Design Domain I

Research & Ideas


Game: games, gaming and gamification

Scenarios: role-playing, rule-breaking, improvising, quick prototyping

New Perspectives: exploring things and places in new, imaginative and/or alternate ways

Freedom: risk-taking and experimentation in materials, methods and processes


Although I am a bit uneasy about using art school projects to put in a portfolio for jobs, as it is a rejection of the four years of freedom to create items that do not need to make money. Despite this, I see this as a great opportunity to make a video game- partly to put in my portfolio, and partly due to the fact that I really want to make a video game.

I don’t however, want to make a game that is fun for the sake of being fun. If it is fun, it should be a by-product. However, the entire industry is built on delivering dopamine to players, not on the ‘art’. This is where I run into trouble, most jobs in games rely on designing for fun.

There are very few games that I would describe as ‘art’, and even fewer that are both fun and art. The closest examples I can think of are ‘Papers, Please’ by Lucas Pope and ‘INSIDE’ by Playdead Studios. I find it problematic when people try to class, ‘video games’ as art. It is similar to Film, in that it can be classed as art, but for the most part, is a product designed for mass consumption. However, I find that mainstream art games are far more difficult to find.

Why are there so few art games? Is it relevant to the properties that classify an object as a game? Or is it the time and effort involved in making a game? Or maybe it is that gaming is still young compared to other media? Can a product designed for mass production be art?



A large chunk of note-taking lies below. I will highlight important (legible) parts.


Bogost Interview

“the most interesting thing about games is not the “games” part; it’s the way that they allow an excuse for setting up and respecting these arbitrary limitations, and working with them.”

Play coming from mundane tasks.

The Pale King and Irony Essay- David Foster Wallace

‘Gamification is Bullshit’


Play Anything book review

“Play Anything, Bogost goes much further, inviting us to improve our lives by making play of all that we encounter”


“According to Play Anything, rules and reduced options do not limit the joy of experience, but rather provide structure for interesting and creative choices and experiences. Play, Bogost insists, is not in us, but in the things with which we play and the constraints around them.”


“Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” state and Johan Huizinga’s “magic circle.””

Flow is a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand.


Video Games Are Better Without Stories

“Environmental storytelling. Story told by collecting in-game artefacts. Think of a medium as the aesthetic form of common materials. Poetry aestheticizes language. Painting aestheticizes flatness and pigment. Photography does so for time. Film, for time and space. Architecture, for mass and void. Television, for economic leisure and domestic habit. Sure, yes, those media can and do tell stories. But the stories come later, built atop the medium’s foundations.”

“As the only mass medium that arose after postmodernism, it’s no surprise that those materials so often would be the stuff of games themselves. More often than not, games are about the conventions of games and the materials of games—at least in part. Texas Hold ’em is a game made out of Poker. Candy Crush is a game made out of Bejeweled. Gone Home is a game made out of BioShock.”

“it will be one in which games abandon the dream of becoming narrative media and pursue the one they are already so good at: taking the tidy, ordinary world apart and putting it back together again in surprising, ghastly new ways.”


Video Games Are Better Without Characters

“And then, for everyone, games primarily become an apparatus for exercising self-identity rather than just a kind of media, like the books and magazines that filled the B. Dalton.  “


What do Videogames do to Art?

“See, the games community has it backwards: the point is not to “legitimize” games as art, whatever that would mean. The point is not to shoehorn games into some received, stable, agreed upon notion of what art is, as if there is such a notion. The point is to ask the question, what do videogames do to art? How do they change art, turning it into something new? It’s encouraging that the NEA has invited us to consider this question. But its answers are hardly a foregone conclusion.”


An Argument That Video Games Are, Indeed, High Art

Roger Ebert “Video Games Can Never Be Art”

Video games need to be viewed through a postmodern lens.

“Where all games are designed, not all design is art. Design can be creative and art, but it is a craft by default.”

“At a basic level, intention is what separates art from design and craft. Artists intend to express, designers intend to craft.”

Compariison to Bauhaus?


Rodger Ebert states: “One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. [Someone] might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.”

However all art has rules.

“One must interact with all art by interpreting it (even subconsciously or accidentally). Interpreting itself is unavoidable when experiencing art. It’s less a rule and more a law. “High art is a nebulous, plastic phrase. Impressionism as a movement destroyed the French Academy of Art and shook the bedrock of all the ideals that were expressed through art since the Roman empire. Almost everyone shouted that the Impressionists were not artists, but childish painters who were turning out unfinished works. But today people flock to Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It is no longer shocking. It’s commonplace and coffee-shop art. It is High Art now. And those who overthrew the Impressionists are also High Art.”


Video Games are a curation of art. So is an exhibition


Are Video Games Art: The Debate That Shouldn’t Be

Jonathan Jones

“their very interactivity meant that the creator was unable to claim an authorial vision.”

“”Ironically, the arguments that Jones musters are uncannily similar in style to those used against Duchamp’s Urinal or Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII. Those critics also asserted that a ready made was not a valid act of personal imagination, that it was ‘just’ an object that the artist didn’t even own”.

“territory for games as art whose meaning arises solely through the ludic systems of its interactivity, rather than through the nature of its content”

An issue within new media art where randomness conflicts with intention.

“ Sometimes the rules are strict and rigidly constraining, sometimes they’re loose and require interpretation – no more or less than a score by Mozart, or a set of conceptual instructions from John Cage, Yoko Ono or Sol Le Witt”.

Maybe art is progress?

Dan Pinchbeck

Sorry MoMA, Video Games Are Not Art

Walk around the Museum of Modern Art, look at those masterpieces it holds by Picasso and Jackson Pollock, and what you are seeing is a series of personal visions. A work of art is one person’s reaction to life.

“No one “owns” the game, so there is no artist, and therefore no work of art.” – This idea is outdated. It is a modern thought.

Santa Bought Me a PlayStation. But it’s Still Not Art

Video Games and Art: Why Does the Media Get it so Wrong

Kellee Santiago: Are Video Games Art?

Cave paintings to Sistine Chapel

Speech from warning to storytelling and song

Waco Resurrection

Braid Jonathan Blow

Games as work- Stanley Parable and Ian Bogost Games are Better Without Gameplay


Perhaps the moment when games became art was when they could be produced by small number of people.

Interactivity as art

Perhaps that is where the question lies. The only new element of games is the element of interactivity. For a game to be art, the art needs to exist within the interaction rather than the story, visuals or audio. Good games use interaction as expression e.g. The Stanley Parable acts as a conversation between designer and gamer, Papers Please and the moral conundrum and partaking in bureaucracy.

The problem with Stanley Parable is that it relies on story. But most games considered art rely on story. Games are better without stories.

The real question is can interaction be art?

All art relies on interaction though. Is it interaction in the same way?

Games differ as the interaction is where the art lives. For other media, such as music or painting, interaction is the method of interpretation to find the art.


Roger Ebert: Video Games Can Never Be Art

Written in response to TED talk from Kellee Santuagoo

“No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets.” To which I could have added painters, composers, and so on, but my point is clear.”

This is true, but what property of the medium is responsible for this?


“One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.”

“Kellee Santiago has arrived at this point lacking a convincing definition of art. But is Plato’s any better? Does art grow better the more it imitates nature? My notion is that it grows better the more it improves or alters nature through an passage through what we might call the artist’s soul, or vision.”

“How do we tell the difference? We know. It is a matter, yes, of taste.”

Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren’t gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care.”

Not a good argument.

“I allow Sangtiago the last word. Toward the end of her presentation, she shows a visual with six circles, which represent, I gather, the components now forming for her brave new world of video games as art. The circles are labeled: Development, Finance, Publishing, Marketing, Education, and Executive Management. I rest my case.”

This is a good essay. Although it gets a bit hysterical towards the end. He is correct in his criticism, but his arguments for other media being art are flimsy.

Are Games Art? Brenda Romero

Architecture as art- architecture is similar to video games. Mostly a field of design and a product, but in few cases are considered art. How long did architecture exist before becoming a form of art. A balance between practical and aesthetic.

The argument of games existing for millennia makes me uneasy. If games have existed for so long, then why have they failed to become art? Again, it is likely that a game isn’t art, it is a game.

“Since we didn’t have to work so much, we created culture”- I’m not sure that’s true

Jackson Pollock as play.

Works of Richard Serra


Ian Bogost Games Are Better Without Gameplay (Don’t Play The Goose Game)

Julian Kucklich: Playbour- “Game-play—the work of working a game—is fundamentally irritating, at least in comparison with other media forms. It’s easy to pass the eyes over the pages of a book, or to bathe in the waves of image and sound at the cinema or in your living room. Moreover, these forms skip over the boring parts by editing them out: You don’t have to watch a character traverse the stairs, sidewalk, subway, and elevator to get from home to work. But in games, you are the character, and thus you must pilot him (or her, but usually him) through every detail that the simulated world demands. Role-playing gamers sometimes talk about “grinding”— completing boring, repetitive tasks to advance their character’s abilities in order to make progress—a term that exactly mirrors the drudgery and toil of labor.”

“Likewise, when you feel obliged to check work email or Slack at all hours, you confuse work with leisure until no boundary exists between the two.” But email is undeniably work, at least, and social media can be construed as interpersonal communication. Games, by contrast, are supposed to be entertainment—and yet they demand toil in leisure’s pursuit. The game designer Paolo Pedercini sees that contradiction as a fundamental feature of the medium. Games, he argues, are the aesthetic form of instrumental reason—that is, order, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness as art.”

“The fact that consultants and entrepreneurs have applied game metrics such as points, levels, and badges in institutional settings, dubbing the effort “gamification,” only further entrenches the connection between games and work.”

“Almost as soon as it starts, Untitled Goose Game turns “being a goose” into “doing the job of a goose.” And the job of a goose turns out to be the same as the job of a person: to carry out a set of tasks, recorded for you on a to-do list, by any means possible.”

“The goose isn’t really wreaking havoc, it turns out. The goose is running errands.”

A Route To Go Down…

After spending so long researching video games as art, the answer is more blurred than it seemed before I started research. I also find myself asking why it is even a question worth asking.

I realise that asking “Are video games art?” you begin to pick apart and inspect the very nature of games as a medium.

Surprisingly, I have never really seen video games as art despite being interested in developing them for most of my life. As a whole, video games exist as a product in my mind. Mass-produced with the intent to make money and art isn’t produced with the intent of making money. However, there are a few games that strike me as being ‘art-like’. Although it is difficult to explain, these games have roused me like art, but have done so through interaction. Not due to there aesthetics or story.

Despite reading well-articulated arguments on both sides of the ‘Are video games art?’ debate, I find myself unable to choose a side. These authors are good at criticising the opposing viewpoint, but unable to prove their own theory.

Anyway, the answer doesn’t matter. I am satisfied with finding that the interaction is the area of interest.


As part of my research, I read Ian Bogost’s “Games Are Better Without Gameplay”. This article uses the ‘Untitled Goose Game’ to explore the nature of video games. What may feel like havoc in video games, is almost always work towards a goal. This is what he calls ‘playbor’ (although the term was originally coined by Julian Kucklich).

“The Stanley Parable” can be interpreted as a commentary on playbour. The game begins with the protagonist waiting for his computer at work to tell him when to press a button. This is a commentary on the nature of games, where they can be boiled down to pressing a button when the game says to do so.

Another obvious playbour game is “Papers, Please”. The player is tasked with checking passports at the border of a fictional country. The player must maintain enough money to feed their family but has to enforce cruel laws. There was an interesting essay on bureaucracy in Papers Please that I should find.


This then stems into gamification. I have already done some research on gamification as part of the Mobile Sensors project. But plan on doing some more.


I would like my final piece to be a game with laborious interactions.


To Simplify…

  1. Art & Design in/ as Video Games
  2. Playbour
  3. Gamification
  4. Proposal



Games designer Ian Bogost: ‘Play is in everything’

Video Games Are Better Without Stories

Video Games Are Better Without Characters

Video Games Are Better Without Gameplay

An Argument That Video Games Are Indeed High Art

Are Video Games Art: The Debate That Shouldn’t Be

Sorry MoMA, Video Games Are Not Art

Santa Bought Me a PlayStation. But it’s Still Not Art

Video Games and Art: Why Does The Media Get it so Wrong?

Are Video Games Art? Kelee Santiago TED

Roger Ebert: Video Games Can Never Be Art

Are Games Art? Brenda Romero TED

Precarious Playbour: Modders and the Digital Games Industry



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