Wed 1 Sep, 2004 10:35 pm
I was going to post this topic on videogames, but I thought that it would get more views in here.
Can videogames be clasified as art?
What's their difference with movies in this subject?
There is one low-keyed video game i play, by the German company Sunflowers, named 1503. Like all video games, it's expression requires repetition. Nevertheless, the level of detail, the attention to detail, is the most elaborate i've ever seen in such games. Whales and sharks and skates can be seen swimming beneath surface of the sea, birds appropriate to the environment (colorful over tropical islands, raptors and vultures over temperate islands) fly overhead, polar bears and arctic foxes appear on the subarctic islands. They have done a really marvelous job. If you zoom in, and rotate the view of a city, there is a wealth of detail--engraved along the upper story of schools in a city with a university, one can read, by rotating the view: "Non Scholae, sed vitae discimus"--"We do not learn for the sake of the school, but for life." I would consider it artistic expression.
Joe, consider the amount of material in a videogame that is undisputedly classified as art on it's own; thousands of textures, which must be either hand drawn or hand modelled and rendered, thousands of hours go into 3d modelling, every model needs to have concept art drawn for it, dialog must be written, fonts and graphic design must be considered...I would consider the plot and story also. If you ever try to make one you will start to realize all these things if you don't already. So, without a doubt, it contains a lot of art.
But is the game itself art? I suppose that depends how you classify art. I classify art as anything that was designed to be aesthetically pleasing, and I think computer games fall into this category.
Setanta, by your definition, few games can be classified as art, right? They need to have an amount of detail?
Stuh, what do you think is missing for videogames to be universally accepted as art?
I wasn't necessarily providing a definition, Cantiflas--rather, i was simply touting this particular game. Sunflowers has an earlier game, 1602, which has an intensity of detail, but i don't necessarily consider it artistic. Black Isle has produced some RPG's, the background and settings for which i might consider artistic.
I see, but what about the game as a whole? Not just focusing on graphic desing?
Ah, i see . . . i'll need to get back to you on that one . . .
JoeFX, as I said I think that videogames are art. For them to be universally accepted would simply mean that nobody disputed this. So I guess the answer to your question is that it would take everyone having a similar definition of art.
In my opinion, anyone who overlooks the artistic elements of a videogame is being very close minded.
Every computer game made commericially today must invest years of pay for artists to draw concept art, paying artists to model 3d artwork, paying artists for graphic design of GUI layout, paying artists to compose original music, paying artists to write complicate stories and plotlines. Each one of these individual components is recognized as art when looked at singly, so I can't see why the whole product can be considered not art!
My Fine Friend Cantinflas, i was just firing up my 1503 game and remembering that i had been remiss in replying further to you. I hope that you will be patient with me, as i am eager to play, and the response i am developing in my mind is long. The very shortest answer is yes. In the sense of the totality of the game, i would say that some of the video games with which i am familiar constitute art. When i have time to devote to an answer worthy of your question (more intricate than i had at first taken it to be), i will elaborate . . .
For now, i have tobacco plantations to build, and wheat farms, windmills and bakeries to set up . . .
To explain why i consider 1503 to be art, it will be necessary to describe the basics of the game. And i can both do that, and offer a useful comparison by describing it's ancestor, 1602. These games are a cross of Simcity and Age of Empires. Even the older 1602, however is much more elaborate than the original Simcity. One begins on a map filled with islands of varying sizes, and one or more ships with tools, wood and food (and sometimes, depending upon the scenario, other items). In the military realm, 1602 is not as elaborate as Age of Empires, but 1503 is at least the equal, and in many respects, superior to AoE in matters military.
Each island has a fertility in various raw material crops, tobacco, sugar cane (for rum), spices, cotton, cocoa, vines (for wine). As well, an island may have iron ore deposits, or veins of gold. In 1503, there are more raw material products--hops (for beer), medicinal herbs and silk. Additionally, in 1503, there are deposits of gems, and rock salt deposits.
One chooses an island to settle, and puts down a warehouse. To extend one's territory inland, within the service area of the warehouse, one can construct market places. All buildings must be built within the service area of a warehouse or market place. As marketplaces have a service area equal in extent to that of the warehouse, building additional marketplaces increases the area within which one can build other plantations or workshops. It also increases the storage capacity, which is essential to avoid disasterous shortages in the very fluid situation of increasing population of an increasing sophistication.
In 1602 and 1503 both, revenue is generated by the population of the island. The first houses are those of pioneers. Providing certain goods, and certain public buildings allows the pioneers to progress to settlers, build bigger houses, and increase the population. Settlers can, in turn, advance to citizen, citizens to merchants, and in the final step, merchants can advance to aristocrat. Each step involves building bigger houses and increasing the population. Each step also cannot take place without the construction of certain public buildings, and the provision of certain commodities.
It is in that factor that 1503 raises the game engine of 1602 from the level of craft to that of an art. In 1602, one offsets the operating costs of farms, plantations, mines and workshops by taxation. The population yeilds certain levels of tax based upon the level of their development, and, of course, the population. One starts with a certain balance, and that is used up in operating costs. It is essential, therefore, to generate the tax income to avoid going bankrupt, which means you lose. There are also "free traders" who will sell you certain goods, and who might buy the excess production of your operation.
In 1503, however, there is no taxation. Whereas in the earlier game, you provide all commodities at no charge while levying your taxes, in 1503 you sell the population everything they need and the things which they desire (and those necessary to the advancement of their level of civilization), and you must effectively balance your operating costs against your sales revenues in order to avoid bankruptcy and to generate a profit. There are other aspects of the game of which i am only recently becoming aware. If a desired commodity is scarce, the people will rush to buy what they want, and they will hoard. This makes it difficult to begin producing a commodity and distributing it. In 1602, the commodities are appartently distributed by magic--no one is seen to actually go acquire them. In 1503, one builds market stands which sell the items. It becomes important to assure that there are sufficient market stands within a reasonable distance of all of the houses. Too few market stands, and people will not get their commodities soon enough, or will get tired of waiting in line, and go home to pout. You actually see the citizens going to the market stands to make their purchases. I have learned to stockpile new commodities before building the market stands which sell the item, so that the supply can be kept large enough that they don't hoard, creating artificial shortages. If you fall for that one, you will build too many production facilities, and when the hoarding ends, you are producing more than you need, and your operating costs are higher than they need to be.
In 1602, the size of the population determines which public buildings and plantations, mines and workshops can be built. In 1503, that is only partially true. One of the early public buildings you can build is a school. Certain operations or public buildings can only be built after your population attends school. So, for example, your earliest cloth production will be from sheep farms and weaver's huts. When your population has done sufficient study, you can do the research to build weaving mills, which are more efficient and produce cloth faster than weaver's huts. This is crucial, since all of your population always buys cloth, and the demand increases. You cannot plant cotton plantations (much more productive and efficient than wool production) until you have done the research for the weaving mills. Food and clothing are the basics, without which, your people will abandon your town. You also do research to build bigger ships with greater speed and capacity. You must research medicine in order to build hospitals and medicinal herb farms, without which plaugues can decimate your population (decreasing your revenue--dead folks don't buy much). As you population increases, you can build churches (without which their cultural development languishes--go figure), and universities. More research and a higher level of research can be done at the university. Researching libraries allows you to build a library (expensive) which increases the rate at which the population learns. Later, you can build gallows (i never do--i've learned that economic equality for the population eliminates crime), district courthouses (for those petty squabbles among affluent people), and ornamental buildings and gardens (which increases the "satisfaction" level of the population, and makes them more tolerant of the scarcity of goods they desire, as opposed to those they need).
All in all, without more of this long-winded description, in 1503, Sunflower Entertainment raised the craft of 1602 to the level of an art.
I played the latest Myst, "Exile" and was astounded by its beauty. I think it is hard to call videogames art because they are 1. in motion and 2. worked on by many different people.
The art that we appreciate as art tends to have someone specific who we can appreciate - even in movies there is the cinematographer, the director, the actors. In videogames there are so many people doing things it's not as clear cut who does what.
People attribute higher status to "art" but let me tell ya, the video-gamers are making better paychecks.
thanks for you extensive explanation, Setanta... it made me want to play 1503, though I need to read it again to see the difference between art and craft in the two games you mention...
good point Portal Star, maybe it's because the artist behind videogames are scarcely known outside of the 'geek' world...