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Now getting respect: Video games are becoming known for their artistry
[July 16, 2008]

Now getting respect: Video games are becoming known for their artistry


(Ventura County Star (CA) (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jul. 16--To those things that are influenced by popular culture -- art, music, literature -- go ahead and add video games.

Once seen as the uncultured teenage sibling of those higher forms of art, video games are gaining respect for their artistry, scores and storytelling.

At the E3 Media & Business Summit this week in Los Angeles, artistry is reflected in the Into the Pixel exhibit -- an annual selection of 16 video game images that curators, professors and those in the industry have chosen as the year's finest. Into the Pixel started in 2005 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, with support from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.



"The academy's mission is really to help shine a light on the talent within the craft of game-making," President Joseph Olin said. "These simple things we all enjoy so much take incredible resources and incredible talent."

Having curators of "globally important museums," such as the J. Paul Getty Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, shows that the pieces are significant art, equal to work by artists who have never laid hands on a video game, he said.


Olin noted that the initial response was, "You want us to look at what?,'" but that attitude quickly changed.

Louis Marchesano, curator of collections, prints and drawings at Getty Research Institute, recalled thinking that the idea was "completely mad."

"It seemed kind of odd and weird, and why would we be judging stills from video games?" he said.

It turned into a pleasant surprise.

Although there were submissions of muscular men and "large-breasted, impossibly thin-waisted superhero females," those weren't what made the cut, he said. Instead, it was the pieces that caused the viewer to ask questions about what was going on in the image.

This year's winners reflect a range of games, from online role-playing and first-person shooters to casual puzzles and music games.

Curators who sit on the Into the Pixel jury said they judge pieces the same way they would traditional fine art.

Marchesano said he could see the influence of the "mystery, terror and horror" of an Edgar Allen Poe story in a piece one year and the "sense of monumentality and claustrophobia" present in Giovanni Battista Piranesi's prisons in another entry.

The influence goes in both directions, said Glenn Phillips, consulting curator for Getty Research Institute.

Video games have been used to create sculpture, environments, interactive pieces and more.

"Artists make art out of whatever is familiar to them," Phillips said. "What has happened is video games have been around long enough that you have young adults who are able to understand how they're made and to modify them."

He mentioned one artist who rewrote code to remove everything but the clouds from an old Super Mario Brothers game and added Andy Warhol to a shooting game.

Although visual art is sometimes a striking example of how video games reach beyond the console, handheld or PC, it is not the only connection between games and culture.

"Digital games ... have shown a massive influence on popular culture like cinema or television, as well as fine art, and from a variety of directions, for many years," James Tobias, an assistant professor of English at UC Riverside, wrote in an e-mail. "These have to do with qualities not specific to digital games, but which such games emphasize."

He mentioned the immersive game experience translating into movies like "The Matrix," and the "probabilistic narrative" with multiple paths, translating into a movie like "Run, Lola, Run," which shows three variations of the same story.

Tobias, who studies storytelling and action in video games, sees this generation's expectations of participation reaching beyond games to things such as the election, referring to online participation in Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

There's also music.

Artists have debuted songs within video games. And the Video Games Live concert has been touring the globe with game-inspired music.

EMI Classics is releasing a Video Games Live CD, which draws on past and present, including "Kingdom Hearts," World of Warcraft," "Myst," "Medal of Honor," "Civilization," "Halo," "Tetris" and even "Tron."

"If Beethoven were alive today, he would probably be a video game composer ... he was always ahead of the curve," said Tommy Tallarico, co-creator of Video Games Live. "One of his goals in creating music was to control the emotions of the person listening to it. This is exactly what we as game composers are constantly trying to accomplish."

Tobias said different art forms draw on each other for inspiration.

He said game artists have to be technically adept in creating imagery, but also have to rely on traditional skills, such as color and depth.

"The way games solve these problems means that these achievements can then influence other media," he wrote in the e-mail. "The new media find new uses for the past; the older media also learn new tricks."

On the Net:

http://www.intothepixel.com

To see more of the Ventura County Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.venturacountystar.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Ventura County Star, Calif.
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