Archive for the ‘Decoding Gaming’ Category

Oops, Ebert did it again. The famed movie critic has once again ruffled the feathers of gamers everywhere with his recent article unabashedly titled “Video games can never be art.” The article has already garnered 3,965 comments.

In the past few years, the subject of video game art has been studied and examined intently. Many believe that video games have achieved a level of artistic integrity while others believe video games will never be a high art like film and literature have become. Where there is Roger Ebert’s argument, there is the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2012 exhibition The Art of Video Games.

Mike Tash is a Game Art and Design student at The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. Throughout his life, Tash has been an accomplished artist, winning multiple awards and scholarships for his drawings, paintings, sketches, and complete pieces. Tash chose to express himself through video games as opposed to more traditional artistic mediums. “The main reason I decided on video games as a means to express myself is because they have always had a profound impact on me on an artistic level. The art in some games makes me want to go out and see the places that it was referencing, the least of which motivate me to make my own art. Not just the visual arts either in a game, the music has the most power I believe. But then again I’m not a musician but I am an artist. I one day hope to become a lead designer on a game so that i can apply my artistic views and someone else’s musical abilities to make a game that doesn’t just entertain someone, it moves them, makes them wiser, and keeps them coming back to buy the sequel; part of the industry I guess.”

What this debate could come down to is what people believe video games are and what exactly defines “art.” “Art” is a fairly ambiguous word with multiple definitions. Three lines of text is considered art. A painting of a soup can is considered art. The latest single by Lady Gaga is considered art. But why? “I guess I would define art as anything that makes people wander into places in their imagination that they don’t normally reach,” Tash said. “For instance, seeing a beautiful meadow out a window is art. Without the window it is still a beautiful scene, but the window sort of captures it for us, makes us wonder what’s on the other side of the window that is making everything look so wonderful.” Video games have been known to move people but if they aren’t art, then what are they?

Video games have taken many different forms over the years and pinpointing exactly what a game is has become rather tricky. Obviously, video games have been considered art by many. They have also been considered sport. Competitive gaming is the most popular form of gaming today. If at any time you want to compete with another person in a game, you can just turn your system on and play a few rounds of Call of Duty or play a game or two of NHL 10. Tournaments have been held for quite some time now to see who the best players are in a particular game. More recently, the MLG has been created for professional gaming. MLG stands for Major League Gaming and it has been featured on ESPN and is sponsored by Dr. Pepper. Tournaments have been televised and the major players in the leagues are able to live comfortably with the money they make through the “sport.”

Video games have also been used as time-wasters. Gamers and non-gamers alike have spent countless hours tending to their virtual farms in FarmVille. There are multiple simulation games like The Sims and Animal Crossing out that have no clear ending but simply mirror life in unique ways. Does it kill time? Definitely. Is it fun? Based on the popularity of them, yes. Is it art? Is it even sport? Probably not. Roger Ebert argued in his original article that video games are more sport than art. A video game does not have to be sport and it does not have to be art. It is flexible and can become pretty much anything the designers want. The creators of Final Fantasy VII wanted to move people to tears and they did it. To Tash, video games “are art, they are sports-like, major time wasters, and much more.”

So, are video games art?

I think most can agree that individual segments of a game are artistic. The visualized worlds in games are unique in that anything is possible while still looking very realistic. Mario’s mustachioed face and Master Chief’s green armor have become memorable images in our society. The music and sounds in video games have become iconic in pop culture. If you played the Super Mario Bros. theme song to a random person, chances are they will know what it is. The compositions in games such as Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Halo have been celebrated in concert by full orchestras performing the songs to large audiences. Video Games Live is an orchestra dedicated to exclusively playing compositions from video games and to reveal just how compelling they can be.

However well done each segment is, the combination of the elements is what makes the games so special and unique. The Prince of Persia movie coming out soon will in all likely cases not give the same experience playing the game did. Being able to climb, swing, and jump your way through the levels is the fun of the game. A Bioshock movie would never come close to capturing the experience the game delivered as the idea of a video game is part of the final message of the game.

Grand Theft Auto IV could not be delivered any other way because it would lose its rich satire and tenacity, elements that make the game so memorable. The game is a modern take on the American dream. The New York Times called Grand Theft Auto IV “a violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun.” The same could not be said if GTAIV was a movie or a book. The story and the social satire would be greatly lessened and the impact of the final product would be null. These stories are well done and should be experienced by everyone but the only way to truly deliver them is through video games.

In Roger Ebert’s latest article about the debate, he asks why video gamers care so much that video games be considered art. I would say to most gamers that they should believe what they want and move on. Like in any other debate, each side is often too stubborn to abandon their original beliefs and Ebert will die believing video games will never be art. Maybe one day they will be, but until then, why not the fact that gamers can experience something others cannot and possibly wish they could.


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Decoding Gaming: A Timeline of Video Game Controversy

Since its initial release decades ago, video games have faced aggressive protest and heated controversy. The following is a thorough time-line of the games that sparked controversy and shaped the industry we see today.

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The feature “Decoding Gaming” looks deeper into the relationship between video games and society.

Last fall saw the launch of the first U.S. public school curriculum based entirely on video games and the learning inspired by it. The sixth grade Quest to Learn class plays knowledge-based games such as Little Big Planet and Civilization in order to feel more engaged in their learning and to actually enjoy it!

Could video games be the future of education in America? I asked this and other questions to Michelle Lincoln, a Rowan Elementary-Education graduate.

With newer generations being more exposed to a faster lifestyle, do you think the education system will suffer because of it? 

No, I don’t think the education system will suffer due to the fact that this generation is more accustomed to a faster lifestyle. Throughout every generation, the education system has had to adapt and make significant changes to match students’ needs. I think that the education system may actually benefit from this fast-paced lifestyle because technology is the basis of society today and in order for students to survive in the real world, they are going to need to have a lot of technological experience. 

At some point in the future do you think video games could have a major place in education? If so, do you think this could occur sooner than later? 

Because so many students today need that hands-on aspect when learning, I think video games may eventually play a major role in education. There are so many educational video games already for preschool and kindergarten aged children that are being highly praised that I think video games may be adopted for older students as well. Because of the advances in technology, many students need to learn hands-on and become actively involved in lessons to understand. I think this change may happen sooner rather than later, especially with the US trying to up national test scores. 

With new technology being used in video games—namely the motion controlling, would video games provide an easier way for students to gain hands on experience? 

I really think it will, and I think it will keep students actively involved in the learning process. Too often, students are being lectured at for 6 hours a day, and they think school is boring and a waste of time. If they could incorporate hands-on educational video games into daily lessons, I think students will all want to be involved. I think this would also help younger students with fine motor skills as well. 

Michelle Lincoln

Do you think video games in the classroom would be universally accepted by all types of students? Parents? 

I definitely think students will embrace the change and maybe some parents; however, I think many parents may not realize how beneficial educational video games can be. I think that it is going to take some time for it to be universally accepted by parents. 

Do you think newer generations are more accustomed to gravitate towards the short term goals as opposed to long term goals? If so, do you think video games could help solve that problem with immediate feedback after a “level?” 

I think newer generations are more accustomed to gravitate toward short term goals rather than the long term. Children/Adolescents today are so used to the fast-pace of technology. They don’t want to wait for anything, and I think video games will accommodate this need for fast-paced feedback. If these video games offer immediate feedback, the students are going to know right away what they are strong in and what areas they may need a little extra help in…as opposed to waiting for their teacher to mark a paper in a week to two week span. Offering these students immediate feedback will definitely be a positive aspect of the whole educational video game. 

As a teacher, would you be willing to incorporate video games into your lesson plan and would others be willing to do it as well? 

I would definitely incorporate video games into my lesson plans if given the proper technology. I think a lot of the newer teachers will be all for this change in the education system because it gives them something different to bring into their classroom and spark interest. I am not really too sure about veteran teachers because many of them believe in the whole listen and lecture learning atmosphere.

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