Monday, 1 August 2011

Video Games as Art 1 - Setting the Canvas

I actually expect that this might be a somewhat difficult series of blog posts to write, mostly because it’s going to be hard for me not to go into what will probably be horribly boring because I might launch into some quasi-philosophical bullshit that will likely bore the pants off the three or four readers I have (thanks for sticking it out by the by).

For example, in talking about games as art, one has to inherently tackle the idea of what art is in and of itself. Some people have said that anything can ultimately qualify as art, but I assert that’s a cop-out to what is a question that is and remains incredibly hard to answer. Certainly one can consider everything art, but I wouldn’t consider a dog turd on a sidewalk art, even if some pretentious ghit fed the dog specific elements for a quality crap. Likewise, you could say that all video games are art, but I don’t believe that to be the case because some games are clearly not art, while others are more straddling a line that’s difficult to decide.

It’s going to differ for everyone, and is nearly as broad a definition, but I believe that art is something that you find resonant on a personal level. It doesn’t have to register as an epiphany, but it’s something that speaks to you and that you’ll always remember. That being said, not all elements of game might qualify as art, only a certain part or portion.

For example, I think unequivocally that the soundtrack to Final Fantasy 6 is art. I don’t care what format it’s in: fully orchestrated or in the original MIDI files, but something about that soundtrack speaks to me. I can’t listen to Wanderer of Time, Fierce Battle, Dancing Mad, or any of the other tracks without becoming mesmerized. That soundtrack defines a certain period, a certain joy, in my life and it always will. To me, that is art.

I also think that art can be found in games that aren’t necessarily considered art. In the Assassin’s Creed series, there’s certainly a lot of beautiful elements. But for the brief moment that you ascend to a view point and the camera shifts to a panorama of the cityscape there’s just something that screams “this is art” to me. It doesn’t last more than a few seconds before you’re plopped back into the standard world, but that exterior awareness, that expansive horizon, seems to me to be something special.

This, to me, is why games are art. It doesn’t matter what game it might be, because there’s god knows how many different genres of art to begin with. But those elements that evoke in you a sense of something more, is that not the point of art to begin with? To transcend the mundane, and capture however briefly that flash of something extraordinary.

Talking about games, as in a whole game as art, is somewhat difficult because the most popular subjects have already been done to death: Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Rez, Child of Eden. These are games that people often look to and talk about fervently as examples of how games are art. But there are other games that deserve recognition as well, which is why I hope to be able to spend some time talking this upcoming week about some ways that games are emulating - no, rather I should say, that games are becoming art more and more as time passes. If it comes down to it I will comment on the games I’ve mentioned above, but I feel that they’ve already been talked to about more than enough in terms of their artistic merit, so it’d be nice to consider other games that people might not have.

Like I said, it’s not going to be easy, but that just means that it’s worth doing

1 comment:

  1. I could not agree with you more then on that Assassin's Creed part. The moment I saw the first view point cinema outside the Assassin camp I fell in love with the series.

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