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Is designing games making art?

We hear questions like this a lot. Are games a form of art? When we create games, do we produce art?

Internet is full of discussions among great minds (and also not so great) around those questions.

Often the discourse moves to “ok, what is art?” or “right, what is a game?”.

Lately I am taking an art course: Long pose drawing and painting. It was really a discovery to see how many things game design shares with art.

Art may have a strict process to follow. You can follow a specific method to create art pieces. You can also decide to just follow your movements and what your mind says. The same exact thing happens with game design. When you work for a company, probably you may want to follow a method and adapt it to the company needs. When we are alone with our mind, instead, we can just sketch. Sometimes the magic happens. Just as in art.

Art is based on the aesthetics. Aesthetics mean the study of the essence of things. When I am drawing a person standing in front of me, I am not really drawing straight. The drawing comes out from the shadows I am able to synthetize with my charcoals. I am constantly trying to find the essence to explain what I am seeing. Same exact thing with game design. You and your team want to deliver an experience, so that the whole game design process is about finding the essence of that experience. Look at the classic MDA framework, where researchers found 8 kind of aesthetics. Someone should continue that research, actually. It was made when videogames were still artifacts. Today games are entertainment, not artifacts anymore.

Art presents a challenge to the viewer. The artists tried to explain the aesthetics of what they were seeing or thinking. The final result is presented to the World and offers always an interpretation challenge. Instead of visual art, think in music. The first musical instrument opens the melody, then maybe a drum puts the rhythm in. Then other instruments join to create the harmony. According to the listener, the music can be noisy or exciting. The music can be very complicated when the listener is not prepared. The same exact thing happens with game design, especially with UX and Level Design. The final game has a complexity which is in general based on audience tastes. Or, at least, I would prefer to be so.

Published inGame Design

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