From Pong to Alternate Trans-realities

Posted by in Art, Gaming

Do video games have a place in the art world? Of course they do, not only if you were to ask any of the gamers who own at least one console, PC, or smartphone themselves but the United States Supreme Court as well, according to the ruling in 2010-2011 of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

The ruling falls under the 1st Amendment, and thus is considered creative, intellectual, emotional forms of expressions and engagement. A ban on video games would not have only imposed a great disservice to the market but more importantly to those who wish to express their means of communicating their ideas through the medium of interactivity on the screen. With the movie industry being dominated by a few select studios, its incredibly hard for indie films to make a splash nationally or globally like blockbusters do.With indie games however they have a much better chance and level playing field of getting noticed and picked up on different platforms for all kinds of mobile markets and consoles. I am by no means comparing movies to games, one is passive and the other is active. But with all the new technologies, graphics, and gamification happening around us, it might be wise to take a look around and ask “will there (or should there) ever be a limit to video games blurring the lines of between games and reality with the pass to call it art?”I will always stand on the side of the digital creative expressionists, but the main goal of my post is to explore the depth of how far the rabbit hole can go at this moment in time (June 2014).First let’s take a look at some notable titles that help with the notion that video games can be considered art. There are plenty of titles that are worthy of this section but these were the ones that topped my list.

Pong: (first video game)

Tetris: (highest grossing)

Super Mario Bros. 3: (culture embedded)

Chrono Trigger: (story)

The Stanley Parable: (philosophical)

The Order 1886: (graphics)

There are many more games that I can make categories for and give a badge of honor to but I would then never finish my post. In Evan Puschak’s youtube video below, he describes a great summary to catch us up to how video games have developed over time in the past generation and how they, ultimately, are far more than purely an art form.

Before we dive too deep though, lets get’s definition on what art is.

Art [noun]: the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

That’s a pretty broad statement and can certainly cover quite a lot in this world. Does playing a game of chess constitute as art? What exactly, is it that makes it art? The chess board? The pieces on the board? The rules of chess themselves? I propose that none of that matters. Art, is simply a means to an end which happens to include all those things, individually or not. Using games in an artistic manner to convey feelings, elements of life, or moments in time can be incredibly rewarding for both the artist (game designer[s]) and viewer (player[s]). The better technology we have at our disposal to create video games, the more enriching and realistic those moments and feelings will become. Are video games at a point where we cannot distinguish between it and real life? Not yet, but that future is rapidly approaching. Until then, here are some very unique ways that video game technology is headed.

Simulation / Head-tracking hardware: Flight simulation hardware has been around for years, only recently with head tracking software, and specialized peripherals, along with 3D realistic software has the simulations gotten incredibly realistic.

Oculus Rift: The Rift is an upcoming virtual reality head-mounted display which will become available sometime in late 2014 or early 2015.

[Reaction video] (because the best way to experience the Oculous Rift without having it over your head is to see the person who has one reaction to using it.)

Omni: Omni is an omnidirectional treadmill peripheral which can be used for virtual reality games, allowing the player to move in the game using specially mounted shoes and a low friction surface which ties back to the software.

There are plenty other upcoming technologies, notably wearable ones like Google Glass or smart phones that monitor your health and mental being. When these are connected to the Internet and linked up to software that can alternate your reality into a transrealty then games will take yet another great leap into something far more powerful than books, movies, or art pieces can give us.

What will all these advances in technology mean for gaming? In a nutshell, it will blend reality more and more with the game itself and push it further past “just an art form”. Wether it is a realistic version of yourself you control on a battlefield, or a realistic Super Mario body in the Mushroom Kingdom the sense of euphoria people will feel in the future will bring about not only new ways of experiencing things, but for the first time people en mass will be able to use and compare those feelings and experiences they harness from VR video games back to the real world.

Just don’t go jumping into any sewer pipes sticking out of the ground quite yet.