As part of a wide-ranging Gamasutra interview
published today, Ultima
and Tabula Rasa
creator Richard Garriott has been discussing games as art, suggesting many games are 'pulp fiction', but that his favorites touch the player emotionally.
When asked directly whether games are art, a time-worn question that's been batted around
by figures such as Clive Barker and Roger Ebert, Garriott suggested:
"Are games art? They can, and I think, should be. How much "art" there is in a game is up to the developer.
There's a lot of games which I'll describe as just pulp [as in the magazine genre], but absolutely: I think there's lots of great art in games. A lot of my favorite games, actually, are the ones we think of as the most artistic. Games like Myst, or American McGee's Alice, Abe's Oddysee."
Elaborating on a question about whether game developers are technical or artistic souls at base, Garriott explained:
"Well, to make a game now requires such a large staff that you have all walks of life involved in there.
I was just listening to NPR radio in the car on the way home from the airport last night, and they had a carpenter who had just gone off strike and was getting back to work on Broadway.
I would not consider that carpenter -- he was probably not what you would call an artist, he was probably literally a carpenter. And the same thing's true in making games.
We have people you might consider the carpenters of the game building -- who would not care, or [even] be too concerned if they were described as artists. On the other hand, I think a lot of the designers and a lot of the artists probably do aspire to be creating things that would be considered great art."
Finally, the Gamasutra interviewer noted that many people in the industry feel strongly, like Garriott, that games are art - but asked if it really matters in the grand scheme of things? Garriott's answer?
"Well, no. If you think about the purpose of most people in this business, I think most of them are in the business as a business. They're here to make money. They're here to find something that becomes popular, and therefore sells well.
However, I think if you look at the measure of what it takes to become popular, I think there's a variety of factors that make games become popular.
I think it takes a combination of things. For example, addictive game mechanics. The kind of "pull the lever on the slot machine and occasionally get a return," which I would not call art, as much as a science.
But another thing that can create popularity in a game is to be attractive -- which could just be nice aesthetics. But another one would be to be compelling. I think what makes this compelling at a more human level is when you can touch people at an emotional or psychological level -- which I would consider art."
The full Gamasutra interview with Garriott
also goes into detail on a host of other subjects, including why he only speed-reads games, and how the PC in your pocket just might be the next great platform.