Crawford on Art and Games

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Chris Crawford has generated discussion on the question of games and art at NoGD. It’s an interesting classification quandary. First we have what is called a game and then we ask but it is also art. Is an artist a person who does art or who puts paint on a canvas or symbols into lines of verse. I would assume that if a player sat back after a few hours with a game, she could certainly claim that the object is a “work of art,” the experience of which is simply different. A couple of Crawford’s arguments:

First, the individual: there is no question that individuals are better generators of artistic creativity than groups. Throughout history, the most revered artists worked as individuals (although some did work with groups). The individual is the focal point of creativity. Yet the games industry has settled on a system using large teams of workers, with creative control diffused among a number of people. This short-circuits the lightning bolt of creativity.

The second factor is economic. If art can be produced cheaply, then lots of people will create art. Most of that art will be junk, because most people have no talent. But the number of attempts will be so great that there’s a real chance that one of those attempts will be brilliant. Conversely, if art is expensive to produce, then the range of possibilities is narrowed. Fewer attempts will be made and the chances for a bolt from the blue are reduced.

Key to Crawford’s argument is an ecology of risk, boundary, and creativity. I wonder, however, if there are more important questions to ask beyond the one about art, whose trails can be fun, but whether games are or are not art gets us what?


3 responses to “Crawford on Art and Games”

  1. susan says:

    There’s more on the question of games as art at Grand Text Auto.

    To your “but whether games are or are not art gets us what?” I would say that it would serve a purpose of attracting the creative minds of artists and storytellers who do indeed work alone; to invite them in and learn to play well with others. While I feel the creating of a game is art in itself, these game developers often don’t see themselves as such and are taken more by the code and technology than the output other than joy that it works and works well.

  2. Josh says:

    “Art” is an unidentifiable variable, and along that point I agree with Steve in that debating whether gaming–or anything–is “art” is really not a valuable debate.

    The world of gaming is finally being recognised as an interactive medium beyond the world of geeks and no-lifers. There are great stories to be told thanks to the Star Wars Customisable Card Game and the Nintendo Wii.

  3. susan says:

    I would disagree that “art is an unidentifiable variable.” I believe it, like literature and poetry, architecture and marshmallows can indeed find a reasonably universal definition. The arguable point is only if it is good art or bad art.