A lot of the things I have been hearing lately about the computer software industry seem to be centred around whether or not interactive mediums are evolving as a successful means of artistic expression. Maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t and remaining stagnant, but either way there needs to be better clarification as to the differences between artistic games and interactive art.
What I’ve been hearing:
Systemic Emotion – Groping the Elephant
Dead Island Trailer and the Future of Games – Frictional Games
State of the Art: Teenage Wannabe and On the Tyranny of Fun – MetaGame
The Dragon Speech – Chris Crawford
Specific Violence – Fullbright
The Depths of Game Narrative -Darby McDevitt
Some of these articles are saying that games can’t provoke emotion as long as they are only focused on being fun or competitive (The Chris Crawford Speech and the Frictional blog). The MetaGame articles go as far to say that games can’t be art, because of the mere game mechanics of win/lose structures. The other two take no side of this idea, but they do still provide much reflection as to the state of games.
Currently I haven’t established my opinion as to which is more capable of provoking emotion. On one hand, artistic games can use the systematic thinking employed by the actual game to provoke, so far, limited emotional responses. On the other hand, artistic games are usually exposed to exploitation by the players trying to win. When the game mechanics are emphasized too much, the player cares less about the aesthetic part of the game. The characters are valued less for their human values and more for their place in game-play (As was mentioned in Systemic Emotion and The Dragon Speech). Some examples of Artistic Games would be; Mass Effect, Amnesia, Braid and Demon’s Souls.
Interactive Art is where the actual interaction with a piece is what gives it aesthetic value and emotional impact. These kinds of art have the nature of being more powerful, but this might just be because of the elements taken from other seasoned mediums (Heavy Rain for example, owes cinematography most of its success). One of the major drawbacks of this kind of artwork, is that the mainstream gaming audience doesn’t care much about these kinds of works. Many people would rate Heavy Rain as a bad game, because they expected it to be a game. Art works like these don’t have the same kind of engagement level as games, people approach them as games. Therefore they are criticized as games. Some examples of Interactive Art would be: Heavy Rain, Penumbra and Indigo Prophecy.
I don’t know which is more effective, but both kinds have the potential of striking a large variety of pallets. Maybe remaining limited to artistic games might increase the creative innovation, as Salvador Dalí once said;
“You know the worst thing is freedom. Freedom of any kind is the worst for creativity. You know, Dalí spent two months in jail in Spain, and these two months were the most enjoyable and happy in my life. Before my jail period, I was always nervous, anxious. I didn’t know if I should make a drawing, or perhaps make a poem, or go to the movies or the theatre, or catch a girl, or play with the boys. The people put me in jail, and my life became divine. Tremendous!” -Slavador Dalí