The video game as one of the Fine Arts


This article belongs to the study on aesthetics and video games that Antonio Flores Edema is doing. The presentation of this series of columns can be found in this link.

Although throughout all the texts so far the categorization of the video game as art has been suggested, until the last text that position has not been explicitly defended; However, no reasons have been given. The question about whether the video game is art is one of those tedious problems that arise every little time and that do not lead anywhere. The fundamental problem is that the definition of what art is not very clear, and is very problematic, for at least 150 years. Therefore, instead of trying to get a definition of art that includes video games or put video games in an art definition, the idea is to establish an approach zone that allows us to talk about sufficient arguments. Because if not, I tell you, nothing we consider art could be called like that.

The idea of artistic

Before reforming the living room, behind the TV at my grandmother’s house, there was a huge [huge] tigers tap fighting oriental style. You can’t deny the technical skill and work that the tapestry had, but was it art? In hospitals, it has long been fashionable to put blades of avant-garde works, the more abstract, the better, in the rooms. Do you have something to do with those sheets and their placement with an artistic impulse? Defining art, when a work of art is a work of art, is very difficult; very difficult. Because, for example, there is that well-known case of the virtuoso violinist who touches I don’t know what arch-news piece in a New York subway and everyone goes from it. Is art if it is not in the appropriate context? Isn’t it art for not being perceived as such? Is it mere musical thread even if it is the most difficult piece in the world? Another paradoxical case: I do not know if you know it, but in the Franco port of Geneva there are ships where the rich keep works of art to not pay taxes, many of them, probably, works of art that are considered lost for human heritage. Are they still art even though no one enjoys them, that they do not exist for humanity? Are art or investment active? These problems are not irrelevant, but they cloud more than clarify what can be that we call art.

We will work by analogy, to the Aristotelian. This system is not the best either, because analogies are not definitions; They are more or less successful comparisons that are more or less explanatory, but they fail as soon as we leave the analogous. That is why I do not ask that we think of necessary arguments, but sufficient. This allows us some flexibility when arguing. There are sufficient reasons to consider the tigers of the art tigers, by technique, for example; But it is clear that its use does not seek artistic intentions, but decorative. On the contrary, the portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife, by Jan van Eyck, would not originally have an artistic intention, but as a private memory, which has subsequently found sufficient arguments-stylus, symbolism, technique, etc.-to become A flamenco work of relevance. There are artistic elements that sometimes appear as art and sometimes not, or common elements that are sometimes art; There are elements that share all the characteristics that occur to us with a work of art that are not. The same with the video game: Sometimes we find a work of art, others no; There are video games that have some artistic elements, but other elements are not. It must be justified, but not around a monolithic idea of art.

Here we must not do only a historical or sociological examination to find the legitimation of art, but a global exploration that indicates those analogous elements. It is what I call, from Adorno and Noel Carroll, artistic (the ability of an object of becoming art), or what Ruth García Martín calls ratification (the frame that makes an object become art): in His work Notes on the processes of legitimation and ratification of the video game, gives a complete framework of this idea, of the elements that come into play, but that are not necessarily completely decisive, for legitimation and consideration as art, in This case, of the video game. In the end it is a process of legitimation that does not have an end, a moment of positive resolution that leaves us perplexed at the ultimate truth of what art is. And we speak at all times of elements that positively do talk about video game as art, not negatively want to remove that privilege. For example, the reason for entertainment or fun is usually used as an element that discards the video game as art (because it is a game, a matter of infants); But that can be responded positively that in theater, cinema, or literature, there is comedy, and there are also great works of art among comics. Anyway, in the end what we obtain is a bite of tastes and dislikes about random objects, but the same is what art means. Let’s see.

The video game in the arts system

We are going to make a quick tour of the different artistic categories and, to the extent that this development is significant, I think that those who read can fill with new examples. The question of analogy is as follows: the interrelation between the elements that make up a work of art does not only indicate its own art (I.E., painting with another previous painting), but open to all arts and other areas. We recognize elements of an art not because they refer to our own language that we know, but because it refers to a broader language that leads us to other references. The arts system is built through categories, but we must recognize that they are not immutable categories. That is why you can talk about poems that are like paintings or music that is like poetry or whatever. In that how an argument about the analogy is enclosed. It will be simple.

There are two categories that are very easy to see: the relationship of the video game with the narrative arts and with the visual arts. Conventionally, the main narrative art is literature, although cinema also enters this category; Both tell things. That is, they generally have a temporary development of an action or series of actions that are sequentially given (there are many models, in that we do not enter; and there are non-narrative literature or cinema, also apart). When in Skyrim we follow the story based on actions based on the missions of history, we are moving the story of history, of what Skyrim wants to tell us. Of course, if I tell my mother what happened to me yesterday buying the bread, I am also narrating, so there can be narratives that can be described as artistic of others that not (in the video game, which one would you suggest?). We can say the same of visual arts, usually framed around painting and sculpture, but also photography and cinema. The determining thing is that things are shown. That is, it generally has a spatial development, of disposition of the bodies in relation to a proportion, some colors, a light, a space, that are distributed and means something (of course other options can also occur). With visual arts it always seems easier to talk about the video game: here the theme of the graphics and the visual section is important; of the lights, the details; The color in NUTS, the light in ABU, or the landscapes in Skyrim.

These two elements, the narrative and the visual, would be enough to put in relation to the video games with the most clearly aesthetic components of what we call art (without entering into its sociological or historical dimension). Literature and painting, for example, are arts that traditionally enjoy a lot of esteem, and the pictorial or narrative in the video game has been treated profusion, both from a purely videodisc perspective and in its most artistic dimension. And what about cinema. In addition, it can be added as a subcategory (or ante-category, depending on your categories), the consideration of the plastic arts, which imply a manual doing, and that put us before the creation itself within the video game itself: equal painter not It has access to these heights, but what to think about when in Minecraft does it go beyond the tools arranged by the mechanics of the game themselves? Here, in addition, another category, which is Metallica: the video game as an architectural art. Architecture is usually put in visual arts, but there would be another category that includes not only the art of building buildings, but also gardening and urbanism, for example. It is the art of having bodies in space significantly but in relation to a function (or not), to life (or not), from a social thinking (or not). In the architectural arts the bodies are of other types, less relevant to the naked eye, but that shape the entire space. This painting that paints landscapes also participates. In the video game, the design of levels is an art: think of the scenarios of Doom, of Counter Strike; How the stage directs certain places with the light in The Last Guardian, or the non-arbitrary disposition of barriers, objects or ruins in Gears of War, The Last of Us or Bios hock.

Finally-here you find me in a strong position-the video game would be found as a scenic art. The performing arts are music, theater, dance. They share characteristics with the rest of arts: theater (and dance), tell us stories, which have a strong and also architectural visual component, through their scenographer (music is a thing of their own). But the most important thing is not the synthesis that, by analogy, we can find between theater and video game, but a detail that seems very relevant to me: the transposition of spectator to actor that occurs in the video game. Because when we think of art, we usually do it as an audience: person who travels to Rome to see the Vatican museums; person who reads war and peace; person who admires Versailles; person who delights with Ricardo II of Shakespeare. But art is also done and, even if we are not programmers, when traveling through the video game we become part of the work; There would be no work of art-video game without someone at the controls on the other side. And, at that point, we become agents of the work. The same is a concert for ourselves (although streaming), but it is still the development of an artistic space. Or is the Golconda less art if it is observed a single person instead of a lot of tourists? Yes, but this is the analogy that I find most relevant when relating the video game with the performing arts, rather than their character of encompassing other elements. And the analogies would not end.

Do you have the entity video game for itself?

The answer to this question will always be unsatisfactory. In rigor, if we stick to the previous article, it is irrelevant if we qualify a video game as art or not, because what interested us was that opening of the aesthetic experience to autonomy; However, the video game, like any art, as an artifice, is an experimentation within the margins of that experience, which contributes something else. This in definition is the article in general, in art, as that space of autonomy that opens humanity to new experiences, where only the form of art, rather than its content. The video game would be a way to open the work to structural participation. But this is too vague, and it doesn’t matter to extend too much now. The point is that in the end the decision on the artistic of the video game we take it individually on each of the experiences. There are a number of external conditions (which many are explored by Ruth García in the aforementioned article) that lead us to bow to a type of experience or another, but that does not prevent that in the future the opportunity to change perspective is opened. For example, it is very common to tell the avant-garde art for ugly, incomprehensible or poor, in technical terms (except, curiously, surrealism, by the figurative prejudice of the gaze). This is because we judge that art for taste, which has been traditionally educated towards certain types of artistic forms. But when it is discovered that avant-garde art has no intention of like, but is aimed at a reflection of art and its conditions, suddenly the aesthetic experience opens to another space.

The same with the video game: there will be instrumental works, like any generic shooter, which neither aspire nor have elements that enforce as artistic, but equally sudden your moment). But, precisely this game seems artistically poor for a lot of reasons. Or, without liking the video games of David Cage, I can recognize formal elements that communicate their video games with artistic elements that are taken from other parts that, if you do not mean that they make them art, at least they have an artistic vocation. The discussion, or far away, is settled here; In the end, as I say, we will decide individually for each video game, as has already been made between the box of a Monteria in a road bury and the hunters in the snow of Bruegel the old 1. The important thing is to be open to game, experience and knowledge. Art, whatever it is, does everything else.

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