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Iain Denniston
Lives in Edinburgh, UK
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Iain Denniston

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Re: Sorry MoMA, video games are not art

Dear Mr Jones,

Respectfully, you are wrong.

Whether Video Games are art or not is an open question (at least to me), regardless of that you have mischaracterised both art and games and I would like very much to address some of what you have said.

“There needs to be a word for [those] who are almost certainly too old, too intellectual and too dignified to really be playing at this stuff.”

Should those people “too old, too intellectual and too dignified” also refrain from enjoying fiction in book or film form? How about recreational sex? At the most basic level all these activities provide similar functions: relaxation, stress-release, escapism, or just simple fun – regardless of artistic merit.

Also, why should games be restricted to the young, or ignorant? Indeed (like a great number of books and films) many games are unsuitable for the young, while others do challenge us intellectually (that you may not encountered they does not mean they do not exist).

Your use of “dignity” is particularly troubling and it is difficult to see how it is relevant to anything you are saying. Certainly there is no requirement in any of life to be dignified/undignified in order to appreciate anything. It amuses me a little that I suspect many of the artists which you admire would not only never be referred to as dignified, but will have specifically created works of art that were precisely a commentary about dignity and art and society.

“what was a professor doing playing all these games?”

What are professors doing watching all these films? What are professors doing looking at all these paintings? What are professors doing listening to all this music?

You may not play games, you may not understand games, you may not even believe games are art, but whatever your personal feelings may be, games are a huge cultural phenomena and very much culturally relevant. Would you not agree that anything of cultural significance deserves to be studied? Indeed if you would agree that any art should be studied then I find it hard to see how you could argue that other items of cultural significance not be studied. Would you not also agree that where possible the study of anything should be done first hand – that the study of music should involve listening to music; that they study of film should involve the watching of movies; that the study of games should involve the playing of games?

“A work of art is one person's reaction to life…it has to be an act of personal imagination.”

Is the editor of a book an automaton that adds no art to a piece of prose? Are only those films written, directed by, and staring a single person to be considered art? Is music only to be considered art when written by & performed by a single individual? If an artist takes input from a friend is the output no longer art? If the paint strokes of two people are on a single canvas does that exclude the canvas from having artistic merit?

Even if you answer yes to all those questions there are games that are a created by a single person, that are a single person’s “reaction to life” that are acts of “personal imagination” through which the player is taken with no more freedom than that which is allowed to those who view some modern art installations around and through which wandering is an intrinsic part.

“[In] electronic games [the] experience is created by the interaction between a player and a programme”

Does not every person who views a piece of art not bring with them a lifetime of baggage that they impose upon the art? The enjoyment of art is not having a perfect copy of the artist imprinted upon you; rather it is a conversation between the artist and those who appreciate the art. The best art tells us things about ourselves and reveals truths we had not realised, this can only work if we also tell the art about ourselves – which we do by interpreting the art we consume within the context of a lifetime of personal, unique experiences. Yes the experience in games is between the player and a programme, but the environment that programme describes is limited and has rules that have been designed and created by a human in order to convey a message. The real interaction is not between the player and the programme but rather between the player and the creators of the programme.

I appreciate that you took the time to write about video games, I hope that you continue to do so in the future, but hope that perhaps you take into account some of what I have said here. Should you wish to experience some of the art that games have to offer there are a great many people who would be more than willing to show you some of the incredible things people have created.

Finally, I’d like to extend to you my heart felt gratitude – despite (or perhaps because of) everything I’ve written in this letter, your article has done more to convince me that games are art than any other argument I have heard.

Yours

A proud gamer
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lol, I've been there. Or I decide that a fresh install will somehow be better.
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Microsoft WGX Internal Video Windows Gaming Experience and Xbox Live
I don't think I have ever seen a "target" video that beats this for looking like it was created by out-of-touch corporate types based on marketing hype words alone.

I have no idea who Microsoft are targeting these days, but it sure aint anyone I know.

Bits I particularly like:
* Ratio of likes to dislikes
* The in video comments on the new avatar outfit
* The guy who seems to be at work, ignoring his phone to play Battlefield 2 with his buddy
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https://www.develop-online.net/news/41633/Filmmaker-code-uncovers-Source-engine-2
“We don't like to brag, but Source is considered the most flexible, comprehensive, and powerful game development environment out there" - Valve

Well that ("most flexible, comprehensive, and powerful") is utter rubbish - I hope they don't believe that or any update may be a bit crap.

In some internety place* I mused about the possibility that the continued Half-Life hiatus could be partially due to a Source engine upgrade/rewrite. Seems at least part of that is true - and frankly it needs it.

For sure Source is great at times, but since launch it has been playing catch-up at best and more recently has been more than a little lacking compared to the competition.

My biggest issue with Source has got to be map size - while it works well for certain games (Portal) I never liked the way the map constraints worked in Half-Life 2. For the next HL title if they are the same as before I think the game will feel dated, constrained and generally a bit frustrating - so I hope they at least fix that.

*I don't remember where and too lazy to check :oP
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I love this story in so many ways!

I don't think I'll ever understand why the default stance of so many businesses seems to be that the customer should not to be treated with kindness, respect, civility, and just plain old common sense.
 
Would you inject the banking system with a little extra liquidity?
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/93a47a62-daf0-11e1-8074-00144feab49a.html#axzz22WRyUPHw
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http://www.themorningnews.org/article/the-heretic
Fascinating (long!) article on the potential of psychedelics in medicine (and beyond).

I've never really understood controlled substance laws, even if you remove the entirely arbitrary classing of substances the laws make little sense. I can understand that opiates are easy to fatally overdose on and so I can see a reasonable argument for their control, but I struggle to understand the need to control substances like marijuana or LSD that seem to be safer for users and society as a whole than many uncontrolled substances (tobacco, alcohol, even fat & sugar).

What is it that people fear of from things?
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Does 1984 seem entirely implausible?

Do recent trends in privacy erosion leave you unfazed?

Then this video would be 5 minutes well spent.

We protect privacy now because of what the future might bring.
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http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/ You'll likely have seen this already - but if not you have to read it. Especially if you use iCloud and Find My Phone/Mac.

It's a long article, but the 1st page covers the gist of it - the rest is details.

'scue me while I go barricade my digital residences...
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http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/xor0j/i_asked_steam_support_if_i_could_keep_playing_my/

For anyone who does not follow Notch on twitter, or r/gaming the answer to the question about what happens if you don't agree to Valves new ToS/EULA.

Sad, but no surprise really.

FWIW not all games bought via Steam require Steam to run. Batman: Arkham Asylum for example can be run without Steam running which means it would likely be playable even without an active Steam account. Small consolation maybe, but just worth letting people know.
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http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/133824-valve-opengl-is-faster-than-directx-even-on-windows
Interesting stuff - I've tried to move from Windows several times but eventually it's always games that call me back.

However there are some things that should temper peoples excitement a little...

The Source engine is a heavily modified Quake 2 engine - it was ported to DirectX from OpenGL and the code (which I've worked with) shows this. It would not surprise me if the way the engine is written still favours OpenGL.

Source is far harder on the CPU than the GPU. It does hit GPU memory and texture lookups quite hard (due to use of large lightmaps) but the API related costs for Source are less than for many other engines.

Source is DirectX 9 only (or was last I used it) - a lot of the overhead in the API would be mitigated by a move to DirectX 10+.

OpenGL still tends to suffer from poorer drivers than DirectX - as more OpenGL games exist this will change, but right now OpenGL issues tend to be more common.

For a long time OpenGL was stagnant while DirectX moved on. Till recently OpenGL was still for more focused on non-shader based graphics functions while DirectX was shader focused, which was a big deal. This more than anything else was the primary driver for a move away from OpenGL - DirectX was just more up-to-date.

Not that this isn't good news - competition is good for everyone - just don't get carried away quite yet :o)
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