"Art" Games


I was thinking of writing something on the increasing visibility, commentary, and awareness of “Art” games over the last few years. However, a lot of these games are still hiding in remote areas of the Web hoping for champions.

Recent examples would be
Passage: http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/passage/
The Marriage: http://rodvik.com/rodgames/

What else is there? Go, Go, Qt3 hive-mind!!!




Maybe I’m just a filthy pleb (okay, no maybe about it), but “kwhaaa?!”

I don’t get what makes these games art, and what makes more normal games, like, say, Armageddon Empires, not art. If it’s about making you think about themes above and beyond the game, then that’s a factor of game design, not a factor of whether or not your game is tucked away in some corner of the internet with graphics so bad they’d make a Dadaist cry in pain.

Or is this some PoMo stuff like those poets who write with the goal of creating a specific sound rather than actually generating meaning?

I’m confused. Enlighten me!




The text adventure Shade: http://www.ifiction.org/games/play.phpz?cat=&game=297&mode=html
Super Columbine Massacre!

Desert Bus?


This thread is going to inevitably degrade into an “Are games art?” discussion, and I will cry when it does.


Everyday Shooter

Flow and Cloud

The Path and Endless Forest

Whatever that weird Flash game was where you platform through notebook scribbles and poetry (though it was a kinda bad game)

Rod Humble’s other games (A Walk With Max, and one or two that are unreleased)

Braid (my game, not out yet, sorry)

Most of the Orisinal games

September 12

Mondo Medicals (or pretty much any of cactus’ other games)

StdBits (it’s one of the Gamma 256 games)

probably Space Giraffe

If I weren’t dead tired tonight, I could think of a bunch more.


A good point about the text adventure thing… most of the notable IF games are pretty much art games.


Interpretation. As in you can make your own. It’s not a piece of entertainment per se, but a way to evoke an emotional response like modern art attempts.

For me, The Marriage is the most effective at this. It’s sufficiently abstract to allow me to put what I want into it, and if I spend time with it, I am rewarded, with something. What exactly I’m not sure, but certainly something.

By contrast games with an obvious message might also be art, but not in the same way as these two. By their nature I think these kinds of games are going to be hiding in remote areas of the web, but it might be nice to create a gallery. A snobbish and haughty one of course.

Of the conventional style of games, I’d say Dwarf Fortress has a large potential for player interpretation.


Oh, and some of the Indie Game Jam games definitely were…

Very Serious Robo Doom
Ebi Flip
and the game Atman showed last year, the name of which I forget (the ravey looking one).


That which achieves its effect by accident is not art.

I have a tough time believing that a game that is not a good game can also be good art.


Why does it matter if a game is art?

That’s like arguing whether a white canvas is art. Even if it is, who gives a fuck except the person who bought it and the guys sucking up to him?

I’d rather have games that are good and, by being good, artistic, rather than games whose primary function is to be High Arte and, by sucking as a game, fail in an epic fashion at both being good games and being art at all.

And every game (that I’ve played or seen) that has tried to be High Arte rather than a great game has sucked ass.


Besides which, everyone knows the answer is Bioshock. Not that I’ve ever played it.


IF are one of the standard thing I reach for when non-gamers* disbelieve anyone tries to express themselves via games. They’re transparently art and expression in the way that more mechanistic stuff sometimes isn’t.

In addition to Shade, I’d add Galatea, Shrapnel and Photopia for other short art IF.


*Or even some Gamers.


What is a good game then? What standard can you apply, across all genres, that determine whether a game is good? Can that standard be tested for repeatable results? The idea that mere accident can’t be good is ludicrous. Most of the time the person interacting with the piece can’t tell the difference between intentionalism and accident unless that info is given.

Standards of good and bad are just as nebulous as art. But please, let’s not derail this by having yet another discussion about the definition of art.


What it means to be a good game is as nebulous and subjective as what it means to be a good movie or a good book or a good painting, etc. Is it supposed to evoke emotion? Is it supposed to be fun? What does fun mean?

I think what he means by “art” games is by analogy to “art” films - something created to explore ideas primarily and entertain only secondarily. I don’t even think there was any indication, implied or not, that these games were better in some way than traditional games, so I’m a bit baffled by the angry reaction.

EDIT: Portal is a good game that has artistic value. But it is not an “art” game in this sense, because it is crafted to entertain, not simply to explore the medium.

  • ICO
  • Okami


War in the Pacific?


I dunno if I’m included in the angry bit, but I’m definitely not angry – just totally lost. I tried the two games posted and all I got out of them is the feeling I’d get if I spent some time screwing around in MSPaint – this is okay, but there are better things I could be doing with my time. Like hocking up the disgusting lumps of phelgum pneumonia has scattered willy-nilly through my body. Ick, seriousy.

My comment up at the top of the thread was me trying to rationalize what was meant by “art game”. I’m guessing, based on the replies, that this is indeed a lot like those poets who write for sound instead of meaning, and that the point of the art game is to go for some other aspect rather than what I consider the, you know, important bit – the game itself.

Which is fine and all, but I don’t see why Armageddon Empires shouldn’t be included in that list. I’ve not seen art that evocative in a long time, and I’m not the only poster in the AE thread to think so.

But I digress. I’ve clearly got nothing of real substance to add, and now that I kind of get what the hubbub is, bub, I’ll bow out.


Kyntt Stories


I’ve got a problem with “Are Games Art” because I tend to think most abstract art is pretty damn pointless and generally an excuse for salespeople, I’m sorry, gallery owners to spin potential investors on a purchase. So when abstract art in gaming is celebrated I raise the same skeptical eyebrow I do when conventional art is so praised. Whatever. Pretty colors dude.

But I think games can be artistic in the sense that they can express Process like nothing else. How one thing becomes another thing. Film can show you. You can read about it in a book. But in a game you can do it, over and over, from different angles until you utterly grok it. And the degree to which something is communicated or the choice of subjects and how they’re arranged does have artistic qualities.

We gamers might talk about them in other terms or in other ways but we’re essentially, once you get past whether something runs or not, talking about artistic merit. Why else would we get all criticial if something’s merely derivative? We want original content. We don’t like lip syncing. That’s an artistic, qualitative, judgement.

The End.