Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is The Games/Art Debate Possibly Moot?

In my previous post, I simply uploaded a discussion thread from another website in which I argued that Roger Ebert was correct in saying that a game will never be art. I have perfectly defined what I mean.

A game is a rule set. That's all. It is a rule set applied to corporeal things. Checkers is a rule set applied to small plastic disks and a board. Checkers is not the disks and board themselves. Halo is a rule set applied to digital information and a controller. It's remarkable how this comes back to Wittgenstein so well, because he used this very example in Philosophical Investigations. But where Wittgenstein was concerned with the absolute meaning of the word game, I am only interested in the usage of the word that applies to the sorts of games that we're discussing. Video games must have rules. Truly, the very fact that they are programmed requires underlying rules for the programming itself to work.

So, in this sense, of course games can't be art of any kind, because that's all a game is: rules applied to something. Those rules can be part of art, but not art themselves. A decent example is the game A Force More Powerful, where you overthrow governments with peaceful demonstrations. The game is nothing amazing. It's essentially a real-time-strategy game where you use protesters instead of tanks. But the message the game carries is arguably art.

So now I come to the crux of my post; video games are a medium almost beyond comparison. As technology advances, the rules will always be there, but the experience will become ever-more immersive, allowing for art to come forward. The game is not the art, because the game is not part of the expression, but after awhile, does it become moot?

What I mean to say is, take a sculpture made of stone. Now take a sculpture made of polygons. One is a digital simulacrum, but is no less artistic. The process of creation is identical, only the material has changed. A virtual sculpture can be just as artistic as a real one. The same goes for music in a game, or paintings, or dialog. The rules, and thus the game are not art, but once we get to a point where everything in the game is art, does it become pointless to distinguish between games not being art and games being filled with art? Does it just become more efficient and more sensible to say that the games are art?

I am actually inclined to say so. I consider it beyond contest that rules cannot be art, and as such games cannot be art. But if everything to which the rules apply are art, we might as well not split hairs and just call the game art.

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