Audiences & Experiences Week #12

This week’s content focused on the subject of art games and the viewings were as follows:

  • Game Aesthetics: How videogames are transforming contemporary art by Domenico Quaranta (Article)
  • Chapter 6: Artists’ Locative Games and Chapter 7: Critical Computer Games from “Critical Play: Radical Game Design” by Mary Flanagan (2009)
  • Chapter 5: Understanding Video Games as Emotional Experiences from “The Video Game Theory Reader 2” by Bernard Perron and Mark J. P. Wolf (2008)
  • PLAY: Something Something Soup Something by Stefano Gualeni
  • PLAY: SNAKISM by Pippin Barr
  • WATCH: The Graveyard by Tale of Tales (Video Playthrough)

Within this article, Quaranta opens with a bold analogy of how King Kong has been adapted within movies over the years. Such as being changed from a camera shot of the gorilla being the size of the Empire State Building to making the actor climbing the building the main center piece. This analogy can be applied to modern art also, as video games serve as a modern contemporary art medium, despite arguments made against it.

In addition, the term coined within this piece of “Info-Aesthetics” is particularly interesting as it is derived from existing terminology associated with technology. Info-Aesthetics relates to this new modern age of art. I partially agree with this statement as as technology evolves, it is ever evolving the creation of art as shown within Virtual Reality art sculptures and paintings. However, I’m not certain that it is currently a big enough trend to be marked as a new era of art.

However, I really disagree with the second statement of video game artists referring to the individuals that “copy” games and describing the act as being “easy and beautiful. A cool thing to do!”. I’m not sure if the tone of this is meant to read as sarcastic but either way, it appears to completely invalidate the work that artists that work within the gaming industry create.

Another argument made is that those who mod or modify a game can also be considered artists. Personally, I also disagree with this statement as I feel that a certain percentage of the work should be yours in order to determine yourself as an artist. Would you change or paint over one aspect of a famous painting and then try and call yourself an artist? No you would not, and the same concept applies here. Although, I am not criticising or stating that modding games is wrong or bad, it’s just not considered a form of art in my opinion.

Personally, I found that Chapter 6 went on a bit of tangent with the flashback to the past. Fortunately, this connection was later tied in within a later section which I was grateful for as I failed to see the relevance beforehand. It was interesting to read the cultural connection between the urban use of space and how the idea of utilising space as more of a play space than just for everyday life evolved into the applications we see today. This concept overall, derives from Huizinga’s definition of the magic circle and expands upon it for it involves utilising the real world space as the playing ground; unbound. The quote provided from Peter Wollen, a film theorist, of “the whole of life into an exciting game — the play principle before the work principle” supports this theory.

In addition, at the time this text was produced in 2009, locative game examples provided were Snap-Shot-City (2006, Australian based) and Can You See Me Now? (2001, Available locations included: Sheffield, Rotterdam, Oldenburg, Koln & Brighton). Modern day examples that come to mind include Pokemon Go (2016) as it uses GPS tracking to place virtual gyms that users can visit to battle and for Pokemon locations. Another example is Zombies, Run! (2012) which uses your location as you run to spawn zombies which adds an exciting twist on running applications.

On the other hand, Chapter 7 — Critical Computer Games, was even more confusing as it ranged from discussing the lack of females within the computer game industry to the representation of females within video games. In relation to this, Flanagan also states how females are seen as casual gamers within the gaming population. Although this may have been true at the time of publishing in 2009, I feel that the margin has become signifcantly smaller over the years as there has been a large movement to get girls involved with games.

In addition, I found the case study on “The Intruder” (1998–99) by Natalie Bookchin to be an excellent example of how a female could be utilised both as an object of desire and how that male weakness can be used to their advantage. For example, as the narrative is based on Jorge Louis Borges story of the same name, it begins by highlighting the female as the possession of two brothers who both share a love interest. However, as the story progresses, they become obsessed over her and as neither can stand the thought of the other having her to themselves, she is eventually murdered to end the tension between the two men. This metaphor is then used by Bookchin to signal her feelings towards being an “intruder” as a female within the male-dominated video game industry.

In addition, it was interesting to read about Bookchin’s next piece, Metapet (2002) which served as a mock for the balance between work and play and the corporate culture. Within this experience, the player must help the office employees to work more efficiently so they can climb the corporate ladder. Overall, these were great examples of how art games can instil underlying messages to the use.

The content of chapter 5 consisted of listing the types of emotional responses and emotions felt by users whilst playing games. Overall, I found it a little bit repetitive.

However, the part that resonated the most was when Perron and Wolf spoke about the types of emotions such as:

  • prospect – I feel this can be associated with anticipation as the emotions are based on the processing outcome of an event
  • fortune-of-others – feeling happy or sorry for other players.
  • attribution – based on attributes in game
  • wellbeing – happiness, delight surprise
  • attraction – the users appeal and overall temperament towards the game.

Despite these not being new ideas, it was interesting to see how they could be applied within video games and with the examples, providing new methods of invoking specific emotions within users.

This is a free game by designer, Stefano Gualeni released in 2017. The gameplay involves using the teleporter in order to assess the aliens creations and define if it can be considered soup or not. The game questions your perception of what a soup is by presenting you with: inedible substances like batteries in liquid, rocks being presented in a bowl of liquid, soup being served in a hat or an ice cream scoop as an eating utensil.

The overall metaphorical message the game provides is that even if something falls outside of the conventional conditions, it could still be included. This is true for art games as even though they lack some of the components that we expect from games such as challenge or lack of agency e.g. walking simulators, they’re still classified as games.

This free-to-play title is a take on the classic game of Snake by Pippin Barr. I tried out the capitalism, narcissism, pessimismm and conservatism modes. Although the idea behind capitalism and pessisimm were extremely clear within the games environment or mechanic change, without knowing what the other “isms” were beforehand, the messages from the others may have been less obvious upon playing.

This is a game by Tale of Tales, a Belgium duo and involves the player assuming the role of an old woman walking through a graveyard. The only agency involves walking around and sitting down on a bench towards the end. It’s a very short game only spanning a maximum of 10 minutes in length.

Personally, I can appreciate the strong aesthetic choices and the deep message being portrayed within this piece. However, I feel like this may have been better presented as an animation or video piece rather than as an art game. A lot of reviews for the title critique the artistic choices and question why it is considered a game; it still features the core components of a game such as agency, a start, middle and an end goal.

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