Games as consumer art?

If the arcade game paradigm is applied generally in interactive art, `interpassivity’, a Pavlovian interactivity of stimulus and response, will be induced.

Simon Penny

Electronic games can be argued to train the player in a Pavlovian sense. I’m pretty sure most people who have played games to some extent can discern what sort of importance a large, glowing globe on a boss’ head means. You may need to solve a some sort of puzzle or wait for the right time for the globe to reveal itself, but when it does, you close in for the damage. There are so many games out there that use this approach to their enemies and bosses that it has become universal to some extent, and players already have a Pavlovian response to them. Modern Zelda games even go as far as to explicitly train the player in a use of a gimmick to solve a puzzle that is then presented in a boss battle.

Games are not the only ones that draw a response out of us. Art tends to do that as well, though art itself rarely is interactive. There is a distinct overlap between interactive art and electronic games in both of them requiring a participant in order to be realised. Interactive art does not fulfill its intended form without interaction in the same way as a video game can’t play itself.

Games and art do share more than that. Both are biologically unnecessary and often are seen in a romantic light of being separate from the need of being a sales success or politically driven. From a more realistic perspective, both art and games need to make money and the more emphasizes storylines games have had, the more they have emphasize they have on a subject. It should be noted that games like Zelda don’t intend to make any sort of political statement as such, but as with anything, there are those who will analyse anything and see whatever they wish to see.

The value of art itself is also in the line, as the general public is outside the circle of high art connoisseurs, who have made efforts to determine what art even is. At one point the notion of a five years old being able to do the same thing as a highly skilled painter was able to had become common enough to be seen absolutely everywhere. It’s the lowest level of insult given to any piece of work out there. This insult is not necessary from ignorance, but simply that the notion of a canvas painted white was even considered as art.

There is a lack of criticism towards what is considered art. Whether it is due to the post-modern era we live in or simply because the majority of the population simply attach the term to anything they see even remotely wonderful and astonishing. The old argument you’ve seen in this blog is If everything can be considered art, then art has no value.

This blog tends to would argue that art has always had a direct connection to its consumption under consumerism. However, the romanticised view is not any less valid. Art does not need to entertain or conform to the wishes of the consumers, it has no wish to the commercially successful. A consumer product has to, and if we are to combine both art and electronic games under one banner under the term of interactivity, then we must also abandon the notion the romantic view of art gives us and embrace art as something that has to serve the masses.

The language here is an issue. The emphasize we’ve given to art and artists is stupidly high in modern world. Whoever draws pictures is called an artist. Whoever can produce a piece of music is called an artist. Whoever can make and edit videos is called an artist. Ad nauseam. While the core etymology of art in ars refers to skill or craft, perhaps that’s not applicable nowadays, where the amount of people who are skilled eclipses that in out history. Make no mistake, very few can make classics like Mona Lisa, but in all objectivity, we have Internet full of people making far more impressive paintings with superior tools.

The worlds just don’t meet. If a game is made by hundreds of artists in a combined effort towards one end goal, is such work art anymore? Perhaps games are galleries in the sense that they offer a virtual space for different artists to showcase their skills in respective fields. Most games are not single vision as the main consumer crowd wants to view them as. Hideo Kojima is not the only person responsible on the success of Metal Gear games just as Miyamoto has a large team behind most of his Mario games. There are composers, illustrators, modellers, coders, designers, business men, organisers and God knows what within the credits of one game, all supposedly artists in their respective fields working.

The same applies to movies, and to some extent to movies as well.

Cultural consumer is a thing, a person who consumes cultural product within their society, and even outside it. Perhaps Patricia Martin was right to suggest the converge of art and entertainment alongside with technology was, and still is, remaking the consumer. This thinking consumer who wants to separate himself from the mass market has options to voice himself. Either through blogs or Youtube videos. In reality, with this constant cycle of ever-present news, media and event information we have thanks to the Internet, the cultural consumer has become part of the mass market. What used to be counter-culture is now mainstream.

How does this tie to our topic? Games were made by mathematicians and other people who didn’t want to get a “real job.” They were seen as kids’ toys. Something to scoff at. As games became more popular and mainstream, the more they were tied to artistry in multitude of ways. Now, electronic games are a bigger business than Hollywood. The institutionalisation of art would mean that its romantic view needs to be discarded, and we recognize that art is through and through a tool for profit and politics. Art is a thing that perhaps should stay as a romanticised object and be desired to be realised as, despite the reality not permitting this.

 

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