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Is the player an artist?

Is the player an artist?
« on: June 17, 2011, 11:14:15 am »

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/3555-The-Role-of-the-Player

According to the latest Extra Credits, one should view the player as a co-creator of the work. This not only in form of the player as the one who experience, but the player as an actual artist. This is even taken so far as suggesting that studying why people create art can help us design better games.

While I think that this can apply pretty well to some subset of games (minecraft comes to mind), I do not find it to be a very good general idea at all. I think that the player in most videogames have a fundamentally different part than the artist(s) who created the game. I do want players to have  great deal of influence in the game and think them being engagement in the proper manner is a crucial part of the game. However, this participation is in the form of "play" and not artistic expression.

When reading a book I must take scare pieces of information and use them to build entire worlds. It is not possible to read a book without tons of experience behind you. The author assumes that you are accustomed to certain sights, emotions, smells, tactile sensations and so on. If you have not experienced them first hand, it assumed that you are able to make them up. This means that there is a lot of effort required by the reader, but still I do not think anyone would call this an artistic process. Instead, it is a process of letting yourself be immersed inside the work. I argue that the process is exactly the same for videogames, only that for players of videogames the information now flows in both directions.

I do not see the player as being a story-teller, but as a resident inside the world that the videogame creates. If the player then chooses to form story of this experience, an artistic process starts when that narrative is spoken/written/etc, and not during the actual play. It is the same as if someone goes an trip. The actual trip contains no artistic creation, but stories you tell of your trip might.

Would be interesting to hear everyones opinion on this.
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Re: Is the player an artist?
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2011, 08:31:30 am »

Does not seem like anybody else is interested, but I could not stop thinking and had to write a blog entry on the subject:

http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2011/06/player-artist.html
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Re: Is the player an artist?
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2011, 01:59:34 pm »

Duchamp once said "C'est le spectateur qui fait le spectacle." (it's the spectator who makes the spectacle) To me it means that art is not complete until somebody sees it and also that the spectator needs to make an effort to really get the most out of the work.

He said this long before anyone had a computer, let alone played games on it. And it holds true for video games as much as it did for books, sculptures and paintings. Not more. But different. Different in the sense that the artist can indirectly respond to the reactions of the spectator. In that sense, it is the artist who becomes more powerful in video games, not the spectator.

I think considering the player of video games as an artist comes from 4 different ideas.

1. In sports, the skillful manipulation of game rules and props can result in an aesthetic spectacle. This is most clearly demonstrated in figure skating and gymnastics.

2. Something similar happens in music and theater, where performers interpret a giving text or score and express it according to their own artistic sensibilities.

3. The desire to glorify technology as something revolutionary, usually expressed by people whose ego depends on this glory.
(I may have been guilty of this on occasion myself Wink )

4. Marketing: to stroke the ego of the consumer into thinking that they will be an Arrtist when playing game X.


and now I'll read your article. Smiley
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Re: Is the player an artist?
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2011, 02:07:16 pm »

I'm impressed by how clearly you make the distinction: the artist is someone who makes something. Players of games don't make anything. Therefore they are not artists. Simple. Clear. Bravo! Smiley
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Re: Is the player an artist?
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2011, 02:39:24 pm »

Quote
1. In sports, the skillful manipulation of game rules and props can result in an aesthetic spectacle. This is most clearly demonstrated in figure skating and gymnastics.

Interesting that you bring this up, since James (one of the people behind Extra Credits) replied with the question:

Quote
Does football have a narrative? Indubitably so. But who creates this narrative? Because it's certainly not the people who originally wrote the rules to football...

My answer was that the rules of football is not a videogame. But even if we ignore that, I find it hard to say that there is any art in the making during a game of football. Saying "aesthetic spectacle" like you did seem a lot more fitting!
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Re: Is the player an artist?
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2011, 06:20:21 pm »

Well, sports is also not a medium. So it's easy to reject it on that ground. Heck, games are not a medium! Video games are indeed the medium, the place where authorship happens.

I think it's fine if players believe that they are creating art when playing a game or even feel like being artists. It's just another way of playing. But if they really want to have a deeply artistic experience, they will need to put themselves on the receiving end.

It's strange how highly lay people think of the creative aspect of art. In my experience, witnessing art is far more enjoyable. Creating it is hard and often boring work most of the time and is rarely accompanied by the wonder and joy and delight I experience when playing a game, reading a book, seeing a painting, listening to music.
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