Eoin O'Connor

Learning And Sharing New Ideas

Category: Digital Art

Videogames as an Artistic Expression – Part Deux

Recently, I had conducted two surveys relating to my research question which is ‘do videogames hold artistic merit’ and from the feedback I have received so far, it seems that the group of peers who were surveyed did indicate that we do hold video games as an art form somewhat. The interesting paradigm here from the survey I have found that we generally are told from a young age what is art and what is not, what I have also found is that secondary education also alters our perception of what art is. The elephant in the room here is the simple yet ultimately loaded question of  ‘what is art?’ This is probably the most ambiguous question yet, many seem to believe that there is no question of what art is. For the majority, art is Michelangelo’s David or Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and that’s just about it.

rsg_gtav_screenshot_151Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto 5  ©Rockstar Games

From the survey I have conducted, we also found that there seems to be a need for this subject to be further explored.  So far the research done into this field has been very little to nil, and there seems to be little interest in the art world to look at digital media. I get the overriding sense that there is an ‘unwillingness’ to pursue any interest from established art academies and institutions world wide, but the popularity of videogames, their accessibility and availability is too hard to ignore. It is far easier for the average citizen to play a videogame than travel to The Louvre in Paris.

Equating Video Games to Artistic Expressions

Over the last 100 years, we have seen the emergence of photography, recorded music, cinema and television. All these individual mediums have in their own right become an outlet for artistic expression. Now, at the start of the 21st century,  digital media has finally allowed us to create digital art. This is a highly contested field where you have the purists who consider nothing but paintings and sculptures as art, or the film camp who find expressions of art in film. It seems that the art world has ‘shunned’ video games for some reason or other.

I first visited this topic about a year ago, it had a great affect on me as I have come across some games to be very emotive (see ‘The Last Of Us’)  and the backlash some journalists or critics receive for being advocates of artistic video games seems disproportionate. Is it that people cannot wrap their minds around bytes coming together to form something that can create an emotional response from the human mind? Or, is it that these people won’t let themselves be moved by pieces of art created by people on computers.

The computer being a canvas for creativity is another aspect of this. Computers, traditionally are viewed as nothing more than a workplace utility, a tool to be used for productivity and nothing more.  The issue that lies within this view is that computers have evolved to become something more than what they were intended for, simply because we as humans have also evolved. When we evolve, then our way of expressing ourselves also evolves (see The Renaissance).

Earlier I watched a trailer for the new Star Wars game ‘THe Old Republic’. I won’t say too much about it but to say it is most definitely not artistic, would be a misnomer. I’ll leave it at this.

Video games and story telling

I have played games my whole life, so it comes as no surprise then that  I have noticed over the last 10 years that the story lines for video games have come very far since

My first game was super Mario for the NES, a basic 8 bit game that by today’s standards seem very weak, the story however was excellent (you and your plumber brothers have to save a princess from a monster in his castle) however, the technology limited where the story could go.

In around 1997, I got my first Playstation, suddenly, I was bombarded by such games such as Metal Gear Solid. The main thing that prompted me to write about this game in particular is the story. Metal Gear Solid’s story was so immersive, you had to play through the story and each decision you made, counted. The story itself is worthy of a hollywood blockbuster and the gameplay (stealth gameplay) brought that all together. The success of Metal Gear Solid heralded a new era of game to come forth, many of the heavily story-based games we see today (the Batman Arkham series) are majorly influenced by the work done in the Metal Gear series of games, which still are popular today as they were 20 years ago.

The ability for these games immerse the user into a the on-screen world is something quite unique, as is the story writing behind them. The Batman: Arkham series, for instance, has used the vast wealth of stories written over the best part of a century to create the world conveyed in the games. The stories in their own right are very attention grabbing as it is, but introducing the interactive element revolutionizes how we read a story, it not only tells a story, it lets you become an active participant in the story also.

Indie gaming has also opened up a new door for us to access great interactive stories also and a lot of them are either free to play, or have a very small fee attached, which is a game changer as younger players a can now get their hands on games with great playability, amazing stories and immersive gaming atmospheres for almost nothing.

The knock on effect this type of gaming has also is that younger people are now using these games as learning devices. Games such as Minecraft for instance, ecourages players to build worlds and create what they want to see. Games are also being transformed into educational tools also (see MinecraftEdu).

In the next few years, I think we’re going to see some major steps forward in how stories are told. We luckily have the technology on our side to create written stories and transform them into something completely “out there”. The amazing part about all of this also is that it’s no longer the traditional “intellectual writer” that is telling the story, but rather the nerd and his computer crafting these wonderful pieces of interactive literature and making them accessible for the world to enjoy

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