September 2, 2001
5:42 PM   Subscribe

When will (or will) computer games begin to constitute art? And particularly, highbrow art? I've heard Myst described as the first "literary" computer game; I've played a few games with language well in the foreground, but is there anything out there that truly transcends the basic dorkiness of the medium? I don't imagine the mainstream industry would be cranking out challenging intellectual fare, but surely it exists somewhere?
posted by scissorfish (48 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There were times when the old Infocom games achieved the level of great art, often mixed with great comedy (which is no contradiction).

Some people think that the Babelfish problem in the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" game was the finest puzzle to ever appear in a computer game.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:46 PM on September 2, 2001

Although this is a complex issue, I'd say games will be art when they are accepted as such by critics, historians, the mainstream, whoever it is who decides when something is 'art.' There have been a few games already that in my mind could qualify as such. To self-link, I argued here that Silent Hill counts as one of them; I'd also say Shadow of Destiny, Deus Ex and NHL 94 make solid contenders. There are many more.

Also, let me get a little nit-picky and take issue with the idea that good games need to "transcend the basic dorkiness of the medium." I don't think there's anything fundamentally dorky about any medium – you are dealing more with cultural associations than characteristics of the form. I would say that great games get to the root of what it is to be a game – they don't need to transcend anything to succeed, they need to be themselves.
posted by D at 6:05 PM on September 2, 2001

I've heard Blue Ice described as a sort of surrealist art before. It's long out of print, and as far as I know one can only get copies on Ebay and Abandonware sites nowadays. On playing the game, I'd say it well fits its description.

I've had many interactive fiction games (mostly those rated 4 stars or higher here) move me greatly, sometimes almost to tears. Photopia and A Mind Forever Voyaging come to mind.

But anything close to art coming from the game industry nowadays? Nah. The industry's too stuck in a rut to do anything like that now.
posted by Theiform at 6:12 PM on September 2, 2001

This thread brings back long-lost childhood memories of hammering away on my ZX Spectrum trying to complete The Hobbit, which, whilst googling for that link, i found described as 'a must for all adventure freaks at it's time. i managed to complete it once, though it was damn hard to get in that boat!' I find myself left with the sunken feeling, looking at the blinding quality of the myst screenshots, that all those hours i spent as a kid trying to get in the damned boat were severely wasted. But that's normal... isn't it?. Thought so.

Thinking back.. What really did my head in about The Hobbit game was that once you thought you'd completed it you got hit with the absolute trauma of a fact that you had to retrace all your steps finding your way back to where the adventure began to consider it complete.
posted by Kino at 6:18 PM on September 2, 2001

Steven: I believe the Babelfish puzzle is infamous more for its sheer convoluted, frustrating, sublimely ludicrous sequence of solutions than for being actually good, per se. Unless you're a computergame sadomasochist. But maybe I'm just being picky.

On the subject of literary-ness and Myst, here is a group of people who are learning the game's invented language. Will this one day overtake Klingon...?
posted by kevspace at 6:36 PM on September 2, 2001

Why *should* games be art? Is chess art? Sure, there are some chess boards that are works of art, but not chess itself.

Personally I hate games like Myst that try to tell a story and prefer games that get out of the way and let me create my own stories.
posted by electro at 6:38 PM on September 2, 2001

Why can't chess be considered art?

Then again, I find art such a loaded term that I wouldn't mind at all if games were never thought of as such.

Idea for conceptual art piece: a chess set, hanging in a gallery. That'll show 'em!
posted by D at 6:51 PM on September 2, 2001

Idea for conceptual art piece: a chess set, hanging in a gallery.

It's already kinda been done.
posted by juv3nal at 7:07 PM on September 2, 2001

games are just another media, like books or film. i'd like to ask, though, what precisely makes a game worthy of such a vaunted title as "literary"? while games are another media, to me, the way in which they must approach their goals are of course different than either books or film. games simply can't engage people the way that film can -- or rather, they shouldn't (despite the fact that some game makers feel they must make their games "cinematic").

games as art? my vote's on ms. pacman.
posted by moz at 7:26 PM on September 2, 2001

Based on this New York Times Article found via captaincursor, the art world is already looking at video games as art.
posted by willnot at 7:28 PM on September 2, 2001

Why can't a game of chess be considered a work of art? When executed by a master player (like Capablanca or Fischer) who has a strong and disctinct personal style and approach to the game, and if the viewer "gets" the aesthetic of the game (i.e. what makes one move better than another, what makes one board position more pleasing than another), chess can be as breathtaking as many piecees of art currently studied in museums. Though a chess game has a different "point" than a great painting, it's the execuation--and the appreciation of that execution--that makes it an art form.

If a person doesn't "get" a certain art form that you might consider viable (like abstract painting, or modern sculpture, or furniture, or clothing), that doesn't lessen it as an art form; it simply puts the onus on you, as a lover of Pollack (or whoever), to try to show that person why it's "good" (or even "art). The issue with video games is perspective; most people don't "get" video games as art because they don't understand the aesthetic that goes into them. (Not that a lot of video games are made with worthwhile aesthetics in mind, though I agree that Silent Hill has come close....)
posted by arco at 7:36 PM on September 2, 2001

(correct spelling and typing might be an art form, also, one which I clearly need to practice...)
posted by arco at 7:39 PM on September 2, 2001

It's already kinda been done.

That damn Yoko! Stealing my ideas in advance.

arco: I agree with your point that a specific game of chess could be art. Now, could the game itself – the general rules and parameters of the game – be art? Or is there any point in calling it that?
posted by D at 8:36 PM on September 2, 2001

Now, could the game itself – the general rules and parameters of the game – be art? Or is there any point in calling it that?

Before this degenerates into an impasse over what can and can't be considered art, lemme pre-empt by suggesting that a better question might be: is the game of chess good or bad art?
posted by juv3nal at 9:05 PM on September 2, 2001

Game Studies has some interesting work on games as narrative. (via peterme.)

By the way, did you know you can get a PhD in Computer Games at the IT University of Copenhagen? I am *so* there.

And did anyone else see the ARTcade exhibit at the SFMoma last month?
posted by mjane at 9:34 PM on September 2, 2001

re: the game of chess as art

I think the "art" of it comes in the execution (as I said earlier). The game of art--the ideas behind the game, the rules, etc.--isn't really "art," per se, no more than the "concept" of music can be considered art. Musical notes, skillfully played by the right person, can absolutely be considered art, just as chess moves by a certain person in a certain situation (i.e. vs. a worthy opponent) can be considered art (when viewed from a certain perspective, as I said earlier).

One way of approaching the "video games as art" question is this: can software of any kind be considered art? Not what the program does, but how it's programmed? If you understand programming (and I don't; I'm a lit person myself), you can make aesthetic value judgements about other programs (calling something a kludge is an aethetic judgement) in the way art critics and fans make value judgements on a painting. Certain programs are simply more pleasing (aesthetically or whatever) to programmers than others, even though both programs may "do" the same thing.

Now, I don't think Joe Q. Public will ever be able to look at the source of a program and make these kind of judgements, but then again Joe Q. Public doesn't "get" Andy Warhol, either. So, as for whether or not Silent Hill is art, I lean towards D's arguments....

A final point (then I'll shut up): we REALLY need to take care when we start to wax intellectually about games (a la Game Studies). When you start analyzing the metaphysical and sociological implications of Solid Snake, you risk corrupting the pleasure of the game (the "Dude, this kicks ass!" factor). Just as over-deconstrructing a favorite book can taint the pleasure of reading it.
posted by arco at 10:21 PM on September 2, 2001

(i meant the "game of chess" in my second sentence up there; damn I need to get some sleep...)
posted by arco at 10:23 PM on September 2, 2001

My opinion is that every MMOG(massively multiplayer online game) is already art. Art hasn't been about pretty pictures for a very very long time. A game like Myst is my least likely candidate as a representative for computer game as art.

I would actually like to drop the 'massive' from above, and say that any multiplayer game is very close to art. I also think that Usenet, chatrooms, and sites like Metafilter could be defined as art of a contemporary nature.

posted by darkpony at 10:24 PM on September 2, 2001

arco: i was going to get all semantic and say that a better comparison than chess vs the concept of music would be chess vs a particular genre of music seeing how chess is just a single type of game,

but then that would be stupid and nitpicky and your point would still hold anyway...
posted by juv3nal at 10:35 PM on September 2, 2001

Computer games, and computer programs in general are a type of art unto themselves. There is a quote by Steve Jobs by way of a David Byrne movie that says something like... "Computers are like music, when you make a connection you cant explain the feeling to anyone else." Computer games in particular are a field of technology that is allowing computer programmers and even concepts artists to just go crazy and see where they can take us. Games, like art (sort of), take us away from the present even for just a short time. Something dosent need to be tactile or "frameable" to be considered art,in many cases it simply needs to be the stimulus that it provided the artist (while creating it), and the audience (while interacting with it).
posted by neon_slacker at 10:59 PM on September 2, 2001

Fantasy role playing games are art. I mean games like D&D and GURPS. As an old gamesmaster I can tell you that it fails when the gamesmaster thinks of himself as being somehow playing against the players. The game works best when the gamesmaster thinks of himself as a story teller, for that is what it amounts to. He's not trying to defeat the players, he's trying to entertain them. And sometimes no-one, not even the gamesmaster, knows how the story will turn out.

I once imprisoned two of my players in what amounted to a Roman gladitorial arena, working as gladiators (i.e. slaves). One of them was a thief with invisibility powers, and he decided to try a breakout. I had designed the place as I would have expected such a place filled with dangerous men to be designed, and even I didn't know how he would escape -- but he found a way. It was a very tense two hours, and a hell of a lot of fun -- lots of relieved people in that room after he got loose. Three people watching the action but no-one bored in the slightest.

I don't see any reason why this can't eventually happen online. To some extent it does already; when someone creates a new level for a FPS, he's constructing a story that other people can live. Like anything else, Sturgeon's law applies and most of them suck, but occasionally some transcend the mundane. The combination of what you get to see around the next corner and how you'll surmount the next challenge can be very exciting, and as an entertainment experience it can equal watching an exciting movie or reading a good book (and in some ways exceed them because it's interactive).

So I would contend that level-makers for FPS games are producing art, and that some of it now approaches at least "good", if not coming close to "great".

As to MMOG's, right now they tend to get run by a small team working for the company, and most of them are not really all that good (though people do become hooked on these things). I forsee someday such a game where players will have the ability to create their own contributions to the world as a whole, and then it will become a collective story-telling experience, with individual players contributing storylines to the whole experience. That could be a very rich experience.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:08 PM on September 2, 2001

High brow art? Has to be Nethack! No game can be more simple yet more complex than Nethack. It is the game of games. It is the incarnation of the art of game.
posted by Apoch at 11:10 PM on September 2, 2001

I agree that over-intellectualizing games might detract from the "dude! this rocks!" factor (to paraphrase); however, I'm excited that genuine discussion has begun about the culture of games and how they inform our understanding of literary traditions like the narrative. I think that kinda rocks, too.

Steven, I think you hit the nail on the head. It's narrative *as* interaction in realtime which is totally novel. Some theorists think you can't have narration and interaction at the same time - that they are mutually exclusive concepts - but we all know from playing games that they can and do exist at the same time. This is especially true of the pen-and-paper rpg, which tended to be a lot more open-ended than many computer or console rpgs; but the whole online boom has re-invigorated the open narrative. And that is why I'm so excited for NeverWinter Nights. And I've yet to try NetHack (frankly, I'm scared - I may not leave my room for a week) but I hear it's da bomb (again, paraphrasing a much more eloquent Apoch).
posted by mjane at 11:57 PM on September 2, 2001

My vote is a definite "yes" but I think that video games suffer from the 99% rule (99% of any works produced in any medium are crap.) One place where this is discussed is
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:07 AM on September 3, 2001

Star Control 2, I think, is the only example of gaming-as-intellectual-art that immediately comes to mind.

With the possible exception of the MUSH world, if you manage to hit a good one.
posted by Jairus at 12:36 AM on September 3, 2001

I think that such games as the "Myst" series, Nocturne, Sanitarium, Silent Hill, Unreal, Deus Ex, and so on come closest to my mind to being considered "art" Or having aspects thereof.

I haven't played "Undying" However I realise that Clive Barker and Warren Spector share the view that the gaming industry can transcend the "point and click" shooter genre.

It's a good question scissorfish. How would we feel if nearly every movie that was put out was fixedly rooted in the thriller(FPS)/Tolkien style or genre? Yet nearly every "game" is. Perhaps we need a new lexicon replace the word "gaming" for those interactive 3-D worlds that have nothing to do with filling enemies with bullets, or aimlessly clicking on pixels to try and solve interactive puzzles.
posted by lucien at 2:22 AM on September 3, 2001

I don't quite understand as to what makes a game "literary" -- the link to the essay seems to be about applying literary theory to games, but how appropriate is applying literary theory to a game that barely depends upon words?

If one thinks about it, traditional texts are inherently one-dimensional, in that word follows word in a predictable path (ah, line wrap); of course, Myst wasn't strictly three-dimensional, in that one didn't have complete freedom of movement to look at anything, but it was at least two-dimensional, which calls for whatever theory they call it for paintings be applied.

I think it's all irrelevant -- when I played Myst, all I thought was "oooh pretty" and "that's some damned ambient music" and "what the hell is this puzzle about?!" which is art enough for me. But deciding whether or not something is art is a time-wasting activity; in an music theory class, we collectively decided that the question wasn't whether something was music, but whether it was =good= music.

So, now I have to ask -- is Metafilter good art?
posted by meep at 2:43 AM on September 3, 2001

A recent game which you might like to consider as having an excellent narrative, interaction and taking full advantage on the online medium is the AI web marketing game by Microsoft.

It's already been mentioned here before, I think, but to refresh your memory:

The game was played by over 10,000 people across the world, received millions of hits per day and consisted of over three dozen websites updated weekly with writing directed by the Sean Stewart (an accomplished SF/F author). There were numerous puzzles scattered throughout the game and it also included offline interaction such as 'real-life' rallies in NY, Chicago and SF. One notable puzzle had players talking to a fictional security guard and trying to convince him to save the life of a teenager who was being held by his organisation.

I've never seen quite the level of co-operation and excitement about a game than I've seen with this AI game. Neither have I read a more compelling storyline in a game that is written from multiple viewpoints in as wide a range of styles (and languages) as you can imagine. Players were so enthralled by the game that when a prominent game character died, over 300 emails of condolences were sent to her granddaughter.

The game might not be considered to be art by some, but the way in which a strong storyline together with interaction was coupled in this game with numerous other ground-breaking elements makes in the top candidate for game art in my book.
posted by adrianhon at 4:17 AM on September 3, 2001

How is it possible to have 'a strong storyline' and 'interaction'? They are mutually exclusive. Please explain.
posted by dydecker at 6:54 AM on September 3, 2001

Ah, that's easy to explai. You see, " ‘Interactive’ is not a real word. Hasn’t been since about 1997. So feel free to use it without specifics, an intensifier of the same order as ‘very.’ Interactively often." Dean Kiley, Handy Hints for New New Media Reviewers.
posted by jill at 7:57 AM on September 3, 2001

I guess I just have a more classical (or, to head you off at the pass, mundane) definition of "art," because I expect art to tell me something about the artist and his/her worldview. Without that deeply personal, completely unreproducible aspect - you ain't got art, you got craft... "Myst" is pretty, involving, even intellectually challenging - but to say that it's art is to place it on the same shelf with the "Night Watchmen" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and "Citizen Kane"... (Note that my intent is not to denigrate craft, only to point out that there's a difference between craft and art).
posted by m.polo at 8:27 AM on September 3, 2001

I agree that "strong storyline" and "interaction" occurred in the same game in the case of the AI web game. Here I go with another self-pimp. Basically, the game creators were improvising parts of the story. Not so far away, really, from the gamesmaster example.

Given that many agree that a piece of software can be art, let's hope that this will someday have an effect on recent DMCA nonsense that holds that source code is a device, not free speech.
posted by D at 8:47 AM on September 3, 2001

What? Myst doesn't tell you something about its creators' worldview?

1. I think you're assuming an individual artist, right? Also possibly the romantic idea of the artist as genius? Perhaps in an ivory tower? Most films and computer games aren't made by individuals. So they're not art? Hm.

2. The worldview of Myst's creators: the world (our perception of it) is made of many fragments (down to the jumpy movement from frame to frame), these need putting together, you'll often be surprised by how things really work, perhaps you've been tricked, usually you can figure it out in the end. Yeah?

Of course, the real problem here is that there's no way to define art. Many have tried and many have failed. Art is whatever we call art. And stuff that gets put in art galleries. That's all.
posted by jill at 8:49 AM on September 3, 2001

Dydecker, a "strong" storyline is one which absorbs the players. My jailbreak scenario was highly interactive because even I didn't know what was going to happen, and yet it was very strong indeed when it happened.

I designed the arena ahead of time, and I didn't do any design during the scenario except to fill in details consistent with the earlier design. In a sense I was as much a spectator as my players were.

So when Jon was trying to figure out how to climb a wall, he went into the armory and asked me if there was anything that had a hook. And I thought for a moment and then said "There are pole-axes, which have hooks on them." And then he said "Is there any rope?" Well, gladiators didn't use rope but some of them did use net and trident, and so there would be nets.

The point is that a storyline doesn't have to be linear in order to be strong. It can branch, thus permitting its "readers" to actually control the flow. Who says a story only has to have one ending?

It may not be that a branching storyline will have the same kind of plot complications and so-on that a linear plot has, but the intensity of the experience can be as great given that you're not a passive spectator. When you actually have to make decisions and abide by their consequences, that amplifies the emotional impact of the experience considerably.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:02 AM on September 3, 2001

there's no way to define art

Whilst i think it's true that 'art' as a qualifying term can't be rigidly defined, i find that good things usually have the characteristic of not being tailored to suit an audiences needs, but instead are an expression of what its creators want/need to create, the audience then just happens to like it/or not. I've got no way of knowing how this plays out when applied to all the computer games you people mention because i'm about as clued up on them things as my Granny, but judging by the screenshots that myst looks pretty good to me.
posted by Kino at 9:19 AM on September 3, 2001

I've always envied them people who were into fantasy/d+d games Steven, i like how they get together and enter this world, a world as valid as any other. A world of the imagination. A world they create. It all seems highly civilized and creative to me. And it looks like fun. I think people who explore their imaginations and like nothing better than to do that, however they do it, are the salt of the earth. Whoever came up with the concept of that type of game was a genius. It's great when adults can have a chance to preserve in themselves some of the things that made childhood so great.
posted by Kino at 9:30 AM on September 3, 2001

Who says a story has to only have one ending?


The point is that if you have multiple endings, you have multiple stories. The more interactivity a game has (true interactivity, ie, stuff which influences the outcome of future events) the more stories you have. It's hard enough to think up one good story, let alone hundreds.

But what is it that makes a story good?

In the end, stories are expressions of character. You follow a hero through a journey which, according to the choices he make, defines his character. E.g. if he chooses to resue the girl and overcome his fears, he's one sort of fellow. If he leaves her to burn he's another.

A story is basically a fully stacked deck of events set up to bring about a realization in someone about him/herself. In the best stories, we might even see them change. Empathy with this is how stories are meaningful and how (sometimes) they can be good art.

In a fully interactive game, i.e a game where all choices were possible and would lead to differing outcomes, good stories would rarely created. The computer would have to have a sense of what makes a good story, and without knowledge of character (human nature) the game couldn't challenge you to any epiphany or change.

I have never played roleplaying games but I imagine the fun of them is the relationship you have with other people inside the game, is it not?
posted by dydecker at 10:34 AM on September 3, 2001

Dydecker, what you're describing is one way that a story can be. Who says that it's the only way?

And I don't agree completely with you anyway. The real point of a story is not to express character but to evoke an emotional response in the reader. Why should that require a canned character with which to identify? Well, it's because in non-interactive media it was the only way to accomplish it. But that doesn't mean it can't be done some other way.

Why can't I be the character? Why can't the story adapt to me and become about me? I'm not Archie Goodwin but I identify with myself a lot more than I identify with Archie Goodwin, so even if the events of the story are not quite as dramatic with me in it, it will still affect me more strongly because of my greater identification with the protagonist.

Everything you described is a consequence of the technology of print. It's not an inherent part of the artform, but something forced on it by its media. Once storytelling is freed of those constraints, it may evolve into something more comprehensive and flexible.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:55 AM on September 3, 2001

For the record, I *do* think Myst is a work of art. I just think it's a crappy game.

Chess is a collection of rules for moving pieces around a board. If you want to call it art, fine, but then so is the Uniform Commercial Code, and the issue of whether you can or cannot make a right turn on a red light at a particular intersection.
posted by electro at 11:09 AM on September 3, 2001

I have to agree with you electro. Art is a pretty subjective experience. Games that try to be artful tend to have piss poor gameplay. One can see art in something without it having to have 'pretty pictures.' A sort of not so ancient art of video gaming can occur in a well orchestrated Tribes 2 base assault.

Semantic hair splitting aside I don't think the game industry needs approval of the art world, just as the comics industry doesn't need approval of the book world. They have their own audiences that cherish their work. Video games trying to be like movies and comics trying to be like books are abandoning the strengths of their own forms to appeal to a percieved 'higher form.'
posted by john at 11:41 AM on September 3, 2001

I think there may be several kinds of "art" going on here: Myst is a visual/audio art. I could never get into it myself, but boy was it nice to look at.

On the other hand, the multi-user games mentioned above are perhaps closer to the literary arts, storytelling and all that.

I'll mention one that I haven't seen above: the Sims, which in an ideal situation, has both strong storyline and interactivity. (Traditional literary "interactivity": being the writer or storyteller.) Depending on how you do it, it's possible to be entirely caught up in the world(s) of your characters - their ambitions and emotions.

As a writer, I loved trying to create a story arc among various characters, and enjoyed just as much the fact that I couldn't always predict what would happen.

"Will Joan find happiness with Emily, or will she accept Jason's proposal?" Yes, sometimes it's more soap opera than great literature....

In my fiction writing experience, I often find that I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I'm as surprised by my characters as anyone.

And I nearly cried when my hard drive crashed and my whole neighborhood died. I haven't had the heart to reinstall it since then. :(
posted by epersonae at 11:45 AM on September 3, 2001

Everything you described is a consequence of the technology of print. It's not an inherent part of the artform, but something forced on it by its media.

Stories are much older than writing. The thing about a story is that it can be told in different media and remain the same story.

Why can't I be the character? Why can't the story adapt to me and become about me?

I myself am a rather boring person whose life just drones on meaninglessly. I prefer new perspectives.

Try a thought experiment. Imagine there a computer game which was so intelligent and knew the wrinkles of Steven Den Beste's personality so well that when you booted it up it told you a story which challenged the very precipices of your personality, brought out the very best and worst in you, condensed the great themes of your life into a narrative, wiping your cobwebs away and giving you a fresh perspective on life and how to live it. Call it a story art machine.

Now imagine your best friend stole your computer. Would they enjoy it?

Human beings are very unoriginal. We have similar thoughts, felt similar feelings and have been faced with the same challenges. Something that rings true to me probably rings true to you too.

And a lot of this experience has already been expressed, in every medium known to mankind.
posted by dydecker at 12:01 PM on September 3, 2001

Dydecker, you've completely missed the point. When my friend steals my computer and plays the game, he gets told a story about him, not about me. Yes, I think he'd enjoy the story about him just as much as I enjoyed the story about me.

Let's take the technology back a bit, then, shall we? Instead of a story printed in ink on a page, it's a story told by a grandparent to their 6-year-old grandchildren, and at various points, the grandparent (a gifted story teller) asks the kid what should happen next. The grandparent is making the story up as she goes along, and the kid is entranced by it.

That particular story may never be told again by anyone to anyone else, but the kid loves it -- and that's all that matters. Who says art has to be repeatable? Why does it need a mass audience?

Now supposed that a technologically adaptable medium existed such that the "story" truly was different for each person who experiences it. That's not logically impossible, by any means; and why is it somehow also not art?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2001

Dydecker, what you're describing is one way that a story can be. Who says that it's the only way?

If it's some other way, you need a word other than "story" to describe it.
posted by kindall at 2:22 PM on September 3, 2001

When I talk about mmog's as art, I mean it less as potential storytelling devices and more as cultural or social experiment type art projects. Communication Art so to speak.

Whether they are graphically intense or not...whether they are hack and slash or whatever. The simple fact that you can become something completely different than what you are IRL makes them a very powerful medium for doing art with. Very very specifically I'm thinking about the first time I played an mmog game as the opposite sex. I don't think any other art has ever effected me as much as that.

And with richer environments the ability to experience to an even greater degree someone elses life, life style, quality of life will make these types of games a very dramatic art form.
posted by darkpony at 11:14 PM on September 3, 2001

"If it's some other way, you need a word other than "story" to describe it.

I don't agree. Ten people can play the same "game" in different ways and they can each have their own idea of how the story can develop, if the game is open-ended enough. It's their story, not the game developers. In the future, games will have potential stories inherent within them that the game maker never dreamed of.

"Games that try to be artful tend to have piss poor game play."

Perhaps the confusion here is that we are using the word "game" to describe these interactive worlds which we envisage. Also if "art" is subjective then so is the idea of what constitutes a good "game."

The fact is that the medium that we have termed "gaming" is just as important a medium as are movies, books, and so on. They can be a way of expressing oneself, or producing art. Unfortunately economics and the entrenched perceptions of both the public and producers of games have prevented this mind-set from being acknowledged at least to some degree in the past. I think now there is an awakening to it however. Saying that "Myst" is a lousy game is not the point. It's had a deep emotional impact on some people, and allowed them to think of an area of what we traditionally know as "gaming" that can be for all extents and purposes "art" We all have different ideas of what art is, sure, but some of us who work with games know that we want more, or something different, from the medium that we traditionally use to produce "games" We want games, and we want this other thing, which is harder to express because of a lack of words. The words aren't there yet, but the wanting is.
posted by lucien at 2:28 AM on September 4, 2001

who was it that said "Art is a man's name."? i thought at first it might have been andy warhol, but i think it was actually some artist.

i'd consider peter gabriel's eve to be good art, if a mediocre game.
posted by modge at 10:30 AM on September 4, 2001

I don't see a problem of games not having narrative or compelling characters. Besides the IF games already mentioned, The Longest Journey, Planescape: Torment and Grim Fandango (just to mention a few) have stories and characters as good as you're liable to find them in any medium. For instance, Grim Fandango is a better piece of Noir than even L.A. Confidential.
posted by kvan at 4:02 AM on September 5, 2001

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