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<  Design concepts  ~  Is interaction all that important?

Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:47 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Expression is not just about what you say but also about how you say it. I think if you would reduce any work of art to the meaning that you just derived out of two games, you would be doing that work grave injustice. This is because art can express things that cannot be expressed in any other way.

Games are technical constructions. As such, they can indeed probably express any logical expression. But the way in which they do it invariably trivializes the content of that expression. Because the language of games is not rich enough. Games are like mathematics. Capable of expressing anything. But only in a simplistic matter-of-fact kind of way.

Also, games have a predefined meaning embedded in their structure. They are always about winning and losing. And about following rules. So you can only tell stories that deal with those themes.

Of course, I don't know how other people experience art. I guess it could be that for other people, art is simply the expression of a certain point of view that can be translated into a sentence. Not for me, though. Art is a lot more complex than that for me. And I enjoy that complexity.

In the end, though, I don't mean to say that games cannot express meaningful things. My only real point is that trying to express something through a game is too much trouble when there is such a wealth of opportunities available. Games are only one small possibility out of the enormous potential that the interactive medium offers.

I think games are fine and we should leave them alone when we try to make interactive art. We can learn from them and use elements from them when they are useful. Or we can even make a game if what we are trying to say happens to have something to do with winning and losing. But we shouldn't force games to become artistically expressive.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:58 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
As for "Immortal Defense", I'm sorry but there's more expression in its music than in the game mechanics, in my opinion. Especially if one, like me, simply fails all the time and can only get through the game by cheating. And gives up along the way.

So here's a question to you: how does the game being so hard to beat add to its expression? This mechanic simply made me give up playing. And it sounds like finishing the game is required for understanding its message.

I know this may be personal. I don't have a lot of patience with literature or films or music that are obscure either. But in the case of other media, difficulty is usually the result of extreme avant garde experimentation. In games, difficulty is hyper-traditional, embedded in the very concept of the form.
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rinku
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:08 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
This may depend on what you mean by rich, but I think that the language of games or the language of mathematics is rich in its own way; there is mathematical beauty and complexity; fractals as an example, or awe at the number of stars that exist (1000 for every grain of sand on earth I heard once), or just watching someone play a game very well and understanding the complexity of that's involved in their decisions (in Chess or Starcraft or even popular sports like Soccer for instance).

Regarding richness of the language, another possibility (and I don't mean to sound insulting at all by this) is that because you don't know the language well enough it doesn't feel very rich. If someone doesn't know English very well, perhaps they're just learning it or are illiterate, poetry in English wouldn't be artistically significant to them. You can easily see that by trying to put a poem in front of the average American (and I say that as one of them Smile ) -- they just don't get the richness of the language well enough to get poetry. Likewise if someone doesn't know mathematics very well might not find much significance in mathematical constructs like games. I've no idea if that's the case for you of course, it's just something I thought of so I might as well mention it.
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rinku
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:13 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I replied before seeing your second post, so I'll do that here.

I don't think it's particularly difficult for people who are used to playing that genre of game (and it was originally intended for fans of that genre). It's pretty easy in relation to a lot of tower defense games actually. I agree that it's too difficult for people new to the genre, though.

But I think difficulty is often a way of getting the player to understand the mechanics. Or in other words, "difficulty" arises when a player doesn't yet fully understand the mechanics enough to appreciate them; if you completely understand a game's mechanics the game isn't difficult. This is particularly true of strategy games like ID which don't require quick reaction times or twich-like gameplay, ID only really requires thought about where to place the towers and how to upgrade them, it's much more of a cerebral challenge than a reaction-time challenge.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:32 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
rinku wrote:
This may depend on what you mean by rich, but I think that the language of games or the language of mathematics is rich in its own way; there is mathematical beauty and complexity; fractals as an example, or awe at the number of stars that exist (1000 for every grain of sand on earth I heard once), or just watching someone play a game very well and understanding the complexity of that's involved in their decisions (in Chess or Starcraft or even popular sports like Soccer for instance).


You must experience games or math and/or art in very different ways than I do. There is absolutely no comparison between my experience of a Baudelaire poem or a Bach sonata and my experience of witnessing a soccer game or staring at a fractal. No comparison at all.

I guess if looking at a string of numbers gives you the same intense experience as looking at Botticelli painting gives me, then I can understand why you insist on games being capable of artistic expression.

The only thing we need to keep in mind then, is that these things are different for different kinds of people. And for my kind of people, games suck at being art. We need something other than a fat cartoon plumber bouncing off of fake planetoids.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:36 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
rinku wrote:
Regarding richness of the language, another possibility (and I don't mean to sound insulting at all by this) is that because you don't know the language well enough it doesn't feel very rich. If someone doesn't know English very well, perhaps they're just learning it or are illiterate, poetry in English wouldn't be artistically significant to them. You can easily see that by trying to put a poem in front of the average American (and I say that as one of them Smile ) -- they just don't get the richness of the language well enough to get poetry. Likewise if someone doesn't know mathematics very well might not find much significance in mathematical constructs like games. I've no idea if that's the case for you of course, it's just something I thought of so I might as well mention it.


You have a point.

But history is against you. There are no mathematical equations in our art museums. So for games to be recognized as a valid art forms, mathematics will first need to be recognized as a valid artistic language.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:43 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
rinku wrote:
But I think difficulty is often a way of getting the player to understand the mechanics. Or in other words, "difficulty" arises when a player doesn't yet fully understand the mechanics enough to appreciate them; if you completely understand a game's mechanics the game isn't difficult.


Sure. But what does this process of learning the mechanics express?

Or is this not part of the artistic experience?
Are you saying that we first need to learn to be good at playing the game before we can understand its artistic meaning? Don't you think this is incredibly presumptious? A poet doesn't invent a language every time he writes a poem...
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rinku
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:43 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I don't think it's a matter of 'kinds of people' as much as it is a matter of experience. And in games it's not the numbers themselves that are aesthetic, it's how they're used, the relations between them, and so on. A game is just basically a spreadsheet of numbers and equations, just as a poem is basically letters on ink, it's not the numbers or the shape of the letters or the ink that's important about them, so equating aesthetic mathematical works to equations is as unfair as equating poems to ink.

I also don't think the argument by history is that solid. There are games that have lasted thousands of years. Of course you don't see them in a museum because they aren't thinks you can appreciate from behind a glass. You don't see songs in a museum either, and I don't think you'd argue that music isn't recognized as a valid art form just because it's not in an art museum.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 10:14 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
We've had this conversation before. And apparently neither of us has changed their point of view. What can I say? I'm apparently too stupid to explain something that is so blatantly obvious to me.

Just for the sake of sport: while music, theater, poetry, literature, choreography, etc may not be presented in museums alongside paintings and sculptures, they are so in many books about art. Unlike math or games.

I know you think that games have been appreciated as art since the dawn of time even if there is no evidence for that and even if up to this very day only a few obsessed game designers think of games as art. Maybe you should prove it. Wink

And just for the sake of completeness, aesthetics are not artistic in and of themselves. If that were true, then clouds and trees and flowers or even certain human bodies would be artworks. And they are not. I'm willing to accept that to the educated mind mathematical constructions can be as beautiful as a flower or a tree. But that doesn't mean that they express something in an artistic way.

As for your comparison of games and poems, it's in fact a lot simpler: both are compositions of characters in a certain format. On that level they are equal. It's on a higher level that they become different.
I'm even willing to accept that it is possible to make art with spreadsheets. I'm only saying that games don't.
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rinku
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 10:49 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I don't necessarily think that games have been recognized as art throughout history, but I think even the concept of art is a relatively new and local concept, almost an academic concept. The ancient Greeks for instance made no distinction between art and non-art, art then meant any trade or technique, and an artist was someone who was very good at any technique.

It probably wasn't until the Renaissance that the idea of art in the sense of the fine arts started to be used. So I agree that in the tiny period in Europe and western culture since the Renaissance games have not been on equal ground with paintings, sculpture, music, and novels.

But that doesn't mean much to me. There are a lot of things that historically haven't been recognized as art in that period which I consider to be art, such as fairy tales and myths, comic books, jokes, tatoos, fashion design, and so on. Those aren't in many art books either.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:03 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Now that you mention it, relatively speaking humans haven't been around on this planet for very long either. So anything that they do or think is actually completely irrelevant on the scope of the planet's history. But why stop there? Compared to the size and age of the universe why should anyone care about this little planet anyway? It might as well not exist.

I'm sorry but what you call a "tiny period in Europe and western culture" is (more than) my whole life, my history, my frame of reference. I guess it's possible to prove or disprove just about anything if you increase the scale enough. But what's the point? To win the game? Razz

So, let's be constructive and rephrase my point then: in a tiny little period of time on a miniscule part of an insignificant planet in a galaxy that does not matter, games have not been considered an art form by most people. Perhaps it is different everywhere else in the universe. But we have no data on that in our microscopic knowledge.
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rinku
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:08 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
The point wasn't to win the game but to show that saying 'more people agree with me than agree with you' isn't much of a reason to believe in something. More people agree with me than you within the games industry; more people agree with you than with me in western history, more people agree with me than with you in world history. None of that matters to the discussion very much.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:14 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be another "are games art or not?" debate. That's so retarded. And as you demonstrate, it always ends in someone saying something like "Well, I think this or that is art and therefore it is". Which is so sad that I don't even care to respond anymore.

The question at hand was whether games were a suitable way of expressing something in an artistic way with computer technology. You seem to think they are. But that this requires initiation -even initiation on a per game basis, apparently. Because you need to be good at games before you can appreciate their artistic value.

I say that even with initiation, many people won't understand it. And this is a good reason for me to try and use more conventional artistic methods. Methods that seem to work in other media.

In the end, we may both be making deep artistic "games". But apparently for a different audience.
Well, good luck to you! Smile
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rinku
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:40 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I think all of the arts and even individual artworks require some initiation. People aren't born being able to appreciate art. Why is it that more people listen to inferior popular musicians than Bach for instance? I think it's because they haven't been initiated fully into music, they don't understand music enough to appreciate the difference.

I would also say that it's not a matter of being good at games in order to appreciate them, but rather, being good at games is the appreciation (of the game mechanics) itself, just as being good at listening to music is the same thing as music appreciation. They're one and the same.

I don't think our audience is that different. Just because I believe that one can use game mechanics to express oneself artistically doesn't mean that I think that's the only way to express oneself artistically through games. There are other parts of a game besides the game mechanics, and I'm interested in those too. But I don't dismiss the method of using the game's mechanics, I want to use everything.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:59 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
And that's perfectly fine if you only want to talk about struggles and victories and defeats. Or if you're willing to use those as metaphors for human existence.

I personally refuse to think in those terms. If only because it's simplistic.
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