Art and Gaming
They will rot your brain. They will make you lazy. They will demagnetize your moral compass and turn you into a sociopathic monster. They will sabotage your ability to function in the real world. Sound familiar gamers? I think so.
Artists aspire to create, and create differently. They differ from engineers only in that their creations are not tangible and thus have no clear physical benefit on the world at large. Blessed with incredible talent, artists are able to create creatively, meaning that they have the ability to construct, draw or recreate things right from their mind. These powerful aesthetic or sensory experiences are utilized by the artists as a from of expression, but also to stimulate a different part of the appreciator’s mind, the creative aspect. We exalt the masters of creation and re-creation for their abilities to understand what we would like to see, or piece together thousands of sounds into a brilliant symphony that makes us recall a powerful memory.
Why then are video game designers not artists? They too create worlds with no tangible benefits. They too have the unique talent to take what is in their mind and recreate it in a medium for us to walk and adventure through. These worlds provide powerful and often enjoyable experiences through music, narrative, graphic design and interactivity. As those of us who have tried game design, and all of us who will later this semester, it is hard- very hard, and there is a huge difference between an excellent game, and a really bad one. Video games stimulate a fantastical part of our minds, one that allows us to escape reality and play by rules in a “safe magic circle”. We encounter creatures, quests and lands that have been brought to life from people’s minds and feel strongly emotionally invested in our character’s successes and failures.
Just as artists used to have studios, with hundreds of apprentices working on one sculptor, does the chief game designer, who delegates but sees the full completed picture of his game not deserve the adjectives, creative, brilliant, or a master of his art? Are the intellectual challenges posed by a new rule, or a newly introduced ability that change the game and make we gamers think differently not stimulating? No, I do not believe that the person who writes code to create the bird nest behind one of Bilbo’s Trolls’ ear is an artist. However, the person who chose the music, envisioned the light poking through the trees, and a challenge worthy of being proud while passing through the area is. LOTRO may not be the best example because it is based off of a book, but the same holds true for may games such as World of Warcraft and even the creator of chess. That to understand human nature, the power of variables, rules, fiction, tone, setting and story is an art, and that this new art has champions who deserve to be famed as artists.
But who are those people who fame artists. The twenty year olds with the tight, off colored jeans, strange facial hair, tight shirts, cigarettes and some sort of hat, that we call “artsy”? Or the straight laced doctor, who hasn’t rhymed or drawn since mandatory 5th grade art class who through his pervasive knowledge of art history, is considered an expert appreciator? Or is it the kids like me, who have a full outline for a fantasy series but without the god-gifted talents of composition who reveres those legends like J.R.R Tolkein? All of our opinions should be considered, but only those culturally accepted are heard.
Some people do not like video games- they are a waste of time, physically. Some people do not like art- it is just as much a waste of time, physically. We as humans need to waste time in creative ways. We appreciate what humans can do besides build sky scrapers and powerful calculators and realize that there is more to life than procreation and financial success. What is scary is when people like Steve Wiebe or ambitious artists aspire to be the best at wasting time or allowing us to waste time. When gamers sabotage one another’s scores or rich kids from NYC spend hundreds of dollars to look like poor rebellious artists, we have a problem. Gamers and artists who try and escape the competitive world, actually play the game of relative power (see Kintex’s Theory of Relativity Part One) and do not embody the essence of creative entertainment.
People need to look at video games and art in a similar way. You may wear some article of clothing from the 1860’s that looks absurd to most, to make a statement about who you are- an appreciator of the creative arts, but me wearing a shirt with the sigil of the horde (my faction in World of Warcraft) is just as much a statement of what I appreciate and should be treated as such. Yes, video games are addictive and serve no tangible benefit, but a binge museum goer is also no way to live life. Society still looks at them differently though.
Most of us are not artists, most of us are not video game designers. We are the appreciators and gamers who facilitate the furthering of these arts. What games we play are just as reflective of our creative processes as what art we like, and if done in moderation, games can be a stimulant for, critical and creative thinking (rules and fiction). To create these games is an art form and we gamers are not less sophisticated for appreciating them. I can have a lengthy talk about Master Van Goh followed by a lengthier one on Lord Voldemort.
I am an artist. I am a gamer. I am an appreciator of the arts.
“Humans are body and soul. Brains are pragmatic and creative. We are judged and classified by our bodies and pragmatism to fit an ideal. We must stop judging and classifying soul and creativity. There are no ideals just perceptions. In art, majority should not rule.” – Kinetix