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#1 Posted by nyv (60 posts) -

Hey, ya'all!

I'm in my last year of BA studies and as such I have to be all academical and such. I have to write the very important paper, all the university kids has to write. Being mostly interested in Game Design and User Interfaces and since I am studying graphic design I thought it might be a good idea to search for a topic somewhere in between.

So, here's (and also in the title of course) the question:

Would you consider a game interface an art?

If you don't want to go into the word art, think about these two:

Does game interface allow for self-expression?
Can you imagine a sole game interface hanging/running as a video in a gallery at some point in the future?

I'm asking here since I know you guys are tense about anything game related and your opinion will matter. Feel free to discuss the relevance of the question, how come I have not read THAT article (in which case, please post that article), that explains everything or that I am missing the obvious basic book about the topic.

Now discuss! Your help will help Jeff to score on more artsy anime girls!

#2 Posted by StarvingGamer (8545 posts) -

As with most things, it can be.

But "art" is such a nebulous concept. Architecture can be considered art and I imagine that UI's are created in a similar way.

#3 Posted by Demoskinos (15131 posts) -

Oh for sure. Good looking GUI's are a definite boon for any game or software. And I think there is room for expression or innovation just look at things like Splinter Cell Conviction projecting your objectives into the environment.

#4 Posted by NyxFe (248 posts) -

Considering the potential amount of thought and design that can go into creating a user interface that works in the most simple and fluid way possible, I would definitely consider one done nicely to be artistic.

I can't really think of any examples in game that I would point to though. I would be much more likely to look at a well designed website as an example of an artistic interface (e.g. looks nice + functional)

Maybe geometry wars, since you essentially only have to look at what you are doing directly, and can use the sounds produced by the different enemies to predict what is coming and react accordingly. If there was some indicator for lives/bombs/score that didn't involve looking away from your ship at all it would almost be considered perfect. I still think it is one of the most easy to use and effective "interfaces" of any game.

#5 Posted by redefaulted (2829 posts) -

I would think that, no matter what, all design implementations for video games can be considered an art. The graphical UI design seems a shoe-in for said discussion, as it actually requires an imagination to be created.

#6 Posted by mosespippy (4433 posts) -

Definitely. I can think of a number of examples already. In Batman when Scarecrow makes you think you've red ringed for one. That's the developer using the interface of the console itself to get a reaction from the player and provide character to Scarecrow. Similarly in Metal Gear when you had to swap controller ports. I think there is another example where it makes you think it's deleting your save file and you panickly pull out the memory card. That's just the examples of using the physical interface.

In Dead Space the health meter is displayed as part of the player's suit. It's an elegant solution to having UI built into the world. When that health meter on your spine is getting low it really adds to the atmosphere and the importance of not making a mistake. The most common example I can think of for interface that elicits a reaction is when the screen will change as a player nears death. Whether it's fading to black and white or red framing creeping in from the sides and getting redder, or vignetting, etc. It all communicates a message to the player. It's not particularly arty though.

Then there are motion controls. I don't have a wii or kinect and can't really think of any wii or kinect games that use motion controls in a way that would be particularly artful. Motion controls are typically used in a skeuomorphic ways; swing a wiimote like a baseball bat or golf club and it will correspond to a baseball bat or golf club in game. The game that does this in an artful way is Heavy Rain. Shake the controller to shake up a carton of orange juice, jerk the controller to swerve out of oncoming traffic, press down the analog stick and move it to shift gears, etc. The entire game is like this. So for the two or three scenes that involve guns pulling the trigger on the controller to pull the trigger on the gun, there actually is significance in that action compared to any other shooter.

And then there are the games that have little to no text. All the communication with the player has to be done through visual or audio means. Look at the main menu for Flower. It's just 6 flower pots on a window sill. If there is no input then a controller with arrows will faintly appear, signifying to move the controller. One you move the controller over one of the six flowers at'll say "Hold X" and the level begins. The flowers perkiness corresponds to how many secret flowers were found in the level. It's clean and simple and doesn't involve much text. That main menu looks gorgeous. All the progress and story in the game is told through visual means. I could definitely imagine Flower being on the wall of a gallery some day.

#7 Posted by nyv (60 posts) -

First of all thanks for the comments. I don't necessarily want to spread out my opinion, as I am researching the issue and I am looking for other opinions and insights.

@StarvingGamer: Yes, art is surely one of those magical words, which everyone understands a bit differently. That is why I have not defined the word, so everyone has his own mind about it. I think exactly for that I have asked the question: "Can you imagine a sole game interface hanging/running as a video in a gallery at some point in the future?" Would you consider the few buttons and lines informing you and allowing you to control Angry Birds to be hanging next to a famous fine artist painting? What about the Scarf from the Journey, which tells you how many jumps you have left? Do you even think about such things as an interface?

@Demoskinos: Nice interface and a way of communicating the information to the player is definitely always a pleasure to look at and makes me want to play the game more. Splinter Cell's Convinction is a great example of great Graphic Design, which I really enjoyed (and actually bought the game just for that). Do you consider that a piece of art or a piece of design? Do you see a difference in the two?

@NyxFe: I find the word "artistic" really great. It hints toward the fact, that there is an aesthetic quality but the work itself is not art. Is that what you meant? Thanks for the example with Geometry Wars, its a good one. Although I have all the achievements I totally forgot about this game. Shame on me.

@ck1nd: I take it, that you consider games to be art? All of them, or are there a few which are bright examples? Also you have written design twice. Once in a sense of game design and one in user interface context. Do you personally consider the two designs to be art? If you'd be so kind, what does art mean to you? (what is art to you, is what I am asking)

@mosespippy: Thank you for some of the examples. I especially like the one with Metal Gear Solid, where it requires the player to mess around with a real object. I love it for the fact, that it is not a visual representation of art, but rather a happening/experience. Also thanks for making clear, that you don't consider conveying information in Dead Space especially artsy (although you might find it appealing). Motion controls is definitely something I wish there was more written about, but I guess I'll have to wait for another decade to make any point in that area. Although some good examples you point out. Last of all, ThatGameCompany's stuff is always interesting and overall closer to some definitions of art. Do you yourself study User Interface, Game Design or have you been interested in the area? I am asking to properly differentiate between people who are just gamers and who are actively studying the craft.

Thanks again, feel free not to answer, but I'd be glad if you would. Also if more people reading this would chime in, it'd be simply great.

#8 Posted by believer258 (12176 posts) -

If it is, use Dead Space as an example. I've always thought of a UI as a necessary tool to do things in the game but the interface that Dead Space uses feels so much more natural than any other one I've ever used. Instead of "just some menu", it's actually a part of the world that Isaac himself is looking at and can use.

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#9 Posted by Kerned (1169 posts) -

I think the idea of having a game interface running in a gallery as art is completely valid, assuming you can provide some sort of justification for it (artist's statement and all that). The potential is there for a very interesting installation. (I have a BFA in graphic design, so I may be a bit biased. I generally tend to err in favor of "it's art if the artist says it's art".)

#10 Posted by Franstone (1154 posts) -

Sure, it's another form of graphic design.

#11 Posted by Immortal_Guy (127 posts) -

"Are interfaces art?", "Do interfaces allow for self expression" and "Can you imagine a sole game interface hanging/running as a video in a gallery at some point in the future?" are all slightly different questions, and I'm going to bottle out and only answer the third because I think it's the easiest :)

I think the thing to remember about interfaces is that they're not things in and of themselves - they only make sense in the context of the game.

So I think the answer to the third question would have to be "no". In all of the examples that have been given on this thread of artistic interfaces (Metal gear solid, Dead space, flower, ect.) - none of those would make sense without the context of the game around them. The dead space UI might be really atmospheric, but you couldn't just hang it in a gallery without the rest of the game and expect people to appreciate it.

If games can be art (probably not a good idea to hijack this thread by discussing that too much), then the UI must certainly be an element of that - but it's sort of like asking whether the typesetting on a book is art. The typesetting is often treated as a purely functional thing and not really thought about, but there are certainly books where it's used to get specific effects, and it contributes to the effectiveness of those books greatley. Having said that - could you hang a formatting template on a wall and appreciate it on it's own?

#12 Edited by StarvingGamer (8545 posts) -

@nyv said:

@StarvingGamer: Yes, art is surely one of those magical words, which everyone understands a bit differently. That is why I have not defined the word, so everyone has his own mind about it. I think exactly for that I have asked the question: "Can you imagine a sole game interface hanging/running as a video in a gallery at some point in the future?" Would you consider the few buttons and lines informing you and allowing you to control Angry Birds to be hanging next to a famous fine artist painting? What about the Scarf from the Journey, which tells you how many jumps you have left? Do you even think about such things as an interface?

Yes, the scarf in Journey is definitely part of the UI, just as the sound of your shield shattering in Borderlands 2 is. Both provide the player with feedback that allow them to make operational decisions for their character. But as far as your Angry Birds vs. fine art, no I would not expect them to be hanging next to each other. This has nothing to do with the quality of the work, but the dissonance of experiences.

Both Starry Starry Night and Scarface are considered, by the majority, the be works of art. But you would never see Van Gogh's seminal work next to a widescreen with speakers pumping Al Pacino screaming "Say hello to my little friend!" in any sort of gallery or installation. The mediums of paint and of film and of games are all meant to be experienced in distinctly different ways. However we all have a tendency to try to shoehorn anything we feel may be artistic into the expectations of the oldest medium, to be displayed in sterile, well-lit rooms with plain white walls. Sure, you can take a still from a film, slap it on a wall, and try to appreciate the artistry in microcosm, but you might as well extract a single brush stroke from a painting and display that. Anyone interested enough in film to try and curate a collection knows that the only way to experience it is on a large screen in a dark theater with an amazing sound system.

And that's what makes games-as-art such a sticky wicket. They're interactive. The average game UI is designed to be experienced for five, ten, or a hundred hours. You can slap a video of Journey up on a wall, maybe attach a controller and let people run around a bit, but doing so would be a disservice to the work That Game Company put into designing their game. No one is going to take you seriously if you try and explain the artistry of a film after only watching it for five minutes. Games should be treated with the same level of respect.

#13 Posted by mosespippy (4433 posts) -

@nyv: I don't study it in an academic setting. I'm just a business school drop out with an interest in the arts and video games. I do read about game design, game theory (both in economics and how it applies to video game balancing), player psychology, and so on. Just this morning I watched a GDC talk. It's all for personal interest though and not for some sort of degree or accreditation.

#14 Edited by Rafaelfc (1443 posts) -

to make a good functional and intuitive UI can be described as an 'art'

although I don't think the UI as a medium can be seen as 'art'.

I think UIs should be functional and efficient and be in service of the end user as much as possible.

Good UI designers are clearly talented and honed their techniques to the point where it becomes an art (much like a really efficient hitman), but I wouldn't pay money to go to some dude's UI showing at the museum.

#15 Posted by Nephrahim (1156 posts) -

I guess. In as much as the iphone case design can be considered art.

#16 Posted by Brodehouse (10125 posts) -

Absolutely. I'd align it with other contributing arts like inking and coloring (comics), lighting and cinematography (film), choreography (dance), production and mixing (music).

Anyone who creates something in order to gain a response from an audience is contributing to art.

#17 Posted by nyv (60 posts) -

Once again, thanks a lot to all of you. I really appreciate all the comments. They are great, as much of a common talk as to some of you it might seem, all counts and helps me quite a bit to formulate what I need for my paper.

@believer258: Dead Space is an often brought example. Do you think you would personally consider it art, because there is actually no real interface and everything is right inside the game. Or in other words: everything you see is game art, therefore do you consider game art an art? If yes, do you think you generally consider game art an art (in all games, or just some specific cases)? Lastly would you consider a design an art (i.e. an iPhone, logo of a company, movie poster)?

@Kerned: It is completely fine to be a bit biased since you have studied arts. The justification is a very valid point and I think a relevant one. Artist's statement is something I am going to look into more (academically speaking). Thanks.

@Franstone: Good point and by industry standards definitely true. The conflict here might be in the fact, whether you personally consider graphic design art? If yes, do you think you might explain yourself why? It would really help me out if you added also if you have studied (university or self-taught) art or design at some point. Thank you

@Immortal_Guy: Really appreciate your answer. Great insight and a first one to actually say "no". The questions are surely all a bit different and that might have to something with the fact, that I have to talk around the topic of art, without talking art, as that alone is hardly defined. The parallel between typesetting and editorial design is I think very accurate and I might actually use that at some point in my paper. At the same time I think a template is really quite different in comparison to a functional game interface. Template is not necesarilly aesthetic, while interface is usually created from game art or very strongly themed, which might make it (seem or to be) an art.

@StarvingGamer: Loved the expression "dissonance of experiences". What you are saying is excellent. I think nowadays it might be not so hard to get Van Gogh's work next to roaring Al Pacino, definitelly in a more progressive (contemporary) gallery. Although you changed the subject to "game as art" I like how that might easily signify how well connected (how much of an integral part) the user interface in a game is. What you are saying basically is, that for you art is about experience? And not just that, but also an integral part is that it was thought of how the art is to be experienced? And if you don't mind me asking, do you have any past in art (hobby, school...)? Thank you

@mosespippy: Thanks for sharing. Good to have what you wrote in context.

@Rafaelfc: Do you see design as art? I can assume your answer will be no, based on what you have written. Could you then, please, explain why you don't consider design art? Do you by any chance have any background in arts? What about web/app development?

@SamDrugbringer: Thank you. Are you suggesting that you see multiple types of art? As in, there is commercial art, which might the aforementioned iPhone case. Then there are some other kinds of art? In that case, where does design sit then? Could you elaborate on it for me a little bit, please?

@Brodehouse: The expression "contributing arts" and your second sentence are super relevant to what I am writing about. Really brilliant opinion, thank you for that.

Sorry it always takes me a while to respond, but you guys are helping me quite a bit with your opinions. Hope you will give me a minute once again and answer my questions or just respond in some way. Again, if some of you who have not written your opinion yet would like to chime in into the discussion, please do. Lastly I might be a bit hazy at some points, but it simply is to get yours opinion not affected by my research or talk.

#18 Posted by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -

Yes. It may not be art out of context, but it's art.

#19 Posted by believer258 (12176 posts) -

@nyv said:

@believer258: Dead Space is an often brought example. Do you think you would personally consider it art, because there is actually no real interface and everything is right inside the game. Or in other words: everything you see is game art, therefore do you consider game art an art? If yes, do you think you generally consider game art an art (in all games, or just some specific cases)? Lastly would you consider a design an art (i.e. an iPhone, logo of a company, movie poster)?

I don't necessarily think it's an art, but Dead Space is the best case I can think of for portraying a UI as such.

However, at the end of the day a UI is a tool necessary to experience video games. A user interface is not going to make a statement on the state of humanity, it's not going to make you cry or laugh or weep or scare you, an interface itself won't make you think, it's just a tool. A virtual tool, mind you, and one that games could not do without, but it's an art in the same way that a controller design is an art - pretty and functional but neither have any way to provide any real depth or subtlety or meaning.

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#20 Posted by Rafaelfc (1443 posts) -

Well, I took 2 years of design in college, before turning to the career path I chose which is video/film editing. I have some background on arts, having taken history of art courses. I also have some background on advertising for taking a 2 year advanced course on audiovisual publicity (yeah, i'm kind of old...)

And in truth, I don't see design as art. This of course is an ongoing discussion with many different viewpoints and there is no real answer to it. I only express my own feelings on the matter.

Design is inherently linked to a product and exists solely in service of that product to make it more appealing to a customer either by ease of use, aesthetics or whatever. Art, on the other hand, is all about expressing someone's viewpoints / feelings / life experiences into an artistic representation that other people may or may not identify or be impacted by it.

Every aspect of a good design is meant to entice someone to buy or want a product, never a viewpoint. A well designed product is just that, a well designed product. There is craft in it, there is talent behind it, there's a discipline to it, but it's not art. It exists solely because someone paid this talented individual money so that they could somehow improve a product. As such design is commonly subjected to alterations by the contractor, it is focus tested and iterated upon to appeal to the larger amount of people possible.

Which is in direct opposition to artistic expression, ideally, art shouldn't be about pleasing others, or being easy, or being visually appealing. Art can be disruptive, offensive, challenging among many other things. Art doesn't need to have a wide public appeal, it may speak to one person and be of significance to that one person and that will justify it's existence.

Bringing it back to UI interfaces, sure, there are fantastic ones out there, but at the end of the day it is a user interface, it's just there to convey information to the player / customer. Meetings were done to define every aspect of it, it was put in front of a number of different players to ensure that they were getting the information out of it.

Art can mean many different things to many different people, it can be interpreted in a number of different ways. A well designed UI will mean the exactly same thing to everyone.

Sorry for the long winded post, curious to see more discussion on the matter!

#21 Posted by Sin4profit (2999 posts) -

...nnn'ope

#22 Posted by tourgen (4542 posts) -

@nyv: anything that involves an amount of craftsmanship can be art. Anything that takes human effort and craft. I've seen gas tank welds so beautifully crafted that I could feel the welder's love of metal and his craft just by looking at it.

The concept of art is wildly overblown. I mostly consider it a self-perpetuating scam involving skilled (and not so skilled) craftsman attempting to get more cash and recognition for their effort. and of course the cloud of academics that mill about and BS about art for a paycheck

#23 Posted by Jack268 (3387 posts) -

Does game interface allow for self-expression?

A game interface should be about making the most efficient and simple UI that works with the game. It should be about being a good interface first and foremost, not being a good-looking interface. It allows self-expression in the same way that building a space rocket does - It needs to work and fullfill all expectations before you can think about anything else.  

Can you imagine a sole game interface hanging/running as a video in a gallery at some point in the future?

No.
#24 Posted by Brodehouse (10125 posts) -

@Jack268 said:

A game interface should be about making the most efficient and simple UI that works with the game. It should be about being a good interface first and foremost, not being a good-looking interface. It allows self-expression in the same way that building a space rocket does - It needs to work and fullfill all expectations before you can think about anything else.

Architecture and industrial design are absolutely arts. Especially those designed for a commercial purpose, they're designed to be 'consumed' by an audience; their users. The identification and implementation of efficiency, simplicity and aesthetics are absolutely connected to a designer's self-expression; it requires original thought and conceptualization.

#25 Edited by StarvingGamer (8545 posts) -

@nyv said:

@StarvingGamer: Loved the expression "dissonance of experiences". What you are saying is excellent. I think nowadays it might be not so hard to get Van Gogh's work next to roaring Al Pacino, definitelly in a more progressive (contemporary) gallery. Although you changed the subject to "game as art" I like how that might easily signify how well connected (how much of an integral part) the user interface in a game is. What you are saying basically is, that for you art is about experience? And not just that, but also an integral part is that it was thought of how the art is to be experienced? And if you don't mind me asking, do you have any past in art (hobby, school...)? Thank you

Yes and no. While it is possible to pick apart a work and appreciate its artistry piece-by-piece as academics, a lay observer in a gallery or installation would only be able to appreciate one such vertical slice on the shallowest of levels. Even someone well versed in the art of film would be hard pressed to fully appreciate a still from any work they had not yet experienced in its entirety. And without the darkness of the theatre and the wall of surround sound enveloping you from all angles, who knows what finer details may be missed. This goes triply so for a game's UI, as the artistry involved goes far beyond the simple aesthetics and must also include the ways it conveys information to the player, and the impact that information has on the overall experience.

Also yes, I have an extensive personal history in the performing arts, primarily as a vocalist with a fair number of playbills under my belt as well. This may be why I am so quick to connect art and experience together, as in both music and theatre, the quality of venue and audience are just as important as the skill of the performers.

#26 Posted by prestonhedges (1961 posts) -

Nope. Next question.

#27 Edited by audioBusting (1672 posts) -

This sounds like a "where does the art lie in an artifact" sort of question. I think the interface can be played with in interesting ways (Metal Gear Solid and Eternal Darkness comes to mind) but it's hard to say then if the interface itself, out of the context of the game, is art.

I don't believe so. I think of it this way: we can't only have an interface without anything to interface it with. As it cannot exist in isolation, the interface cannot be art in itself.

#28 Posted by Gamer_152 (14109 posts) -

As usual, art means different things to different people and we always need to define what we mean by art, yadda, yadda, but going by your questions, here's my answers:

Does game interface allow for self-expression?

Yes, but to a limited degree. Self-expression is somewhat constrained in game design to begin with, with it being much more about functionality and providing a practical product to an end user than creating something purely aesthetically pleasing, that explores themes and ideas, or makes any kind of statement. I think this is even more true of user interface design specifically; there's room for some self-expression, but you have relatively few means to do so, and if you're actually aiming to create a good game must work within a pretty strict framework for what you create.

Can you imagine a sole game interface hanging/running as a video in a gallery at some point in the future?

Yes, I could, but less because we can get out of game interfaces what we get out of a lot of other things commonly considered "art", and more because there's a kind of beauty to something that manages to be fluid, intuitive and well-designed in the way you interact with it.

Moderator
#29 Posted by Brodehouse (10125 posts) -

I think people are confusing the nature of art. Art does not need to explore themes or ideas, or make a statement. This is the same line of logic that believes all journalism must be strident, investigative journalism. Art is the creation of something meant to be enjoyed by an audience, by the creator's understanding of the form. Poetry, music, prose, film, dance, the things we traditionally associate with art are in fact no different than cooking, architecture, industrial design, game design, and so. I see here that clearly the main stumbling block is that people cannot see art in anything they use, art is meant to be absorbed passively and cannot be created requiring active involvement of its audience. It's also where people can't figure out the difference between 'art' and 'craft'. I say there is no difference.

I know people will be ready to say that making a hamburger isn't art, and in most cases, absolutely. But under those circumstances, we're saying music isn't art because someone is playing a pentatonic scale trying to learn an instrument. Or that prose isn't art because children write simple stories. Consider photography. In most cases people just want a picture of a thing so they can remember it. But photoraphic art clearly exists, there is clearly craft and form. My mother may not be attempting self-expression in the form when she takes a picture of her yard, but that doesn't preclude photography from being art. I'm not attempting self-expression when I cook up some chicken nuggets (although I do make decisions like 'they will taste better if I add barbecue sauce!) but a chef preparing a meal and making decisions based on his knowledge of his craft is absolutely art.

And in that, I put game design (not the art, sound, narrative pieces, the actual gameplay systems) as art. Someone is pouring over computer screens thinking about things like "what would make it more fun? what if we changed the sniper rifle's reload time? would that unbalance things? how much should we favor animation over input? what can I do to make this better?" ... seeking excitement or entertainment from an audience is no different than seeking a similar emotional reaction like fear or sadness. Most of our games focus on fun so we only think a game is 'emotional' if it produces negative emotions, which is clearly untrue. Crafting gameplay systems for someone to use and have fun with is no different from crafting jokes for someone to hear and laugh.

#30 Edited by thatdutchguy (1283 posts) -

Would you consider Jeff Gerstmann is art ?

#31 Edited by egg (1469 posts) -

I consider the entire game to be an interface.

so the idea of looking at "just" the interface of a game is kind of odd in way

#32 Posted by Scrawnto (2464 posts) -

I think the comparison to lighting that made is very appropriate. It's definitely something that can be done artfully, greatly contributing to the whole, but you wouldn't put it in a museum alone, just like you wouldn't set up the lights alone without the set that is meant to be lit by those lights. I definitely consider design (graphic-, interface-, game-, set-, etc.) to be a kind of art, though it is a strange one at an intersection of engineering and creative expression.

#33 Edited by Fattony12000 (7558 posts) -

@nyv:

Fuck. I should have gone to university if they let you write about stuff like this.

This thing talks about diegetic and non-diegetic types of user interface. Which I find interesting.

http://www.thewanderlust.net/blog/2010/03/29/user-interface-design-in-video-games/

And here are some other things.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4286/game_ui_discoveries_what_players_.php?print=1

http://devmag.org.za/2011/02/02/video-game-user-interface-design-diegesis-theory/

http://uxweek.com/2010/files/2011/02/UXWeek2010_Joe_Kowalski.pdf

http://finegamedesign.com/ui/index.html

http://web.eecs.umich.edu/~soar/Classes/494/talks/User-interfaces.pdf

http://www.ea.com/news/breaking-into-the-industry-dino-ignacio-ui-lead-at-visceral-games

I would consider being able to create a good/usable/clear/grounded inside of the game world/aesthetically pleasing/fun/easy to use UI an art form. I would also say that since most interfaces in video games make use of visuals, they would have to have been created by an artist, even at a most basic level. Whether or not they could be considered artistic, well shit, WORK IT OUT YOURSELF DUDER!

#34 Posted by Immortal_Guy (127 posts) -

: You said that an important distinction was that a template isn't aesthetic, whereas an interface is. This might be true, but it does raise another point - if you're just looking at the aesthetic qualities of a game interface, you're not really treating it like a game interface.

Also, when you get into the domain of wierd, contemporary art (something I know little/nothing about), I think you COULD treat a template as aesthetic, and look at the purely aesthetic qualities of it. Well, there's no reason in principle I can see why you couldn't. But this brings me back to my first point - if you're just looking at it aesthetically, you're sort of missing the point of what it is.

Interfaces seem very tightly bound up with the games they're connected to, and I'm still not totally convinced that it makes sense to seperate them. But this is certainly an interesting topic - thanks for making me think on it!

#35 Posted by TekZero (2691 posts) -

There is a certain amount of art that goes into it, but art in and of itself? No.

#36 Posted by The_Ruiner (1138 posts) -

Anything you have to hire a designer for is a form of artistic design...

#37 Posted by nyv (60 posts) -

Hi, guys! It took me a while to respond, sorry for the wait. Anyway.. let's get down to it:

@MikeGosot: Thanks for chiming in to the discussion. Would you mind expanding your post, by adding what art is to you personally? Does it have to do with experience, with aesthetics.. or magic perhaps? Do you think there is a difference between design (be it game/graphic or other) and art? Lastly it would be great if you could tell me if you have any history with arts. Thank you upfront!

: Sorry for keeping you waiting as you seem to be quite interested in the discussion. Don't be sorry for the long post, as the information it contains could easily take three times the space if you weren't quite eloquent. Just as well I apologize that I cannot really discuss the topic as I might influence the potential new opinions. I definitely want to, trust me and when the paper is done I will. Thanks for sharing your experience in art/design. To leave you with a question, would you mind showing/mentioning any really good examples of game interface? And then the same for game interfaces that are in your opinion very close to art. Thank you!

: As you are one of the few who take the negative stance, would you mind expanding your opinion, please? Why is it not art? - is it because it is design and you don't see design as art? Is it because a different reason? It would be great if you could tell me, please, what is art to you personally. Thank you if you'll share all that

: Your remark about academics made me laugh as of course I see quite a bit of truth in it myself. But you could say the same thing about a lot of things, because people are just weird and need shit to do. Thanks for the opinion on craftsmanship, it is quite unique. As you quite clearly express what is art to you, would you mind telling me if you have any history in arts? Have you studied art, do you do creative writing, sing, dance or whatever? Thank you!

: Thanks for sharing your quite strict usability driven opinion. Do you mind sharing what do you consider art then? Also if you have any history in arts? Lastly as your view is very usability based, do you mind saying if you are a developer/programmer? It would simply help me to triangulate data when I get everything together. Thanks!

: Thanks for trying to develop the discussion in here, appreciate it. You speak quite highly of art. I asked you enough questions already and I'd need to ask more of everyone then, so no questions for you, just a thank you!.. kidding, Do you have any history in arts? I am interested, because you have made excellent points in all of your posts. Here, once again you are using examples that are exceptional. Your opinion is definitely one of the sound ones, which I will use more profoundly.

: Great that you came back with answer, thanks. I see what you are saying - if the experience has to be experienced in its entirety, do you think that the experience is then not there, or it simply completely changes? Asking just to make sure, I think I can tell the answer already. I find that, you are a vocalist very interesting. Especially your opinion, as you write springs from that. Ultimately experience is something games are about. How much of an integral part of a game do you think user interface is? It would probably be best to put in example, if you don't mind. Thanks!

: Okay. Why not? What is art to you personally? Do you see any difference between design and art? Do you have any history in arts? That is more than one, but it should be fine! Thanks for joining the discussion and helping me out.

: First off thanks for chiming in. Yes, basically that is what I am asking for. Once again I see that interface is seen as a suplemental part of the game. Is that what you are saying? Do you think it is possible that there just has not been any example of game interface that has been manufactured for no game and that is why you think in this way? I'll give you one example to think about. I have played a fair bit of the new XCOM lately and the user interface is very very heavy in this game. If you have played the game, take away all the HUD and leave just the lines that mark where each soldier can move. Do you think that might stand out as art on its own? The changing colours, created shapes and everything. Or would it be design, which you might not consider art then? Thanks if you take the time to respond.

: Fancy, a moderator. That's all I wanted, now I can leave... just kidding of course :). Art can be hardly defined in a sensible and short way, I agree. I can imagine the only way would be for the scientists to find the part of the brain that is stimulated when thinking art and if it would be the same for each person, there you go. But, that's why I am asking for a personal opinion. Thank you for answering the self-expression question as not a lot of people do. You make yourself pretty clear (for what I am once again grateful) and therefore I can only ask if you were willing to share, if you have any history with arts (hobby/university...)?

: I am not here to answer your questions! You are! ...but yes of course. Who wouldn't. He is the one unique piece of work. What would you say? Is Jeff "The Original Homeboy" Gerstmann art? Mind joining the discussion afterwards? Thanks for visiting in any case.

: Oh, wow. I am actually quite suprised by your opinion. Not that I have not heard it before, but it is not so common. Would you mind explaining why do you consider a game an interface? Would you say if the whole game is an interface, that the questions I am asking might possibly apply? Lastly do you mind if I ask what is your background? Thanks for sharing.

: Thanks for joining the discussion and reading through a bit. As you consider design to be somewhat art, could you expand on that? I might be OK if you told me, whether the intersection between engineering and creative expression is to you personally called "craftsmanship."

: Well they do, but of course it depends on what tutor you get and how well you manage to hide the gaming thirst in it. Let's say it was not the easiest to come up with such thesis. Thanks for the sources (although I'll be a horrible person and tell you I have read them all, but the interview with Dino, so thank you really just for that :D). I am trying to work it out, but I can hardly write what I think and make a paper out of that (I wish it worked around those lines). I need you and your opinion. Have you ever tried designing user interface for a game(as you have all those sources ready)? Do you have any background in arts? Lastly do you think that the visual/aesthetic quality is what makes art (at least in games)? Cheers for the response, duder!

: I am glad that you find the discussion interesting and enlightening in some way. I do so as well. You are right about looking solely at the aesthetic qualities of the game interface is probably not a good approach. The art should be approached in its entirety, otherwise it seizes to be the original experience (as one of the smart guys posted above). I think contemporary art is a place rather to avoid as it speaks only to a few in a way it was intended. As you mention, the interface seem to be very tightly bound with the game. How much do you think is a game interface an integral part of a game? And do you mind me asking, what is your background in arts? Thanks again

: Thanks for joining the discussion. Would you mind saying what is art to you personally then? Is it the magic essence someone puts in it, or is it any form of design?

: Hi, thank you for chiming in to the talk. Do you think you could explain in some way, what does artistic design mean to you personally? Thank you

Duders, I must say I am once again eternally grateful for all your opinions and help. The discussion is flowing and giving me some great results, which I will share together with my paper once it's all written up. Also you might find it interesting that from several boards I have posted the problem, this one has confirmed its community as the best - everyone politely and frequently discussing. You are all giving me gold (just as the Bombcrew)!

#38 Posted by Jack268 (3387 posts) -
@nyv: Yes, I study to become a programmer. I don't really have any definition of what art is. I mean walking around in "art" museums and such is just extremely boring to me. 
#39 Edited by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -
@nyv: I believe that art is something man-made, meant to be appreciated by their beauty, emotional power and/or functionality. You see, for me, even the rules of a boardgame can be considered art. They're functional to such a perfect degree that it can even evoke some kind of emotion. For example, in the boardgame Arkham Horror, the rules are stuctured in such a way that the horror and desperation comes because you know the game was designed to absolutely crush you (There's a really great review of Arkham Horror here). "But Mike..." you may ask "If something just has to be functional to be art. Can a law be art?" and to that i reply: Yes. A law can be art as long as it was meant to be appreciated by it's functional quality. If it was not meant to be appreciated, it is not art.
The difference in design and art is... None. I don't believe any design isn't meant to be appreciated, even if only by it's functional quality.
And i draw a lot in class, and my hobby is making boardgames. Does that count as having a background in arts?
#40 Posted by falling_fast (2277 posts) -

sure. some of them are really good, and it obviously took a lot of creativity to design them.

Online
#41 Edited by ProfessorEss (7505 posts) -

Creation of a UI is certainly AN art.

And a UI is most definitely art to me while I'm creating it. The process certainly evokes many strong emotions in me.

Whether the end product should be considered art or not, well, as an artist I really don't care :)

#42 Posted by commonoutlier (136 posts) -

I consider graphic design art, and I'd consider UI a part of that. I really enjoy the look and feel of glowing, sci-fi themed UI and could stare at that for a while. Although as a separate entity...I mean, people can buy the soundtrack for a movie, or take stills from a movie and consider them artistic in and of themselves, so while I think it might be possible to say that you can consider UI both individual works of art and also smaller parts of a larger work of art (the entire game itself).

#43 Posted by dudeglove (8254 posts) -

@nyv: The right/wrong answer to this thread is probably Far Cry 2.

Joking aside, I highly recommend reading Jack Monahan's blog - specifically these two entries:

http://designreboot.blogspot.ru/2009/11/visual-clarity-in-character-design-part.html

http://designreboot.blogspot.ru/2009/11/visual-clarity-in-character-design-part_21.html

They're kind of tangentially related to your question(s). Whether or not you consider effective visual clarity an art is up to you, but it's nigh on vital for any shooter. Try playing as TF2's medic for a great example of a good UI. Or Thief. Though you should really elaborate on what you define as a user interface.

@Brodehouse said:

This is the same line of logic that believes all journalism must be strident, investigative journalism.

Sorry, what?

#44 Posted by Scrawnto (2464 posts) -

@nyv said:

: Thanks for joining the discussion and reading through a bit. As you consider design to be somewhat art, could you expand on that? I might be OK if you told me, whether the intersection between engineering and creative expression is to you personally called "craftsmanship."

I would say that craftsmanship is more the polish and skill in execution, and it can be present without any artistic ambitions. Sort of a measure of how close the end result is to the creator's intent. I say design lies at the intersection of art and engineering because looking nice or evoking a mood, emotion, or aesthetic is only part of design. The other part is creating something functional. In a game, the engineering part is balance, the interplay of mechanics. For game UI, it's about efficiently communicating data to the player (How much health do I have? Where am I going? etc.) with the screen real estate available. In web interface, it's making the site easy to use and navigate. Good design has to succeed in both aesthetics and functionality.

#45 Posted by StarvingGamer (8545 posts) -

@nyv said:

: Great that you came back with answer, thanks. I see what you are saying - if the experience has to be experienced in its entirety, do you think that the experience is then not there, or it simply completely changes? Asking just to make sure, I think I can tell the answer already. I find that, you are a vocalist very interesting. Especially your opinion, as you write springs from that. Ultimately experience is something games are about. How much of an integral part of a game do you think user interface is? It would probably be best to put in example, if you don't mind. Thanks!

It's not that the experience changes. Rather, there's the full experience, followed by an infinite number of lesser experiences. There's a stark difference between viewing one of Van Gogh's self-portraits in a well-lit gallery, taking the time to soak in all the details, and viewing that same portrait on a dim television screen through a window across the street for a second before a bus passes in front of you. In game UI terms, one of the most relevant examples I can think of comes from Episode 3 of Telltale's The Walking Dead. Whenever a key decision has to be made in The Walking Dead, a timer bar appears that gradually converges on the center of the screen. These bars are used to indicate the urgency of the situation, forcing players immediately deal with an excruciatingly morally-gray situation. The tension that one of these timer bars brings to the game cannot be understated, but could probably be easily appreciated and understood in a gallery situation. Spoilers to follow:

However, at the beginning of Episode 3, Duck, one of the group members, becomes infected. Duck is an innocent child and the son of Kenny, the character that the player is most likely to regard as a friend at this point in the game. The impending eventuality of Duck's death and transformation into a zombie looms over the entire episode until, finally, it comes to a head and a decision has to be made. Kenny and his wife start arguing over who is going to put a bullet in their son's head and the player is prompted to interject with their opinion. The timer bar appears once again only this time, the countdown to zero happens very, very slowly. Taken out of context, this might just seem like a slow timer to the casual observer. But after the 10-14 hours spent with this UI device through Episodes 1, 2 and most of 3, the effect this sudden shift can have on the player is profound.

At this point in the game, I was programmed by the game to think, "quick quick make a decision," whenever one of these bars came up. Now this expectation was being twisted around on me and, "quick make a decision," slowly turned to, "how can I make a decision?", in my brain. The bar came to represent hope draining out of the world and all I could do was sit there watching Kenny and his wife argue while I remained silent. This was the first time that I, and many other players, were given the option to say something but instead said nothing. There was a bleakness, an inevitability that was strengthened specifically because of that bit of UI and the way I had experienced it throughout the series.

#46 Posted by Sin4profit (2999 posts) -

@nyv: It's basically what @Rafaelfc says.

Art is internal expression; does not need to be transcribed, understood, by anyone but the one indulging in their expressions, feelings, what have you. ( for self )

Design (graphically speaking); is external interpretation; made specifically to be universally understood by the masses to invoke some kind of function, usually to relay information. (for everyone)

"Game", i believe, is purely design but some games use artistic context to add more meaning to the structure of the game. "game" is a set of rules, or goals, that are to be fallowed for the sake of entertainment. ( if x has y then: a ) - this is "game"

Artistic Contexts are the layers that you apply to design to help communicate relatable standards ( if player has key then: door opens) - this is context

I believe that video games are built in different layers; there is the rule set (design: which is what makes a game a game) and then there are various layers of artistic context to invoke some sense of meaning.

For example, a chess set invokes a sense of dynastic war through it's pieces (this is artistic context) but it is the rule set ( the way pieces move ) that make it a game and this is a design process.

So when you say User Interface, that alone implies external purpose, to me used by users, which is the standard of design.

So in conclusion, you can apply art to design but you cannot "design art". Though, you can use design to invoke an emotional draw.

*That all said, what annoys me about the "is ___ art" arguments is the implication that art is a superior sought after thing. It's just a different thing, no better, no worse. i feel forcing the artistic angle is for pseudointellectuals who are more concerned with chasing the ideology of being "artistic" which throws everything into a pretentious hell. Once you are trying to create Art:The Video Game i have to question who you're trying to fool and who you're trying to serve. However, it is ok to want to invoke a sense of mood in an audience that some may find "arty", it's just a matter of knowing what you're trying to accomplish and who you're trying to serve, this is the foundation of design. (*this is me ranting and not accusing anyone of anything, to be clear)

#47 Posted by Brodehouse (10125 posts) -

@dudeglove said:

@Brodehouse said:

This is the same line of logic that believes all journalism must be strident, investigative journalism.

Sorry, what?

All journalism does not have to be strident, take-on-the-man journalism.

#48 Posted by yinstarrunner (1238 posts) -

UI is a part of games which we consider art, but I wouldn't consider it art on its own.

Is the UI on the Giantbomb post editor art? Or the Start Menu on Windows?

UI is always best when it's functional and easy to use and understand, which I feel is in contrast to what constitutes "art".

That said, it must be very hard to create a simple, intuitive, clean interface and I respect people who do that. I just think it's much more craftsmanship than it is bonafide artistic expression.

#49 Posted by dudeglove (8254 posts) -

@Brodehouse said:

@dudeglove said:

@Brodehouse said:

This is the same line of logic that believes all journalism must be strident, investigative journalism.

Sorry, what?

All journalism does not have to be strident, take-on-the-man journalism.

#50 Posted by Gamer_152 (14109 posts) -

@nyv said:

: Fancy, a moderator. That's all I wanted, now I can leave... just kidding of course :). Art can be hardly defined in a sensible and short way, I agree. I can imagine the only way would be for the scientists to find the part of the brain that is stimulated when thinking art and if it would be the same for each person, there you go. But, that's why I am asking for a personal opinion. Thank you for answering the self-expression question as not a lot of people do. You make yourself pretty clear (for what I am once again grateful) and therefore I can only ask if you were willing to share, if you have any history with arts (hobby/university...)?

You don't have to thank me, I'm happy to answer these questions, and it's always cool to see other people thinking seriously about video games when a lot of people shun that idea and treat it as useless or silly. I think you can actually come up with some pretty simple and rational definitions for art though, it's just there's always going to be disagreements when many of the definitions of art require people to make subjective judgements about things. I also disagree with your point about study of the brain being able to produce a single definition of art, because to study the effect of art on the brain, you have to decide what art is to begin with. But I don't really think not having one definition of art is much of a problem, the problem is that every discussion I see about whether something is art or not has so many people talking about what is or isn't art and why, without even trying to describe what they mean by "art" to begin with, rendering their whole argument moot.

I don't really have much of a history with the arts though, the closest I've come to studying them at a higher education level is that I've studied game design as part of a games programming course, and in my hobbies the most I've really veered towards the arts is through a little of my own games development and in playing the piano.

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