As games continue to adopt the traits of online social networks such as Facebook and common web utilities such as email, lines between the different forms of digital interaction are continually blurring.
But there are still differences between art and utility, even if they do overlap at times. Games like World of Warcraft
will always have a place in entertainment, addressing a desire to escape from one's identity, something Facebook and email aren't necessarily intended to fulfill.
"A work of entertainment is meant to evoke an emotional reaction, you could argue that email also has buttons and increases social interaction but at its core email is a functional technology, an online game isn't," said Rod Humble, Head of EA's The Sims Studio and art game developer, in a new Gamasutra feature
"A utility advances by reducing user interaction time and increasing productivity, a game does the opposite, it's the non productive bit that's enjoyable."
User-generated games have also brought forward easy-to-use tools, as found in games like LittleBigPlanet
. These tools give players a form of utility that can be used to create entertainment. Now, games can give players the power to create -- a privilege formerly only enjoyed by a game's developers.
"When playing online shooters I have seen players who do things that are unnecessarily beautiful (like winning a round using only a bolt action rifle or a pistol), it reminds me of ballet or at times improv comedy," Humble said. "Some games are based almost entirely on players sharing their creativity such as The Sims
That kind of player empowerment in video games is continuing to expand, and it's something that Facebook can't replicate. The gamers are becoming the artists in some sense. "There are varieties of art, from the narrative rational family such as literature and theater -- to the emotional irrational family such as music and dance," said Humble.
"That's one axis, the other axis I cannot define yet but it has something to do with where the art is experienced, on its way to its final destination -- a person's mind."
For more from Humble, as well as key people from ngmoco, CCP, and Facebook, read the new Gamasutra feature
, available today.