Monday, 8 October 2012

Games is art

I offer you this vignette

Picture me, Jak Marshall, and the handsome figure I cut at at the bar of the V.I.P upstairs area of a well to do wine bar.  The ad revenue from this blog more than pays for my suit and drinks whilst my fame alone allows me to stride past any bouncer in any city in the world. Powerhouses of industry, art and academia are in attendance and I get talking to a smoky black haired woman in a cocktail dress to die for and hazel eyes that both swallow my soul and pierce it at once.

I'm so cool

 Before I can ask her name she crosses one leg over the other and asks me which video games I'm playing at the moment as my 'mains' . I take a deliberate (and dare I say suave) drink before calmly stating to her that I'm currently attempting a Dark Souls run as a Deprived class to keep my instincts sharp whilst also revisiting Sonic Adventure 2 Battle to really explore the early 3D era of Sega. She doesn't tell me her name but she responds by saying that she is replaying 'the best' Final Fantasy game in the series and shoots me a challenging look. There is a brief silence before I ask her which Guardian Forces (I'd be a Philistine to refer to them as 'summons' of course) she'll be attributing to each of the main characters. Next thing I know I'm in my bed with this woman smoking a cigarette while we snuggle for warmth under my Luigi's Mansion themed duvet. She tells me that her name is Zelda. We are in love. The End.

While the above scenario all sounds perfectly logical it rarely ever happens to anyone in this setting. The blissful feeling one has when someone they find attractive lets it slip that they are actually well versed in the language of gaming is enhanced more so by the rarity of these occasions. Also, the haunting feeling that so many more of these occasions have been missed plays a big role. Social media routinely asks people to submit their favourite movies, musicians and television shows to be audited by the society. This doesn't happen with video games and it really really should. Not only is the worldwide participation level of gaming at least on par with (arguably in excess of) cinema and literature as a leisure activity but it is also an art medium in its own right. Before anybody disagrees with me please read the following wrong arguments that you wrong people might give for your wrong opinion and see how wrong you are first. Thanks. If you believe I've straw manned this argument (I may well have done) then please step up and offer your two cents.

I couldn't find any pictures of Straw Men, just loads of scarecrows for some reason.

Gaming hasn't been around as long as TV, books or movies. -- First of all, art is art from the second it is created. It doesn't need to be hang around to be 'made' into art like some kind of Mafia promotion. Secondly, if you account for the time it took for movies and TV to become art forms at all compared to literature and then compare literature's rise to power relative to pictograms and drawings then one will quickly find that humanity is rapidly accelerating the pace at which it comes up with new art forms. By all logic if you believe that video games haven't been around long enough to be art, then one can hardly include movies and television  as art either. They're just too young! See? Sounds stupid doesn't it?

It's a substitute for a real experience (Guitar Hero vs. learning guitar). -- All art is an experience. There is also this idea that people record or imagine experiences that they or someone else (real or not)    may have had and put these ideas into a form that can be then consumed or interpreted by a general audience. These 'substitutes' can come in the form of books, scripts and songs. Not everyone enjoys 'I Kissed a Girl' by Katy Perry because they can directly relate to a woman's bi-curious experimentation nor do they necessarily want that experience. It's just a thing that's there to be enjoyed or not. Furthermore, sports games such as FIFA and PES are popular because they play well and look good. People don't play FIFA to approximate the experience of playing football. They play FIFA to play FIFA.

It felt so wrong, it felt so right...

The interactive element makes it not art -- Utter rubbish. Video games are a revival of interactive art. Forum/improvised theatre still maintains a presence across the globe which dates back to ancient times. Crowd sourced projects also allow the creators and audience to be one and the same. Interaction also allows for unique new ways to induce emotions that are in part triggered by manipulating an interactive audience's expectations and desires of the medium of games. Even without the dramatic story telling elements being the main selling point, codes and engines are to a game as tools and materials are to artists. What even constitutes a 'game' is not exactly clear in the same way as defining 'art' is. A game can have goals and rules if it wants to but equally it is only bound by what can be imagined and constructed by its creators.  

This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of points but the gauntlet has been thrown down. Let the haters hate, doesn't stop them all from being wrong.