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.


Censorship is not transformative

While it may seem at times that this blog is against art in some ways, the reality is that I am against the wild use of the term. Not everything needs or deserves to be art to be a highly valued cultural commodity. This blog largely defends the rights of creative industries and their aims to create works. However, I also come from the consumer perspective, where the creator often needs to take into account the market’s wants and needs in order to succeed. Needless to say, this entry is going to differ from the usual writer’s persona a bit.

Censorship is not that.

If an author intends his work to be in a certain way and releases said piece in its intended state, it is not the job of others to come and change that product to fit themselves afterwards. If we are to determine art as a way to express oneself, no one else should have a word how or what the creator wishes to express. Censoring or changing one’s work, but not transforming it, is essentially infringing a core element of art itself.

A product is transformative when an original piece is taken and given a new form. For example, Youtube is filled with videos that fall under transformative label, as they take existing videos and sounds, creating something new based on them. MADs fall under this same category. They do not infringe on the original author’s intent since the original is still there, unaltered. Hollywood seems to have hard time grasping this thing.

To argue that censorship would be transformative is nothing short of incorrect, as it is intentional suppression of any element of a work as seen by any faction or person for whatever reason, be it political or due to supposedly objectionable content. Censorship does not transform elements of a work into a new one, it simply removes pieces it doesn’t like. It doesn’t transform the work; it doesn’t derive anything new from a work.

While human history is short in the cosmic scale, we’ve still had numerous works that are significant to our world and cultural heritage. Many of these are under the gun of censorship, especially nowadays when bikini clad women in games are seen as worst sort of offending material there is. Some even argue that Shakespeare should be censored to be more timely.  What a terrible waste that would be. Even when we would remove the Immortal Bard from the equation, the fact is that his works are significant both culturally and historically. Understanding them is to understand the time they came from as well as modern English as a language.

Censoring the likes of Shakespeare for whatever reasons, or Mark Twain for the matter, is showing every sense of lack of belief and confidence in the people. Essentially, removing nigger from Twain’s books shows that the factions doing the censorship has no faith in the people to make the distinction between the era when the book was written in and now, or that the term is used in form that offers no offence. It is unfunny irony that Huckleberry Finn would see censorship in this way. Often the intent of censorship in cases like this is for a more positive and “fitting” release of the work for a given era, but as it always is, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

If one were to argue that Shakespeare’s King Lear is a copy of the legend of Leir of Britain with elements from the Holinshed’s Chronicles, I would argue back that it is not. To use something like Star Wars as an example, using existing works as a template to create your own work is not plagiarism, or in Star Wars‘ case, even transformative. The fact that George Lucas used classical literature, especially the concept of hero’s journey combined with elements inspired by Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, to create something that was essentially new and needed in the later 1970’s speaks volumes on itself. Creativity feeds back on itself, just like any field feeds back to itself. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that all creative fields derive from each other and from themselves, but that doesn’t keep anyone from to taking elements, rearrange them and give them new approaches to create something original. Sure, some resort to blatant ripping off, but that’s another issue.

Of course, it is well known that Shakespeare’s works are inspired by existing tales, but we don’t exactly celebrate the plots of his works. They are celebrated because Shakespeare’s works broke down existing boundaries both socially and in language. Hamlet‘s plot is not why it’s so highly regarded, but because Hamlet himself is so well written as a character and how Shakespeare conveys his growth and anguish through and through. Act III, Scene I of Hamlet is not great because To be or not to be has become recognized as almost universal anguish, but how the whole line bears Hamlet to the audience. There is no actor who would not want to tackle this famous line and breathe his own life into it.

We do not have reverence for Shakespeare’s works because of him; it’s the opposite.

The question whether or not we should separate the creator from his work is something we all should consider. I would argue that as often as possible we need to separate the work from its author simply because our view on the piece would be coloured and become biased if we have strong opinions on the creator. It is very easy to veer into identity politics if we have something against a creator, as it is the case with Dana Schutz’s Open Casket. The case shows how anyone can interpret a painting how they see fit and disregard the author’s intent. While we can debate which one is more important, we should always remind ourselves that freedom of expression is a supposed tent pole with art, and as such should be respected over personal views. Calling for her painting to be burned is very reminiscent of book burnings from various eras, e.g. German Nazi party’s book burnings. While we can argue obout the painting itself, no subject should be banned from anyone within the proper limits of law.

If we were to ban certain people from subjects to create works based on, the opposite should the true as well. Otherwise we’d be discriminating a group and favouring another. However, such limitation would kill the change of thoughts and ideas as well as the discussion between and in these groups. Creativity would stifle to a standstill when nobody is allowed to wonder outside their own region, creating a sort of echo chamber. No outside aspects would be brought in to give new and fresh ideas. Some would certainly welcome this sort of approach, as long as it would be aligned with their own views.

The world already has a history with this sort of approach, at least a one sided example. The Socialist Realism was practices in the nations of Soviet Union, which essentially prescribed a canon in art and other creative fields. While creative fields are not political by their core nature, politics can be applied to them. Socialist Realism was nothing short of political propaganda and its core intent can’t be separated from politics, but we can sideline it.  However, not before it fell from favour around the 1960’s, no other idea or thought was allowed; it governed the creators.

The Chinese communist party did even worse by almost erasing their old culture and destroyed much of the Chinese heritage. Jump here to read a bit more on that. It’s interesting to notice both of these are communist and marxist examples.

In order for discussion and exchange of ideas to move forwards, we need to allow the creation of things we may object and view them outside our own selves. Nothing good comes from silencing the one we disagree and push him underground, when we can lift him up to the stage of ideas and allow all to see and wage these ideas ourselves.

The will and skill to express oneself has been around longer than the written word. If we’re to value art as we like to see it, it’d be great of we could stop fucking around with it and let people show their stuff. If one is ready to censor or ban someone’s freedom of expression, he’d better be ready to face censorship himself.


Appreciate each others’ work

How things have been rolling as of late has reminded me of Ralph McQuarrie’s quote A real artist wakes up and does what he wants, instead of what the client wants, the agent wants, the gallery wants, etc. I consider myself a craftsman, a draughstaman. The reason for this is standards.

To use the product design industry as an example, consider your main chair back home. It may be wooden, plastic or combination of multitude of materials to create a cohesive whole that fits your taste. How many times have you given that chair a thought after your first purchase and impressions outside the few times you felt uncomfortable in it?

The best of designs tend to go unnoticed in many ways. That chair you use is most likely built to human body standards and it is made to support your back just the right way. After slight adjusting here and there, of course. Maybe it even has a headrest and an armrest pair that allows you a more supportive and comfortable positions. You may find them nice and appeasing your needs, but sweet hell does it take a forever to find that right spot during the design phase.

Design is a source of life enhancement was the motto of the late Kenji Ekuan, best known as the designer of the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, which probably stands as the best design of the previous century. It is without a doubt a bottle that has a nice curves and size that fits your hand just right. How it’s used and it functions is even more impressive and took Ekuan long enough to fine tune it. If we were to talk about high standards, the Kikkoman bottle is up there in regards how an everyday item should be.

That’s not exactly the standards that has been muddling my mind, but they’re part of it all in the end. To return to your chair, if it is one of the workstation chairs with combination of multiple materials, you can bet your ass that each connected section has sub-millimetre standard that the producer has to adhere to in order to make a satisfactory product that will not break down, can withstand certain loads and stresses and still be economically feasible to produce. Each section has required some bit of machining at some point in the production, be it when making the moulds for the plastic or some bolt, these are within third of a millimetre standard deviation in size, and that’s not even the finest allowed standard deviation.

The welded parts of that chair of yours have standards of their own as well. If you start taking notice of welded parts, you should notice the same thing repeating in most cases; uniform look, uniform thickness and uniform methods. The common consumer most likely doesn’t give one flying fuck about this, as it is something they are never concerned with in their lives. Welding is just something that a worker does and it keeps shit together. Nevertheless it is an arduous work to gain experience in and requires both hands on training and theory studying. Credit is where credit is due, and it would seem everybody thinks that their work is least appreciated out of the bunch.

If your chair is wood and not made by your local craftsman, you can be sure that in the factory it came out they have similar standards when it comes to joint manufacturing and so on. If you picked something from IKEA and had to build it yourself, each of the part is made with standards.

This combines somewhat to the previous issue with Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations, making this a possible Monthly Three in retrospect. Translation has standards as well, yet especially companies and corporations are very willing to simply force through the translation process instead. However, imagine if companies would do the same thing with your chair. It’s good enough if it just manages to hold together and sells, the consumer be damned. The reason why consumer would not find this satisfactory is because things would break down or bend out of shape due to out of standards cheap black iron parts, terrible fragile plastics used and the most rough deviation machining used. The design itself would be somewhere out there and wouldn’t support your back or contour accordingly. That’s what Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations are, with the only difference that we don’t have any other options to choose from outside Japanese. Honestly, the scripts would look loads more polished if they were just edited properly. I can almost see some fans taking the existing English scripts and just doing that. Currently, they’re just waste of space and resources, and support further detrimentation of not just English translations, but translations overall.

To return to McQuarry’s quote, the one thing an artist doesn’t need to bother himself with is standards. That could be seen as one of the things that separate art and other fields. For example, in design you still need to adhere to standards and conventions to achieve certain desired results. Within art, there are no standards as such what you can or how. This becomes more muddles when we take into notice classical paintings that adhere to a puristic style like realism and were ordered pieces. However, art has always been about selling your piece, and the modern take on being something that shouldn’t be “sold-out” is largely laughable. Just like dada.

To assume this is valid, it is one more argument for things like literacy and movies not being largely art in themselves. For exactly that reason we have art movies that encompass that whole thing of doing whatever the hell they want however they want, sometimes even changing the concept of how a movie is played in a theatre. Books too have these takes, as some books make a statement by having hundred blank pages or a poem collection with just one word per opening. Seems like a waste of material, but who am I to judge what people buy?

We tend to not give a damn about standards unless they directly apply to us and rarely even realize how strictly standards play out in our daily lives. We don’t appreciate them to a certain degree, and while we want shit to work like it should, we also give in far too often and far too much in certain things like translations where these standards should be hold up as almost sacred things. Not just because it will create a better product, but for both culture and appreciation of each and every field of work there is, art or not.

Is art a game?

The discussion whether or not games are art has been going on for a long time now, but rarely people amuse the thought of the opposite. After all, in the arts field there are rules that are almost indecipherable to the outsider, but the professionals know them through and through. The game just happens to take in the real world, where professionals weight the value of works against pre-existing set of values and scoff at the notion of art as just another waste of time to entertain children and the rich. The rules are not written by just one person, but are tied to a vivid history that gets updated now and then. Nevertheless, much like the origin that is play culture in video games, art world has competition that defines monetary values and rules those follow. This, of course, applies to business world in general, where ideas and thoughts of grandeur are showcased as the main selling point, when all that really is just the front to mask the profit and flow of money. For example, Apple and other electronics companies may sell themselves as a green and responsible companies, when in reality they dump their electronics waste to Ghana as “second-hand merch,” and deliberately design their products to die out faster than intended. Designed obsolescence is something we need to get back in the future.

So art dealing is a game in much sense like any other, but is art itself a game? Specifically, can art be equated to electronic gaming?

Since the 1990’s traditional large audience galleries have been wrestling with interactivity. After all, games are getting called useless waste of time, just like art, but an art gallery does not think this way. I’ve personally met some curators that abhor the idea of gamificating their art galleries. Art galleries are more a slow-paced chess game, where the consumer needs to stop and ponder each and every stroke the painter had done and reflect its message. Games on the other hand invite the consumer to take active part and arguably deliver an instant gratification.

Video games, and games in general, are fun. Their intention is play, to give a pause from our daily lives. Art does not need to be fun. It can be gruesome, stopping and force the consumer to face reality. However, whereas game, and indeed play too, has a challenge to overcome through wits and skill, art does not. Not in the same meaning anyway, art can challenge us to think, but it never requires us to beat a level to see and consume more of it.

In Interactive art and the video game: Separating the siblings Regina Cornwell argues that losing the distinction between interactive art and video games showcases how there is a lack of criticism in post-modern era, that making no distinction between them furthers art’s institutionalism. It degrades art into low-level consumer goods, where being entertained through modern technology becomes the main attraction. Perhaps to this I could add that the simple use of the term art has lost its weight and meaning, as anything can now be art and anyone can be an artist. Indeed, interactive art is not about the rules of the piece, it is about exploring the piece. Games are, in the end, rule driven with end goals and obstacles.

The Louvre is sometimes called the only region free game on the Nintendo 3DS. It, by the very definition of a game, is not one. It is an interactive audiovisual guide. So no, art itself, does not equate as a game. Not even when it’s being produced.

While it is easy to put art and games in the same basket with each other, it seems to be the case that game industry is vehemently wanting to do that, while the art professionals seem to dislike the idea. This wasn’t always the case, as in the 1990’s both sides seemed to dislike each others’ guts. Indeed, even now certain movies are called game-likes because of their direction, action and pace.

Perhaps the most damning is the origin that separates art from games; games are about play, art is not. While some of the rules computer games exhibit can be applied to interactive art to an extent, they are not governing factors. To a painting, such rules can’t be applied to any extent. Where art originates and what it truly represents when stripped down to its barest minimum is more a philosophical question, but perhaps the good old art is about human expression might do the trick. No, playing is not an expression, if you were thinking that. It’s about playing.

Much like how pop-art can be considered as the most spread low-level art in the world, we should consider the existence of game art. While games themselves are not art, they do contain elements that could stand as art. Much like how the neutral space where galleries set their pieces in exhibitions, games are merely containers for what could be considered art. However, element like coding fall into the field of mathematical craftsmanship, not art. Even the motion in such a place is important. The physical motion and seeing pieces as they are in reality affects us differently than seeing something through a screen. Virtual reality, phone applications or any game can’t replicate reality, no matter how advanced their technology is.

Furthermore, game space and art space are not compatible. Game space is very personal spaces, even in arcades. They are not meant to be shared, outside one or two people next to you couch during multiplayer, but even that is largely rendered obsolete through online gaming. Even then we as individuals can decide if we want to call our friends over for a play. Even in arcades this applies, as we are set under strict rules of pay and play, and ultimately are given a respected space while playing a game, even when we have an audience. Art space is the polar opposite, being completely open and public in most cases. An individual can’t decide who has the access to art space alongside them. Games encourage competition and individualism, something that clearly bothers some people to no end, while art space may call merely playful competition in status. All these ideological differences showcase themselves not only the spaces themselves, but also in the arrangement of the spaces and in cultural contexts.

Perhaps the core difference between art and video games is crystallised in Joe Laniado’s review about Serious Games from 1997;

So by way of a game, a diversion, create me a world where I have a clearly defined purpose, set me a challenge – give me a spaceship and something to shoot at.

All in the mug, maybe

I have this mug I got from my few of my friends in the Netherlands. It’s without a doubt the best mug I have, and it’s in constant use to the point of my drinks colouring it from top to bottom, inside and out. The mug is a licensed product from Raja ceramics for Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum. I intend to do a review of the mug’s design at some point in the future, it’s that good, but the mug raised an issue with me; does art live between method of productions?

The split of modern art from the old views came with the industrial revolution, and to this day really haven’t managed to solidify What is art into a proper, wholesome answer. An argumentation that I heard from an ex-art history student was that art is defined by the intention of the artist. That is a good view on the subject, but I find it lacking, as other don’t consider, for example, advertisement as an art form due to its inherent connection in commercial trading. Yet, movies, comics, books and other forms of entertainment and utility products may be lumped into art category despite their ultimate aim, despite what the PR department is telling you, is to make money so the provider can live. A painter may be intending to paint what his heart rumbles about, but in order to live, he would need to sell that painting. There is never just one intention behind a piece, and if there is no one intention behind any piece, then what about products that are made by whole slew of people?

People understand a face. A rockband usually has one big star that eclipse’s the others, boy- and girl groups being a notable exception with them having a carefully planned out group of people. Unless the band really is one guy writing, composing and performing all the songs, he is not alone in there. For movies a lot of times I see director being coined as the creator-above-all, despite the writers, actors and the rest of the staff being there. Simplifying a piece to its smallest elements, with movies it often ends up being director and actors, helps people to get around the matter. In reality, every thing’s a group effort and movie is not just a form of art (if you even consider it that) but a collection of different forms joined together, all having the same end goal through different means. Taking just one screens shot from a television show or a movie showcases multiple fields that went into the piece, but also lacks some. A screen shot can’t tell how the acting is, it lacks special effects and music. Something is always lost in translation from a form to another.

Of course, commercial art is a thing to many, and many don’t consider it as an art at all. Years back I saw someone arguing that art for the sake of art is the only true definition, but reality doesn’t support this, as that can’t really be the only intention. So maybe art for the sake of art that can provide a living and has an intention to be whatever the creator intended is something we could see as art, but that inherits the problem that anything is potentially a form of art if one chooses so to see it as.

I had a customer who called my silver weaves as a form of art, when I was more actively doing them as custom order jobs. She could not understand how a lump of metal can be turned into something so complex as a byzantine chain, to which I responded busting out some of my spring, showing her how it’s sawed into links and how the links are being linked together. At that time I noticed her face slumping, as the magic was gone for her. She understood that what she had paid for was, ultimately, nothing special. Outside freak exceptions, anyone can produce what anyone else can. Some people never lose their fascination with art and opt to dig deeper into whys and hows, but modern world doesn’t really support any other notion to art than the very obfuscated multi-explanation view we have.

But back to the mug. What is the difference between a mug made by a craftsman and a mug made via mass-production? For the sake of argument, let’s say the end result is a mug with same design. For the craftsman, he would need to produce it largely himself, whereas a large company could mass-produce the same mug with their machines. In modern view of art, the craftsman’s mug would be considered art, whereas the mass-produced one wouldn’t. The end intention is the same with them both; to produce a mug that’s good enough to be sold. Maybe, the original designer of the artist and his design is the art from where commercialised pieces are produced, but design is not an art field, so that fails.

Maybe it’s in the eye of the beholder what is art in the end, but then every thing’s art, and  that leads everything to become worthless outside perceived personal values, which means art is an opinion and not a fact. Maybe what something requires to be art is uniqueness, and the more there is of this unique piece, the less value it has. Y’know, the usual supply-and-demand train companies roll with.

Games, art, objects, hate and helicopters

It often baffles me how there are people who think video games are real life. There are those who seem to equate a video game character to a real person. It’s understandable, as it seems to be the human nature to humanise and antromorphise things that are not human to be more humanlike or completely human.

I’ll cut the chase; video game characters are not people. They are not men or women, they are programmed objects. To say a game character objectifies someone raises the question why do you think something that is an actual object would do that? It would be more apt to say that it is the person viewing the object is doing the objectification. Of course, the designer and the person who does the modelling have their hands in creating the object and their take on various aspects does affect the end result. However, there’s a need to emphasize that they are modelling a human body, but a human being. Video game characters have as much humanity and everything carried with them as your general blowdoll.

Any and all people have tendency to see things where there aren’t any. Overly analysing something and anything has become a sort of cultural pass time in the Western countries. It’s no doubt part of the post-modern era of art we live in, where everything has something deeper to say. In reality, not everything has an agenda, a message or a deeper meaning but there are those who see things otherwise mostly because everything they do does have an agenda, a message and the alleged deeper meaning. This is extremely sad, as otherwise possibly great products become politically charged items, and politics is one thing consumers of the video game industry do not want to see. It always needs to be repeated, but people play games to get rid of stuff like politics, feminism and reality overall and just have fun.

Hatred has got a lot of buzz around it since the release of its trailer. This is pretty good, as Hatred clearly harks back to the era where there was no bullshit attached to the games and you’re just thrown in to play the damn game. Hell, even the logo has distinctly similar typeface to Doom.

And if somebody takes it as something more, they need to get their head checked
And if somebody takes it as something more, they need to get their head checked

As the people at Destructive knowingly are going against the rising trend of making everything comfortable and political correct, they’ve already seen fairly high amounts of criticism, a thing which definitely will only encourage them to go even more out there and show more outlandish things. It’s a motivational thing, and I’m sure this is a reaction they hoped for, despite the people having nothing much to it than what’s on the surface.
I’m sure Hatred will be described as murder simulator by people who have never tried their hands at a proper simulator in their life and can’t make a proper distinction.

The above is an example how a simulator can teach even a novice how to get a Kamov Ka-50 up and running. A proper simulator is a far cry from a game like Hatred, where the player character simply loads up the gun and walks out.

It needs to be understood shooting a gun in real life is not the same thing as ‘shooting a gun’ in games. To use a real weapon requires certain degree of knowledge how a gun works from loading to shooting. There are online sources that readily teach you how to handle a gun and take the recoil properly, whereas a game simply allows the player to use the object of a gun. Claiming that clicking the mouse button to shoot a virtual weapon is the same thing as pulling a real trigger is ridiculous claim to say the least.

Because of human nature to reflect reality into what is not real, it’s not too farfetched, and is applicable, to see people bringing their frustrations into a game environment. I assume everybody would agree that it would be better to get your more violent frustrations out through a match of Tekken rather than go to the closest BBQ line and fight people there. Because we see these objects as avatars to human life, we get all sorts of satisfactions from them even when they’re far from the original intentions.

But let’s take bit different stance and let’s consider games as form of art.

Art, essentially, is all about creating an objectification of a human. Be it paintings or sculpture, the classical arts have always portrayed humans in the ways the creator has intended. Indeed, the girls of Dead or Alive are nothing less than direct descendants of statues of Aphrodite. Who would be mad enough to begin to argue that the idolised woman and man in art could be something evil or bad? After all, shouldn’t we all strive to become the heroes from legends? There is no form of depiction that would not offend somebody or gain a claim of negatively objectifying something. I would argue that depiction of something is essentially creating an object out of the depicted thing. If you don’t like the depiction, you’re free to find all the other alternatives that are out there. Of course, objectification in itself is a matter we need to discuss at one point, but in context of this post we need to remember that no game character is a person or even a human being, but a literal object.

In modern world, especially in the West, the sentiment of What I say I right and you are a horrible person for disagreeing is dominant. This is apparent from the petition that aims to take down Hatred. The whole wall of text provided is not good to read and shows how certain parties simply don’t give a fuck about anyone else but themselves. There are numerous spots that should be discussed overall when it comes to video games, but in a petition like this they are merely opinions without proper base. Then again, the author concentrates on racism to such extent he completely seems to miss his own racism and bigotry by excluding white people from his rant. It would be more apt for him to complain how people are not equally killed in the game.

But the thing that gets my blood boil is the question What made you think this was ok? If people indeed want to take games-are-art as serious argument, then games like Hatred should not be demonised because of their subject; on the contrary, it should be celebrated for bringing such matter in front of people and make of it what they will. Art across ages has been there to be enjoyed for sure, but it has also been there to challenge with uncomfortable images and themes. Within the last thirty decades, there has been only a handful of games that concentrate on the gameplay element and bring up issues people do not want to assess. Software like Depression Quest and Gone Home may have issues worth of discussion for sure, but they’re incredibly bad games. Not only they hold the users’ hand like they’re bunch of morons but also lack any sort of replay value. Hell, Gone Home could’ve been a point-n-click adventure where the player is the kid he is reading of for some reason. THAT would have been something to note, as the player would have been put into the shoes a closet gay character and taken through the events and life the game tries to convey. Hatred, on the other hand, puts the player in control of the antagonist and asks the player to ponder why this sort events take place at time to time. As certain sources have said, games don’t need to be comfortable and should touch on difficult subjects. Hatred does this in a very visceral and brutal way to go directly to the point and its unapologetic method is very something to admire.

After all, games are all about the gameplay. We have made objects that are humans in their look in order to reflect reality to them, and perhaps this sort of unreality is the only place we can handle certain aspects of ourselves. In games, everybody and anything is idolised and perfected, much like in classical depictions of mankind.

So I have to ask, if games are art, why is the idolised depiction of things in form of actual objects something that is objected? This makes even less if you take art from the equation, as we all know entertainment should hit the notes the customers wish to hear. In either cases there exist numerous products in films, books, movies and to lesser extent, in games that handle horrible subjects directly. Only games are able to give the player the full fledged control and control the player character through those horrible deeds.

All that said, why the hell would you want to force a developer shut down their project? The developers of Hatred really do acknowledge what they’re doing, and whatever they’re stating officially is straightforward. They have something to say, and silencing them by forcing to shut down the project would be nothing less of censorship and detracting the value of game as a medium overall.

Shit, I need to drink less beer while writing rant articles.

Illustrations are not art

Art has become a very generic term nowadays that is thrown out there way too often in far too many situations to describe something that people usually do not understand completely. It is a term that has become something to describe anything marvelous and something that amazes a person to the point of being, well, amazed. As such, the term has lost its meaning. Good job people, art has become a concept on the same level as the word ‘cool.’

This is somewhat understandable, as it takes understanding, experiences and willful research  to realize the difference between graphic design and art. Of course, as we all know people either do not do any research or understand new things that challenge their existing paradigms. Nevertheless, it’s a paradigm shift that needs to take place not only on personal level, but on high-cultural level as well. There are somewhat healthy number of people who can make the difference between art and design, but that number is vastly smaller than the number of people who just go with the flow and ignore the difference.

In a way, I’m running a damn awareness campaign here.

One of the main reasons why illustrations are not art is the starting point with design, where the main goal is to appease the customer rather than commenting on cultural and historical phenomena, or depicting some issue that is innate to art. Design’s core purpose thus is very industrial and serves to make make the customer happy with while bringing in money to the designer/ company. A designer is tied down to serve the customer to the fullest extent and disregard any of his own opinions and wants; design is completely objective whereas art is subjective.

The second main thing is that design is actually problem solving. There is a problem, eg. a website has a need for a specific layout, or an amputee needs a new kind of artificial leg due to his choice of sports, and it’s a designer’s task to solve this problem through research, hypotheses and alternative to create the best solution possible. Through this design is also understanding people and their needs as the customer and user. Graphic design and illustrations that stem from it are this at their best; the designer needs to understand colours and shapes that trigger wanted reaction in the user, be it to guide the user to a point or inform the user of something. As such, graphic design and its illustrations serve the customer/ user.

Art on the other hand is creating something that might evoke a response of some kind from the audience, and it is about having a point of sorts in many ways. Art has no other purpose than being art and has no rules it needs to adhere to. Art serves art itself. Sometimes I hear an argument that contrasts selling art to other people and how this is the same as doing design, thus design being art. That’s not the case, as art has been always sold, and yet it’s main purpose has not been to make money even being an artist is a profession and a way of making dough. This is due to design stemming from classical arts just like many other things. Design has its roots in the Industrial Revolution and the design that we mean and know starts from there. While you could technically describe a pot from the Antique as Design retroactively, it’s more withing the lines of being a piece of work made by a craftsman. It’s something like what happened cars and the horse carriages, where cars were first know as the horseless carriages until they become known as cars. Nobody calls cars as horseless carriages in everyday language nowadays, unless they’re stuck up idiots.

Art is there to depict human need; design is there to fulfill it.

There’s a huge difference in how artists and designers think; an artist can wake up in the morning and think what he should do today while a designer wakes up in the morning and thinks how he could accomplish today’s task so that the customer is satisfied. While both people can get inspired and exaggerate, the way these often are realized are different as is the end result.

At this point we should already know a point where we can differentiate what separates illustration from art. Pretty pictures is something that illustrations and art share on very skin surface level. However, pretty illustrations are not art, no matter how you try to get around it. Sites like DeviantArt and Pixiv are filled with people calling their illustrations art and these people are dead wrong. Very few people do art there, and even less do good art.

I assume that you may have a poster in your room where you’re reading this. I have one that I bought in 1998 and it depicts Mai Shiranui. I also have another one depicting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Then, I have four pieces of art; three paintings and one drawing. The first painting depicts two young women collecting flowers and hay, the second depicts my old summer cottage, the third is a spray painting by my elderly brother depicting an interstellar icescape. The drawing depicts a rabbit sitting under a tree. Out of all these three, only the Mai Shiranui poster is design. The illustration is designed to attract the customer with the character’s own assets. It’s there to sell itself. It has no value as a piece of art, but it has every value as an illustration.

The three paintings and drawings on the other hand are art. They depict something that has a meaning and hold a value of something else than commercial money. They are subjective.

While art has become a throwaway term, it still maintains some level of caliber with it. Far too many people get offended when art is taken out of something. I’d compare it to people who call motorbikes as cars, and then somebody points out that the motorbike is actually a motorbike.

Fetishized art

I got into few discussions about art recently. Well, discussion is the wrong way to put when it’s people screaming from the bottom of their lungs and refusing to listen what other people had to say. Art, it makes people mad.

I generally refuse to outright say anything about what I think of art, or what is art. Here, I’ll come out clean; I consider things as art as long as they’re done by artists. If a person who is not an artist, say a movie director, calls his movie as art, he is a stupid director. If a musician calls himself as an artist, I wish him to show his art to me. If he were to put on some music, then I call him a liar. He is producing music he made as a musician.

Not everything is art. Everything doesn’t need to be art in order to be appreciated. Books, films, games, music, plays and advertisement are not art. They are what they are. Writers, directors, coders, musicians, actors and visual designers are not artists. These people are what they are.

It is incredibly insulting to call thing X as art if it’s not. Otherwise you’re showing ignorance.

Then, what DO you regard a art?
you may ask. Read it from above; art is done by artists. But isn’t art all about expressing yourself in various ways? In that case me farting at you because of that comment is a form of art. No, expressing yourself is not art. It is widely believed that all things can be considered art, but in same vain everything could be considered porn.

To make a proper argument we need to forget ifs, coulds, and perhapses. Art is art. Saying that a certain film could be art automatically invalidates the proposition. Are you saying that things can’t be two or more things at the same time? No. Dissecting things into lower categories automatically open this door, and a film can be many things. A book is a labour of the writer, the person who designs the cover, the person who is taking care of the machines that ultimately compile the physical book and the person who edited it. The text itself is made by the writer and the editor/s, and if there has been no editor then there’s something wrong.

Whenever I see a product made by an artist that is not art, I see a pile of scraps. People tend to call themselves artists and this sort of false artist-hood is lifted into an icon status.

I call this the bullshit-hood.

It seems that a lot of people connect art with experience, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I find it very laughable that a lot of people start spewing words about being touched, moved and other emotional stuff. If art is supposed to touch you on some emotional level, then I guess punching your nose in is art as well. I mean, you will feel something because of it, right?

But sarcasm aside, art has become a some sort of super-cultural thing in that nothing has value if it’s not considered art, or that if it’s considered art then it’s something you can drool over and feel good about. Art has become intellectual masturbation during the last century and has been passed to current generations. Isn’t it the nature of things such as language to evolve with time? Yes, that would be a valid argument if you didn’t look like an asshat while making that argument. During the 1900’s art itself was expanded in many ways, and because of this certain people managed to put their own twist in there. Perhaps the most robust and stupid example of things going to hell are all the anti-art movements we’ve seen, most prominent being the Dada. I won’t hide my personal dislike when it comes to Dada. [Eww.Edit]

Perhaps nowadays we hare having sort of overt pro-art movement without realizing, where everything, almost literally, needs to be art. You can’t have experiences unless it’s artistic or made through art. When you have not enough words to describe something, it’s called artistic. Everything needs to be creative; art. It’s a fetish, where over a certain limit you can’t seem to enjoy a thing unless you begin to regard it as art. Why not think that thing as something extremely well crafted product aimed to give you the experience? it doesn’t drop it’s value, and if it does, then you have a problem.

I see no reason to hide behind the veil of art. I don’t do art, I’m not an artist of any sorts. I’m a craftsman who really tries to be designer. What I do is not art, and I won’t argue against my customer if he wants to see it as such when I am working. Outside work, outside the field where I don’t need to be the one serving, I will tell this person on my views about art and everyone involved when it comes to my products. Then again, I’ve had many good discussions with my customers on the different views on art, and most of them agree that when thought a little deeper, many things are not art. It’s very easy to throw that term in there and let it sink, but sometimes we just need to stop thinking rather than spewing out opinions we don’t really back. Belittling a well made product by calling it art is something I wish to avoid with my clients, just as I never play Visual Novels.

If you ask a proper designer if design is art, they will grudgingly answer you no. Taking pride on your work is important, but as a customer I wish you’d also recognise the value of their profession.

An artist has the opportunity to live in the artscape where a lot of people want to go into. Art is born from artscape, and artscape thrives on creativity. Still, if you need to consider things that were not made by artists as art, then I guess we all are artist, everything is art from BigMac to the lenses of my glasses. You can’t have double standards.

Then who is an artist? Who decides what makes an artist?
I know a slew of people who have a certified paper from an artschool that allows me to call them artists. You may want to call people without education artists, but then again you don’t call your friend a teacher when he teaches you on something. You don’t call your mom an artisan when she weaves you a nice pair of socks.

While this is an extreme way to put it, it’s also completely true; you are not an artist just by someone calling you. You need something more than nice pictures to become an artist. Even artist needs to be schooled, and without a question there is a number of artists that have taught themselves everything they know. Jack Kirby learned everything from the streets by observing the everyday life. The again, Jack Kirby wasn’t an artist, he was a master comic illustrator and a storyteller.

Evolving art direction VS change of art direction

When a series of anything has been around of multiple years, it’s art direction changes with the times. If you take a look at Super Mario Bros. as it was and how it is now, you see that the art direction hasn’t really changed that much, but it follows more streamlined and cleaner computer generated images that are popular nowadays. Similarly Mega Man’s art evolved game by game, and you can see not only the series evolution, but also the artists’ evolution and changes whenever something was changed. Films are more subtle in this regard, but the most blatant example would be Star Wars, which went from original trilogy’s utilitarian approach to a handcrafted sleekness in the prequel trilogy. If you read Star Wars comics and see the animations, you can see that simple designs of the lightsabers changed as the technology allowed more intricate and complex designs. Nevertheless, the art direction changed only in when Episode I was made. While McQuarrie was there doing his own stuff, other artists’ were hired for the job. It shows that they really weren’t craftsmen McQuarrie was, and it shows in the films’ world. It wasn’t applauded, but it wasn’t really taken consideration as the film had much more difficulties other than art direction.

A change in art direction in a franchise will always be a double-edged sword that will most likely make the company pay more than they wanted. We know that keeping the old customers is much easier than gaining new ones, and a drastic change in a franchise’s art direction may cause the current customer base to distance themselves, and at the same time cause no interest in the potential customers.

However, an art direction must evolve as the franchise grows. This doesn’t mean that the series has to have a change in the direction, but a gradual shift in quality and emphasize. A staggering art direction will not keep much interest in the customer base.

Craftsmen who work as visual artists have to keep this in mind as well. An artist who wants to give his own twist to an existing franchise has all rights to do it on his own. However, putting his own twist there when he is working on the franchise is a stupid and selfish deed. Customers are not expecting to see your style and wishes, but the style and direction that has been there. An artist should evolve the direction, not change it.

Of course, this matter has the most impact in mediums that rely the most on art direction, such as animation and video games. You may hear someone complain that a character used to loo better or similar when talking about animation, which shows that change in art direction isn’t the best option to attract new audience.

In animation it has to be taken account that even if the franchise stays the same, the series might not. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has seen various incarnations with vastly different art direction, and they all have fared better or worse. The two main animation series utilize completely different approach to the art direction in general, but other one of these actually follows more keypoints of the original comic for better or worse. With this kind of differences it is more about opinion than anything else. However, the art direction in the original TMNT comics have always stayed the same, it has just evolved, par few guess starring artists putting their own twist to things in general. I’d say that TMNT is actually a pretty good example of art direction that has stayed true to its roots while evolving all the time, they it should be.

When Mega Man X8 was first announced the fandom was split in two due to the new art direction. Gone was the old direction and CAPCOM had brought in completely new artists and designers just to change things and attract new customers. They failed to note that Mega Man was already part of the pop-culture and everybody knew what a Mega Man looked like. The new direction didn’t look like Mega Man, and possible customers merely passed the game as a knock-off or as last attempt to regain the series’ glory… which it was. If CAPCOM had gone with the evolving art direction and emphasized more the game’s development and quality, the title would’ve been much better. X8 wasn’t a cheap game to produce, and it sold less that anticipated. The art direction not only failed to attract new audience, but caused their existing customer base to dwindle down, as people lost interest in the game. I was one of them who bought the game later on much cheaper simply because the art direction.

While this seems like a stupid reason, change in art direction is always the first sign of more changes in the franchise.

Art direction tells a lot about the franchise itself. It gives the first impression, and that first impression has to be good one. When an instalment takes another path than its predecessor, the art direction usually changes to reflect this. When an instalment continues to continue on the same path as the predecessor, the art direction evolves to reflect this.

But sometimes the art just changes without no real reason. This’ll bug the customers to no end, and wavering customer loyalty is a bad thing when you’re trying to keep selling your products.

An example of change in art direction with no real reason. Notice how the character’s bodies have become completely different and couldn’t be recognized as the same characters. While certain aspect have kept, they are not character defining traits any more and adds nothing to the appearance. This is NOT how you give your own twist to a work that should be selling

Art makes money afterwards

At the moment the world has countless of dead artists. The amount will grow in the future. They all have at one thing common; most of their work will make most profit after their life.

Imagine Sistine Chapel in your mind. Throughout the Renaissance many artists worked on its paintings so that the church would have a grand place for worship. These artists never imagined how much money their work would do in the following centuries. Paintings usually skyrocket in price after their original author has passed away, and the money they fetch might not even come into the artist’s own family. Van Gogh and Picasso most likely never even imagined how priceless their paintings would ultimately become. Some paintings have simply become priceless and their monetary value can’t nver be properly measured. Sistine Chapel is one example of said art.

To create art that will last generations after generations is difficult, if not almost impossible. One has to have exceptional artistic skills, but even more than that proper connections and fame, and most importantly, live in proper place at proper times. Every thing, in the end, is at hands of chance. There is only so much that one can do to get accepted to art galleries, and find the right people at right mind set to view their work and get their positive approval. It’s insanely impossible, and that one thing makes every successful artist even more enjoyable occasion.
I am, of course, speaking mostly of paintings, sculptures and similar traditional form of art. Films nowadays seem to make the most profit on the cinemas and on disc sales. These sales are instant. This kind of market is somewhat young and there’s no real proof whether or not old VHS tapes fetch high prices. However, dead actors and film directors do not get money on the reruns of their films and disc releases. As time goes by, the film studio with the rights to these films will keep obtaining that money. Thus, if we think the studio as the artist, is the only kind of artist that keeps making money that belongs to it for the longest of times. People do change however, and this human aspect must be kept in mind.
Music is in similar place. The record studios will keep making money long after the artist is dead. In principle some people have decided to pirate dead artists’ music in order to avoid giving money to the studios. Whether or not this a moral thing to do is questionable.
Video games are in a slightly different situation. Some rare games fetch very high prices on second-hand markets, and the studios will never see the light of these money. As with classical art, games make the most money years after their initial release, and companies have noted this. I haven’t heard film or record studios trying to stop reselling a purchased product, but game companies are trying this as we speak. The companies argue that used games sales hurt their sales. As a consumer we do not want to pay full price of a product that has less value to us. I paid 12€ to see Green Lantern in 3D. I don’t mind paying so much, as I do have some cash to spare into my interests. I would’ve have gone to a 2D show if they had offered one, because I do not value 3D films over traditional 2D. The difference in price is five euros or so, thus it really doesn’t matter; the versions are the same film and I can always work for money. By the way, our local film theatre is having false results in the popularity of 3D films because they do not really offer 2D versions until the very last weeks.
Personally I try to find games new as much as possible. However, I am not willing to pay 60€ for any of games that are being released in the following year for either 360 or PlayStation 3. Wii has solely THREE games that I am adamant of purchasing; Xenoblade Chronicles, Pandora Tomorrow and Last Story. I’ve found myself thinking that L.A. Noire has too high price of 25€ new, but I am willing to pay 65€ for Thunderforce V for the Sega Saturn. Most modern games, like most of modern films (and perhaps art in general) won’t fetch high prices after twenty years have passed. People will still pay a lot for Thunderforce V or Radiant Silvergun. Nobody will pay even 5€ for L.A. Noire, Assasin’s Creed or even Metal Gear Solid 4. The latter one most likely has a new remaster release then either way.
Game companies will find that their ‘art’ will have even more instant sales if they’d follow the examples of good artists. Then the second-hand sales won’t bother so much.