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Games as Art (with a capital A)?

To me, games are models of something, not a medium for conveying "meaning" and "significance." If, say, the model is history, then the players may learn history (a form of meaning). And they can learn a variety of other things from games. But this is usually a byproduct of the interest in the game, not the purpose of the game.

My usual response to questions about games as art is, of course games are art (though not Art) - but most players don't care.

Perhaps "Artists" create Art largely for themselves, so that we (consumers) can think about something "meaningful" or "significant". I create games for other people. In most cases, the ultimate test is whether people like to play the game. If I can make a four to five hour game that people willingly play more than *five hundred* times (I have), then I've certainly succeeded.

Ian Bogost is quoted as saying, "Art is about changing the world; entertainment is about leisure." In that sense, virtually no games are art, they are entertainment, and in a short definition I would not try to reflect the (rare) possibilities for Art.

Big video games seem to be designed by committee, with all the problems of committees. In most cases, the person listed as "designer" has no more than (say) 25% influence on the result, the rest coming from the many other people involved (up to and including the publisher). Small video games offer a higher percentage, and tabletop games enable 80% to nearly 100%.

In cases where the designer can create the prototypes himself (tabletop games, simple video games), there is no formal writing involved other than to write the rules (tabletop). Yes, most designers write notes to begin with, and those notes guide the creation of prototypes, but the prototypes are the "meaning", not the writing.

Games existed long before they became software. Long descriptions of a game - game design documents - are only required as part of a large software project, and are not inherently necessary to creation of a game. The game must speak for itself, the descriptions do not.

Individuals can motivate themselves to create Art, not Product, when making their own game; but most people on a large video game project are not making *their* game, they're being paid to make someone else's game, so it's not surprising that Art doesn't come into their calculations. And when the entire team collectively "designs" the game, almost inevitably there is no thought about Art, as no one really feels authorship.


I (kinda) disagree

lewpuls wrote:
...And when the entire team collectively "designs" the game, almost inevitably there is no thought about Art, as no one really feels authorship.

When you look at a Triple A (AAA) Video game like "Grand Theft Auto" (GTA), you'll see that A LOT attention is paid to the story. And that story requires animation clips (real-time or pre-recorded cut scenes either way) require a HECK of a lot of ARTISTRY! Just rendering ONE (1) Character can take a modeler weeks to do... Then after creating the model, someone needs to texturize it and that also can take weeks too!

Then as with all scenes, lighting must be proper, the scene itself and all it's minute details needs to be 3D Modeled...

That, my friend, is TRUE "Artistry". It takes someone good at modeling, some people are better with characters and animals, others better with buildings and scenery, still others are better a scenes, etc.

It takes a YEARS to make a Triple A (AAA) game. And it's no wonder when you have 3D Modelers working around the clock - to make sure they meet their deadlines.

And so I disagree. Video games (especially AAA) have a HUGE amount of "Artistry"...

Just my opinion. Cheers.


Wouldn't call myself an "artist" so take this with a grain of salt.

I think I understand what lewpuls is saying, that commercial art has no real place for Art-for-Art's-Sake. This sorta throws out the baby with the bathwater, though. A game, script, poster, etc. might be done on commission but any artist (except maybe a tweener) still showcases considerable talent getting the product out the door and has some wiggle room to put in personal flourishes that might even add up to something "meaningful."

Tweening has been automated, so nowadays it's pretty much any artist.

For complex undertakings like AAA games and major motion pictures, there are so many people involved that it can descend into a mess of lowest-common-denominator drivel. There is certainly a higher likelihood that an solo-designed board game would show more of the designer's artistic vision, but that doesn't mean complex productions automatically lack Art... and they usually showcase at least some art.

I think the original post is

I think the original post is not about art found in board games and video games, but rather the design of the game to be a piece of art itself regardless of the artwork in the game.

I do try to make my game design look like a piece of are, by matching pattern togethers, using the right numbers from common sequences, etc. I also find interesting the design rules of christopher alexander (who is an architect) and try to apply some of them in my game. The objective is to end up with an elegant design that feels natural.

My game may not come across

My game may not come across as Art to other people, or fit the more general definition of Art, but to me, it is my creation - my collection of ideas, theme, etc given physical form. The visual presentation portrays and evokes a setting and an overlying mood. Isn't that what any artist tries to do?

Card art and backgrounds and pieces are elements of the "whole", and it is my concept, portrayal, and manifestation of that "whole" which is my own Artistic creation.

Basically, just trying to express the idea that whenever you are trying to take ideas and feelings in your mind and evoke those ideas and feelings in others, you have to create a "medium" to portray it. What form that medium takes doesn't matter - music, paint, sculpture, or all of them combined - that's Art! And a game is just a lot of all of those things (maybe not much music, but you get what I mean right?)

So for a painting or sculpture or photograph, you look at it to experience it. Music you experience by listening. Both fairly passive. For a game, you experience it by actively playing it - you can't just look at it and absorb it. That's probably why people don't think of it as "Art".

Is this "Artistry" or not?

Having "Flavor text" on your cards which is modeled after "Intel Reports" about each Faction divided into smaller more manageable parts per card.

Is this not "Artistry"???

I've even hired one of the BEST Writer (Top 25 Writers with over 2000+ hours worked and over $30k USD billed) on the Internet... He provided us with exceptional Faction Biographies and has also defined the "Intel Reports" content.

There are over 300+ individual items of "Flavor text" and all of it is telling custom/original short stories.

That to me sounds like "Artistry"... but then again it's just "Flavor text"!

My Rebuttal

let-off studios wrote:
I'll state this up front: My apologies for sounding negative on this (and I admit it here and now), but this is such an overwrought, special-snowflake, First-World kind of argument that simply inflates someone's ego for no justifiable, credible reason. I kinda wanna throw up a little every time I see this "discussion" re-emerge.
Show me your game in a legitimate art museum or even a coffee table book in 50 years, and then maybe I'll consider your game as Art. Otherwise, just have fun playing and making games, okay?

Embrace the creative process, become a more worldly, wise, passionate, insightful/inciteful, and critically-thinking individual. Spend however much money you want. Those are all legitimate pursuits, of a kind. Just don't try and convince me you've made a piece of Art.

Spectacle? Sure. I mean, anything can have that "wow" factor that entertains its intended audience, or at least distracts them. Entertain. That's a lofty goal in itself. Be proud of that, as many games never reach that goal, and many designers give up before they're able to do that. When it comes to game design, you don't need to worry about going further.

You are not making Art, you are making Games. You are not the authority on what is or becomes Art, particularly when considering your own works. It's the same kind of discussion as "Are you really a game designer?" that showed up here a while back. I used to be in the "I am what I say I am, because I say so," camp, and then corrected myself. I suggest you all do so in this arena, as well. This incorrect perspective doesn't help you become better at what it is you want to do, game design or otherwise.

Artistry is not "Art with a capital A"

quest... I said "Art with a capital A", which is quite different from Artistry. Look at Bogost's quote again. All the time and effort spent making 3D models does NOTHING to change the world.

No one denies how much artistry goes into video games. But that doesn't change the mind of the video game people who, evidently ashamed of making what often amount to toys for boys, desperately want to see video games as Art.


This is a topic often discussed in video game circles.

"Art" is a general term, not a reference to painting and drawing. Beethoven's 9th Symphony is almost universally regarded as great Art. So is "Citizen Kane" (a movie), or "A Streetcar Named Desire" (a play).

Nor is the term "artistry" confined to graphical arts, of course.


lewpuls wrote:
quest... I said "Art with a capital A", which is quite different from Artistry. Look at Bogost's quote again. All the time and effort spent making 3D models does NOTHING to change the world.

No one denies how much artistry goes into video games. But that doesn't change the mind of the video game people who, evidently ashamed of making what often amount to toys for boys, desperately want to see video games as Art.

I understand. As per Bogost's it's just "entertainment". What about Game that are used for "Educational Purposes"??? These are not just games, they serve a "higher" purpose in that they educate the player(s). I guess that too is NOT "Art" - by definition. So no matter how "elegant" a game (mechanics-wise) or how attractive it is to the eye - it is still a form of "entertainment".

But Games (even unintentionally) serve a way for shaping young minds and helping them learn more about strategy, critical thinking and mathematics (even if it's mostly addition and subtraction of simple numbers). So Games don't "Change the World" but they do have an "impact" on young minds. But true this is not "Art" with a capital "A".

When you watch a movie you are ONLY "entertained". But when you play a board game, you are immersed in rules, mechanics, roles, and all that the game has to offer. Agreed that this neither is "Art" with a capital "A".

But perhaps games are NOT as "childish" of a form of "entertainment". It helps children grow too... All games have their own rules, as such all games teach something to the players that will embark on the thrill of the game.

However you are right "shaping young minds" with fond memories about playing a FUN game on some Friday night or Saturday afternoon - isn't really changing the World. But on some tinier level, they're giving people a POSITIVE memory about the enjoyment that is derived by LEARNING how to play a new game.

Not "Art" but a better form (and formative) of "entertainment" than movies... Where there is no interaction or learning that is occurring.

Just wanted to shoot some POSITIVEs about "Board and Card Games" knowing that they will be mostly looked upon as "childish"...

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