Gaming as a Medium

Mediums, such as music, are generally classified as what the medium usually consists of.
Rap music is about people living in American Ghettos, Musicals are about romantic or argumentative stuff, there’s a bunch of stereotypes that people use to classify (usually dismiss) mediums.

While often true, a medium, or rather the content within the medium, shouldn’t be classified based solely on what the majority does with it.
This is a big problem with Gaming as a medium, where the general knowledge of gaming by is either MMORPGs or twitch multiplayer games like Counter Strike and DOTA.

While these games have the majority of players, it’s important to distinguish the games themselves for what they are. While many people enjoy twitchy games and MMORPGs, they’re not going to really win any awards for giving a rewarding intense emotional experience (which also creates a sense of longing to have a social life). Sure, they’re fun, but so are generic action movies or comedy books.

Now, games as art is a shaky thing, people having massively different view of what art is, though I’m going to go for a definition of:

“Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.”
Courtousy of Wikipedia

And as fun as some games are, they can’t be said to appeal to senses or emotions other than the adrenal side of the brain.

Using Bioshock as an example, it had a lot to say about society, the hypothetical questions about ethic-less science, as well as making people think about the foundations and components of humanity, and sacrificing another for your own personal gain. Also it had flying steam punk robots.
Bioshock, to me, is the closest we’ve gotten to gaming being viewed art. Stirring discussion, questioning, and being aesthetically pleasing. However if people saw you playing Bioshock next to a person playing Unreal Tournament 3, there’s no difference whatsoever to the person watching.

So what’s the problem? Well gaming is generally inaccessible to people who don’t play games as a hobby.

Say an art critic asks you who authored this painting, you using only the painting as a reference, you’d have no idea. If I asked an everyday person who made this game engine and what type of game genre it is designed for, it’d be rather the same situation, but that’s only one layer of the whole concept of gaming. Next you have the mechanics of the game, and a malady of other things, all of which is the capacity of a small town.

But what’s worse is that you have to actually do serious training to pick up and play most games from the beginning. I played L4D with my dad once, and while he eventually got the hang of it, I don’t think he got the subtle undertones of society desperately trying to hang together and the reversal of the typical social order, when he spent most of the time struggling to aim at the zombies.

Games however, aren’t and never should be, based on the concept of art. Gaming is about the core of the game, moving, jumping, shooting etc, and while this is only the bread and butter it takes ages to do and if you screw it up boy are you boned. And not all games should be trying to make an enormous statement about the existence of souls or war, people primarily play games to unwind and not to have to think too much, to escape the constant barrage of questions and people known as life.

So the main concentration for a game to be considered art is not that the game is completely inaccessible for people who don’t want to think for a little while, it’s to make it subtle so the complex meanings behind things don’t have to be considered in order to have fun.

So while art in gaming is possible, It’s buried very deep art that takes a lot of time and even training to appreciate the subtleties while you’re trying to survive in a madness of shooting and possibly confusing control schemes. And it sure as hell isn’t going to be recognised by the mass public for a while.

(I don’t actually HATE MMORPGs, but I do NOT see why people play them for fun, they seem more like work to me)


2 Responses to “Gaming as a Medium”

  1. leatherworkingreverend Says:

    I disagree that an uninformed observer is unable to appreciate the pure art of a game like BioShock over Unreal Tournament any more than it is impossible to appreciate a Renoir painting without an understanding of the impact of impresionist art on late nineteenth century French society.
    It is possible to appreciate the asthetics of the game without having a grasp of the engineering underlying it, regardless of how elegant the code in the physics engine.

    • Actually UT3 and Bioshock are the same engine and everything is extremely similar asthetically.
      You can appreciate how it looks, but you can’t tell the full difference unless you’ve had prior gaming experience and have spent a decent amount of time playing/observing both. At a glance, remarkably similar.

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