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The Big [Games/Media/Art Theory] Thread

ElaroElaro ApologeticRegistered User regular
edited May 2022 in Social Entropy++
I've seen this topic come up frequently on these forums in various threads discussing specific artistic mediums (most recently in the PC gaming thread, but I've also seen it in the webcomics and anime thread), but only as occasional, semi-reluctant detours before coming back to the main topic. So I thought "this comes up a lot, why not have a thread where game/art/media theory is the main topic?" Hence this thread.

THE BIG GAMES/ART/MEDIA THEORY THREAD

If you've ever thought "why do I interpret this piece of media a certain way but my friend interprets it a different way?" or "The fuck's a Soulslike?" and wanted to explore the question in depth with interested people, well, this is the thread for you!

The G/A/M theory thread is about discussing and exploring the more abstract questions of appreciating video games and art in general. Questions like:

What makes art different from non-art? What makes video games video games and not books/movies/tabletop games? What makes a video game genre a genre? Can a game belong to different genres? How do we communicate that this game/piece of art is similar to these other art pieces in some respect but not in others? In short, how do we distinguish art?

Why do we choose to experience art? What makes a work of art worth experiencing? What makes a work of art "well-made"? Is there a reasonable expectation as to what someone should understand of a piece of art? If so, what? (aka why do so many fans of "Power of Friendship" stories turn out to be antisocial ninnies?) What are adequate mindsets (or inadequate mindsets) for appreciating a work of art, especially a grim/depressing/sad one? In short, how do we get something positive out of art?

You know, stuff like that.
Etiquette

No one here has all the answers and everybody makes mistakes. So let's be patient with each other, not presume ill-intent when misunderstanding is an adequate explanation, and, if someone objects to something specific we've written, be willing to share the thought process (relevant experiences -> step-by-step reasoning -> our conclusion) that led to us writing that. Unless someone is being a silly goose, and objecting to accounts of feelings and other experiences counts as being a silly goose.

tl;dr:
Art.
What is it?
Why is it?
Discuss.

Children's rights are human rights.
Elaro on
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    OdinOdin Registered User regular
    You can't make fart without art

    Food for thought

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    ElaroElaro Apologetic Registered User regular
    Odin wrote: »
    You can't make fart without art

    Food for thought

    I think the French can...

    Children's rights are human rights.
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    ChicoBlueChicoBlue Registered User regular
    I like to think that art chooses to experience me.

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    Mortal SkyMortal Sky queer punk hedge witchRegistered User regular
    tossing out a recommendation for Games Study Study Buddies as a good podcast about this

    all I have to contribute for now

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    ChicoBlue wrote: »
    I like to think that art chooses to experience me.

    Art's got good taste

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    MaddocMaddoc I'm Bobbin Threadbare, are you my mother? Registered User regular
    This is the problem with trying to create a discrete thread for this sorta thing out of nothing, as opposed to it happening organically in other conversations.

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    edited May 2022
    Quick run
    Elaro wrote: »
    What makes art different from non-art?
    Nothing, they are identical.
    Elaro wrote: »
    What makes video games video games and not books/movies/tabletop games?
    Medium, functionally. But medium is more a matter of perception than like, a rigid fact, as mixed media has endlessly taught us. So maybe perception.
    Elaro wrote: »
    What makes a video game genre a genre?
    Tautology. Or, more kindly, perception. I don't understand/believe in half the genres out there, there's some heavy perception and group consensus happening to an extreme degree such that most genres are because enough people say they are.
    Elaro wrote: »
    Can a game belong to different genres?
    Yes.
    Elaro wrote: »
    How do we communicate that this game/piece of art is similar to these other art pieces in some respect but not in others?
    Poorly. Jokes aside, frequently through discussion of mechanics rather than emotional resonance or feeling or narrative content. Which isn't bad, per se, but it's how it's done.


    Anyways I'm a bit tipsy so maybe I'll be less bitchy about these answers tomorrow but those are my shots across the bow.

    Straightzi on
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    DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    Well, I linked to Roger Ebert's essay about why games are art in another thread, so I might as well re-link it here, because it's good reading relevant to the questions being asked.

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    SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    So I'm just now catching up on the pc games thread and wanted to respond to the whole idea of the personal experience of art being the same as the art in an objective sense, or maybe not having an objective sense, or however that concept would be summarized. This seems kind of strange to me. It feels like that line of thinking leads to either an argument against anything having an objective value or status at all, like all reality is subjective - or that art is just the act of experiencing things, in which case anything in the universe can be classified as interactive art. Neither of these really make sense to me.

    sig.gif
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Well, I linked to Roger Ebert's essay about why games are art in another thread, so I might as well re-link it here, because it's good reading relevant to the questions being asked.

    what a weird article

    he could have just said "I'm old and I don't care" and left it at that

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    minor incidentminor incident expert in a dying field njRegistered User regular
    I would say that with art being viewed as art, there is no objective value or measurement. Looking at it as a craft, sure, that’s different. But in my mind, art is about how a thing makes you feel, and that just ain’t objective.

    Ah, it stinks, it sucks, it's anthropologically unjust
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    Mortal SkyMortal Sky queer punk hedge witchRegistered User regular
    Maddoc wrote: »
    This is the problem with trying to create a discrete thread for this sorta thing out of nothing, as opposed to it happening organically in other conversations.

    in Debate and Discourse the gdst format thread works because, say what you will about D&D as a sub-forum, people are down to clown with taking a thread premise and running with it

    problem is SE++ has terminal chat thread ADHD as a feature and not a bug, so GDSTs only work under certain circumstances

    by which I mean, Elaro should clearly draw some goblins or make us draw Roger Ebert

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    reVersereVerse Attack and Dethrone God Registered User regular
    Personally, I don't care if the media I experience qualifies as art as long as it's entertaining. If it's also art then that's fine.

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    DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    Xaquin wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Well, I linked to Roger Ebert's essay about why games are art in another thread, so I might as well re-link it here, because it's good reading relevant to the questions being asked.

    what a weird article

    he could have just said "I'm old and I don't care" and left it at that

    You're being extremely uncharitable.

    He goes into great detail to talk about many points that people raised in response to his erroneous statement about games not being art and then tries to interrogate his thoughts about what makes art art. It doesn't wrap up in a neat and tidy bow because Ebert does not arrive at a neat and tidy conclusion to the philosophical question, and he acknowledges that were he to play enough video games he might be able to better answer it himself, but because they personally do not appeal to him he should defer to those more experienced in the medium.

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    The Lovely BastardThe Lovely Bastard Registered User regular
    vjltjhs4i8mg.png

    7656367.jpg
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    ElaroElaro Apologetic Registered User regular
    Looks like I should have posted this in D&D after all...

    Children's rights are human rights.
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    Speed RacerSpeed Racer Scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratch scritch scratchRegistered User regular
    Elaro wrote: »
    Looks like I should have posted this in D&D after all...

    You condescendingly dismissed people that presented alternative viewpoints to you, then decided to make a thread where you could go off on them to your heart's content without seeming like a jerk for overtaking the PC games thread

    I'm not sure why you expected people would be enthusiastic about participating. Especially when multiple people told you they wouldn't be interested in participating

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    QuantumTurkQuantumTurk Registered User regular
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Well, I linked to Roger Ebert's essay about why games are art in another thread, so I might as well re-link it here, because it's good reading relevant to the questions being asked.

    what a weird article

    he could have just said "I'm old and I don't care" and left it at that

    You're being extremely uncharitable.

    He goes into great detail to talk about many points that people raised in response to his erroneous statement about games not being art and then tries to interrogate his thoughts about what makes art art. It doesn't wrap up in a neat and tidy bow because Ebert does not arrive at a neat and tidy conclusion to the philosophical question, and he acknowledges that were he to play enough video games he might be able to better answer it himself, but because they personally do not appeal to him he should defer to those more experienced in the medium.

    exactly

    he's old and doesn't care =p

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    throw them on there randomly?

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    QuantumTurkQuantumTurk Registered User regular
    Xaquin wrote: »
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    throw them on there randomly?

    Ah, a process piece, do we find aesthetic sensibilities in the chaos, very good arting.

    (It's just a question I was asked long ago that I like for getting people talking about wtf art even is/isn't, no real gotcha intended)

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    edited May 2022
    Xaquin wrote: »
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    throw them on there randomly?

    Ah, a process piece, do we find aesthetic sensibilities in the chaos, very good arting.

    (It's just a question I was asked long ago that I like for getting people talking about wtf art even is/isn't, no real gotcha intended)

    I've always felt that art has to have intent. Sure, there can be accidental art, but only if someone assigns value to it and even then, that doesn't seem right either. Since the entire subject is subjective though there's probably no real answer

    edit: I mean you can't call something a process piece if the person has no process.

    Xaquin on
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    The Lovely BastardThe Lovely Bastard Registered User regular
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    i simply do not put them on the desk

    7656367.jpg
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    minor incidentminor incident expert in a dying field njRegistered User regular
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    i simply do not put them on the desk

    Defiance as performance art, nice.

    Ah, it stinks, it sucks, it's anthropologically unjust
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    MaddocMaddoc I'm Bobbin Threadbare, are you my mother? Registered User regular
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    i simply do not put them on the desk

    Avante garde

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    miscellaneousinsanitymiscellaneousinsanity grass grows, birds fly, sun shines, and brother, i hurt peopleRegistered User regular
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    UrielUriel Registered User regular
    Xaquin wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    throw them on there randomly?

    Ah, a process piece, do we find aesthetic sensibilities in the chaos, very good arting.

    (It's just a question I was asked long ago that I like for getting people talking about wtf art even is/isn't, no real gotcha intended)

    I've always felt that art has to have intent. Sure, there can be accidental art, but only if someone assigns value to it and even then, that doesn't seem right either. Since the entire subject is subjective though there's probably no real answer

    edit: I mean you can't call something a process piece if the person has no process.

    Wait does art need to have value?

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    RT800RT800 Registered User regular
    I think art needs intent.

    For instance a painting or a picture of a mountain can be art. Someone used the image of the mountain in an attempt to evoke a response.

    But the mountain itself is not art. It's just a mountain.

    If I smash a television and display the broken remains in a gallery as a statement on modernity or some shit, then it's art. If I smash a television on accident and throw it in the trash, it's just garbage.

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    UrielUriel Registered User regular
    I don't really know if I agree that art needs intent because so much of art is in the act of observing

    Like two different people could observe the same thing and derive different meanings from it be it a piece of art or the subject of said piece

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    WyvernWyvern Registered User regular
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Well, I linked to Roger Ebert's essay about why games are art in another thread, so I might as well re-link it here, because it's good reading relevant to the questions being asked.

    what a weird article

    he could have just said "I'm old and I don't care" and left it at that

    You're being extremely uncharitable.

    He goes into great detail to talk about many points that people raised in response to his erroneous statement about games not being art and then tries to interrogate his thoughts about what makes art art. It doesn't wrap up in a neat and tidy bow because Ebert does not arrive at a neat and tidy conclusion to the philosophical question, and he acknowledges that were he to play enough video games he might be able to better answer it himself, but because they personally do not appeal to him he should defer to those more experienced in the medium.
    I don't know, I don't really feel like there's that much interrogation being done. The thrust of the article comes off to me as, "I have a visceral dislike of video games, and I assumed that I could come up with some ex post facto rationalization for why that prejudice is correct, but I couldn't. This hasn't really changed my thoughts on art or video games at all but it was pointless to try and start a debate I was clearly unequipped to actually participate in."

    The one novel idea he touches on is that he thinks a work of art needs to be a singular discrete Thing and not a possibility space, although I'm not convinced that's particularly authentic to how people actually interact with art and his counterfactuals on the video game side are still pretty strawman-y.

    Switch: SW-2431-2728-9604 || 3DS: 0817-4948-1650
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    ElaroElaro Apologetic Registered User regular
    Elaro wrote: »
    Looks like I should have posted this in D&D after all...

    You condescendingly dismissed people that presented alternative viewpoints to you, then decided to make a thread where you could go off on them to your heart's content without seeming like a jerk for overtaking the PC games thread

    I'm not sure why you expected people would be enthusiastic about participating. Especially when multiple people told you they wouldn't be interested in participating

    Yeah, I didn't, either, and I did seriously consider not making this thread. But some people showed interest/encouragement (specifically Straightzi's "Sure, why not?"), so I did.

    I regret overworking the OP (my original thought was to just write "Art. What? Why? Discuss." as the OP, but I thought it was too short and unhelpful for a topic this complex), although I'm somewhat pleased with the Etiquette section. But maybe that section is superfluous in a SE++ thread.

    Which is my point, I should have posted that specific OP in D&D, not here. It's too "serious discussion" for SE++.

    Children's rights are human rights.
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    Xaquin wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    If I hand you 3 pencils, and ask you to arrange them on the desk such that they are not art, what do you do?

    throw them on there randomly?

    Ah, a process piece, do we find aesthetic sensibilities in the chaos, very good arting.

    (It's just a question I was asked long ago that I like for getting people talking about wtf art even is/isn't, no real gotcha intended)

    I've always felt that art has to have intent. Sure, there can be accidental art, but only if someone assigns value to it and even then, that doesn't seem right either. Since the entire subject is subjective though there's probably no real answer

    edit: I mean you can't call something a process piece if the person has no process.

    Wait does art need to have value?

    judging by my art? no

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    Wyvern wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Well, I linked to Roger Ebert's essay about why games are art in another thread, so I might as well re-link it here, because it's good reading relevant to the questions being asked.

    what a weird article

    he could have just said "I'm old and I don't care" and left it at that

    You're being extremely uncharitable.

    He goes into great detail to talk about many points that people raised in response to his erroneous statement about games not being art and then tries to interrogate his thoughts about what makes art art. It doesn't wrap up in a neat and tidy bow because Ebert does not arrive at a neat and tidy conclusion to the philosophical question, and he acknowledges that were he to play enough video games he might be able to better answer it himself, but because they personally do not appeal to him he should defer to those more experienced in the medium.
    I don't know, I don't really feel like there's that much interrogation being done. The thrust of the article comes off to me as, "I have a visceral dislike of video games, and I assumed that I could come up with some ex post facto rationalization for why that prejudice is correct, but I couldn't. This hasn't really changed my thoughts on art or video games at all but it was pointless to try and start a debate I was clearly unequipped to actually participate in."

    The one novel idea he touches on is that he thinks a work of art needs to be a singular discrete Thing and not a possibility space, although I'm not convinced that's particularly authentic to how people actually interact with art and his counterfactuals on the video game side are still pretty strawman-y.

    I don't get how he arrived at the conclusion that pictures can be art but hundreds of thousands of pictures that you can interact with somehow aren't =p

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Oh I just think people should make threads, that's all

    I have no idea if they'll be successful or not

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    minor incidentminor incident expert in a dying field njRegistered User regular
    Threads are like art. You may have some intent in the creation process, but once you put it out into the world none of that matters anymore. All that matters is how people receive it and interact with it.

    Ah, it stinks, it sucks, it's anthropologically unjust
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    Threads are like art. You may have some intent in the creation process, but once you put it out into the world none of that matters anymore. All that matters is how people receive it and interact with it.

    I kind of disagree. I feel like once it's out people can put their own spin on it but ultimately it boils down to the intent of the artist. If I draw a picture of a cow because I like cows and someone calls it a reflection of society being herded and and eating until led to the slaughter, they're wrong.

    I think Dee Snider put it best in the PMRC hearings

    "As the creator of "Under the Blade," I can say categorically that the only sadomasochism, bondage, and rape in this song is in the mind of Ms. Gore."

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    I would say that the intent matters but the intent isn't the only thing that matters

    The intent cannot fully override the interpretations, but also the interpretations cannot eclipse the intent, they're both important parts of the process of consuming art

    Death of the author gets applied way too broadly these days (hilariously, it's used in ways that go beyond the intent of the original creator of the theory)

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    GlaziusGlazius Registered User regular
    I feel like I should share this piece again, on the nature of storytelling and interpretation in The Beginner's Guide:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N6y6LEwsKc

    and say that while some interpretations of art are bullshit, that doesn't mean that all but one interpretation of art is bullshit.

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    DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited June 2022
    Wyvern wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Well, I linked to Roger Ebert's essay about why games are art in another thread, so I might as well re-link it here, because it's good reading relevant to the questions being asked.

    what a weird article

    he could have just said "I'm old and I don't care" and left it at that

    You're being extremely uncharitable.

    He goes into great detail to talk about many points that people raised in response to his erroneous statement about games not being art and then tries to interrogate his thoughts about what makes art art. It doesn't wrap up in a neat and tidy bow because Ebert does not arrive at a neat and tidy conclusion to the philosophical question, and he acknowledges that were he to play enough video games he might be able to better answer it himself, but because they personally do not appeal to him he should defer to those more experienced in the medium.
    I don't know, I don't really feel like there's that much interrogation being done. The thrust of the article comes off to me as, "I have a visceral dislike of video games, and I assumed that I could come up with some ex post facto rationalization for why that prejudice is correct, but I couldn't. This hasn't really changed my thoughts on art or video games at all but it was pointless to try and start a debate I was clearly unequipped to actually participate in."

    The one novel idea he touches on is that he thinks a work of art needs to be a singular discrete Thing and not a possibility space, although I'm not convinced that's particularly authentic to how people actually interact with art and his counterfactuals on the video game side are still pretty strawman-y.

    I still disagree with that interpretation of the article but I can concede that it's an understandable read to take. I took away that he did reconsider about video games being art, and it was his own personal understanding of how art could exist that needed to expand to encompass it.

    The consumption of media and the viewing of art is an interactive process by the viewer, but I have to agree that the process of playing a video game is a different form of interactivity than watching a film or reading a book.

    As far as "Roger Ebert's problem [being] that he thinks you can't have art if there is that amount of malleability in the narrative," as Clive Barker put it, I would put forth arguments to Ebert about Choose Your Own Adventure novels, or arranging an experimental film on a DVD that will randomly select the order by which to play chapters, or a vinyl record that is grooved such that it will not play the same track selection each time it is put on. Video game experiences are not that dissimilar from these other forms - there is variance, to be sure, but it is still within discreet parameters set by the creators.

    One could not argue that the individuality of any person's playing of a game renders it less Art, because of course, is not every person's interaction with a work of Art singular and individual? With narrative games that allow for divergent dialog trees and branching storylines, the creators still set limits on how the story can unfold, and the validity of different playthroughs that result in different outcomes does not render any particular version/experience of the narrative less authentic and true, any more than earlier versions of Shakespeare's plays are less authentic and true than those that came before. (I bring this up because of Ebert's mention of Romeo and Juliet but also because of my personal experience reading through multiple extant versions of Hamlet in college.)

    Narrative need not be present for Art to exist, and so even with more abstract games, the engagement process by the person experiencing the game is authentic and true. When you play Tetris, your experience is not the same as anyone else's, but it's still Tetris. You still take away the Tetris experience.

    I'm going to leave it here for now because, appropriately enough, it's time for me to play some video games with some friends. But I've at least gotten some of my thoughts down in written form, and I hope they're of use.

    DarkPrimus on
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    minor incidentminor incident expert in a dying field njRegistered User regular
    I don’t really understand the argument of “games aren’t art because they’re interactive and parts of the experience are determined by the player” when the same argument applies pretty directly to books. When I read The Lord of the Rings in middle school, it was up to me to create these characters in my imagination. I had to do the work to decide what they looked like, what the various locations looked like, etc.

    The work my imagination put into that story to flesh out what was written and fill in the gaps means I got a different experience from anyone else who read it.

    And maybe that’s just me being pedantic about it, but it’s just as much an interaction as deciding which direction a character walks, as far as I’m concerned.

    Ah, it stinks, it sucks, it's anthropologically unjust
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