Archive for April, 2008

Games As Art

April 25, 2008

Anyone who reads this knows some stuff about me. They probably know that I have a degree in English Literature, have written multiple stories and lots of poems, like to sketch and doodle for fun, have a wide variety of musical tastes (except country. Everyone has limits), attend museums, love the cinema as long as people are quiet, had artistic friends who let me participate in their projects, and consider myself a well rounded individual when it comes to the arts. One of the few things I am proud of is that I know a little about most things, and those  I don’t know anything about, I can learn.

I also have been listening to a bunch of podcasts, which are downloadable radio programs, about gaming. Not gambling, board or word games, but video games. Something that comes up repeatedly is whether these games should be treated with the same respect in the artistic community as movies, literature, music, etc. I think they should.

Of course, this whole discussion boils down to what people identify as art, and some people have definitions even outside my own, like Yoko Ono and her “performance” or “experiential” pieces. At the heart of it, as I see art as “expression given form.” Most people are familiar with the narrative that books, movies, and even music uses to phrase their expressions, and no one can discount the telling images found in photography, sculpture and painting mean something, but many people are hesitant to classify games as art because most people are not used to interacting with art.

The quality and actual content of the expression is trivial, if we are to look to a governmental definition of art. Pornography has long enjoyed the protection of the first amendment, as has Pulitzer prize winning stories from journalists. The formulaic summer blockbuster that involves explosions and gun play is as much art as the tear jerking journey of a woman’s passage into adulthood told in countless books. One person might not like one expression as much as the other, but that is entirely subjective.

And games? Does something change because people interact with them? Most statues were meant to be seen in multiple angles, and music performed live is very different from listening to the CD. Caricatures, improvisational comedy, and opportunistic photo shots all display an element of immediacy and interaction with the subject matter.

On the other side, there are enough controlling factors in a game where you can call it art. Only the assets put into the game are able to be experienced by the gamer, and there are classical elements of previous art forms such as narrative, music, visual arts, voice acting, and architecture which blend together to make a whole. Having an Opera with out the music, the singing, the actors, or in the case of Phantom Of the Opera, the audience, would subtract from the piece in it’s entirety.

Here are some games I would reference for making a stronger argument than others. For a narrative, the  Role Playing Games Neverwinter Nights 2 and Planescape each clock in at over 600,000 words each, and contain stories that personally made me question aspects of my life, and introspection. Half-Life 2 and Bioshock show how narrative and immersion can be blended to a point where you begin to evaluate the consequences of your actions, and see things from another perspective. 10 million people play World of Warcraft and have appreciated the amazing scenery and vistas that other humans have created for their enjoyment. Running across the Barrens and looking across the plains, delving through the Wailing Caverns, or standing in the lush Ashenvale forest makes me wish some of these locations were real.

I know some family members who are older than other read this blog, and I know I have friends who, despite being the same age as I am, don’t understand some of my enthusiasm for playing video games. That is ok. I never did understand my parents’ penchant for gardening, but I know the result was a beautiful back yard that I could appreciate on a nice day (after I helped dig the pond, the bog garden, build the flower boxes, mow the darn thing every week, etc). I just hope that one day those people who have not had the same opportunities I had, can acknowledge the potential for games to be as much a work of art as a painting, poem, or movie, even if they don’t enjoy them personally.

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April Showers

April 14, 2008

We haven’t had a lick of rain here, but that is ok. This is still the greenest I have seen the base, and I see pictures of the whole area which are even greener. It is weird to see life pringing up between the gravel and sand that coats this base. I am trying to document some of it, and have been taking pictures of the plants and other flora I can find on the base. It is inspiring to see it, and makes me smile, so perhaps you will enjoy the pictures as well. When I get some time and some bandwidth, I will upload them to my Flickr page.

I lost the Battalion Soldier of the Quarter board, but that is ok. I did very well, and didn’t prepare at all for it, so I am glad I did as well as I did given the amount of work I put into it. It was a little different than a normal board because it had a quick, rapid question format that felt like the lightning round of a gameshow, instead of the systematic grilling each board member does in a traditional board. There was a hands on portion that included maps, radio communications, and weapons knowledge, which went well. I am glad I was put forward as a candidate, and am also glad to be done with it.

I hope you all are doing well. I will be coming back sometime in May, so let me know now where in the Metroplex you will be, if at all. I want to spend this time with family and friends since I have to redeploy to Germany after this. I look forward to hearing and seeing you all.

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