Yup, that topic again n_n

I’m guessing posts with the same point as this one have been written at least a million times, but who knows, maybe you’ll find something interesting in this one, so here we go.

This article says there is a particular bond between video games and music, unlike cinema. Something about playing and interpreting or something.


The equivalent of games and music isn’t cinema, it’s theater. Actors play/interpret plays in theater, like musicians play music, and players play games. And then I realized, people seem to be getting something terribly wrong. They seem to think that the default thing to do with music is to listen to it, and that the default thing to do with games is to play them.

I don’t think so. You know, three hundred years ago, we didn’t have technology able to record stuff, only live performance. People didn’t just listen to the music, they sung and played it themselves much more often than nowadays.

Take a look at this table :

See what I mean ?

So, if playing a game isn’t the “default” thing to do the same way playing music isn’t the “default” thing to do for music, then video games become as much art as cinema or music. As much as special effects aren’t the core of a movie, special effects aren’t the core of Machinima or Frag videos. As much as theater is unedited, speed runs are “unedited”, since we don’t really add effects, we just show raw game footage.

The core is the concept, the story, the idea, the identity of the game / movie / song. Not the interpretation of it. The core is what you can do within the artwork, the play space, not what you actually do.

In that sense, the possibilities of games are equivalent to the possibilities of movies and songs.

Two examples of this are song remixes and director’s cut versions of movies. You’ll say “it’s the same song/movie, just re-mixed/re-edited”.

You just change the lighting and move the furniture around, and the room feels different, even though it’s the same. The only difference between live and recorded versions, is that a recorded version is a photograph of that room, whereas live has the players changing the lighting and moving the furniture around themselves continuously. Games are the same: if recorded, the furniture is in the same place every time, if played, the player moves the furniture and changes the lighting herself continuously.

Is Tetris art ? Is the set of what you can do within Tetris art ? Well, I think so yes, even though a player will have a hard time putting words on what happened in her last playthrough, she still got a kick out of it: all the actions, reactions, results and ramifications of what happened, however small and dirt-low the details go. To consider Tetris art, you have to consider its possibility space which enables players to experience all that stuff.

Arguably, there aren’t any video game master pieces, no academic recognition even for the best games, whereas theater, cinema and music have transcending and universal classics. It’s funny because arguably, some people get more of a kick out of playing some games than watching movies.

Do regular art critics compare game playthroughs to Shakespeare scripts ? What should be compared to a play script is the possibility/meaning space of a game, what they can be, and not just a playthrough experience. To make sense, your own game playthroughs should be compared to how pleasing it is to play a piece of music or act a role.

Maybe to make “better” games, we should make them pleasing to watch when played ? I know frag videos can be fairly intense, because the rules of physics and stuff aren’t made up by a narrator, so you know if a player manages to do something impressive, it’s impressive for real. The same way it’s impressive to hear a complex musical piece being played, or a breath-taking action scene being acted: did you know that for Mission Impossible 3: Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise really DID climb the tallest building in the world in Dubai himself ? No kidding.

The same way a live performance relies on a skilled actor/musician playing a piece written by a skilled writer, a game playthrough can need a skilled player playing a game made by skilled developers :D.

With this post, I don’t mean to address the whole issue in one go. I just want to point out the inconsistency in people’s reasoning that I showed in the table, and offer my perspective.

I’m satisfied with this answer to the “Games are Art” debate: it’s the reason I’ve always supported the idea that video games are art. You know this because you’ve developed games for some time now, your work brings joy and happiness to people in a similar way that music or film does, so who cares ?

Feedback very welcome :]