A couple of days ago, a journalism student sent me a request over Twitter to see if I would answer some questions about games as art. We've been super busy here at Funomena in the post-GDC email crunch... working on our projects, creating some exciting new possibilities, and mulling over all we learned from the experience. This afternoon, I decided to take a moment to answer the questions - and found myself really moved by them. I wanted to post them because they actually do a very good job of getting at what Martin and I feel is most important about art, games - and life in general.
Thank you for reaching out to me Jamie! I really am looking forward to reading your full piece.
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1. How have games evolved as an art medium over the years?
Games have existed for many years, and artistic, experimental games have always been a part of our design heritage. Games like M.U.L.E, Rez, or The Sentinel for example. In a way, games started as a personal hobby and artform, and evolved into an attractive business, with millions of dollars invested in its success.
Now, developers can once again explore the frontier edges of game design and earn a living. The technical barrier to entry is also lower, so more hearts and minds can lend their perspective to the medium. As this was true for fine art, writing and film, it is now true for games. The medium itself is opening up, and giving birth to new voices.
2. What is the criteria (if any) that would help classify a game as a work of art?
Art is a personal experience. It is about the relationship between creators and audience, performers and participants. So for me, the question is about that relationship. And the question is: Did it transform you?
I'm not talking simply about the experience of beauty or craft, or even feelings of fear, rage or sadness. I'm talking about being pushed to re-think what you thought you felt or knew. To examine yourself or others in a new light. As when engaged in a dialog.
Many works of art have made me feel joy and pain. But it's the ones that truly moved me to reconsider my perspective, to re-approach or re-engage with a feeling or a viewpoint that I am truly grateful for.
3. What kind of process is involved when making a videogame feel emotional?
I think the process for making an expressive or emotional game is about introspection. It's about pushing yourself to engage and feel empathy for yourself. If you can be open to your own ideas, fears and desires, you can share them through a work of art. If you are closed to yourself, it will be much harder.
Consider Lee Bontecou and Tiffany Bozic, whose stunning work translates both the delicate and dangerous aspects of the natural world. Inka Essenhigh and Anish Kapoor, who shape time and space in completely different, but equally inspiring ways. Vincent Van Gogh and Henry Darger, whose work spoke to others when they could not. Each has touched me deeply, but I do not think their work is *about* me. It is about them, and then my relationship to them... and to all perspectives.
To accomplish that kind of dialog, I really believe you first have to look deeply inside - and then, reach out.
4. Do you think games are moving more towards art these days or are games like Journey and The Unfinished Swan just distractions from the core gamer experience?
Games like Journey are about exploring our connection to one another. Far from a distraction - I think this is our biggest challenge as a species.
In general, I am a positive person. I believe that we are becoming more empathetic, aware and loving as a global society. We are not perfect, but we are making invaluable progress. Now more than ever before, we can see and feel the impact of our beliefs, word and actions on other people, cultures... and the planet itself.
If we succeed at surviving, it will be because we used every medium at our disposal to increase understanding, build bridges and solve our greatest problems creatively, in peace. Games are only one of the tools at our disposal - but they are an important part of the solution.