmful to the evolution of the art. I have this sneaking feeling that appealing to the more unconscious, reward-driven aspects of the human-mind is proliferating throughout all of gaming, and it’s inexorably shifting the character of gaming away from all potential of art. Deliberate, unique and challenging interactive experiences are being eschewed for homogeneity and connection derived from the social Internet. The developers are following the money, obviously.

On this current trend line, gaming is becoming more of a meta-experience, where the experience is filtered through an abstract social prism; that is, you play the game first and foremost to share it, not experience it. In doing so, you never really truly experience anything at all. And now games are being made with this in mind! This, to me, aids in promoting an accelerated, impatient mode of being and thinking—what the author describes as ADHD—that is poisoning the well. From this nothing will grow, no art will come of it. Gamers will be stuck inside their skull-sized kingdoms, leaping from distraction to distraction at light speed—sated, content, and unchallenged. When I think of this reality, I feel a void, akin to a sinking feeling I get when I’m doing something and all of a sudden realize that what I’ve been doing is pointless.

True art needs space and time and deliberation—for both the designers and consumers. I feel like games as a viable art form are being undercut prematurely by this seemingly unstoppable cosmic expansion of short, nonnarrative socialized games and their gravitational influence.

Filed under gaming video games art

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Language and legitimacy

This really isn’t an earth-shattering insight, that language creates legitimacy. The author of this article argues, essentially, that games are not art and cannot be art because the community hasn’t created a mutually-agreed upon language that describes and analyzes games in a relatively meaningful way. We don’t “own” the language, so to speak. Rather, the language we have now relies too heavily upon previously established conventions and metaphors from other arts.

This very insight came to me a while back, and I think it’s a commonly accepted postmodern notion of art. It’s the simple idea that there is no or there are very few intrinsically objective aspects of art. In other words, objective art is not created by an artist—it is defined by critics. And this process of definition is a quasi-Darwinian process where the best ideas of a particular art win through various, complexly-interacting means. Objective art is one of the many social contracts that are negotiated. To me, this seems trivial now.

Right now, as the author argues, we don’t have a satisfactory framework to work with. I would say a lot of thoughtful gamers have various abstract concepts regarding the value of games trapped in their heads, but they have no way of expressing those. They lack the language. And, if that’s the case, you have to create the language yourself and put it out there, and build on what others have put forth.

One of my goals I’ve had for this blog has been to legitimize through language—although I haven’t exactly gotten around to doing that quite yet. However, I plan on starting another blog elsewhere where I just write down some thoughts and notes on different games, while attempting to build and use higher-level language and concepts. (Basically, I’m moving my commentaries to that blog, of which I’ve only written one so far on this blog.) I don’t have formal training in this regard, but I shall attempt it anyway. As for this blog, I hope to write more short essays than I have done previously. More on that later…

Filed under language art video games criticism game criticism postmodern

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Posting this here as a reminder to myself and a sort of preview of future essays:

  • some recent thoughts on the nature and criticism of art, and how it might apply to gaming
  • subjectivity as a harmful game design approach
  • gaming as a meaningful experience vs. gaming as a mechanical experience

Just for fun, here are some random topics I may write about eventually as well, either in essay form or embedded in commentaries: environmental narratives, importance of logical consistency in narratives and world design, the evocative power of quality character animations, the importance of melody-driven game soundtracks… and more.

Filed under essay game design video games gaming art narrative subjectivity