Sunday, January 17, 2010

On Games as Meta-art

I stated in my last post that I believe that games are a kind of meta-art. This statement is ridiculous on its face. I will provide a better account of its reasoning here.

Life is a meta-art. Life can be seen as process which generates art through the human medium. Games present processes which can generate art, as well, through the human medium. I say “human medium” here because without the human mind, the artificial patterns we call art would (1) not exist because they would not be created as art and (2) be as meaningless as the natural patterns we are not able (or that we are not there) to witness in the real world. Metaphoric games are an operational representation—though that representation might be quite limited, poor, or fanciful—of a facet of the real world. In the sense that they are complex metaphors, from them can come art.

Metaphoric games are created as sets of game rules which are, themselves, intertwining patterns that mirror (though in a fun-house mirror kind of way) patterns we can witness in real life.  I can look at a painting and find art in it in a similar way that I can look at a metaphoric game and find art in it. There are artificial patterns there, and I can recognize them as “artistic”.

You might not see those patterns as art. You might also not even be capable of seeing the same patterns I see, just as I might not be able to see the patterns you do. Does this make an experience of art any less what it is?

We have endless stale debate about the meaning of art because there no such essence, “art”, to which we all map certain objects that we call artistic. Art exists because we agree that certain organizations of light and sound evoke emotion through their relationship with life. Art, like all concepts encoded in language, only exists because it has a usefulness when combined with other words to express thoughts and feelings. Trying to define art in some objective precise fashion will always fail because producing such a definition would then require that we likewise precisely and objectively define all words in that definition, and all the words in all of those definitions, ad infinitum. We may have to, until we understand more about how the human mind works, agree to let art be the source of artistic experience and so leave the discussion.

Claiming games are meta-art does not imply that games are art or should be art, it means only that games are capable of producing artistic experiences.


Kenny said...

Well, "having fun" can be considered emotion, so anything that causes fun can be considered an artistic experience. So little kids playing with toys and coming up with rules for them are having artistic expressions as well. I think it's safe to say (observing a few kids around me) that many of those "games" are as abstract as Chess or Go. Yet they still lead to an artistic expression. Or, from the other way around, a mathematician might see "art" in a game of go as he interprets raw data. Is he doing the same as a little kid coming up with a game?

We recognize patterns everywhere, that's one of the things we (most of us) do best. Out of those patterns we seek meaning and often we find "art". The pattern doesn't have to be a metaphorical game for this to happen.

However if you want to say that metaphorical games can cause "artistic experiences" in more people because the "transmitting layer" (don't know how to say it otherwise) is less open to interpretation (flow of Go vs. character representation in an mmo) then you're probably right.

Ysharros said...

As a humanities graduate and not a sciences (or comp-sci) graduate, what you say is self-evident to me.

But then we mickey-mouse humanities people are full of that bleeding heart artsy-fartsy crap.

Art isn't necessarily just what's hung on a museum wall.