Sunday, 25 April 2010

Video Games and Art

The Talking Philosophy blog (see above link and linke at bottom of page) has recently posted on
the notion of video games and art. They have layed out the definition well. The point
is that video games are, analogically at least, similar to some other forms of art. Video
games having moving images, complex narratives, they utilise mimicry which Aristotle
thought was a key part of any art, music, sounds, sometimes plot. At base they require
both creativity and imagination on programmers parts to complete. On a surface glance, it would appear that video games can have a strange alchemy that blends all of these different
forms to together to create an artistic world. That's one side of it. On the other hand, video games are not analogical with much art, since as Talking Philosophy argues, art is to be experienced whereas video games are played. Thus, the video gamer participates by finishing a puzzle that is laid out in advance, rather than sensibly experiencing an artistic object. Kind of like a sophisticated paint by numbers then!

Any Denken?



  1. While intuitively I would say that a video-game is not Art I'm not really sure why.

    I like the passive/active distinction but when I think of works like Carsten Holler's installations, some of them are thoroughly interactive environments.

    It seems that normative definitions of Art are not as free in their inclusion as the Art scene has sought to be recently.

  2. An interesting, and ongoing debate in aesthetics, this.
    Some residual philosophical snobbery attaches to certain media forms--film still experiences this at times, and certainly tv and "new" media forms like gaming.
    If they contain the appropriate elements to be termed Art, and what these might be is, of course, open to debate, then I see no reason to deny that some video games can be accorded the status of art. To apply this term indiscriminately, however, is more problematic in my view. I have little direct experience of video games (though I have read about them in terms of aesthetics), but I am assuming that a game without complex narrative and certain aesthetic qualities would be out of the running? Like Space invaders, to use a silly example harking back to a long vanished era...

  3. What we have here, I think, is an example of the 'myth of the transparent artefact' - or the idea that we judge the significance of an artefact soley on the basis of what it immediately does. This is a mistake, I think; as it forgets that technologies form complex assemblages that togther form a social system.

    When viewed in this way we can see that video games are part of what Delueze termed 'the control society'. Although video games don't seem to function as instruments of social control, I think that if we place them in a wider social context we can see that they exercise control through a complex image flow. This flow of images looks like art, but it isn't because it functions in order to soothe and distract. Art on the other hand communicates meaning and requires attentiveness.

    Neil Turnbull

  4. I wonder what is the treshold which marks an internal shift which makes a craft into an object of art . Say for example in the case of video games is there something that can make it move from a simple and repetitive excercise into an art. This is often the case with other things. Different identities become worthy of artistic attention in their own right. We often hear of someone turning something into an artform. I'm just not sure where this happens with video games though. We often say that things become art when they attain a level of complexity, aptitude and sophisitication. There must be a shift in the level of complexity of an endeavour which shifts it from being just a craft to something more sophisticated, world-revealing and wide ranging. In the words Aristotle there must be some kind of coalescence between form and content and activity. Which is why I suppose Pele called soccer the beautiful game.

  5. I like Marcuse's idea that true art preserves 'inwardness' and thus maintains the possibility of thought. I am not sure that this applies to video games though!
    Art is in this sense a rendemptive force as inwardness serves as a bulwark against a society that increasingly adminsters thought and emotion.

    Neil Turnbull

  6. That's a nice way of putting it. Do you have a reference for the idea of the 'myth of the transperent artefact'? That sounds dead interesting.

  7. Looks like I might have coined an expression!

    The idea isn't mine though - it has its origins in the work of the social constructionists (especially their critqiues of 'black box' philosophical approaches to technology). See the work of Bijker and Michel Callon. Katherine Hayles also talks of 'self describing objects' (I am not sure where though, and I am not sure in what context).

    Neil Turnbull