Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Art & Gaming: And Never the Twain Shall Meet

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Ever since some European signed a urinal not with his
own name, the boundaries constituting what is art have
broken down, and there has been an explosion in types
of "experiences" accepted as legitimate art.

Many artists have come to include some interactive
element in their work.  For instance a few years ago,
Dred Scott Tyler lay an American Flag on the floor
of a gallery and invited people to walk on it.  Whether
they choose to do so or not, they were encouraged to
write their thoughts about the exhibit in a notebook,
which in turn functioned as part of the exhibition,
both in reading the comments or in leaving their own,
i.e., taking part as a co-creator in the artistic process.

Given the new flexibility in how art is understood,
it's not surprising that game designers might develop
pretensions to being artists, especially as a good
designer brings the same depth of imagination and
care for craft that artists bring to their creations.

Yet, it's also true that there are some crafts which
to be done well take the imagination of an artist,
but which in the end are incompatible with art.
Advertising is the primary example of a very
creative enterprise whose ends preclude it
from being art, since the two work at cross
purposes in the end.   Selling is not the end of art,
though it supports many an artist.

Tetris Study #1
© Hurt McDermott
Gaming is an enterprise which
has exploded into what seems
from the outside a Golden Age,
and certain programmers seem
intent on turning their games
into works of art.  Certain
non-narrative games might well
be used as tools in creating works
of art which have a random or
interactive component; but when
you get to games with a
narrative, the equation's different.

What does a narrative work of art do?  It takes
us through a specific sequence of events to
create an emotional experience the readers or
viewers would not have had by themselves.  In
doing so, art deepen the partakers' relationship
to their own emotions, leading us to fully live.
Fullness does not imply only pleasant exper-
iences, and a good novel or film often has an
ending we would not choose ourselves, if we
were controlling events.  The characters often
suffer or fail in ways which the partakers would
have avoided if given their choice.

Once you have a narrative experience in
which the partaker makes choices trying to
reach a desired outcome you have in essence
created an intellectual puzzle, not a guided
tour of particular experience.  You have in
other words:

A Game!
                                         •                                        ^•>

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