Has five hundred hours of Starcraft made me a better person?

By Failbetter, January 8, 2014 · Failbetter Tagged with

I respect and admire both Jonathan Jones and Keith Stuart, whose responses to ‘Are games art?’ surfaced again today. Jonathan’s is ‘what a bizarre and irrelevant question to ask…very little art is actually art’ and Keith’s is ‘does it really matter’? I agree with them both. I don’t want to dismiss the question, which has allowed us (gamers + game-makers) to wrestle a lot of interesting points into the open. My own take on the question is here – we’ve moved on a lot in the three years since I wrote it and I now think I come across as unduly pessimistic.

Anyway, the heavyweights have this one covered, so I’m just going to pick up the crumbs. ‘Games’, ‘art’ and indeed ‘are’ are all handily multi-purpose words. ‘Are games art?’ is often a stand-in for a much more specific question. For your convenience, I have answered some of the common ones below.

Can games be intelligent, beautiful and important? Sure.

Do we still need to read books? Yes.

Are games bad for you? A bit.

Has five hundred hours of Starcraft made me a better person? It made me quicker-thinking, shorter-tempered and gruntier. Your mileage may vary.

Is there too much shooting and killing in videogames? Definitely.

Is there too much shooting and killing in other media? Yes, but it’s not as bad.

Can I talk about games at a dinner party hosted by middle-aged adults without feeling a little embarrassed? No, not yet, apparently.

But what Gone Ho- I said not yet! Give it another five to eight years.

Will videogames save the world with their paradigm-changing rhetoric? Yes, to about the extent that cinema did, i.e., quite a lot.

Is Minecraft overrated? No, but we’ll get there.

Is Flower better than Macbeth? No.

Is Flower as good as Macbeth? No.

Is Peggle as good as Kubrick’s 2001? The answer is here. 


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Snowskeeper Ferenczy Jan 17, 1:18pm

No real reason not to read books. If you don't have the time to actually sit down and *read* a book, buy an audiobook and listen to it while you're doing whatever. You could listen to it while playing a video-game. =P

Sir Frederick Jan 9, 6:14am

My take: "art" isn't a signifier of quality; "art" is just the word for when we create things. Or, if you feel like narrowing that down, when we create things beyond recording that which we're pretty sure we understand rationally, which is the domain of science. Therefore: of course games are art; what else would they be? The first obvious counterpoint is that a lot of them are shallow, crude and generally a bit rubbish - which is true of many things! Games, like comic books, particularly suffer from being designed for a limited audience and carrying a lot of unquestioned assumptions as a result - that's something that changes over time, as new creators get involved and the mechanics and economics and production shift. The bigger issue, I think, is that games are a medium that tell a story or demonstrate a spectacle, but also set a physical challenge, and optionally serve as a social activity. I can't think of many parallels in other media - historical re-enactment, perhaps, or a highly interpretive country dance... or a wacky demonstration sport where the audience get pulled into the action. In any case, I can think of loads of games that have made me a better person in some way, because even quite simple games have often included interesting cultural touchstones or similar foods for thoughts that have sent me off on an interesting line of reading. They've given me some insight into the creators' ideas and experiences, which can go above and beyond the mechanics and subject matter - witness The Binding of Isaac, a game about crying on spiders and poop, which I think rather wonderfully carries across its author's feelings of rejection and internal withdrawal.