Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Art are Games [Or crawl back underground]

I've always had a fondness for video games.
I grew up to such classics as Lemmings and the Pokemon series, and the effects these had on my understanding of creativity were profound to the point that they have most definitely left their mark on my psyche. Call me cracked, but to this day I stand a firm believer in the idea that a video game can with all justification be considered a work of art.

Having being exposed to and experienced for myself many different art forms, it is clear to me that the concept of a video game bears all the hallmarks of creativity and ingenuity that gives it the right to stand next to other widely accepted genres of human artistry. Indeed, games can and do have the same qualities and attributes as other art forms! Like any visual art such as theatre or film, a video game combines a series of basic arts into a cohesive whole, each component complementing the other to create an overall effect. The basic setup most commonly consists of a visual representation of the game 'environment', complete with background music, and in many cases, a story. What sets the genre apart from any other is its unique but essential attribute of requiring direct human interaction. Whereas a movie is something you watch, and therefore enjoy or appreciate by being affected in some way by what you see and hear, the video game also demonstrates these attributes but goes one step further: in addition to being a 'show', it gives you a certain degree of freedom to be part of that show. In other words, what happens in the game is directly affected by the player's interaction. Many games strive to use this quality to great effect. In this way we have an experience that draws the audience in like no other form of art can.

I think what makes it difficult for some people to accept is the fact that a game is, after all, a game. The older generation especially, in their unforgivingly stiff and grown-up ways, having been brought up in a world where there lies a strong distinction between what is considered 'mature' or 'sensible' and otherwise, find it particularly difficult to accept that something akin to a 'game', played for 'fun', can really be an exhibition of awesome beauty or the product of ingenious creativity.
I always feel rather grieved whenever I chance upon proponents of the opposition screaming out obscenities like 'its just a stupid game! (grahrahrahg)'. Once upon a time during one of my rather frequent bored episodes, I chanced upon a youtube clip depicting an aspiring and talented young pianist playing his own arrangement of a theme from a rather well-known title (among circles) of the Final Fantasy series of role playing games. Scrolling down to read the comments I was traumatically incensed on finding a comment from a nameless viewer (may they never be named) that said something along the lines of: "To think such a beautiful piece of music came from a stupid video game!"
Needless to say, assassins were dispatched the moment the comment was uttered.
Of course, like anything else video games are only stupid when they want to be. Compare them to songs sung by the tragically tone-deaf; the singing of the song is still an expression of art in the most trivial sense of the word, it's only not very artistic! 'Stupid' games have a parallel in music and film in that they are intended solely for hilarity or satirical purposes, as parodies and the like.

For some of us games have formed an important part of our childhood, giving us an appreciation for certain things we experience within them, and then when we 'grow up', so to speak, we move on to games with more 'mature' themes, or sometimes we even learn to appreciate new things about the games we used to play.
Of course that isn't to say there doesn't exist, like in any other genre, a certain very subjective standard that decides whether the specimen in question can really come under the banner of 'art'. In most cases a crudely drawn picture by a child in vibrant pastel of their dear but disproportionate mama and papa, in a 'mature' sense, is not. But the child is likely unaware of this, and with good reason feels immensely proud of the horrific doodle, all the while under the innocent impression that they could give Picasso a run for his money.

I also suspect there is a certain old-fashioned attitude that if something is 'fun' in the childish sense of the word, it is therefore too immature to be considered a cultivated art-form, too simple to be the product of painstaking thought and technique. Do these 'grownups' who go to concerts and gallery exhibitions, go expressly in order to evaluate the technical prowess of the artistry on exhibition? Of course not. They also go on the basis that they want to enjoy themselves, and though they might not admit it--they're really just having fun.

But in the end, games are actually games, and some people play them only as such: to kill time or for a bit of fun and hilarity. Its the same as anything else: to break the monotony of laying brick and mortar, builders have music blaring away while they work. Taggers roam the city at night waiting to give some old lady's fence a new coat of paint. Root up that fence in the morning and dump it in an a gallery somewhere, and there is bound to be someone who doesn't see why it shouldn't belong. In the same way, just as there is every reason why a game wouldn't be called art, there is also every reason why it can, if it wants to be. Everything is relative.

I mentioned above that games from my childhood left a strong impression on me, and I don't see myself as all the more demented because of them. I haven't been corrupted or violated by playing video games. I'm not a serial killer and I didn't escape from an asylum. I did reasonably well at school, I still retain a healthy interest in other pursuits such as sport and music, and I can truthfully say that exposure to games has heightened my interest in other art forms such as drawing and writing just because of the fact that games have so much in common with these. One of the best stories I have ever come across was from a game. Some of the greatest music I have ever heard also came from games. Visual designs are among other things that have impressed me from within games.
Games don't have to be a trivial case of casting a die and winning. There are cases where losing would be far more--spectacular. There are stories to be told, characters to get to know and love, emotions to be experienced, and worlds to be saved. And magic pills to be munched (i.e. Pacman)--if you're into that sort of thing.

And if i haven't convinced you yet, the figures will.
In case you've been living under a rock (a very large rock), the video game is actually an industry. Yes. You read that right, an Industry. In this epoch there exist huge teams of artists and programmers working on single games, a feat easily comparable to the movie development process. Award winning composers are hired to score the music, stunt actors are hired to do motion capture, well-known voice actors are hired to impersonate the characters. Developers even go on paid holidays to scenic locations so that they can study foliage in order to create accurate representations in-game.
And you think films are big. In both 2005 and 2007, total revenue from games topped that of both the movie and music industries in the US. In 2008, the estimate of global revenue for games was somewhere between 30 to 40 billion USD, about the same as that raked in for music, and noticeably greater than the $27 billion global estimate for movies.
Don't believe me? Go on, look it up.
And there you have it, games are slowly taking over the world, whether you like it or not.

I for one, Love it.

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