Art Games: The Buzz Continues

Before Joystiq picked up on Rod Humble's The Marriage, Indygamer, Arthouse Games, and TIGSource had it already blogged (not to mention that I did too). You might say the game caused a significant buzz. Now we're seeing additional discussion on art games pop up in other places.

A few days ago Tales of Tales delved deeper into the notion of art games by again asking that fundamental question of "are games Art?" The post tries to look at the larger issue of what art actually is, to see if games can fit in this category. To this end Michael Samyn makes the following statement.

Game developers, perhaps as a result of limited art education, seem to think of art as something that expresses an idea or an emotion. This is a concept from the nineteenth century that has long been abandoned by contemporary art.

This is not entirely correct, as the abstract expressionists in the mid twentieth century created art as an expression of emotion. Furthermore, though some movements in modern art have indeed abandoned expression of ideas and emotions, they do not comprise the resulting totality of what is contemporary art. Many contemporary artists still create as a means of expressing those things. We can not simply assume, because an elite group of individuals who create art have made rules for its creation, that all those who create art will by default abide by these rules.

Personally, I do not enjoy narrow definitions of art. I won't be giving you mine, as I am not sure that I can summarize it in just a few words, but I can give you Rod Humble's definition. On the same day that Tales of Tales posted the above mentioned piece, Arthouse Games conducted an interview with Humble. Though its primary focus was The Marriage, the question of what is art did emerge towards the end.

JR: Can you give us a one-sentence definition of art? In other words, how do you differentiate works of entertainment from works of art?

RH: Entertainment is giving enjoyment to the maximum number of people you can. Art is that which can make at least one person a better human being. Long may they both prosper.

I too prefer a broader definition of art. The elitism enjoyed by artistic communities which never seems to dissipate reminds me of seventeenth century France (among other periods). A time when art had to abide by the royalty's canon. In light of my own education and endeavors, I think that definitions of art unduly emphasize the result over the process. But that is another long discussion which I will save for another time.

Standing by my conviction that games are art, I leave you with a few additional examples. Thanks again to Indygamer, I found a piece called Soup 09 (image at top) from a Japanese dev's site who's name I can't seem to figure out on there. He has also created some of the most interesting and beautiful shooters made with Game Maker I have yet seen, which include Boidtrancer (image above) and Wisplisp++.

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