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  •    Kojima Cars and Cinema  
    Wednesday, June 21 2006 @ 04:06 PM UTC
    Contributed by: David

    “I believe that games are not art, and will never be art. Let me explain – games will only match their era, meaning what the people of that age want reflects the outcome of the game at that time. So, if you bring a game from 20 years ago out today, no one will say ‘wow.’ There will be some essence where it’s fun, but there won’t be any wows or touching moments. Like a car, for example. If you bring a car from 20 years ago to the modern day, it will be appealing in a classic sense, but how much gasoline it uses, or the lack of air conditioning will simply not be appreciated in that era. So games will always be a kind of mass entertainment form rather than art. Of course, there will be artistic ways of representing games in that era, but it will still be entertainment. However, I believe that games can be a culture that represent their time. If it’s a light era, or a dark era, I always try to implement that era in my works. In the end, when we look back on the projects, we can say ‘Oh, it was that era.’ So overall, when you look back, it becomes a culture.”

    -- Hideo Kojima in the July 2006 issue of Game Informer

    I like this quote because I can’t figure out if he is really right or just really wrong.

    Kojima is right in comparing games to cars. Both are products manufactured to meet a consumer demand. The aesthetic qualities of the product are, by and large, a residue of the process. Or, as the fine artists like to say, “If you make some in the service of anything but yourself and your art, then it is inauthentic.”

    Of course, this avoids that sticky business of literature and film. Charles Dickens wrote by the word, but we don’t have any trouble calling his output literary art. Charley Chaplin went for slap stick laughs, but we don’t hesitate to call him an important performing artist of the early film era.

    So, a question worth answering seems to be: “Are games more like cars or movies?”

    One other point while we are here—I do like Kojima’s notion that games are culture. That’s a big idea. Painting is not culture. Painting is art. Art reflects and supports the culture. So, to suggest that games are a culture in and of themselves is to suggest a very large conceptual shove of aesthetic product from mere consumption to the creation of culture.


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    Kojima Cars and Cinema
    Authored by: John Rose on Friday, June 23 2006 @ 01:08 PM UTC
    I don't find Mr. Kojima's comment very encouraging. In fact, this is just another short-sighted misunderstanding of where games are headed. It's belittling to say that games can't evolve beyond a "kind of mass entertainment form rather than art." Games have all the potential to tap into the human soul and to become a very real form of art. Maybe it's a breakdown in terminology? Because I agree that fighting games in the vein of DOA are definitely nothing more than a toy. But as developers create more games based on interpersonal communication (and I don't mean between human players), player choices will change from trivial to profound. We can include emotional choices and consequences for racism, love, ambition, and loss. Real choices would very personally resonate and reflect on the motivations of the player himself. If this doesn't approach a comment on the human condition, I don't know what does. I'd like to see a Toyota show me what kind of person I am.
    [ Reply to This ]
    Kojima Cars and Cinema
    Authored by: CapCom on Monday, July 10 2006 @ 12:23 AM UTC
    These are all interesting comments. I am especially surprised to hear what Hideo Kojima says about videogames, considering he is one of the top designers in the industry and critics have often tried to link his games with art (particularly from the cinematic perspective). Certainly not ALL designers in the industry think this way - particularly Fumito Ueda. If many of our top designers do not think of games as art, what does this mean for the industry?

    Certainly we can comment on how videogames we play affect us, but this is more in the realm of art, the critics, and sociologists - not the games themselves.

    The trouble is, art and games are pretty abstract concepts which makes it difficult to classify them. Either everything becomes a game or art or things that clearly are art and games aren't in the category (as well as stuff that really isn't either). So depending on your definition, some games may be art, but certainly not all (though there is at least one definition of games that says they are art). Of course, games also contain graphics and audio, two components ripe for 'art'. So far, gameplay isn't well-explored in terms of artistic potential.

    Two big concepts that come to my mind in terms of art is aesthetics and commentary - that the art is designed to be aesthetically pleasing or it is designed to make commentary (or both). For instance, Warhol comments on what mass production means to us. Other art will say something about 'the human condition' or 'what it means to be human' or 'how to look at the world differently.' It 'says something.' So these are some of the criteria I look at when I look at games.

    Now if we think about cars, cars are a commercial product manufactured on a use-need basis. This is not to say that aesthetics don't comes to play in the designs (Volkswagens, for example) but rather that the primary purpose of the car is to be a use-object. Once in awhile we have concept cars that may be designed for a statement - there was one 'art car' for instance that had grass on the body and it was designed to replace the carbon it produced with oxygen or something. This car probably wasn't very practical and so would never be mass-produced.

    We can look at something like books, too. Lots of books simply tell stories - they want to talk about how aliens invaded the earth and we blew them up or how the cowboys fought the bandits. Then we have books that are more interested in things beyond storytelling, the big picture of 'well yeah, that's interesting, but this is what it has to say, this is what it means' or 'this is a new way of telling a story.' (i.e. 'meaning' and craft). Usually it's a combination of both. Of course, defining literature is about as easy as defining art and games, so this is simply one small observation.

    I suppose the gist of it is, there are some games like Katamari Damacy and Shadow of the Colossus that do make me think. This is more than just idle commentary or reading things in to the game that weren't there initially (i.e. Pac Man as a fable for capitalism) - they are statements of the game. This shows games certainly have the capacity to be art, but does not show that all games are art (likewise, I would not say all products of painting could be considered art - art is merely one possible product of 'putting pigment on a surface'). So I would conclude that games CAN be art, and we certainly have more than a handful of examples of games that ARE art (some of which I include Gonzala Frasca's 'games' - which he denies they are). But art is not the primary function of the games media.

    I am reminded of something I heard at the GDC in the academic conference. The comment was made that maybe we don't HAVE to worry about whether games are art because this puts games in a totally different hierarchical scale. Using the example of Chess, he asked if we could consider Chess, one of the most popular games in history, as art. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter - Chess is a masterpiece of games (he called it a masterpiece of fun). Likewise, Super Mario Bros. is a masterpiece of games (fun), as is Metal Gear Solid. That said, Super Mario Bros. doesn't really say anything about the human condition, and you can't use it for much other than a game. But in terms of what it does - games - it does VERY well, and that counts for something.

    -Devin Monnens

    "Until next time..."
    Captain Commando
    [ Reply to This ]
    Kojima Cars and Cinema
    Authored by: John Rose on Tuesday, July 18 2006 @ 02:35 PM UTC
    Maybe this article has been up too long, but every time I read it I get angrier. So let me revise my earlier post: this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. This industry is compared to other industries too often, and this example is worse than wrong. It's sad. Transportation? Please. When did cars become a segment of the entertainment industry anyway? Not to mention that his definition of "wows or touching moments" is a car's miles-per-gallon rate or A/C. I know how turned on I get by fuel economy. This guy has no right releasing his heavy-handed, pseudo-philosophical Metal Gear crap, especially if he thinks cars are cousins to games. Real designers have a better grasp on art than "light and dark eras." They see gameplay as more than "some essence where it's fun." I hope someone shoots me when I start looking at games the same way I look at cars.
    [ Reply to This ]
  • Kojima Cars and Cinema - Authored by: CapCom on Wednesday, July 19 2006 @ 01:41 AM UTC
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