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<  Design concepts  ~  Games are Not Rules (etc.)

Michael
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:47 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Western culture is the only culture I dare to make any statements about. I was only talking about Western culture. The other cultures can speak for themselves.

And I was only referring to mainstream notions and not to what some philosopher once said.

I think that you are right: that we have different preferences concerning art. I feel that my preference is closer to that of the mainstream. But I could be mistaken.

I must admit that I can't help but disbelieve you when you say that rolling dice is as meaningful and deep to you as listening to Bach is for me. But I'll take your word for it.

As for games being able to express universal themes, that depends on how you define games. And expression for that matter. And the choice of themes. And how universal you want to be. So even if I agree with the general statement, we would probably disagree over some of the constituent parts.
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rinku
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:03 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
If you want to go by mainstream, then I think that there's a large portion of the population that consider games to be art, even classical games. Coincidentally a recent thread (mostly by teens who make games in the Game Maker engine) that is going on right now: http://forums.gamemaker.nl/index.php?showtopic=285558 -- the vast majority in that thread believe games are art and some believe board games are art. But, why go by the mainstream? The mainstream believe a lot of incorrect things. I think it's better to have a thought-out theory of what art is rather than to go by what people think it is.

Out of curiosity, what meaning do you find in Bach? I like him well enough, but I would think that you wouldn't because most of the meaning I find in his work is mathematical. I appreciate the complex patterns in his music but I don't think it's particularly emotional, it's much more mechanistic than, say, Mozart or Prokofiev.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 8:49 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Then you haven't heard a proper interpretation of Bach's music. I recommand you try one of his masses directed by Harnoncourt. It's heaven in audio.
Please don't be so "bureaucratic" about meaning. The meanings that art can convey go way beyond anything that can be captured or reproduced in any language.

As far as the mainstream is concerned, I give them full authority over the meaning of words, I'm sorry. Language is a living thing. We have to adapt.

On the other hand, I don't even believe that there is such a thing as "correct" in these issues. That's not the point at all. I'm trying to get a sense of what is perceived as normal. And I wouldn't call a bunch of teenage geeks on a forum a good representation of normality.
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rinku
Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 9:01 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I'll see if I can find the music you recommend, thanks for the recommendation.

I agree that how we use words to communicate should correspond with language, but sometimes it's necessary in a science or a craft or some other specialized field of knowledge to use terms in a more technical, definite, and rigorous meaning. I was using art as a technical term in that sense.

It's a very biased sample, but I think that people who play games are better able to judge whether games are art or not than the people who do not play games. I admit that it's perceived as normal that games are not art among those who are not fans of games. If you ask people who don't know how to play chess or who have only played it once or twice "is chess art?" you'll get a higher ratio of no to yes than if you ask chess players or even chess grandmasters.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 9:20 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I think there's a bit of a problem with linguistic issues when we discuss things like games. Games tend to be made with an audience in mind, sometimes even a large one. As such, I feel that the opinion of this audience is relevant.
If you make a work just for yourself or for an academic circle, you can keep any discussion on an high theoretical level. If you try to give things to a wider range of people, you have to take their response into account. You may not agree with it, but their response is valid. And never incorrect. If they interpret your work wrong, it means that you failed, not they.

I'm not sure if I agree that people who play games are in a better position to call them art or not. Because we haven't established how much they know about art. Just imagine they other way around: a painter of still lives with flowers suddenly starts calling his work "games". The gamers would be outraged, or at least perplexed. Yet this painter knows everything there is to know about art.
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rinku
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 7:01 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
Yes certainly, I'm not saying people who think that games are not art are incorrect, I just think that if they think games (gameplay or classical games made up only of rules) don't convey meaning, universal truths, strong emotional responses, can be beautiful, etc., they'd be wrong. The first is just a label, but the second is something that's more factual; i.e. even if games aren't labeled as art, they can do most the same things art does.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 7:04 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
To you.
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rinku
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 7:16 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
Yes, I can only directly observe the effects on myself.

I can infer that it has effects on others. To use the chess analogy again: if people who are very involved in chess say it's art, that means that it tends to have the effects of art on them. To me, the fact that so many chess players believe chess is like an art, and more generally that so many people who play games (either computer or not) believe games are art, indicates to me it has those effects on the people who try it out.

I think the difference is, with non-interactive art you don't have to be "good" at it to get the effect. There's some of it, for instance, it takes "practise" before you can get an aesthetic effect from opera or even poetry, but generally non-interactive art can be seen as art without much work on the audience's part.

But with interactive art, you need to be involved with it, interact with it, before it's seen as art. If you just look at interactive art and don't interact with it, such as someone watching someone else play chess without knowing how to play, they might just think the people playing it are crazy or something, moving the pieces at random.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 9:11 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I see your point. And to continue on that same path, some people will never be able to appreciate the art of games because they simply do not have the talents of our young males. Or do not care to develop them. Much like many people can probably not appreciate art and may never be able to.

This is the reason why I personally doubt the artistic potential of games-as-games: I have never experienced an emotional or intellectual response from games of a magnitude that was anywhere near as what I got from some art pieces. But, as you say, this may be because I am just not good enough at games (and perhaps also because I'm above average at art appreciation).

I think, however, that there is one thing that we should not overlook. One difference between games and art is that games can be won. I suspect that it is a lot easier to appreciate the art of games if you win rather than lose. I equally suspect that it may be possible that the winner confuses the chemical rush in his body that accompanies winning with an artistic experience. You can see this very often in game reviews: they often seem to be written while the journalist is still high from beating the game. This is how we get these ridiculously positive reviews (10/10) for games that happen to be very good at making you feel like a winner, a conqueror.

And if I read my Bateman well, conquerors only form a very small subset of the human race. As a result, it is only to be expected that other people need something else from games before they're going to embrace them as art.
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rinku
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 9:23 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I don't know many people who say they get a great feeling from beating a FPS or something. I'm talking about more aesthetic games like poker, soccer, chess, etc.

Among computer games, my strongest aesthetic feelings happened with Photopia, Civilization, Balance of the Planet, etc. -- all slow-paced games, some without any action to speak of. So I don't think it's simply mistaking a chemical rush in my case. I find it hard to imagine that people could make that mistake, but maybe some can.

I think it's possible to get an aesthetic feeling from an action game, I'm not saying it's impossible.
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rinku
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 9:29 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
Also, I think that if you think it's possible that some people cannot experience art, then how you're using the word goes against what you said before: using the word according to the mainstream use of it.

I think you're mistaking degree with quality. Just because someone gets only a little aesthetic feeling instead of a deep one from looking at a smiley like "Smile" doesn't mean that smiley isn't art, there's a spectrum from a very weak reaction to a very strong one, where can you draw the line on that spectrum?
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Michael
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 9:39 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I wasn't referring to action or lack of it. I was referring to there being a win and lose condition. I think winning at poker or chess probably helps any appreciation of the game, including an aesthetic one.
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rinku
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 9:51 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
It might, but I take winning and losing (not all games have that, but most) to be just a part of the medium. Winning and losing represent more valuable and less valuable ways of action. for instance, let's say the theme of chess is "long-term thinking". Without winning and losing, it wouldn't be able to present that theme, because it'd have no way of showing why long-term thinking (looking ahead more moves than your opponent) is better than short-term thinking.

Stories have an equivalent: the hero usually gets his goals and has a happy ending. Not in all stories, but in a great many. Does the fact that the main character wins and gets a happy ending mean that such stories aren't aesthetic? It's just a minor thing.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 10:39 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
So chess is about "long-term thinking"? What an odd subject. I don't even know what that means. And how one would even call it a theme. But I'm sure that there's other ways of expressing it. I actually think that chess expresses this theme as a result of having a win-lose condition. I don't think winning and losing was ever an optional element for the designer.

And I must disappoint you, but I personally don't play chess this way. For me playing chess is like playing with dolls. I don't have much interest in the strategy of it all. But I like to put my queen next to the opponent's king and fantasize about playing house. I guess this is heresy. Evil or Very Mad

Most of the stories that I tend to like don't have happy endings. I would actually say that indeed, the fact that the story has a happy ending probably does reduce it's aesthetic qualities most of the time. This could be a coincidence of course because the best authors may actively try to avoid being trite.

I don't think it's a minor thing. I think the character losing in a novel or a film is of major importance to both the meaning of the story and the aesthetic pleasure.

It's a bit silly, but one might challenge game designers to make a game that is more interesting when you lose it than when you win it. That game will at least be similar in structure to many great works of art.
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rinku
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 10:59 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
What I meant by long-term thinking is the ability to form a plan which won't materialize in the near future, but which guides one's actions toward it. It's on contrast to short-term thinking, where people just make decisions on whim, based on what feels good at the time, and have no farther-range goals. I think that playing chess makes one understand why it's sometimes better to think longer-term than one's opponent, in any kind of competition.

For instance, take independent games; one could say you're thinking longer-term than your competition, you have a manifesto, your games will probably be more valued and last longer than those of most other independent game developers (again, forgive the word game here, you know what I mean), whereas people who make clone games are thinking short-term.

And it's not heresy, there are different ways to play the game just as there are different ways to read a book. Some people might like a book for some parts of it or its main message, others might enjoy the descriptions or fantasizing about a particular character they like.

I've no preference for happy or unhappy endings, I think there may be an error in both extremes (when the ending is too happy and vapid or when the ending is too tragic and nihilistic).

That's a good idea bout games. There are a few games like that I think. One that I can think of: Out of This World has different death animations for each possible way to die in a new world. This emphasizes how strange and unfamiliar that world is and how easy it is to die when you're in an unfamiliar place and not used to it. That may be that game's theme now that I think about it (it's a simple theme, like long-term thinking, but I think art is that which sheds new light on any idea, even simple ones like long-term thinking or the danger of unfamiliar areas).
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