“Are video games art?”

The always inquisitive and never dull Well-Red Mage recently bestowed the community with another “Big Question.” The first “Big Question,” you may recall, was “What have you learned since you started blogging?” Twas an interesting question to answer, on that provoked plenty of inner dialogue.

When I noticed the second question, my heart lurched a little.

Asking Big Questions #002: “Are video games art?”

Ahh, that old chestnut, is it? Honestly, I’m not even sure of how to best approach answering this for myself. Having read the responses to the Mage’s original post, as well as other responses from the community, a large part of me agrees with most folks.

Q. Are video games art?

A. Yes. They are a form of creative expression as valid as any other. Game developers are no less passionate and emotional about their resulting works as painters, actors, dancers, and so on. Art is meant to convey ideas, which is the point of video games – to convey messages – from the trivial (maze-driven fun as a yellow circle) to the profound (we are everything).  Art isn’t a fancy, snobbish, behind-glass affair, though it can be. Video games aren’t fancy, snobbish, behind-glass affairs either, though they certainty can be. Truly there’s nothing not “art” about games.

But…

Eons ago, I went to grad school for museum studies, and the question “what is art?” inevitably came up during a class discussion. At the time, we also learned that a local art center had a video game exhibition planned. As such, the discussion eventually veered into not necessarily a critique of video games as art, but rather a question whether or not we needed to evolve our thinking. After all, “what is art?” means different things at different times; we choose whether or not to see “art” as something classical and fixed or something more transient.

Anyway, at one point someone in the room asked a resounding question that’s stuck with me ever since:

“Is MS-DOS art?”

(Why DOS and not Windows XP, ME, or T&A? I’ve no clue.)

This brought the discussion to a brief halt, followed by an almost universal “NO!” from the crowd. (And it wasn’t as if we had come to a resolution over “are video games art?” either.) It was a moment that was forever burned into my brain because it actually made me question, for possibly the first time ever, “what are video games?”

I really don’t want things here to get to esoteric (but I fear they will…a warning), but what is a game but carefully constructed code? Is not the same true of an operating system, a word processing program, or that nonsense you use to file your taxes online? I daresay that no one would call Microsoft Word “art” (“fart” maybe…hahahahaha…sorry); it’s a utility, a tool. A bunch of well-placed lines of code that result in a useful product.

Isn’t that kind of what video games are too? It’s a device meant to carry out a particular function. Though…okay…splitting hairs, yes, this is more a description of consoles or computers as the tool we use to play games, but a video game cartridge, disc, computer code is a uni-tasker. It doesn’t do anything else except give one access to a game. That’s not really art…is it?

I guess this is somewhat akin to arguing that pigment is art, or marble is art, or spray cans are art, which renders whatever point I was trying to make rather moot. So computer code isn’t art, but the way that someone utilizes it is? Couldn’t it be that some of these folks are simply better at applying various systems to the code than others? That’s not really art…it’s more like science in my book.

Man, I knew things were going to get a bit abstruse.

Understand that I’m not outright arguing that video games aren’t art; this more an attempt to rectify my internal conflict. Because, see, someone recently mentioned to my work-self that there must be an “art” to archiving. I thought about that for a moment and said, “not really. There’s more science and less art to what archivists do.” I apply proven (and not-so-proven) systems to groups of records in order to make them accessible. There’s nothing about an archived collection of papers that says “art” to me. The end result is useful, but it isn’t creatively or emotionally expressive.

If I choose to see video games as data that’s functionally composed in order to produce a specific result, then I don’t see how I could call that “art.”

Once again, if you think I’m here bickering with myself, you’re not wrong.

Here’s the thing, I feel as strongly in supporting games as art as I do games as science. Because the video games can be both technically brilliant and emotionally powerful. Considering it further, they actually need to be both to resonate with us. Games that have sound code with little feeling fall flat, like with Agents of Mayhem. (Played well but lacked heart.) Games that are emotionally heavy with messy underpinnings are often initially lauded but later left lifeless, like with The Stanley Parable. (Possessed an in-the-moment brilliance that withered away.)


Well, now that I’ve essentially corned myself into a meaningless war over semantics (it’s possible that I’ve had a little too much coffee this evening…or perhaps, not enough), that still leaves the question “are video games art?”

[stares at blinking cursor for what feels like an age]

Yes, mostly. Sometimes not, but…yeah, sure?

[bangs head on keyboard; drifts off into darkness…]

I’m thinking about…

I sat down to write a post today, and this is what happened.

This being “nothing,” because my mind is blank.

Except, it really isn’t. In fact, it’s chock full of what I think are interesting thoughts.

But I might be biased, because it’s my mind that’s thinking after all.


I’m thinking about…

Continue reading “I’m thinking about…”

Feeling better

I’m not sure who posted here last week. I was me…but it was also not me. While I can’t clinically say that I was in a fugue state, it sure felt like part of me had disconnected from my rational self. I think things are better now. Or, at least they feel better. Maybe that’s all that matters.

As strange as it might sound, I’m pretty sure that Fable 2 played a role in my self-therapy.

Huh?

Wait, wait…I realize now that last week I mentioned something about Ace Attorney. Well, as much as I’ve fallen head over heels for the games, I actually don’t have much more to say right now than that. I’ve fallen head over heels for Pheonix Wright. Woo. Not much of a compelling post in that, now is there? But I feel as though I will have tons to gush about once I finish Trials and Tribulations. So…stay tuned?

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The best blog posts are the ones I write in my head while making dinner

It’s true. The seeds of most anything that’s ended up here have been sown during my most mundane of tasks, which quite often ends up being around dinner time on Tuesdays. And the funny/awful thing is that, in my head, I’m able to “write” a beautiful post from beginning to end. But what ends up on the page the next day is usually a distilled version of it, and that’s only if I manage to remember it decently well. I’m not a great in-the-moment writer. I’ve always needed to think of my words first and then spew them forth…and then significantly edit, edit, and edit some more said spew.

That’s kind of what’s happening here, except that although I came up with some rather relevatory and intriguing thoughts while making a batch of quesadillas last night, they’ve become very fragmented today. It’s almost like trying to recall a dream, except that the remnants are much more coherent. You see, I’ve been in a supremely weird headspace of late, and I’m pretty sure that is has to do with college. Specifically, my college, and that fact that this year marks the 20th anniversary of me graduating from it. That’s insane, right?

Continue reading “The best blog posts are the ones I write in my head while making dinner”

Ten happy events from each of the past ten years

Over the course of the past couple weeks, I’ve seen a number of “happy” posts pop up in my feed. They’re simple and positive posts in which the writer list ten things of one sort or another that make him or her happy. Most of the ones I’ve read concern generally pleasant things like food and video games and breathing.

Sorry, that last one was me being facetious. I can be a real ass sometimes. 🙂

But you get the idea. Ten happy things. Blog post. Boom. Here are just a few examples:

10 Happy Thoughts from AmbiGaming
Ten Things that Make Me Happy from QTX
It’s that Friday feeling from Later Levels
Top 10 Happies from Power Bomb Attack

As I’m always up the participate in a little blogging goodwill, I figured I’d try my hand at the whole “ten happy things.” And as I also like to spin my own spin on things — because, no shit, food and video games and breathing make me very happy! — I thought I venture a little down memory lane and see if I could come up with a list of ten happy IRL events from each of the past 10 years. because, I’ll be the first to say “Ah, my life is crapola.” But that’s not really the case. Sure, some past years have been better than others, but compared to some people’s lives, I don’t dare complain.

So here’s a most extemporaneous and likely interconnected list of ten happy events from the past ten years. I’ll be starting with 2016 and working all the waaaaay back to 2007. (Ancient history, right? Haha.)


2016: Getting our first gaming PC

I don’t know that I spoke much about this last year, but 2016 marked a decently huge step for my husband and I as gaming hobbyists – we finally got an actual gaming PC, like with a good graphics card and lots of storage and everything. If this was an event to remember, it’s only because it took us years to finally get on with it. And I’ll tell you what finally pushed us over the edge was virtual reality, which has my husband over the moon. Early on in the lives of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, while I had my doubts, my husband became serious in figuring out how to get VR in our house. The first step became getting a beast of a PC that could support such a thing. We had to wait a couple years on that, but when the right PC came along at the right price late last year, it was time to take the plunge.


2015: Celebrating ten years of yoga

It was sometime in early 2005 that I first discovered yoga for myself. I had recent completed grad school and was floundering a bit in life. My husband was looking for a change himself, as he wrestled with job stress and a decision on whether or not to go back to school. Life was restless, and I wanted to develop some sort of daily discipline that I hoped would help keep my mind at ease through it all. I picked up a yoga DVD from somewhere on an absolute whim. I didn’t know the first thing about yoga, only that I had heard it was a good way to relieve tiredness and stress. I still have and play that DVD regularly, along with the others that I’ve amassed. While I can’t claim that my yoga addiction has been consistent, for the better part of the past decade and then some, I’ve woken up every morning to practice yoga in some form. I’m pretty sure that it might the only thing these days keeping me from tearing out people’s eyeballs on a regular basis.


2014: Paying off the car

I’ve been through a number of your typical “adult” rites of passage now (see 2012), but I’ve got to say that finally paying off our car was one of the highlights. Like, the excitement in our house upon sending that final payment was so tangible; we were simply ecstatic! Buying our car was one of the first big commitments that me and my husband made together, so seeing it all the way to end was nothing less than a testament to what we could accomplish. And our little Honda Fit is still going strong, which is all we could hope for.


2013: Building up the garden

It was early springtime in 2012 when we first moved into our house. Once the moving van left, we almost immediately set our sites on starting a garden. (In fact, the size of the house’s backyard was prime in our decision to buy it.) Days of unpacking were split between setting up a few raised beds and purchasing and planting seeds. We didn’t have time to cultivate much, and we were already making bigger and better garden plans by the end of that summer. Later that year we cleared out a couple promising gardening spaces and set about planning for the construction of nice, large raised beds with landscaping stones. While all of our grandiose plans didn’t come to fruition by the summer of 2013, we had done enough to build up the garden so that we could plant a variety of stuff, from your typical tomatoes and cucumbers, to new stuff (for us) like okra and ground cherries. Twas quite an exciting summer.


2012: Buying a house and getting married

2012 was one hell of a year. And though things were kind of crazy, at the start of the year, the fact that we were both planning a wedding and planning to buy a house didn’t phase us much. Maybe because they were really two separate things — I don’t recall us getting into situations where one interfered with the other. Also, we knew that our wedding was going to be a small one for family only. That probably went a long way in helping us deal with the house. There really is no experience like it.  The things you learn along the way about people, houses, laws, zoning, construction, financial planning real estate procedures, and the realities of home ownership, go a long way in re-coloring one’s previously well-worn rose-tinted glasses of renting life. We bought our house first, and then the wedding happened a couple months later. That was truly a piece of cake…topping with buttercream frosting and lots of swirling fancies.


2011: Starting this blog

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. Because really, can you imagine the Internet WITHOUT this blog??

hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…hahaha…ha…

While I’m sure that my blog hasn’t made the Internet a brighter place, it has brightened up my life considerably. From the connections that I’ve made with other content creators to simply having a small place to clear my head, this blog has been a personal boon. And that’s a good thing.


2010: Receiving my first Keurig

Alright, alright…so maybe this one isn’t quite as personally groundbreaking as some of the other things on my list, but hear me out.  I like coffee, there’s no disputing that. But, I’ve never been able to claim to be able to make a decent cup myself. For years, my coffee routine was simply to buy whatever coffee was on sale and throw it into the ol’ automatic drip coffeemaker. The results of my efforts varied between “decent” and “mud.” This lead me into something a world populated by a fear of making bad coffee. Because of this, I radiated towards lighter coffees, breakfast blends, coffee blends that were hard to screw up even if I tried. And while there’s nothing wrong with light coffee, there is something wrong in being afraid of a bag of beans. The Keurig changed all this, because it allowed me to re-adjust my palate without repercussion. With the Keurig, I could pick up sampler k-cup packs and try, try, and try again until I found something I liked. And believe it or not, using the Keurig, in conjunction with other factors, such as having a garden, has altered my palate to the betterment of my health overall. Coming to enjoy the flavor of richer and more bitter coffee has driven me away from craving sweet stuff generally. Even though I do like a light, sweet coffee on occasion, the need just isn’t there all the time.


2009: Joining Facebook

Before 2009, I was nothing. I was just another faceless face in a sea of human beings going about my daily routine. Sad, right? I mean, how in the hell did any of us exist in this world before social media?? Alright, sarcasm aside, there’s no denying that the explosion of Facebook during the mid to late 2000s was nothing short of a phenomenon. I was particularly reluctant to join, at first. And it was only when one particular invite from a very dear friend came along that I decided to take the plunge. I became highly addicted at first, because honestly, I had the best time connecting with people with whom I had lost contact. Early Facebook was an amazing tool for that, if nothing else. Granted, using Facebook today doesn’t brings me as much joy as it once did, but I still log on occasionally to catch up with folks. And truth be told, if I hadn’t joined Facebook, I probably wouldn’t be here typing up this blog today. Not…not that I’d be dead or anything, I think…but I’d still be one of those faceless faces. I actually can’t picture that world anymore…


2008: Playing Mass Effect

Much like with the notion of “if  I hadn’t joined social media many years ago, I probably wouldn’t be blogging today,” if I hadn’t played Mass Effect, I probably wouldn’t be as into games as much I am today. Or, at least, I likely wouldn’t be into what we consider the modern core of games these days, let along exploring the crazy depths of Steam and/or Kickstarter and/or the Internet in general. Mass Effect had a profound affect on my then-waning attitude towards games, as it quite literally opened up a pathway that I never thought to explore before it. To this day, with as much flak as the original Mass Effect gets for being a bit clunky, no other single game brings me more joy upon revisiting it.


2007: Starting a real career

I never expected to be at my current workplace for more than a couple years. Now here I am, ten years later, with a thing called a “career.” It’s a stable thing, a mind-boggling thing, and despite some struggles, a very happy thing. When I started at what would become by regular workplace, it was under the guise of a grant. I was only to be there a year. Once my time and the grant’s funds were up, I’d either move onto another grant-funded position in the same place, if such a position was available, or I’d move on. Contrary to Obi-Wan Kenobi, in my experience, there IS such a thing as luck, because I had it after that grant ended. It just so happened that my workplace had an actual, full-time staff job open. It also just so happened that, at the time, I was the only person left from the grant, which had funded a couple other people, who didn’t have any prospects. So when the offer came along, I took it without thinking twice. Though again, I didn’t think it would turn into something long-term. I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong. 🙂


 

Binging on Some Food for Thought

I know I should do a reblog, but a question has been bugging me lately, and yesterday it became even more of an aggravation. And that’s because I read yet another article in the local newspaper about the best binge-worthy TV shows. These articles are pretty commonplace these days, and it seems that binge-watching is here to stay. If fact, it’s practically something to brag about – how one’s weekend was spent on the couch, engrossed in whatever show of whatever genre, out of the sunlight, away from socialness, stopped only for takeout, texts, and bathroom breaks…maybe. This is alright. This is cool. This is acceptable. And though the newspaper didn’t have a comment section, I’m certain that the corresponding article in the paper’s digital version probably got lots of supportive comments and thumbs up.

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A harrowing week and heeding the call of games…of one game…

Y’know those weeks where all the days seem to mash together into an incoherent pile of work and non-work activities? That was my week last week, and partially this week. I’m not even sure I could describe to someone in words just how bizarrely the days went. Things happened, and I’m still here. That’s about all I know. Sadly, I didn’t blow up any shit on the 4th. In fact, when it came time to, at the very least, watch the local fireworks display, I was pretty much all like “meh, seen it.” I was just too damn tired.

Meanwhile, things are going great with our bathroom renovation, thanks for asking.

*crickets*

Continue reading “A harrowing week and heeding the call of games…of one game…”

A gaming update, updated!

A few months back, I offered up a round-up of games that I had recently played or been playing. It was good; I liked it. It made me feel much more accomplished than I thought it would. And I think it’s something I’m going to try to do every few months, or thereabouts. (Probably without the “Play or Pass” references, unless I picked up something based off that series specifically.) Starting with this poorly titled post. Maybe I’ll come up with something snazzier eventually. Maybe not. I really don’t know. And as you can see, I’m having a damn near awful time with this introduction, so let’s just let on with the games, shall we?

Continue reading “A gaming update, updated!”