[GRWC8] High Art [Article]

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A.I.
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Post[GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by A.I. » Wed Sep 03, 2008 5:51 pm

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Anonymous wrote:High Art

The games industry is one that desperately wants to be appreciated. It’s like the new kid at school who brings in some cakes on his first day in the hope of achieving a rapturous critical reception from his new peers, music, film and literature. Creating this kind of fuss is all well and good, it starts you off on the right foot, but nobody’s going home that day thinking ‘that piece of Battenburg has totally changed my perception of life’.

Despite bringing in more annual revenue than the music industry, gaming culture and close to everything it produces is shunned by those looking from the outside in. All the while, new films, books and albums are being created and celebrated by society, so why aren’t games welcome at the party. For a number of reasons really, but most prominently because we ourselves, who like to wallow in gaming culture, can’t decide what qualifies as art. So let’s take a perusal through some unlikely candidates to see if we can’t fumble our way to some kind of conclusion.

One of the most famous definitions of art, which we have now thankfully moved on from, is something that has no purpose other than itself. Though this is a rather restrictive definition that rules out anything from the entire entertainment industry, it is one that allows us to look at video games in a new light that proves useful for this article, so allow me to briefly indulge the concept. Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you Carnival Games on Wii.
I, like many of you, have never played Carnival Games. I’ve never even seen it in action and certainly couldn’t pick it out of a line-up based on screenshots, why? Because it’s not a good game, as one of the most poorly reviewed titles on the Wii, Carnival Games steadfastly fails to entertain. The most likely reason behind this is not because the developers are useless, but rather that little to no thought was put into the game being enjoyable. Here is a game then that was created purely to be. To just sit there on the shelf of thousands of game stores nationwide, like a nice watercolour, hoping to be picked up by those who just thought it looked good. What purer form of art is there than that?

Now the gaming community may completely disagree with that last submission, but I put it to you that we gamers are a daft bunch. We rule out hoards of games based on a couple of screenshots (I seem to have done just this for Carnival Games), we argue endlessly on message boards over infinitesimal differences in review scores and we spend enough money on yearly updates to keep EA happily in the black. Ask a gaggle of a hundred gamers what game they think qualifies as art and chances are you’ll get a hundred and one different responses. Give them a bit longer to think on the subject and Ico will probably be one of the most commonly suggested titles. Why Ico? Well besides the simple yet satisfying gameplay and weepy narrative, it looks pretty and I’ll stick my leg out and say that this is what was at the forefront of people’s minds making the suggestion. That’s all well and good, but ask anyone educated to any degree of art appreciation (which I should probably make clear that I am absolutely not), what elevates something to the level of a piece of art and physical attractiveness will be very low down on that list. A more pertinent quality is the way a subject engages with a piece of art and the purity of emotion *vomits* expressed. This is probably why so much modern art leaves us scratching our heads. With this in mind my second nomination of a game representing high art is Gears of War.

Aggression, it’s not a pretty emotion but it is a vibrant one, it also happens to be one that Gears of War serves up in spades. You can only really see it when watching someone else play Gears, but on or offline with 360 controllers in hand gamers become a sweaty, shouty, shaky mess. Unlike any other game Gears of War gets your heart pumping, even though the Locusts are only collections of pixels you loathe those subterranean sapiens. The games narrative is pretty pitiful but when you’re embroiled in the action, the visceral aggression of everything on screen just makes it come alive. Bizarrely, saving humanity matters. You’ll grit your teeth as you chainsaw through flesh, you’ll perspire as you desperately dash to revive a fallen comrade and you’ll flail your arms wildly when a shotgun shreds your legs from your torso. If modern art is all about the way any given person engages with it, then Gears of War’s adrenaline pumping aggression activator is one of the finest examples around.

I’ve only scratched the surface here of possible interpretations of art in games, worrying that a longer piece of pretension might have sent some of you to sleep. I don’t really have expected to have changed anyone’s mind one way or another, and even if I have it’s only gamers reading this so there’s little impact to be had. Regardless of this, I hope to have got at least one person thinking and maybe inspired them to look at something from another perspective. A third century Greek once said ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, and the same is true for art. Nobody can tell you that this is good art and that isn’t, you’ll make your own interpretations either way within a matter of seconds of viewing. These were some of mine, I hope you liked them. Now where’s that cake?


All comments and feedback welcome. Thank you.

Last edited by A.I. on Sat Sep 13, 2008 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by A.I. » Fri Sep 05, 2008 3:16 pm

Edited on request of author.

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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by Kinetic » Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:59 pm

I liked it, and, contrary to what the author believes, think a bit more depth and analysis would benefit the piece. It left me personally wanting more anyway. One slight niggle, do you not think at times you're substituting 'art' for merely a definition of a 'very good game'? Give the piece a bit more bulk, perhaps a little more edge, and sort out a few grammatical issues that interrupt the flow of the article and I think you could be on to a winner. Well done.

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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by Eighthours » Wed Sep 10, 2008 4:30 pm

I really didn't like this one, I'm afraid. I can't abide pretentiousness, but beyond that initial downside, I found the arguments spurious and contradictory (the "ask any art student, I'm not one, but I'm going to tell you what they all think anyway" paragraph, for example), and wasn't a fan of the general theme of making a whole load of borderline-insulting assumptions about gamers without backing any of them up. The Carnival Games section had me rolling my eyes more than when listening to Brian Sewell, as well.

I've got nothing against the author and I don't want to attack him for what he's written. I'm just not the target audience for this kind of piece.

"And fo those reasons... a'm ow." [/Bannatyne]

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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by Hero of Canton » Wed Sep 10, 2008 5:07 pm

I apologise in advance if this seems harsh.

Gears of War, a more pertinent example of how a game can become a piece of art than Ico? I’ll leave that to stew, while I try to think of a better introduction.


I literally bit my fist at this opening, because it really is awful. The opening sentence is clumsy, while the second essentially admits how bad it is. For God's sake, please change it.

The games industry is one that desperately wants to be appreciated. It’s like the new kid at school who brings in some cakes on his first day in the hope of achieving a rapturous critical reception from his new peers, music, film and literature. Creating this kind of fuss is all well and good, it starts you off on the right foot, but nobody’s going home that day thinking ‘that piece of Battenburg has totally changed my outlook on life’.


Much better, though I doubt anyone has ever brought cakes into school expecting a 'rapturous critical reception'. But I get your point.

For a number of reasons really, but most prominently because we ourselves, who like to wallow in gaming culture, can’t decide what qualifies as art. So let’s take a perusal through some unlikely candidates to see if we can’t fumble our way to some kind of conclusion.


Aside from the fact that I can't possibly agree with your assertion, you really can't admit to your reader that you've no real idea where you're going with the piece. I'm not against self-deprecatory humour (indeed I use it sometimes when I'm posting on my blog) but it's inappropriate here.

One of the most famous definitions of art, which we have now thankfully moved on from, is something that has no purpose other than itself, and though this is a rather restrictive definition that rules out anything from the entire entertainment industry, let’s briefly indulge the concept.


Why indulge the concept if we've moved on? It essentially renders the entire next paragraph irrelevant! And then you make an assumption of the reader which comes across as crass and smug, with your comment about 'vitriol fueled responses'.

I, like many of you, have never played Carnival Games, I’ve never even seen it in action and certainly couldn’t pick it out of a line-up based on screen shots, why? Because it’s not a good game


That just implies a lack of research, and the excuse is not a good one.

as one of the most poorly reviewed titles on the Wii, Carnival Games steadfastly fails to entertain


Again, that's an assumption based on its Metacritic score. And the use of 'steadfastly' seems out of place here.

Now you gaming folk may completely disagree with that last submission, but I put it to you that gamers are stupid.


That's just a horrible, horrible sentence. It sounds patronising and it's also insulting.

Ask a gaggle of a hundred gamers what game they think qualifies as art and chances are you’ll get a hundred and one different responses. Give them a bit longer to think on the subject and Ico will probably be one of the most commonly suggested titles.


Better. The first sentence in particular shows a nice sense of humour. But then...

I’m sorry but you’re a predictable bunch


If I was reading this in a magazine, I'm sure I'd be thinking 'strawberry float off' right about now. Presumptuous and insulting again.

The next bit again is pretty good (apart from the fact it should be your neck you're sticking out rather than your leg), but then your point is spoiled by the '*vomits*' bit. It's just totally unnecessary.

Aggression, it’s not a pretty emotion but it is a vibrant one, it also happens to be one that Gears of War serves up in spades. You can only really see it when watching someone else play Gears, but on or offline with 360 controller in hand gamers become a sweaty, shouty, shaky mess. Unlike any other game Gears of War gets your heart pumping, even though the Locusts are only collections of pixels you loathe those mother strawberry floaters. The games narrative is pretty pitiful but when you’re in there, the visceral aggression of everything on screen just makes it come alive, bizarrely, saving humanity matters. You’ll grit your teeth as you chainsaw through flesh, you’ll perspire as you desperately dash to revive a fallen comrade and you’ll flail your arms wildly when a shotgun shreds your legs from your torso. If modern art is all about the way any given person engages with it, then Gears of War’s adrenaline pumping aggression activator is one of the finest examples around.


That bit...now that bit is GREAT. Really, really good. I'm not sure about the phrase 'adrenaline pumping aggression activator', but otherwise that's exactly what the rest of your piece should be like. It's passionate, describes the game well, and it makes a useful point.

But that's your only real example, given that your other one is for a meaning you yourself dismiss earlier.

Again, there's definite promise here, but this piece needs a serious rethink (oh, and that sneering 'it's just gamers so it won't have an impact' at the end has to go, too). I like the concept, I really like the bit about Gears, and there are some nicely-written bits here and there. Work on making the rest of your piece like those bits and then you'll be onto something.

DML wrote:F'NARR!
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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by Pilch » Fri Sep 12, 2008 1:21 pm

I have to say that I quite liked this. While I might not agree with all the points you've made, I applaud the effort to look at things from a different angle. It's certainly thought provoking. The decision to persistently insult the target audience of the piece is a strange one, though. Is it supposed to be humorous? As has been mentioned, it comes across as condescending and arrogant.

Let's consult Pilch's super duper scoring machine...

7/10

Not a bad score! Well done.

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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by A.I. » Sat Sep 13, 2008 2:05 pm

Edited on request of author. (2)

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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by Pilch » Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:35 pm

Hey, this new edit's much better, you know. Much less insulting, which is how the author probably intended it to sound originally. Everyone should definitely take the time to read it again.

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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by Hero of Canton » Thu Sep 18, 2008 12:46 am

Yeah, it's definitely better. I guess the writer didn't want to change too much, which is why it still retains a few awkward passages. But yep, much improved. Well done, Mr. (or Mrs.) Writer.

DML wrote:F'NARR!
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Eighthours
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PostRe: [GRWC8] High Art [Article]
by Eighthours » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:01 am

Incidentally, why are people allowed to edit their articles to a point beyond removing simple typos? Surely that's unfair, as it affords the more criticised entries an advantage over those that are left alone!


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