Is digital gaming arts most difficult form?

When you think about it, game as an art-form has to be the most difficult medium there is. With books, movies, music, paintings, musicals - the target audience doesn’t get to take hold of them, kick their tires, and drive them around. The user is the end platform, receiving the artist’s directed energy. To look at gaming however, each interactive facet becomes it’s own little parable opening up the title to more intense scrutiny and more open interpretation. More chances for the artists original intend to be lost in the crowd.

On top of having to satisfy so many fields, you also have technical glitches and performance issues which in and of itself can hurt how the game comes across, potentially losing its artistic impact. This is why I think System Shock 2 is one of gaming’s best titles ever made. It made the best of each medium and had an emotional impact that was hard to shake.

This is actually not true for all the other arts. Interactive art, audiences participating in shows, audiences engaging with art is a concept, and it existed long before video games were created. It’s simply not something everyone has had a chance to engage with.

Video games are more easily distributed than some other art forms, but that doesn’t make the art form somehow more difficult and the others easier. It’s all about goals, what you want to convey with your art. Art, in it’s nature, is engagement but some of it is more obvious about it than others.

Most complex? Probably. Hardest? I don’t think so. Players are far more forgiving of flaws in games than other art forms. Moreover, with most art forms, they are permanent once released into the world and can’t be altered.

I think it could be the most difficult because in nearly all other art forms you don’t have to program AI. And I think that’s part of what makes this the most challenging. Sure, not all games need AI outside of scripting routines, but most need some level of competence. Then you have all of the graphics routines, physics, engineering… you really have to hit so many fields of study to get a great game to look, feel, and react properly.

What makes it more complex though? It is really more complex to make a video game than one of the tallest, most energy efficient and safest skyscrapers in the world? I mean… a lot of people might think of things like cars and buildings and bridges as functional, but they are also artistic in many cases, designed for purpose but also to admire and invoke emotions… art. I mean just defining what art is and what it is not is an ongoing debate that is not likely to ever end.

There is also, in the purely aesthetic/ entertainment scope, the fact that many modern films eclipse games in terms of pure production hours.

Look at the original Lord of the Rings films, and all the techniques and technologies they developed. Physical miniatures and sets, large scale sets, moving production to remote locations for shoots, construction of sets in those remote locations.

The art, the armor making and sword forging, the costume design and tailoring, the development of AI simulations for large scale battle scenes, the digital artistry and modeling, merging digital scenes with real filmed locations, mocap, etc.

I mean things like Gollum, Pellenor Fields, and Mordor are as complex to program as anything in gaming. And that is a fraction of the skills and tools needed in for the film.

Both of you have very good points.

True. In terms of man hours, production values, movies and games and even TV these days can rival each other.

And then we look at difficulty. Who is to say that it is more difficult to make an AI that can challenge a human player’s skillet than it is to make someone cry, to create something so moving that tears or shed, or inspire a child to giggle, or motivate the next astronaut to fly?

I don’t think you can place judgment on stuff like that. Whether you can compute 16 hours a day or not, motivating an entire generation to do something remarkable… is difficult.

People are far, far more forgiving in animation glitches in games than in movies. As great as a AAA game like Red Dead Redemption 2 is, every single time I play it I see animation glitches. Floating above the ground, cut off animations (try skinning an animal when it’s on a steep slope), rubberbanding, animation resets (model gets moved somewhere before an animation triggers). A gamer will forgive all of these things. They would all look glaringly terrible in an animated film.

There is a lot of massaging and hand holding when creating an animated movie. Games are kinda cobbled together and mashed up and bug tested. Bugs are show stoppers every time in film.

Well the fun thing about movies is they have infinity to render those beautiful animations, but in games you have 1/60 of a second. If movies had to render on the fly you’d see the same issues as games.
And this is why I think game development is more challenging. Most of the other fields have plenty of time to do what they need. Whether it’s writing a book, making a movie etc. You have as much time as your budget allows. But what if the movie had to dynamically render a fight scene ala Total War on the fly? You’d see the same limitations you have in games. This doesn’t make games easier because we HAVE to accept things that make the game run at more than 1 fps, this is yet another thing developers have to deal with that other fields do not. Hence the things that look worse is not because they are less talented, but because they are forced to by the technology, the very field they’re in, holding them back.

To be clear, I am not claiming that by games not being inherently more difficult or more challenging than other art forms that that is in any way a reflection on talent or measures effort or a means of value. I am suggesting that to measure art’s difficulty or even complexity strictly based on something you can easily measure, like hours put into a piece, is… misguided.

Digital games have it rough. Especially the ones who are derided for their 2D pixel art!

Depends on the description of art. If you adhere (as I do) to the description of an aesthetic experience as an uncomsumable epiphany (because your perception o the work is constantly evolving thank to the work inherent complexities) you can argue (as I sometimes did in my clases) that interactive art is the medium that is formally closest to the experience as perceived and thus the easiest medium in theory (if technical hurdles are ignore) for achieving such experiences.

Which sucks as an argument, because most games are in practice as far from an aesthetic experience you can get.

Edit: to put it simpler. You think of the audience as a receiver of art, while I think art is a work that engages in a complex dialog with the audience. The audience is part of the process, not just the receptacle, and the process involves interacting with the artwork (through thinking/changing our perception of it). Interactive media has an easier way to achieving such a dialog (by being interactive) than non interactive media. In theory.

I think to offset the mad complexity of games, the bar is far lower in an artistic, or aesthetic sense than say painting, sculpture, dance or other more established art forms.

A very realistic depiction of an F-14A in flight on a canvas has pretty low artistic value, but as an interactive experience it could more easily be considered impressive art.

Could it be that the immense budgets of modern day Hollywood productions are detrimental to their artistic value? Huh. Sometimes seems that way. Only a very big auteur like Tarantino makes truly original work it seems, the rest is all very derivative (Marvel!) or formulaic. Like much of gaming tbh.

But yeah games are art, and sometimes pretty darn good Art too!

To me a good game usually “feels like” a good novel, and is of similar length and maybe depth (depending on the game). I don’t really like the comparisons to cinema so much. I think Homeworld (1999) is the only game that “felt” cinematic to me. Maybe this happens more often on consoles?

Games rarely of ever go ‘deep’ enough for me to compare them to literature. Parts of witcher3 perhaps.

You’re comparing writing to writing, which isn’t really fair. They’re different mediums. If you’re trying to convey a young boy’s defending a young lady’s life with his own you would do so differently in each medium.

In a song, you’d do it with music and lyrics working in harmony. Maybe no lyrics, only music?
In a painting, you have a number of options on how to depict it.
In a novel, you write a tale.
In a movie, you try to show the adventure.
In a game like Ico, you have the player play the boy as he physically pulls her along by the hand, tugging her to safety. It’s an amazingly beautiful game even if there’s no writing or dialog. The visuals, the vibrations of the controller, and the actions taken by the player combine to create the emotions the artists want to evoke in the player. And they do it brilliantly.

I’m to say! :) It’s way easier to affect a human’s emotions than it is to make an AI. A dog can do the former, but not the latter.

You realize not everyone cares about dogs right? People don’t universally share the same emotional responses, so guiding those emotions… is not easy. It’s like trying to say comedy is easy and drama is hard which is simply not true.