A rant about games and how they’re perceived

Last night I had a discussion on Twitter with Luke Dicken about game definitions, and why they matter. It reminded me of some strongly-held views I’ve had for some time about attempts to place games in a larger context: art, society, culture, et cetera.

I don’t care if games are a legitimate art form, medium or whatever. I don’t care if they have a pedigree going back to 1971, the 50s or the 18th century. I don’t care if they’re older than the novel, older than writing. I am not convinced, nor do I particularly care, that computer games are direct descendants from board games, children’s games or play in general. I don’t care if animals used play to learn before humans learned storytelling to transmit knowledge. I don’t care if play is an essential part of human culture.

If someone were to convincingly prove that computer games are not a legitimate art form, I’d still be making games. If someone could convince me computer games were a trivial hobby, I’d still be making games. If computer games were not derived from something else, if they had been invented ex nihilio, out of whole cloth, sprung fully formed from the brow of Nolan Bushnell or whoever, I don’t care, they’d be even more miraculous.

What unites most people making computer games is their passion. We want to make games. We know how to make games. We strive to make better games. But it makes absolutely no difference to me where we fit into other people’s questionable value systems. Fuck ’em if they don’t get it; they will die out anyway.

If we have to play power games to protect our medium, if we have to argue that games have cultural value in order to gain legal protection or subsidies: why not, it needs to be done. But let’s not mix that discussion with actually making games, with making people happy, with evoking emotions and giving people means to express themselves which are fundamentally new.

We’re working in the newest and most exciting medium in the world. That doesn’t make it a ‘better’ medium – I don’t even know what that means. It doesn’t make our lives easy. It doesn’t mean we bear less responsibility, that we don’t need to work hard to do better every day.

But it is a good thing, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Comments 3

  1. Luke wrote:

    I can see where you’re coming from, though I know it doesn’t work for me. I guess it comes back to art vs engineering. I feel like your position is very much that of an artist where you want to do your thing and let that speak on your behalf and ignore everything else – which isn’t to say that’s wrong.

    For me, I’m coming at it with an engineering mindset where I want to understand the problem and solve it, rather than find an expression of an inner thing. My entire life to date has been about taking things apart, working out what makes them tick, and then making them tock instead, so I want to understand games, play, societal perceptions and speculate about where we’re headed as an industry because that’s part of taking something apart :)

    Posted 10 Feb 2013 at 13:41
  2. Jurie wrote:

    This blog post was not written as a counter-argument to anything you said. Our discussion on Twitter just triggered it. It’s been boiling for quite some time :)

    I don’t think we’re that far apart. I also work by solving problems. I’ve just become very, very allergic to the One True Problem Definition (and I’m not saying you’re doing that).

    Perspectives lead to problem definitions lead to solutions. Perspectives then become tools to be carefully chosen. I don’t want other people’s perspectives to unnecessarily constrain what I can do. That’s all.

    Posted 10 Feb 2013 at 17:25
  3. Oliver Reischl wrote:

    Ha! Errant Signal made a video about that around the same time you postet that rant. Nice to watch and quite interesting (and funny as your RSS is right beneath his RSS on my web-dashboard).

    As an artist i’d say yes to the art-question. My definition for art is anything that makes me think beyond the work itself. Like Blade Runner makes me think about the boundaries of our definition of life. In that regard games most definately can be art and thruthfully they deserve it ;) Then again, i see a lot of people being afraid that the art-stamp would somehow destroy their “fun”? In the end it just adds to games.

    Posted 22 Feb 2013 at 23:02