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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

A fashion designer, an economist, and a linguist walk into a studio…

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday May 18 2010 at 4:52PM
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It sounds like a bad joke (and thanks to me, a bad title of a blog post), but it’s the truth about the evolving state of MMO development.  With today’s hullaballoo about Guild Wars 2’s fashion design (which looks absolutely enticing from an artistic perspective), it’s become clearer and clearer just how diverse and involved the development of an MMO has become.  Studios hire economists to help develop functioning economies in a game, linguists to create a tongue for some of their game’s races to use, and of course fashion designers to get the looks of their character’s just right.  Well that’s a bit of a misnomer.  Kristen Perry’s not a fashion designer, she’s a character artist for ArenaNet.  But hot damn, looking at the characters highlighted in the blog, she (and the rest of the team working alongside her) could likely get a job on any number of film and television sets making sure the actors look appropriate.   

So that title’s a bit off given the fact that Kristen is not a fashion designer.  But what I’m really trying to convey is the increasing compartmentalizing of game design.  More and more game development is becoming something akin to Hollywood.  Budgets are inflating, the credits which run after you beat the title are longer and longer, and the launch of hotly anticipated titles are surpassing the earnings of some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters… a fact that is certainly partially owed to the high cost of our hobby, but still.  It’s worth mentioning.

Roger Ebert famously defies the growing opinion that games are indeed art.  And to that I must simply remind the man that he knows film.  He does not know games.  For that reason alone he may never understand why Ico and Shadow of the Collossus are such a big deal to so many enthusiasts.  He is a film critic, and he knows a great deal about that medium, but unless he's got some insane jonesing for Pac-Man or God of War tucked under his belt somewhere I doubt he has much authority to determine whether or not videogames qualify as an artform.

When I sit down to play Alan Wake later, I'm no doubt going to be moved by the narrative as I have been by so many thousands of movies I've seen over the years.  The developer had a slew of artists and writers, a director, and so many people working on the actual systems.  And any programmer will likely tell you that writing code is not so much a science as it is an artform.  So how is Remedy's new Xbox game any different than the next film you go see, outside of the fact that it's interactive and not a passive experience?

I'm not really sure where I'm going with all this.  Ms. Perry's costume work for Guild Wars 2 just strikes me as yet another step of videogame development being closer to film production and I felt the need to prattle on about it. 

What do you think?  Are games art, have they always been, or will they never be?

Aristides writes:

Perhaps impolite to repeat, but Ebert is a dinosaur, from a bygone era.  We need pay no attention to his inane rants.  The movie industry is changing due to the digital age like everything else. Media synthesis is the future, and games are a major part of this oncoming wave due to their interactivity and still-untapped potential.

Wed May 19 2010 11:50AM Report
astoria writes: Roger Ebert is a troll, albeit a very effective one. His OP also shows he is woefully ignorant about the vast array of games out. A well accepted definition of art: Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. -Wiki process or product - yes, either here the development of the game or the game world, characters, etc. deliberate - yes. No video games have been accidentally made to my knowledge. arranging elements- yes. coding, creating textures, writing dialogue text, and so on to affect the senses or emotions - yes. obviously you can see and hear a game. There are thousands of responses on this site alone discussing the art style of games. Even a gamer art-lingo WoW-esque, AoC-esque. Wed May 19 2010 12:39PM Report
maplestone writes:

A dinosaur only in sense that he's like a classical music afficianato trying to come to grips with rock and roll.  I don't agree with him, but I don't think he's the sort of person who should be ignored - even when he's wrong, he's still a bright, observant guy.

To me, art is about communicating an idea.   You can have fantastic production values and still have no artistic value.  You can be art to one person, but noise to another.  You can interest and excite people ... and still not be art.  If I view art, then I come away from it with a new perspective on some corner of the real world.  Most video games are like summer blockbusters - full of well-crafted sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of two video games I've played that I would consider art: missile command and simcity.

I remember that after my first wild and crazy game of missile command, I stepped back and thought to myself "defence shields are futile in an arms race".  The game completely changed my mind about a real-world issue.

Simcity opened my eyes to the crippling cost of debt if you are too optimistic about economic growth.  It took the dull numbers on the news and translated into a format where I could appreciate success and failure.

In my travels through MMO worlds, I can't think of any moments like this where I felt I had an insite into the real world.  I've had a couple of epiphanies during flamewars on message boards, but not in the games themselves.

Wed May 19 2010 1:02PM Report
changyou writes:

This is a great point! I personally find my Sociology degree extremely useful in world-building, and love any chance I can get to flesh out the culture of Dragon Oath. I don't predict that game companies will start hiring cultural specialists to fill this role - especially not the smaller ones - but it's a great secondary skill.

Of course video games are art. And creating economic systems is its own art, as is world-building, etc. Specialization of labor is one of the great cultural achievements of humankind. It's good to see these individual creative minds acknowledged for their contributions.

- Lucy Song,

Community Manager

Wed May 19 2010 5:11PM Report
Hedeon writes:

old thread but found it sad it had no more replies than this.

a great little rant blog heh, and for sure agree....making an exciting game is an art form, there may be better artists/studio´s than others but its all still art.

and sure this site show that there is alot of aspects of the art pieces to be discussed ;)

Tue Jun 15 2010 6:54PM Report writes:
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