Wednesday, August 01, 2007

How a Game Museum Would Work


Following my previous articles about games and art, as well as some short discussions with Greg Costik, the subject of an art museum for games came up.

Remember that when considering games, I'm considering all types of games, including:
  • table top games with physical components
  • mental games with superfluous components (e.g. RPGs)
  • electronic and video based games
  • solo and multiplayer games
  • possibly others
Also remember, that when considering the art within games, I'm not considering primarily the artistic quality of the components. I'm not talking about a museum for fancy chess sets.

Games as Art

I'm talking about a museum of interactive art. Games are, at heart, interactive experiences, whether the interaction is with the rule set or the components, or another player or AI through means of the rule set and components.

The only distinction I can really make about games and interactive art is that interactive art is akin to play - it is without specific rules. Games are a subset of interactive art where the experience is couched in terms of specific rules of interaction.

Note a number of things that I'm leaving out of the definition of games: winning, losing, and scores, which I don't think are required for games.

Many people will happily disagree with my terminology, but it doesn't really matter. We can argue the terms some other time. I'm concerned more with the structure of a game museum in this article.

Physical Game Museums

In my recent visit to the Tate Museum, I saw a number of videos that simply depicted a man falling down and getting up again. You could just as easily translate this into an experiential game. In the game, you push someone until he falls down, and then he gets up again.

The quality of the components is relevant to the finished piece, but not the essential aspect of the artistic message.

Or a game of Go set up with a difficult end-game move. You sit down and have to play a piece. After you play a piece, an opponent responds. Then the game is reset.

Or an RPG with a single quest: to fill a bucket of water. To do so, you have to first interact with five different characters from mythology.

A physical museum could be entirely full of interactive pieces like these.

Virtual Game Museums

A virtual online museum could feature pages of art games, either online games, or downloadable games. Each page could have the name of the creator, date of creation, and maybe a blurb about the artist and the work. You could add a forum or chat box for each work, if you like.

A video game: the game consists of beautifully rendered figures with different personalities: arrogance, pride, anger, and so on. You guide them around so that they interact in an art studio. When you give a set of items and tools to one or more of the characters, the character builds a sculpture that reflects his or her personality.

Another video game: You have as much time as you want to create a painting. As you make choices, certain brush, canvas, and paint resources become available to you. Your tools are constrained and guided by the interactivity of the program based on your choices. Think a civ building game, but you're building a palette.

The game ends after you've reached a certain quality of tool set. As a side result, you may have created a beautiful painting. The real creation of the game is the tool set that matches your needs as an artist - or, perhaps just the needs of a certain mood.

I don't know if these games are fun. The second one might be a little. But fun is besides the point. Like any other piece of interactive art, the object is not to sell it or own it, but to experience it, receive the artist's message, and perhaps be transformed by it.

If all these games sound like bad art, that's entirely because I'm not a game artist. I'm just a theorist. :-)


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