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It seems that all artworks aim for the creation of a tense moment that then resolves in some release. A traditional joke has a setup that builds tension which is released by some sign, usually the punchline. When you view or listen there is always a build to some tension and then some striking moment as with an epiphany which releases the buildup of tension or energy. In the case of a joke the release is laughter. The tension is generally grounded in the emotive, but generally reached by some action usually found to be grounded in the realms of abstract thought. The moment is thought of or imagined and then reached by action or activity producing signs. Acting as an art form is the activity of rendering emotion by using abstract thought to cross the bridged between the emotive state and its active signals. Thus an actor may display rage or dispair, but they are not reflecting a real situation but one built from and though reason and imagination. Games then may be the most immersive of the art forms for us going forward as they engage a virtual copy of practical reason in a space as they build situational tension*. In this I think Ebert may be quite wrong**...

My son bought a copy of Left 4 Dead and its an interesting game in the context of this essay in that the episodes are set up as movies and you play as the movie characters. But there is little to the game in the way of plot but for surviving the onslaught of zombies. There is a tremendous amount of tension built into this simple formula in accord with the settings used. The game is just creepy in setting tone and then throws a ton of zombies at you. It continually asks in drastic high emotive tension, "Can you survive this world of imagination?" Often you're left to mashing the fire button, groaning at the necessity of a reload, and left shocked and frustrated as a bunch of horrid faced ghouls claw at "you". Then "you" get hit with a "special" and your vision is blurred, or you're pinned or bludgeoned. The interesting thing is that the replay value is high because in every return to the game the timing and location of these tense moments among the setting have changed. The numbers, hiding places, and specials all "move" about the landscape for each play which give rise to a tougher time for the player in relying on a combination of memory and practical reason to navigate the scene. Yes, there is going to be a witch ahead and there is going to be ammo reloads and so forth but if you go looking for them in the place they were last time, well, you'll be disappointed, in itself another set up emotional moment. This is a whole new tension in gaming...

And in art...

*This is focused primarily on the current crop of "immersive" games.
**Roger Ebert has made comment that games are not equivelent of the art form of film lagging to the degree that they are basically not art or could not ever be considered as "high art". He also responds to responses to these statement including some from Clive Barker


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
Split Level Head: To Be My Own Critic
"This is a whole new tension in gaming...

And in art..."

Actually, performance art did this in real space...
Jan. 9th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
This is probably a digression from your initial point, but this is what I thought of upon reading your musings:
Visual art (sculpture, painting, so-called 'installations', any non-active art) is the embodiment of cultivation of tension. I'm thinking Jackson Pollock right now.

If anyone understands what I'm thinking, you're welcome to either continue or dispute.
Jan. 9th, 2009 06:15 am (UTC)
I have a friend who is not an LJer, but he's enthusiastic about Games as Art, so here's what he says:

Interaction with art is the new frontier, thus games will become the new form of art.

But answer me this: What's the aesthetic value of video games?
Jan. 9th, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)
Since the games are flexible and mimic a lot of other forms notably film, it would be the same values as for those forms. Some are less like film and more like an interactive installation.

If you notice in the Ebert piece he admits that when he talks about games he's very unengaged and talks about simply the mechanics of how one plays most popular games. Hold the controller, point at stuff, push the buttons, and shoot stuff. But few games any more stand on these sorts of technical merits, and storytelling, among other things, has come to the fore, which make them unlike traditional toys which are centered almost solely on interactive fun.

Ultimately, its not hard to postulate that virtual immersion can do anything and everything that all other forms do as it can encompass all of them similar to the way movies might have in them paintings, music, etc.

Here's an interesting link...


It's possible I might be able to do something more on the subject, but I'd probably have to go off and read Adorno or something first...
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:47 am (UTC)
Due to your analogy of artworks as jokes i thought you might be interested in an article i recently posted in http://community.livejournal.com/art_theory/ which makes the same observation, except applying the analogy to the issue of taste and judgment.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )