Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gaming and Art

In the May "Blogs of the Round Table" hosted by Man Bytes Blog, participants were asked to imagine what a favorite piece of artwork might look like as a game. You can read all of the responses here, but I'll highlight a few of my favorites below:

ihobo provides a thoughtful response, reflecting on the Impressionist movement, and taking this opportunity to ask "capital Q" questions about the nature of art.

Water Lilies, Monet (1916)
When I go to a gallery, I am seeking an experience beyond the rational – I do not greatly enjoy art that asks me to decode its puzzle, or otherwise rationally interact with it, to anywhere near the same degree that I enjoy a piece of art that transfixes me in a space beyond thought – an experience of emotion or transcendence that is wholly beyond conscious thought. That for me is the essence of great art. This brings me to the second problem: can a game actually access the transcendent experience of what great art means to me? And I suspect, perhaps that it cannot.


From the point of view of impressionism as a rebellion against the previously accepted forms, a direction could be found, but any non-game might be claimed to fulfil this goal. Unless I could find a way to capture the essence of the experience of an impressionist painting, I would feel I had failed to successfully make the transition.

Perhaps what this shows for me is that game design as a process is always for me a rational experience, while art for me is at its greatest when it transcends rational experience. And thus, perhaps my problem is not that there cannot be an impressionist game, but rather that an impressionist game is not something that I can personally conceive – it is in some sense beyond me. And that, perhaps, is precisely what I am looking for in art.

Other respondents took the bull by the horns and crafted dramatic plots inspired by art history. GB Games chose Michelangelo's "The Last Judgment" from the Sistine Chapel as his premise.

Click here for a high-res version of this painting

World Maker chose Nighthawks as his game inspiration.

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper (1942)

The Game Critique chose The Great Wave Off Kanagawa to orient the force of nature as the centerpiece of his game.

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Hokusai (1832)

I love the idea of this challenge because it causes you to consider gaming as a medium of art--which it absolutely is. Obviously, programming a game requires a math/science aptitude, but the designing and conceptualizing of the game interface and premise is very much an artistic/creative endeavor.

Gaming is an expressive medium like any other art form; and it's an exciting one insofar as it's interactive. In gaming, the audience engages with art on a level of activity that no other medium parallels. This relatively new, technologically enabled, medium (just like photography and film before it) will doubtlessly tap into the talent of "great artists", many of whom remain to be seen. I wonder who the Kubrick (or Michelangelo) of gaming will be...


Maitreyi Doshi said...

Hi Rachel!

Great Blog!

Josh said...

Very nice blog!

cchenoweth said...

Hi Rachel: Your blog is great. I really enjoyed talking to you. Shalom

Rachel said...

Thanks for your comments! Can't wait to see what you all create!