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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

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IngredientX
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With this being my 101st post, I figured it was time for a longie...

There's been some talk on the forum about board games as "art." I never replied to them because I really wasn't sure how to reply... but I think I've gathered enough for a rebuttal.

A couple of definitions are in order...

I'm going to talk about the difference between craft and art in this post. Big disclaimer: even though I will take pains to distinguish the two, I don't want to sound like I'm making the case for a qualitative difference between the two. I don't feel that "craft" is inferior to "art." But there is a difference in ambition, scope, and ultimately, the experience of those on the receiving end.

Also, while I am defining two discrete concepts, we should acknowledge some gray area between the two. There are some areas (architecture, fashion, etc.) that one can validly argue is or isn't art.

Also, while all art is craft, not all craft is art. Again, I mean nothing pejorative about this. Both take dedication and skill to master.

First... a craft is any creative skill that takes significant time, effort, and/or talent to become proficient at. My wife sews teddy bears, which is a craft. I used to edit sound for film, which is also a craft. The creation of musical instruments is a craft. Surgery, bricklaying, cooking... all crafts.

By "art," I don't mean any sort of graphic design. I'm talking Capital-A Art... or "Ahhhhht," if you are wont to pronounce it that way.

My quick and dirty definition of art, in two words: creative perception. To me, the highest levels of art are distinguished by an individual's ability to communicate a unique experience through his/her work to an audience that is not at his/her level of talent.

That last bit is important to me: you should not have to be able to play the trumpet to grasp Miles Davis' music. You should not have to be a painter to grasp Van Gogh's paintings. You should not have to be a writer to grasp Ernest Hemingway's novels. If you are a musician/painter/writer in the appropriate examples above, hey, it helps. But to me, one of the requisites of "art" is that an expression (and for the best artists in any genre, that expression is a complex, specific emotion that the audience can relate to) is understood by a layman. A person can be moved by watching Apocalypse Now without ever knowing about Panavision, Lee Strasberg, or EDLs.

I don't pretend to have fully defined concepts above, but I think they'll suffice to support my argument...

I don't believe that board game design is an art. I don't think it's possible to relay a complex, specific human experience through a ruleset. Perhaps a game's theme can have literary aspirations; I've seen rulebooks that are made up mostly of backstory and only a fraction of which are the actual rules of the game. But I have yet to see a good, enjoyable game that can consistently, in playing after playing after playing, convey any sort of creative perception.

When I finish reading a book or get to the end of a movie, I feel that some sort of transportation has happened. If it's a good book or movie, I'll feel that I've somehow changed directly through the experiences I've read/seen, even though I wasn't actually there.

I do not feel this way after playing a game. When a game is over, I've either won or lost.

Oh sure, different games have a different feel. Some games have climaxes that get my heart racing (for me, this would be one of the good "heavyweight" German games, Puerto Rico or Princes of Florence). Others make me laugh out loud (Apples to Apples). Some are nice, light, gentle affairs that have enough strategy to make the tactics interesting, and enough tension to keep me interested, but certainly aren't brainburners (Carcassonne).

But none of them put me through a specific experience that transforms me at the end. None of them convey a specific, consistent emotion or mood. At the end, the experience is the same: it was a game.

Again, this isn't a put-down, or any sort of admission that three hours spent gaming is "worse" than three hours spent watching a Kurosawa film. But I don't think we should dive into our games claiming that our pawns represent man's innate humanity and the auction mechanic we've implemented is an allegorical representation of our relationship with the cosmos. We should dive into our games with the intent to make a fun game. Everything else - theme, mechanics, graphics, length, et al - is secondary. A game component's only worth is in how it adds to the game's fun.

Certainly, an artistic work, like a novel or a film, has to have an equivalent element. We'll call it the "pull factor." Both need an interesting plot, and/or interesting characters to keep their audiences' attention. A piece of music has similar demands, only they're often more clearly, mathematically defined, in the rules of rhythm and the diatonic scale to which we expect music to resolve through (of course, many jazz musicians are skilled at breaking the rules of rhythm and melody, and getting away with it, which is what many people find so interesting about jazz; and visionary composers like Schoenberg and Partch disposed of the diatonic scale, but only because they developed their own tonal systems to replace it).

But with artistic works, there's often a second layer of meaning expected beneath that first layer of pull factor. Without it, we have a piece of bubblegum pop, or a Sandra Bullock movie. For that highest level of art that I'm aiming for here, I insist that a piece of art must have a deeper level through which its emotional effects are felt.

I don't think a board game is capable of holding this second level, and consistently delivering it at the same effect with every play. Perhaps one could come with (as a rather tacky, tasteless example) "Schindler's List - The Board Game." But I gravely doubt that you could create a ruleset that could consistently deliver the emotional payload that its subject matter deserves, while still having a game that's fun and replayable.

What I think keeps board games from being art is the fact that the experience is wholly dependent on the re-creation and enforcement of the game rules. All a board game is, is a controlled social structure with a quantifiable "winner." It's this structure that the game "is." We interface the structure through the game's theme, graphic presentation, and bits. But ultimately, the game is not in the bits themselves, but in their relationship to one another. When Black Pawn takes White Queen, there's no wailing and gnashing of teeth about how young and great a Queen she was, the future of White's kingdom, where the lonely White king will find another wife, and how horrible war is... at least, none that pertains to the game, nothing that is significant to the game's ruleset, and that is a necessary consequence of the action. The significance of the move is in how close Black now is to checkmate, and what White must do to overcome his/her significant disadvantage.

Think about it. Directors and film studios hold focus groups for their films. They bring people in, run the film by them, and ask them what they thought. Sometimes they make changes, depending on the feedback. In effect, they are playtesting the movie!

But sometimes the focus group loves the movie, and it tanks at the box office. Sometimes the focus group despises the movie, and it winds up getting taught at NYU grad school 20 years later. There are so many axes and spectrums of taste and quality for something as artistic as a film, that focus groups can never completely anticipate a movie's actual reception. The best directors understand that a catastrophic focus group session can be fixed with a relatively small change in editing or scoring.

Us designers, we need our focus groups, even more than the film studios. For us, the ruleset is everything. We hand our players the rules, and ask them to be the projector and the screen. A flaw with the ruleset is a flaw with the game's fun, and hence a flaw in the game. There is no room for subjective expression, no "art is a bitter pill that must be swallowed," no growth through pain. The game is fun, or it is not played.

Perhaps it all ultimately comes down to conflict. In any dramatic art, there must be conflict. Young playwrights are taught that if a character shows a gun in Act One, it must be fired in Act Three. Conflict creates tension that drives drama.

(I won't get into comedy here, because it's arguably more complex. But comedy is also based in conflict, perhaps moreso than drama.)

Games have conflict, but the conflict is very clearly deliniated, because it must be exactly reproduced with as wide a range of players as possible. This conflict can't be too light, because the game will be too easy or feel too random; and it can't be too harsh, because feelings will be hurt and no one will want to play. It's our challenge as designers to find this balance; but it's our consequence that the balance removes any potential our ruleset has of carrying artistic weight.

Whew. Now, onto the denouement...

My artistic biases are all over this post. As you might be able to tell, I like loud, angry music; weighty books with moral oxymorons and contradictory behavior; and so on. One can say that games may qualify as art simply because they exist, as objet d'art. Perhaps that argument can be made, but I've never had the patience for still life or conceptual art.

The whole beauty of art is that it's subjective. Two people will never see the same thing. Maybe I'm in the minority here, and maybe most people have no problem seeing games as art. If that's how it is, so be it.

To me, designing a board game is a craft. It takes time, patience and skill. Some of us may never be good at it, no matter how hard we try. There is no shame in being good at a craft.

But I just don't think what we do is art.

Dralius
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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

I always have thought of art as the ability you convey an emotion or provoke a response through what ever medium the artist is proficient in. Some art is intended to be unpleasant or be confusing.

If you prescribe to that definition a crafts person making a teddy bear is as much an artist as the rest as long as the goal is reached. The people going ooh and ahh that is so cute but only if they produce a teddy bear that is of their own design. Art is a creative process.

In this way a game designer can be an artist if they complete their goal of providing an experience for the players. Even if the experience is simply to have fun.

"Creativity is making something out of nothing and selling it" - Frank Zappa

jwarrend
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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

Interesting topic, Gil, I'm sure you'll get a lot of feedback on this one!
My concern is that this discussion will run into a problem of equivocation -- everyone will be using the words "art" and "craft" to mean "whatever I personally think art and craft separately mean".

For example, I think dralius "working definition", that the ability to create an emotional response is in itself artistic, is clearly wrong if you just think of an example where I punch you in the face -- sure, I created an emotional response, but only a real jerk would consider that to be artistic (I guess I could call it "shock art"?)

Here are some definitions from merriam webster:

Art
the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced b (1) : FINE ARTS (2) : one of the fine arts (3) : a graphic art

Craft
an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill

For me, I think the distinction works like this: the primary concern of the artist is the aesthetic quality of his work (as defined by whatever measure of aesthetics he is working on), whereas the craftsman's primary concern is functionality. That's not to say a 'crafted object' can't also be aesthetically pleasing, so much as to say that a craft that was not also functional would not be considered "good", however beautiful it might be. (ie, a chair made out of gossamer might be very beautiful, but it wouldn't be useful as a chair, thus, would be "art" moreso than "craft").

To me, the implied functionality inherent to craftsmanship makes game design more a craft than an art.

Moreover, I think it's important to consider how artists and craftsman view themselves. Speaking in sweeping generalities and stereotypes, when I think of an artist, I think of some pretentious guy in a fez sipping sherry and pontificating about how deep his painting is, and how much meaning he has communicated with it. In contrast, when I think of a craftsman, I think of a humble guy with dirty hands working in a shop to build a chair that is beautiful, but his pleasure comes equally from the satisfaction of the quality of the work as from the functionality of the chair (ie, that it's well-made). The artist is "above" the audience -- if they don't "get it", they are the ones who have the problem. The craftsman is "beneath" the audience -- the quality of his work is dependent on the satisfaction of those who will use it.

Now, obviously, this is an absurd exaggeration, but I think it's a borderline accurate reflection of how I see things. I really think that when you see yourself as an "artist", you are more likely to become pretentious, to assign "deep meaning" to your work, to see yourself as "superior" to the people who will play your game, and doing that, I think, strips the entire point of what games are supposed to be all about. They are supposed to be fun! Sure, a game can be deep and serious, but it should also be, first and foremost, functional and enjoyable.

So, if someone wants to call themself an artist, good for them, but I agree with Gil that a "craft" is a more accurate description for what we do, and moreover, that seeing ourselves that way is more likely to keep our focus in the right place, where the quality and functionality of the work is more important than the "artist" himself.

Just my (obviously biased) opinion. Interesting topic!

-Jeff

Dralius
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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

You make some good points but i think your punch in the face is a poor example.

Quote:
For example, I think dralius "working definition", that the ability to create an emotional response is in itself artistic, is clearly wrong if you just think of an example where I punch you in the face -- sure, I created an emotional response, but only a real jerk would consider that to be artistic (I guess I could call it "shock art"?)

It is neither creative nor does it produce anything other than a court case. Unless both people involved are acting and then it is a play which in it self might be considered art. We all might be best served in this discussion if we stick to those arts that produce material things. I was myself speaking of such artistic endeavors.

Anonymous
Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

First of all, thank you Gil, you've made me think about a a lot of important things; I think my mind has been wrapped up in this for an hour at least.

However, my first reaction was that I must reject it. Almost as if I must either disprove it, find an interpretation that works with my personal belief system, or find a different hobby.

That said, on re-reading things I found that I agreed with almost everything you said - except the conclusion. I also noticed that Dralius had already put forth the core of my feelings on art - although I would amend the defintion to "somthing with produces PROFOUND feeling" to answer the punch-in-the-face arguments. Anger may be an emotion, but I for one would not consider such 'heat of the moment' emotion to be profound.

Definitions are also important. To try and keep us talking about the same things, I'm going to try and stick to the defintions given (at least as they entered into my understanding) Craft is the ability to produce something well. Art is profound insight. Art, in the sense we comonnly think of it - 'objects of art,' necessarily includes craft as a medium to communicate the profound insight to other people. Craft does not necessarily include art: a shelf can be expertly made to take heavy loads for ages, but it would be a better shelf it was also pleasing to the eyes. Doing this well, in all situations old and new, requires a bit of that profound insight.

As this relates to games, there are two distinctions I would like to draw. The first is the difference between the ruleset and the experience of playing the game. The second is the games we are familar with now versus the potential of games.

The ruleset is not the game. The ruleset generates the experience of the game. The ruleset is crafted. The experience is art.

Consider a painting; a traditional medium of art. The parallel here would be that painting is a craft, not an art. A person can paint very realistic pictures, but say nothing profound. The exerience of viewing the painting, if it is profound, makes it art.

This is not to say that the experience of playing every game is art. The experience may not be profound. And in most cases today I think this is the case. The mechancis of the games are beautifully crafted. But do we feel like better people for having played them? In most cases, I, at least, would say no.

Yet I contend that it is possible for a game to be profound. I have heard tell of people learning life lessons from Go - you may see that a battle here is lost, but go fight another one in a different part of the board, and it may come back to where you started and change the conditions to make your position the stronger.

jwarrend
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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

Rauros wrote:

That said, on re-reading things I found that I agreed with almost everything you said - except the conclusion. I also noticed that Dralius had already put forth the core of my feelings on art - although I would amend the defintion to "somthing with produces PROFOUND feeling" to answer the punch-in-the-face arguments. Anger may be an emotion, but I for one would not consider such 'heat of the moment' emotion to be profound.

But herein lies the problem, as I see it: when you qualify emotion with "profound" emotion, you inherently make the definition subjective. What if you and I feel different things are "profound"? I guess this is why there is debate over whether some things are "art". For example, Warhol's art doesn't move me in any emotional way, and certainly not a profound way, yet it would be a tough case to make for me to say they weren't "art".

Quote:

Definitions are also important. To try and keep us talking about the same things, I'm going to try and stick to the defintions given (at least as they entered into my understanding) Craft is the ability to produce something well. Art is profound insight.

But again, this is subjective, because you're saying "that which I find profound, I will call 'art'", and you're going to use this to give yourself permission to consider games "art" while excluding cases like my "shock art" that, while deliberately absurd, are not easy to reject as art if one simply uses emotional response as a guide. So again, I have to prefer my own definition (based on the m-w definition) that "craft" implies a primary concern with functionality whereas "art" implies a primary concern with aesthetic qualities. Defining whether something is art or not based on what kind of a response it produces, or how much profound its "insight" may be, is bound, I think, to render "art" a useless and wholly subjective term (where "art" then becomes simply "that which I like").

Quote:

The ruleset is not the game. The ruleset generates the experience of the game. The ruleset is crafted. The experience is art.

I'm sorry, but this just can't be true, because if it is, then almost anything (including a punch in the face) could be considered "art". Sitting around talking and having a good time could be considered art. Playing soccer could be considered "art". Art has to be about something more than just an experience.

Quote:

Consider a painting; a traditional medium of art. The parallel here would be that painting is a craft, not an art. A person can paint very realistic pictures, but say nothing profound. The exerience of viewing the painting, if it is profound, makes it art.

Again, I think you have to consider the concern of the artist moreso than the response of the audience. For example, there was a Robert Maplethorpe (sp?) exhibit that had, among other shocking images, a crucifix in a jar of urine. That certainly provoked an emotional response. Was it "profound"? I have no idea! But I have a hard time saying that this, by virtue of the response it created, was more "artistic" than a guy who painted a great painting that didn't provoke as powerful an emotional response.

Quote:

This is not to say that the experience of playing every game is art. The experience may not be profound. And in most cases today I think this is the case. The mechancis of the games are beautifully crafted. But do we feel like better people for having played them? In most cases, I, at least, would say no.

Interesting; I disagree with this, yet come to an opposite conclusion. I would say we ARE better for playing games (or else why do spend so much time doing it?) Games are great as a form of social interaction, of building critical thinking skills, and many other things. But that doesn't, in my opinion, make game design an artistic endeavor, because it's the game's functionality that is our concern, and not the experience of playing.

Quote:

Yet I contend that it is possible for a game to be profound. I have heard tell of people learning life lessons from Go - you may see that a battle here is lost, but go fight another one in a different part of the board, and it may come back to where you started and change the conditions to make your position the stronger.

I think that if you think deeply enough, you can metaphorize (if that's even a word) just about anything, and if you can see that deeply into a game, great! But I don't think someone thinking really deeply about something can be the line of demarkation for whether something is "art" or not. I think we need a much more concrete and objective definition, and I prefer the one that I have been working with. A game, to me, is more like a chair than a painting, in the sense that a beautiful chair that looks nice will not find a place at many people's table, and games are exactly the same way (cf BoardGameGeek discussions of "Wadjet").

Again, I suppose it's really a point of somewhat minor importance, but I think that for the discussion to even be possible, we need to have objective meanings for words, and defining art in terms of its profundity or emotional response of the audience are just destined to take the discussion into very subjective territory.

-Jeff

RAF
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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

Interesting conversation....

I consider game designing to be both an art and a craft depending on the aspect of the process one is pertaining to. If we are referring to the methods and techniques that are readily teachable from one person to another (i.e. computer programming), then in this respect the process is akin to a "craft". If we are referring to the 'intangible' aspects (i.e. depth, originality, clarity), then the process is akin to an "art".

The line is blurry because "craft" by definition has a utilitarian aspect to it that "art" does not. In this sense, an object of craft is created as a "means to an end", whereas an object of art is created as "an end in itself".

Games exist somewhere between both of these realms. I use the medium of creating games as a means of personal expression. In this respect the process is an art. And yet, the utilitarian aspect of a game is to engage it. So there is this craft element as well.

Overall, what I think is important is the "value" we place on either perspective and how in turn that informs our own creative endeavors....

Peace,

RAF
Ludosopher
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Scurra
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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

What we generally discuss on this site is the "craft" of design - how mechanics work, practical production issues and so on, simply because discussing the "art" of design is something we just don't really have the language for - not to mention the problem that as different individuals, it is almost impossible to convey the effect that "art" has on oneself, knowing that even a close sibling will have a very different frame of reference within which to judge it.

As a designer, I have (rare!) moments of epiphany when a design suddenly fits together and aspects that I hadn't considered reveal their true importance or perhaps when removing or modifying a small aspect has a cascading effect on the rest of the game and so on.
Those moments are "art" for me, when the design is not simply about the "craft" of getting it right, but when I get a new understanding of what I have made. But that's only for me.

I'm pretty sure I don't expect the player of the game to experience anything like the processes I went through during the design, and it is rare for the play of a game to produce the profound emotional experiences that most "art" aspires towards.

But playing games can't be simply dismissed as a craft either - that's partly why we have the term "recreation" for sports and pastimes that require participation and (at least to a limited extent) creative input, whilst generally operating under fairly rigidly defined rulesets - whether it's the drop-kick field goal or buying a VP card, the player doesn't have complete freedom of action in the way that the designer did when they were creating the thing in the first place...

Anonymous
Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

Well, if profound is a problem do away with it. One *could* create a 'shock game' just as easily as one could put on a dramtic performance of I Punch You In the Face. But nobody does because it wouldn't be very popular (unless perhaps you found a niche market of masochists ;^) )

I was just tyring to focus things a bit by trying (not very well) to specify the kinds of art that we might actualy want to put into our games.

It is not, however, 'just what we like' I can easily imagine experiences, that while, powerfull, are not something that I enjoy. The example that comes to mind is actually the rpg The Adventures of Baron Munchousen, though it was actually more a storytelling game, It was beautifully written, with a small set of rules carefully crafted to create the atmosphere of a bunch of nobles sitting around telling lies. But I would never play it, because I have no talent for impromptu storytelling.

But is it art? Taking art as a vision of a particular experience (not just any experience) - a certain asthetic - masterly communicated through a craft, then yes, it is.

I did not mean to say that we are not better for playing games. We take away new skills, and often improved logical or pattern matching abilities. But the discussion was directed twoards art - and a game rarely leaves with me with the same sense of great beauty that some more traditional art might.

Actually, there was another point I had been thinking about, that never quite fit into my last presentation. It has to do with craft being about 'function'

The function of a chair is to support a person sitting. If it is in a home, it may also be expected to contribute to the astethics of the home, but mostly we will ignore this secondary concern.

The function of art is to comunicate some particular asthetic, some feeling, as envisioned by the artist.

What then is the function of a game? People usually say that they look for games that are fun (whatever that is) For our purposes here I will say that fun is an enjoyable experience.

The connection I would like to make is to connect feeling, from art, with experience, from games. This is not to hard to see. You experience feelings. You often have feelings during various experiences. They are not that different. Still it is a step. One may agree or disagree with that step.

If you agree, however, then art and games are very similar - they both create experiences. Craft, on the other hand, mostly creates things. Often a thing (painting, game, musical score) is the means of expression of that experience.

Anonymous
Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

Very interesting topic, but I wonder if it has an answer. Ultimately, we will each pose our own definition of art, and then test if games fall inside or outside that definition. But, as the boundaries of what are commonly accepted as art are really quite subjective, we can come up with counter-examples that 'break' any definition. I honestly don't know much about art, so some of my examples are probably pretty off, but I think the concept holds true. Some examples:

'Art is creative perception'. If a business executive sees some trend in a collection of statistics, and presents this in a power-point presentation in a lucid manner, is that art? The guy has percieved some truth about the world that is hidden from most people, he's made it clear to everyone in a visual, (possibly) creative way. But somehow it isn't art.

'Art has a primarially asthetic purpose'. How about modern architecture and ancient pottery? The whole form follows function school contradicts this. Ancient pottery was made for holding wine, not paintings of minotaurs.

'Art expresses some idea or emotion'. I don't know that the Mona Lisa seeks to express anything - as far as I know, it's considered a masterpiece for technical and asthetic reasons. It might inspire emotions of awe, but that is a result of the excellence of the painting, not a (primary) purpose of the painter. Other counter-examples are text books and sporting events. A text book can convey some really profound ideas, even insight into mankind (thinking of the social sciences). A sporting event can inspire a wide array of sincerely deep emotions. A slasher movie definitely conveys particular feeling, but most are not considered art.

'Art changes the listener/reader/viewer'. I definitely think that games can help a person grow. You can learn patience, forethought, logic, how to deal with other people (in a few limited areas of course), etc. This doesn't necessarially happen after every game - but can come with continuing experience and reflection on the game playing. Another idea is cocaine as art ;)

I guess at the end of it all I'd simply say that board games *can* do a lot of the same things more traditional art can do. HOWEVER, the kinds of games we talk about here have a pretty limited range of effect. Sort of like if you took a form of drawing that is composed strictly of 15 black dots on a sheet of paper. No doubt someone could produce something the authorities would all recognize as art, but the artist will not have the same range as someone who paints using many different shapes, colors, brushes, surfaces, textures, etc, etc, etc. Someone mentioned RPGs, I think they have more potential as an art form, probably because they are less rigid and more narrative than most games. I guess I end up agreeing with the original poster in a way - while games can be designed that could be called art, it is not a very 'efficient' medium for creating art.

Anonymous
Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

Fungus_Amungus wrote:
Very interesting topic, but I wonder if it has an answer. Ultimately, we will each pose our own definition of art, and then test if games fall inside or outside that definition.

As I've thought about this, the more true this seems. We can choose one particular definition of art, but then for each of us, save perhaps one, the conversation won't be about my (your) art, but about some abstract entity with no relation to me (you)

Quote:
It might inspire emotions of awe, but that is a result of the excellence of the painting, not a (primary) purpose of the painter.

So, the purpose of the painter was not excellence? Was it accidental then?

Quote:
I guess at the end of it all I'd simply say that board games *can* do a lot of the same things more traditional art can do.

That's really it. We don't understand our medium yet. Now, I havn't researched this, but it seems to me that game design, in the sense that we have 'game designers' is a very modern concept, and we haven't even started getting organized about it until now. Painting, say, has been going on for ages, all the way back to the cave paintings. Even then, one could look look at two paintings and think "This one is better than that one. I should use this technique more" Multiply that by all of human history, and you have a useful medium for expression.

Joe_Huber
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Ludosophy? Art? A dissenting opinion...

Quote:
That's really it. We don't understand our medium yet. Now, I havn't researched this, but it seems to me that game design, in the sense that we have 'game designers' is a very modern concept, and we haven't even started getting organized about it until now.

Relatively, yes, though there have been "game designers" for 125+ years, and isolated cases of game design far longer than that. For an excellent book that touches on the subject, I'd recommend "The Game Makers" by Philip Orbanes. It is only focused on Parker Brothers, but I think it's an excellent read for game designers and players alike.

Joe

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