The Art School Girl

She sits down on the couch, her legs crossed so she can turn to face me. We've been in the apartment about 40 minutes or so, an artist-sized apartment with hardwood floors, cluttered with newspapers and magazines. The apartment is above the pottery studio and gallery where she works, the walls at odd angles like someone was trying too hard to seem artistic. I walk into the studio, with its kilns still warm from the students who left half an hour ago and its floor with clay spots, then up the creaky oak steps to the living area, and I'm sitting in her overstuffed couch with her inappropriately close, her blue eyes sparkling in the dim light, and that's when she tells me video games are not art.

Everything I'm telling you is true.

I don't normally drop the "I'm a gamer" line when I first meet someone. I'm not ashamed, but it doesn't typically come into the conversation. It came up with this girl when I mentioned my fascination with new media, such as video games. Video games are becoming more of an art form, I say, a type of interactive fiction that captivates its audience in much the same way that War and Peace, the Sistine Chapel, and Michelangelo's David captivate theirs. I'm saying this to impress her, of course, but I believe it. She doesn't.

"Video games are not art," she declares while grabbing two shot glasses. "Video games are simple mind-puzzles to keep children occupied so their parents can go on with their boring lives. They're products designed to sell, to make publishing houses money, in the same way the next Aladdin movie is." She pours two shots of Jack Daniel's, hands one to me, and drains hers. I follow, listening intently as she dissects the medium of electronic entertainment into an expensive, violent waste of time. Every time she says "violence" she wraps her tongue around the word. I can't take my eyes off her mouth.

Pouring another set of shots, I ask her to define art for me. The Oxford Dictionary, she tells me, defines art as the expression of creative skill through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture. It's both creepy and sexy that she knows this off the top of her head. I ask her what makes Monet's paintings art, as opposed to polygonal renderings of Sephiroth or Cortana?

It wasn't going quite like this a couple of hours earlier. She was just a customer in a coffee shop then, purple streaks in her hair and Kafka sticking out of her messenger bag. I don't normally give the customer a second glance, but she came in asking about free trade coffee and what kind of soy milk do you use and Oh My God is that zucchini bread? And at that moment, I don't know, I just started talking. You wouldn't know it from what you've seen here, gentle reader, but I can charm.

It's strange to see how others (Peter Griffin might call them "Normies") view us. It's not that crazy to think someone in their mid-twenties might have a DS in their bag; it's slightly high-tech and gadgets are the new black, right? But people get a little more judgmental when they see you grumbling at the floating doctor's head in Brain Age, or when you get just a little too animated after grabbing that last hard-to-reach star coin. They end up staring at us like we're the generally respectable looking housewives who went nuts for Beanie Babies years ago, driving across the tri-state area searching for a McDonald's that has the rare pink dog that will complete their collection.

"Who's Cortana?" She asks, reaching for the bottle.

Video games can be art, I tell her, just as commercials can be art. I point out Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will as an example, hoping to look intelligent while making a debate-winning point. That's a two hour commercial for Nazis, and everyone considers it an important piece of cinema.

Most people hesitate when you mention Nazis. Art school girls, apparently, don't even balk.

"Video games aren't powerful enough to be art. Van Gough, Monet, Dali"… there's real feeling in their work." She scoots gloriously closer. "Can a video game move you?" Her hand finds my leg. "Can a game make you feel?" Then she squeezes.

My head's racing. Well, Final Fantasy VII would work here. People cry in the middle of FFVII; they break down in tears when Aeris dies. But I hesitate for two reasons, the first being that admitting to a Normie that I bawled like a child while playing a PS1 game feels like crossing a social line, and in my head I can see the Beanie Baby woman motioning for me to join her. My heart fills with dread. The second reason I hold back is because deep down I know that talking about a fictional woman, even one as useless a plot device as Aeris, will kill what looks to be an amazing night ahead of me.

Saying a solemn oath in my head to make it up to Cloud and the gang, hoping desperately that my privileges as a gamer won't be revoked, I slowly shake my head. My eyes mesmerized by her mouth, I concede. She's right, of course. Video games could never move me the way her art can. And satisfied that she is right, she leans in and hungrily kisses me.

Okay, that part I made up.

Comments

I always found PoP: The Sands of Time to be quite the moving piece - more so than FFVII. The characters never seemed real to me in that game.
Chrono Trigger, on the other hand, did elicit a small emotional response from me, but i won't spoil that revelation for people who haven't played it.

I think that people who don't think that video games are art (or have the capacity to be so - think the difference between [people quote] Dali and a talented artist today) are just locked in the mode of thought that has permeated a number of generations since the moving picture was accepted into the ranks of "art". Anything can be art if we, as "the observers" agree to elevate it to that status. Only the general concensus of the old guard, stuck in their ways and afraid of any change that they might see as a lessening of their choice and connection of soul.

But hey, i don't mind. I don't rate many artists myself.....

Sorry that should have read:

Only the general concensus of the old guard, stuck in their ways and afraid of any change that they might see as a lessening of their choice and connection of soul to their preferred medium... would deny any new medium that lofty status.

Bravo! Well done Demi, this was an entertaining read. Not enough nakedness near the end to satisfy my inner pervert, but it worked.

My art checklist goes like this:

a) Was it created by someone or something? *Check
b) Does it emotionally move you in some way? *Check

There will always be old-school (ie. snobs) who reject new forms of art, but if slinging human poop onto a canvas qualifies, then Beyond Good and Evil deserves a nod at the very least.

Demiurge wrote:

I ask her to define art for me. The Oxford Dictionary, she tells me, defines art as the expression of creative skill through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture.

-Are video games not a visual medium, or does the word "video" not convey this well enough?

-Are they not created via a broad array of creative skills? Graphics, 3D modelling, programming, music composition & performance, voice acting, plot/script writing all come to mind - not to mention certain other creative skills that go on behind the scenes.

I guess coming from her perspective I can see why she wouldn't consider them "art." This same argument has been made about comic books not being considered "art," but then an illustration of a soup can somehow is. I think that very notion alone would move me far more than the soup can.

I think you were a wish man to keep your trap shut.

Ahh

The way to the gamer's heart is still through his pants!

PTD (pr0n till death!)

Homeworld moved me. To tears, fury and wonder. All in a span of moments.

Still does.

What a god damned tease.

Good article, man. You had me movin' with you.

That Oxford definition is incredibly narrow. Mozart's notes are not art? Goethe's words are not art? I am deadly serious about my culinary skills and when fully committed I feel that my gastronomical creations are art indeed. But in the end, finding a cool girl is far more important than convincing someone that gaming is art.

Duttybrew wrote:

But in the end, getting laid is far more important than convincing someone that gaming is art.

Fixed.

Excellent piece. Just great. You put me right in the room.

Podunk wrote:
Duttybrew wrote:

But in the end, getting laid is far more important than convincing someone that gaming is art.

Fixed. :D

You can do both as long as you're the dom.

rabbit wrote:

Excellent piece. Just great. You put me right in the room.

Agreed, and hated leaving.

Good until the end...am I the only person who didn't get it? Are you trying to say you *didn't* mug down? Because, to my way of thinking, your selling out in order to mug down would be somewhat acceptable, whereas selling out and then being shut out is a total loss.

I once dated a girl who played lots of games before I met her - Metal Gear Solid and the like. I thought it was dead sexy when she talked about them. Currently, my GF spends almost every free minute cursing to her DS as she plays the new Super Mario.

well done, well done indeed.

Bah, I'd rather be right than sacrifice my principles for some random idiot. You can always pay for sex. Pr0n ftw.

Mixolyde wrote:

Bah, I'd rather be right than sacrifice my principles for some random idiot. You can always pay for sex. Pr0n ftw.

Don't look now but I think your penis is about to kick the crap out of you...

Haakon7 wrote:

Homeworld moved me. To tears, fury and wonder. All in a span of moments.

Still does.

Thank god, I thought I was the only person who got tearful to an RTS. Damn HW was good. Almost as engaging as this article"” good read demi!

Man, I have to try this Homeworld. I haven't had a good cry in a while. I have had a bit of fury though, from the devil spawn which is Ridge Racer 6. God, if that game had nuts, I'd boot it so hard.

she came in asking about free trade coffee and what kind of soy milk do you use and Oh My God is that zucchini bread?

Normies ask about free trade coffee? Puhleeze, she's as dorky as a gamer. But because she's an ar-teest and presumably intellectual, she can get away with it when confronted by a gamer.

You could have won the argument by asking her if her purple hair was an artistic statement, then bludgeoned her with the news that the vast majority of videogame characters also make artistic statements with their hair -- and many even have purple hair just like hers. Segue into conversation about Cloud's crazy mop in FFVII and bam! You're telling her about Aeris and how -- NOT YOU -- but many of your friends admitted crying during her death.

Conversation ends. Clothes land on the floor.

And no baby, that isn't zuchini bread, but you're free to take a taste-test if you don't believe me.

booty wrote:
rabbit wrote:

Excellent piece. Just great. You put me right in the room.

Agreed, and hated leaving.

And I'll third it. I like how what could just be another Gaming is Art piece is really focused on where the rubber meets the road -- so to speak -- which is a great deal more important.

Haakon7 wrote:

Homeworld moved me. To tears, fury and wonder. All in a span of moments.

Still does.

I was also affected by Homeworld, primarily by the very early mission where you do the field test of the warp drive, breaking the ban on your planet, then warp back to your planet to find it in ruins and the last of the invaders trying to finish off the civilians on the station that launched you.

The combination of music and the urgency of saving those last, innocent victims really hit home for me, so much so that I had to find out what the music was that was playing as you tried desparately to save the remnants of your people and were informed of the total obliteration of your homeworld. Barber's Adagio for Strings.

Hm the wikipedia entry mentions an expanded version of it called Agnus Dei as being used in parts of the game.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adagio_...

Great Article,

I may be the only one here that thinks this but I would even go as far to say that programming itself is an art. I can't really put it to words but when you see in your mind the programs flow and the different elements that bring it to life, come together, it seems 'art worthy' to me.

Video games require concept art, 3D modeling, animation, etc to bring them to life. All of these being forms of art. In my opinion, I think it would be rather silly to think that by putting them all together would undo the idea that their a form of art.

Yay, sounds like another drone churned out by an art school.

Funny thing is I make a living with my art, I've trained in classical methods and put up with a fair share of snobs and the only thing that matters to me is when I see someone look at my work and connect with it. Are video games art? I'm sure there are many titles that you could argue aren't quite as worthy of being given said title, but there are even more that truly deserve to be called just that. Sometimes I think the old school artists just don't realize how much true artistic skill goes into every pixel on screen, or every note in the soundtrack. It's like they think we just plug in a few numbers and the computer does the rest devoid of human input. Perhaps it really is just their ignorance of the digital medium or they are just being defensive against what they view as a threat to the traditional ways they were brainwashed with. And while most think art school would be a place of freedom and expression I found the exact opposite.

And I agree Kyreth, I do some programming and have many professional programmers as friends, even code can be artistic. Code is cold and lifeless just like paint - until a human comes along and takes up the brush.

Excellent article though, I might even suggest you have created a little piece of art.

See, this is why being married is great. I don't have to compromise my principles to get laid.

...

...

HAHAHAHA, try saying that with a straight face.

I think the next question might be does art require emotional involvement?

I can appreciate architecture, for example, and definitely say that some is art, but the emotions that might be generated by a building or a piece of it are likely coming from some association in my head, not from the piece of art itself.

I guess I'm saying that people really play up the emotional side of art, while downplaying the intellectual or absolute side. Sometimes it's OK for art to be emotionless.

Kilaban wrote:

I think the next question might be does art require emotional involvement?

I can appreciate architecture, for example, and definitely say that some is art, but the emotions that might be generated by a building or a piece of it are likely coming from some association in my head, not from the piece of art itself.

I guess I'm saying that people really play up the emotional side of art, while downplaying the intellectual or absolute side. Sometimes it's OK for art to be emotionless.

I do alot of design work and things that might be considered art. I don't believe emotions every entered into it. It has more to do with an inner connection of myself and what I'm trying to build. Very zen for me.

LightBender wrote:

Are video games art? I'm sure there are many titles that you could argue aren't quite as worthy of being given said title, but there are even more that truly deserve to be called just that.

I think this is one of the big hurdles in labeling games as art, and not one that will be - or should be - removed. Some games are... well, games - simple combinations of move, shoot, jump, next level, climb, teabag, drive, etc. that are done purely because they are entertaining. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but to label such games as art would force us to seriously consider labeling the great pastime of washers as art, at which point the word "art" loses all meaning.

Other games use actions as more than an end, and are obviously more "artsy," or whatever you call it, than their simple brethren.

Unfortunately, you have to actually play games to recognize that.

Staats wrote:

Other games use actions as more than an end, and are obviously more "artsy," or whatever you call it, than their simple brethren.

Unfortunately, you have to actually play games to recognize that.

Therein lies the real problem with gaming's position in society. "They" see us getting emotional over a game, yelling out in frustration or joy, ect. and instantly draw comparisons with the raving lunatic talking to himself, weraing his glasses upside down, with only half a sock on walking downtown. So they instantly run in fear or roll their eyes everytime a game is mentioned without ever bothering to try it for themselves.

By the way, soy milk sucks.

Staats wrote:

Some games are... well, games - simple combinations of move, shoot, jump, next level, climb, teabag, drive, etc. that are done purely because they are entertaining. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but to label such games as art would force us to seriously consider labeling the great pastime of washers as art, at which point the word "art" loses all meaning.

Other games use actions as more than an end, and are obviously more "artsy," or whatever you call it, than their simple brethren.

IMO - the purpose of games it to create fun. Creating fun is an art. Fun isn't something that comes by chance. It is a combination of talent, love, and hard work that you put into balancing your game, tweaking how it feels, until it starts to fulfill its ultimate purpose.

New Super Mario Bros is art. The "art" art in it is simple, but the colors and themes are picked ingeniously, and the gameplay mechanics are easy to learn, harder to master. Clearly, a lot of love and work was poured into making this game fun. A lot more than may seem on the surface.