Censorship, Art Analysis, and Games as Art

Please do not post any examples of the art or any similar art since the subject matter could be considered pornography; I will not be posting any. Also, I am sorry mods if this requires some special attention and understand if you must lock it.

Yesterday, my art class had a discussion concerning potential censorship of art at the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art, which is part of UNF, the university I attend. Currently there is an exhibit in the atrium of the museum that consists of 14 photographs. A city councilman viewed one of the photographs, depicting a pregnant woman lying nude on a couch in front of a window, as pornographic and sought to cease the city's funding of the Jacksonville MOCA.

The discussion my class had mainly focused on the line when something goes from art to pornography. We concluded that there is no definite line and that the line is entirely subjective; you know it when you see it, though we all agreed that so called "hardcore" was definitely in the pornography camp. Shortly after class this article was published; I am glad to see the mayor agreed with my class, but does this mean that the councilman was wrong? No, but I made the point that saying something is pornographic says far more about the viewer making the claim than it does about the artwork itself. To an extent at least, and I think this also somewhat applies to games if you view them as art, as I do.

I don't view all games as art, though there is some "art" that goes into the making of games, the same way I can see art in science. Many games are a reflection of society at large and have something to say about that society, though not always overtly. Artworks are the same way, and most are representational in some way. Classical Greek sculpture is an idealistic depiction of the human form following the golden ratio. Religious art from the middle ages attempts to tell how a pious person lives. Many games follow this same principle, everything in them is there for a reason whether that be just to make the world more fleshed out or represent some aspect of society.

Viewing games as art means that we can evaluate them the same way and use the many of the same modes of analysis, though some must be modified slightly. The modes are:

  1. Iconographic
  2. Biographic (though this really only pertains to those games developed by a single person or small group)
  3. Contextual
  4. Psychological (again, mainly for games with single person or small group developers)
  5. Feminist

The sixth mode Formal Analysis and I am not sure if it is applicable since it deals with the use of the elements and principles of art. I feel that we must determine those elements and principles before formal analysis can be possible; a complete vocabulary I am not versed in. Also, I grant that not every game is trying to make a statement, some games are the equivalent of art for art's sake the same way that Jackson Pollock's paintings are trying to be paint on canvas and nothing more.

Iconographic analysis deals with what the different elements are metaphors for. In analyzing pieces of art this far easier since most times that bed is not simply a bed, but in games that bed is just there because you're in a bed room and that's where beds are.

Biographic and Psychological analysis are related in that they delve into the mind of the creator; this really only works for those games that have a definite single creator or a small group. Neverending Nightmares would be a prime game for psychological analysis, Papo Y Yo is a prime biographic analysis target.

Contextual deals with the context in which an artwork is made, in this case the culture of the time in which a game is released or developed. By analyzing this it can be inferred what the game may be trying to say about society.

Now for the mode that I am sure many will take issue with, feminist analysis. First, there is nothing wrong with applying feminist views when critiquing art. I will not go into my personal views and beliefs other than that I believe in equality for all. This mode of analysis is related to biographical analysis but considers the perspective toward gender of the viewer and the role of women at the time the art, in this case the game, was made. It also covers the depiction of women in art. I may not agree with certain feminist critics, but they are welcome to make their points.

You want to know the best part of art analysis? There is no objectively wrong critique; all views and interpretations are valid. However, along with that, there are no objectively correct critiques, just widely agreed on meanings and interpretations. So what does this last bit have to do with games as art? It means that there is no good reason to be upset when someone says something bad about a game you like, we can have discussions about aspects that people view as troubling.

This started out just about the MOCA controversy and it kinda went stream of consciousness from there and kinda petered out at the end there. So, sorry if I rambled.

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Art, Censorship, and Games as Art

Please do not post any examples of the art or any similar art since the subject matter could be considered pornography; I will not be posting any. Also, I am sorry mods if this requires some special attention and understand if you must lock it.

Yesterday, my art class had a discussion concerning potential censorship of art at the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art, which is part of UNF, the university I attend. Currently there is an exhibit in the atrium of the museum that consists of 14 photographs. A city councilman viewed one of the photographs, depicting a pregnant woman lying nude on a couch in front of a window, as pornographic and sought to cease the city's funding of the Jacksonville MOCA.

The discussion my class had mainly focused on the line when something goes from art to pornography. We concluded that there is no definite line and that the line is entirely subjective; you know it when you see it, though we all agreed that so called "hardcore" was definitely in the pornography camp. Shortly after class this article was published; I am glad to see the mayor agreed with my class, but does this mean that the councilman was wrong? No, but I made the point that saying something is pornographic says far more about the viewer making the claim than it does about the artwork itself. To an extent at least, and I think this also somewhat applies to games if you view them as art, as I do.

I don't view all games as art, though there is some "art" that goes into the making of games, the same way I can see art in science. Many games are a reflection of society at large and have something to say about that society, though not always overtly. Artworks are the same way, and most are representational in some way. Classical Greek sculpture is an idealistic depiction of the human form following the golden ratio. Religious art from the middle ages attempts to tell how a pious person lives. Many games follow this same principle, everything in them is there for a reason whether that be just to make the world more fleshed out or represent some aspect of society.

Viewing games as art means that we can evaluate them the same way and use the many of the same modes of analysis, though some must be modified slightly. The modes are:

  1. Iconographic
  2. Biographic (though this really only pertains to those games developed by a single person or small group)
  3. Contextual
  4. Psychological (again, mainly for games with single person or small group developers)
  5. Feminist

The sixth mode Formal Analysis and I am not sure if it is applicable since it deals with the use of the elements and principles of art. I feel that we must determine those elements and principles before formal analysis can be possible; a complete vocabulary I am not versed in. Also, I grant that not every game is trying to make a statement, some games are the equivalent of art for art's sake the same way that Jackson Pollock's paintings are trying to be paint on canvas and nothing more.

Iconographic analysis deals with what the different elements are metaphors for. In analyzing pieces of art this far easier since most times that bed is not simply a bed, but in games that bed is just there because you're in a bed room and that's where beds are.

Biographic and Psychological analysis are related in that they delve into the mind of the creator; this really only works for those games that have a definite single creator or a small group. Neverending Nightmares would be a prime game for psychological analysis, Papo Y Yo is a prime biographic analysis target.

Contextual deals with the context in which an artwork is made, in this case the culture of the time in which a game is released or developed. By analyzing this it can be inferred what the game may be trying to say about society.

Now for the mode that I am sure many will take issue with, feminist analysis. First, there is nothing wrong with applying feminist views when critiquing art. I will not go into my personal views and beliefs other than that I believe in equality for all. This mode of analysis is related to biographical analysis but considers the perspective toward gender of the viewer and the role of women at the time the art, in this case the game, was made.

You want to know the best part of art analysis? There is no objectively wrong critique, all views and interpretations are valid, but along with that, there are no objectively correct critiques, just widely agreed on meanings and interpretations. So what does this last bit have to do with games as art? It means that there is no good reason to be upset when someone says something bad about a game you like.

This started out just about the MOCA controversy and it kinda went stream of consciousness from there, so sorry if I rambled.

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My Lovecraftian Shocktober report.

After reading I think @patrickklepek's first (I think) week of Shocktober report, I figured I should watch a bunch of Lovecraft movies this month.

That didn't really happen since I was swamped with schoolwork and midterms, but Ia did watcghh a couple. I'm still waiting on a couple I ordered so I;m saying fuck it and extending my Shocktober a week or so so i can watch those. That being said, I haven't finished watching all the movies I currently have, but here are my thoughts on the few movies I seen this month.

Grabbers

I loved the premise behind this movie the instant someone recommended it to me. Lovecraftian horrors attack a small fishing village and the only way to be safe is to be drunk? Sign me the fuck up; I'm already a six-pack down tonight. I feel Patrick was far more eloquent that I am capable of when he wrote about this film, the only thing I will say is that the romance portion didn't bother me at all. I found this film to a surprisingly legitimately good movie.

Whisperer in the Darkness

An independent film made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. This film is in black and white and much better than their first adaptation, Call of Cthulhu. Not really scary, but I felt it captured the story very well. The only thing I can really hold against the film is that the CGI for the Mi-go looked a little too plastic. I understand why they went with CGI, I just wish the textures looked a little less shiny. Still a good adaptation even if the ending differs.

Call of Cthulhu

The HPLHS's first adaptation, done in a full silent film style complete with intertitles. This particular adaptation, while very faithful, is not at all scary, or even creepy to be honest. I can't really fault them given the budget they had to work with, but there was something off about the film that was really noticeable during conversations. I have watched quite a few silent films in the last two months and they all had a similar feel that this film lacked. I cannot name what it is that the film lacks, but it was enough to color my opinion of the film. Still an enjoyable watch all things considered though.

Dagon

What a strange movie. Isn't even really an adaptation of the short story Dagon, it's an adaptation of Shadow Over Innsmouth. I'm not gonna complain though, I like Shadow Over Innsmouth. I can't really formulate my opinion on this movie, it's just weird. Worth watching, but weird. I have to hand it to the filmmakers, they did a damn good job on the townspeople. The main character does suffer from terminal stupidity at times though.

That's all I have watched so far, I've got four more that I am going to watch tonight: The Burrowers, Absentia, the Corridor, and Banshee Chapter. I understand at least a one of those is legitimately scary.

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Something stupid I wrote in light of recent events

After taking my own advice and stepping away for a day, and realizing that one of the things I wrote was based in hyperbole and misperception, I have made a slight edit.

I realize this isn't the best place to put this, but I just need to get this off my mind so I can refocus on college.

My fellow human beings,

I am merely one of over seven billion people living on this planet. In the grand scheme of things, my opinion and promises mean nothing. I enjoy video games; playing them, talking about them, learning how they are made, I enjoy it all. The past couples of weeks have been disheartening. The anger and vitriol dispensed by all sides is enough to make me not want to be on the internet anymore. I have seen friendships tried and some even broken. I want this to stop, but I am no one, and telling everyone to take a break and come back to the argument after calming down won’t accomplish anything. Compromise is the name of the game here, and if you want something, you have to be willing to give something. So I present an olive branch; the following is my pledge to gamers, game devs, and game journos/bloggers. A solemn oath on a list of what I will and won’t do.

Things I will not do:

  1. Commit character assassination.
  2. Accept character assassination.
  3. Harass those I do not agree with.
  4. Condone harassment from anyone or towards anyone.
  5. Treat anyone as special.
  6. Believe anyone without evidence.
  7. Sugarcoat my criticism.
  8. Make sweeping generalizations.
  9. Attempt to exclude anyone from enjoying, making, or writing about games.
  10. Use slurs.

Things I will do:

  1. Be civil in my interactions.
  2. Make up my own mind based on evidence presented to me.
  3. Attempt to independently verify evidence presented to me.
  4. Accept that other people may not agree with me.
  5. Accept that other people may like things that I do not.
  6. Accept that other people may not like things that I do.
  7. Accept that not every game needs to be targeted towards me.
  8. Attack arguments, not people.
  9. Admit my ignorance on a topic.
  10. Call people out when they commit character assassination, harassment, and make sweeping generalizations, regardless of whether or not those people agree with me.
  11. Listen to differing opinions without trying to silence them.

None of the following statements apply to everyone under the title they are addressed to.

To the journalists:

All I want in return for this is for you to change your tone. Be aware that the tone you write something in colors the tone of the response you get; put aggression in, get aggression out. Making broad sweeping generalizations and using insulting language will likely result in a rather aggressive reaction from your readers. You journalists have a soapbox; try to recognize that you are expected to act professionally. As shitty a situation as it is, the expectation of professionalism extends to your personal twitter account. It is not professional to only condemn the unacceptable actions of people who don’t share your opinions while ignoring the actions of those who do share your opinions. I understand the realities of the business mean that it is infeasible to not be friendly with devs, and I do not expect you to end those relationships. Own up to your mistakes when you make them and don’t stifle dissenting opinions.

To the devs:

Just make games you want to make. If you want to make an art piece type game, do it, it is quite likely that I will like it; I loved Gone Home after all.

To my fellow gaming enthusiasts, not all of this applies to every one of you:

This may fall on deaf ears, and many of you may not think that the other side deserves this peace offering, but if you want this discussion to be had it needs to be done with calm voices and clear heads. We all say that we aren't the people harassing others, so make an oath to not commit harassment. If you don’t like what Anita Sarkeesian or anyone else has to say in a video, don’t watch it. If you don’t like the click-baity article, don’t click on it. It really is that simple. However, if you do watch or click, if or when you do comment, be civil. That is a human being you are directing those comments towards, thinking they should grow a thicker skin is no excuse to commit character assassination. Recognize that not everyone shares your views, and that is a good thing.

To everyone:

Be civil. Your message will be received far better if you voice your concerns in a reasonable manner and tone. Call out those who commit horrible actions, inform them that they are not welcome in the discussion until they can act like a civil human being, don't give them any more attention than that.

In closing, we are all human, we all make mistakes. This is my peace offering; my solemn oath to be a better human being when interacting with my fellow human beings. If we all can make a similar oath, maybe we can get past the shouting; maybe we can return to the table of diplomacy; maybe then we can work past this clusterfuck and have fun with video games again. I fucking hope so, but this is like an armistice and only works if everyone agrees. I've seen enough war in my life in the real world, I’d like if I didn't have to see it when I went on the internet.

I am at the negotiating table and I invite everyone to sit down with me. Here is my offer, what is your counter offer? I am willing to entertain any reasonable critique and suggestions.

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Apathy towards my backlog

I can't muster up the willpower to play any video games, regardless of how bored I am. I have the final two episodes of Wolf Among Us to play, as well as the most recent episode for The Walking Dead. There are 144 games in my Steam library that I haven't played even once. About 1/3 of my PS3 library are games that I haven't finished and a few are still in their wrappers.

Instead, I waste time aimlessly browsing the internet or playing solitaire. My apathy is even bleeding into my writing of this blog, to the point that I am having trouble forming sentences to describe the situation I find myself in.

Hopefully this mood passes soon or I can will myself through it.

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Old Consoles Brought Back to Life.

Back in I think 1991, my parents bought me a SNES for my birthday, if I am not mistaken it was a "launch" SNES. I played the shit out of that console, in the heyday of Square and Enix playing some of my favorite RPGs, FFII(IV), FFIII(VI), Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Earthbound. I had many other games, but those five games were the games I kept. After that SNES served me for about 8 or 9 years, it one day decided it didn't want to display any images anymore. I think the normal thing to do would have been to throw it away, but I didn't. That console had some sentimental value to me. I kept it. Through 13 or 14 years and 4 moves, that console always ended up in a box in my closet.

I had forgotten I had it. But I found it today when I was trying to get an old PS2 to work. The (slim) PS2 apparently just didn't like the default AV connector that came with it, and using a universal Component cable I have for my Wii, it worked beautifully, unfortunately my launch PS2 with the HDD gets disk read errors on every disk I insert.

Anyway, back to the SNES, like I said, I found it when I was rummaging through my closet looking for my PS2 power cord, and I just figured I'd give it a shot and see if I could get it to work. Using the AV cable from my Gamecube, I turned on the SNES in hope of seeing and hearing the opening for Secret of Mana. The black screen, my old enemy, greeted me. I was about to throw in the towel, but then it occurred to me that I could search on the internet to see if I could fix the AV issue with my SNES. I knew it wasn't the cord, because my Gamecube worked perfectly fine with it. Turns out he easiest and quickest troubleshooting step was to clean the connector slot in the SNES. My games have stayed in pristine shape, so it never dawned on me that maybe the issue was the connector in my SNES. A little rubbing alcohol on a t-shirt wrapped around an ID, and the slot was clean.

I turned on the SNES, and I was greeted by this...

I cannot put into words the elation I felt at bringing back to life my old SNES after what seems a lifetime, and to be able to recover two old consoles, one of which I have an extensive library for, was one of the greatest feelings I have felt in a very long time.

Now if I could only get my NES working again, but alas, that won't happen until I tear it apart and rebuild it, possibly in a toaster.

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Raise your glass in memory of a fallen duder.

The following are merely my thoughts and in no way represent anybody but myself.

Today, one year on, I raise my glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to honor the memory of Ryan T. Davis. He was taken from the world too young and too soon. Taswell was a great and very friendly man. Every person who I have ever heard tell of their meeting Ryan has said that he always made them feel welcome. Everyone, regardless of race, gender, or whatever else, was welcome. Ryan may have called people out on their bullshit, but I applauded him for it and I fully expect those around me to do the same for me. On this, the one year anniversary of his death, there is still a hole in my life shaped like a man I never met in person. I may not feel as sorrowful as I did on the day I found out about his untimely passing, but there is still some sadness at the event.

One of the best ways I can see to honor his memory is to continue subscribing to this website and doing my best to not bring discredit to it or the community. Unfortunately, the events of this past week, and during E3 in the chat, were a blemish on the reputation of this site and the community at large. And to be honest, I can't think of a worse week for that shitstorm to take place. By extension, Ryan's memory was not being honored by those "fans" who attacked critics of the site. As @jeff and others have said, that is unacceptable. I feel we, as a community, need to be more proactive in preventing the toxic minority from controlling the conversation, and in doing so help honor the memory of a man we all miss.

In closing, @rorie and the moderation staff deserve major kudos for doing their best to keep the toxic parts of the internet from tarnishing our little corner.

Bottoms up and stay classy, duders.

167 Comments

After thirteen years and a lifetime, I am returning to school.

I received my high school diploma in May of 2001. Returning to school after all these years, I feel more fear and nervousness than I ever have. I don’t know why I am more afraid of walking on the campus than when I deployed to Iraq, or when I heard the news about 9/11 knowing that my mother was in DC at the Pentagon at the time. I think maybe it is fear of failure, which might be my greatest fear. Or perhaps it is fear of not being accepted by the university I wish to attend, then again maybe I am getting ahead of myself and it is a combination of these fears including that I have to take the SAT, a test I never took before since I joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school. I really wish I had taken it when I was still in high school now.

Math, a subject that I grasped with ease and considered my strong suit all those years ago, I found lacking on taking the practice test. I found my skills lacking to the extent that I fear that even with a month to go until the test, I may not be able to bring them back up to where they were. Thirteen years can do a number on your proficiencies when not used, most anything beyond basic algebra seems like gibberish to me now.

On the other hand, English, a subject I would have considered one of my less than stellar skills, seems to have improved in the intervening years; other than my tendency to write in a conversational way and use comma splices. Maybe those skills just haven't deteriorated as much.

I guess there is really nothing I can do but study hard and try not to let my perfectionist tendencies take control.

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I want to correct a mistake you "normals" keep making concerning inverted controls.

This is completely and entirely WRONG!

You "normals" always claim that "Inverters" should also invert the x-axis because of this mistake, and that mistake is shown in this image on the wiki.

The mistake is entirely with the visual of placing the stick on the back of the head. You should instead view your entire head as the analog stick. Are you doing that? Good. Now with your head as the stick you still look up when pulling the stick back and still look down when you push the stick forward. However, when you push the stick to the side, the head does not turn, it leans. In the case of aircraft, where I am sure a good number of us "Inverters" learned this control scheme, the aircraft banks to that side.

Now, when you lean your head to the side, your body tends to follow your head and turn that direction, in essence it is banking to the direction your head is leaning as an aircraft would bank to the direction you are pulling the flight stick.

This becomes even more apparent when you view your entire upper body as the analog stick, when you bend/lean your upper body, the rest of your body will go to the direction that you are leaning.

I have yet to figure out how you "normals" justify that scheme when you aren't moving a crosshair around the screen and it is instead staying in the center of the screen.

One final thought: When and why did inverted controls get named inverted? I distinctly remember them being normal when I was growing up, though my memory may be flawed.

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I played a Pokemon game for the first time in 14 years

Back when Pokemon Red first came out, on paper it seemed like a game I would enjoy. I borrowed a friends copy and attempted to play it. I say attempted because I got to the second or maybe third town before I gave up on the game. It was tedious and boring as shit to me. Based on that experience, I avoided subsequent Pokemon games since, as far as I could tell, there weren't any meaningful changes to the formula that would cause me to change my opinion of the series.

Fast forward to November 22nd when I purchased the Zelda 3DSXL bundle. A friend of mine had been pestering me to try playing the new Pokemon game since I was getting a 3DS for the first time, so I picked up Pokemon Y when I picked up my bundle (along with a couple other games, but those aren't important.) I can't put my finger on what they changed that made this new game catch and keep my attention, but I have now beaten 6 of 8 gyms, and am just under 2/3s the way through completing the Pokedex. I dare say I am actually enjoying this game.

There are several changes that happened between Red and Y beyond the obvious graphical improvements. Experience Share is probably the main thing that has helped my enjoyment of the game; not having to switch out my pokemon to get them to level up gets rid of the majority of the tedium I felt in Red. The roller skates are a pro and a con to me. Yes they allow you to travel faster before you get the bike, but I feel that the accuracy of your movement is hindered by such.

There is one thing that I really just don't care for in Pokemon Y though. The camera in Lumiose CIty is too fucking close and too low when you aren't riding the bike. I understand what they were going for, but their execution of it is piss poor. I've heard people call Lumiose a nightmare to navigate, I wouldn't go that far, but is definitely annoying since you don't have camera control.

All in all I won't let my dislike of Lumiose hamper my enjoyment of Pokemon Y, it is a rather enjoyable experience. Does this mean I'll be picking up the next Pokemon game? Probably not, and I almost certainly won't be going back to play the older games, but my opinion of the series has definitely improved. I also kinda understand why people clamor for a Pokemon MMO, but I seriously doubt that will ever happen.

One final thought: Fairy Tale Girl looks high as fuck.

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