“CAFA Art Museum hopes that through sorting out and presenting the cultural issues concerning game art in the exhibition, it can lead this emerging art form to draw more attention and discussion in the academic system of fine arts, and explore the deep influence brought by games nowadays on visual arts as well as other fields. At the same time, it expected that people who come to visit and experience the show could pay more attention to serious games that involved in domains such as education, medical treatment, social practice and future imagination. It also anticipated that the humanistic care and social philosophies reflected in the exhibition would evoke new thinkings and possibilities for the future of the game and human beings.”
Zhang Zikang, Director of the CAFA Art Museum
Games that sold more than one billion copies easily, such as “Minecraft”, “Monument Valley”, “Kingdom Come: Deliverance”, “Sky”, “Gorogoa”, “Human Resource Machine”, have taken up many people’s fragments of spare time with its powerful genes of addiction. It is said, for example, that one in seven people in China plays the hottest game “Arena of Valor”. Skipping from the “trifles” of the real world to the “construction” of the game world, game designers transcode the deep logic of the world into game language, which covers many themes across multiple fields, including digital media, visual communication and philosophy. For this reason, more than ever, the reviewing of the game requires to be carried out from various areas.
“Monument Valley” is a mobile puzzle game developed and published by USTWO Games in 2014. The player leads the princess Ida through mazes of optical illusions and fights crow people in the process while interacting with the environment to find hidden passages to the map’s exit. (Original text from Baidu Encyclopedia)
From video game first appeared in the late 1960s until mobile terminal has popularized today, electronic games have achieved great success of high industrialization during dozens of years. Many large-scale games of various and complex types are exquisitely designed in the internal logic and spectacular visual effects. Instead of playing with simple logic that the avatar attributes become more powerful as the level goes up, players can gradually develop the main characters of their own features in the process of upgrading weapons and fighting enemies. With the further development of industrialization, a successful “game” is welcomed by fastidious players only when it excels in technology, design, concept and innovation, which therefore requires the involvement of first-class art and concept designers, software engineers and cutting-edge AI technology.
“Minecraft” is a sandbox video game released in 2009 and it has no specific goals to accomplish. Players can freely move throughout a world to destroy or build items with a variety of different blocks, and it can be a wood house, a castle, and even a city. Through creating things, players can gain the experience of being the owner in their created world. (Original text from Baidu Encyclopedia)
With the opening of “Play Beyond the Game: The First Grand Exhibition of Art and Serious Games” , CAFA Art Museum expressed its stance of accepting “game art” by displaying game works in the art museum, and it is undoubtedly an initiative practice of this kind. Using the means of game and the form of exhibition to show the charm of the “ninth art”, visitors are able to think of games and serious games again, to directly feel the interaction of game productions, to understand the design and creation process of each game, to see with their eyes a large number of creation manuscripts and video recordings provided by the game designers, and thus to collate and redefine the cultural gene of the game.
Rules and system: awareness of game
It is said that the oldest game in human history traces back to the Senet around 3200 BC. Senet was once a popular board game in Egypt, and its remains have been frequently found in tomb paintings and funerary objects. Despite a recreational game, Senet also had serious symbolic meaning. The Senet gameboard is a grid of 30 squares which called a house, and some squares are marked with hieroglyphs. The squares without hieroglyphs represent the houses of the god, and each player has to bear all pawns off the board. The whole process is conceived as a symbol of the journey to the afterlife and the game is the bridge to connect life and death, the spiritual meaning of which is also emphasized in “The Egyptian Book of the Dead”.
“White Night” is an adventure puzzle game developed by Osome Studio and published in 2015. Its unique artistic style enables players to be intoxicated with the atmosphere of the black movie. (Original text from Baidu Encyclopedia)
As a kind of carrier of rules, game shows its artistry in the system, story, shooting script, and even the ultimate worldview. Go, for example, is regarded as having the most elegant and beautiful rules so far, and its influence on the thinking of conflict, concentration, indirect management and direct control is never out of date.
Until now, the form of the game has accelerated more than ever. For game players who born in the late 80s and early 90s, digital games started from homemade RPG (Role-playing game), while for people who born after 2000, the first impression of digital games is recreational games on mobile devices or 3A games playing in the platforms of console and PC. It might be considered as a process of new technology replacing the old one, a course of advanced game mechanics substituting that of the backward, and a kind of evolution of irreversible aesthetics.
“Lumino City” is a puzzle game that the game scene is created with real model materials and the player has to manipulate a girl called Lumi to search for her grandad. Apart from the puzzle style, the biggest characteristic of this game depends on the handmade game environment that built on real miniature models.
The evolution of technology has enabled digital games to exert influence on players in many aspects: from geographic design and physical engine to soundtracks and characters…it almost combines a variety of categories, such as dance, architecture, narrative, improvisational drama, music, painting and movie, which thus promoted the possession of a comprehensive art form within the nature of the game. For game designers, the most direct and concise core of creation is the study of game rules and the refinement of expression.
“Kingdom Come: Deliverance” is an action role-playing video game developed by Warhorse Studio. It is set in the middle ages and features nonlinear quest lines and an open world environment which encourages immersive first-person combat, bringing an innovation revolution in many ways.
The ultimate worldview of the game is also regarded as the typical element for its aesthetic grade. For example, the first “Metal Gear” game reveals a spirit of compassion and conveys the horror to the nuclear threat and the value of peace through vivid expression of movie that can be claimed as a game version of “Apocalypse Now”; “Metal Gear 2” explores the paradox between clone technology and self-recognition; and “Metal Gear 3” turns the hero character into an ordinary person… “Metal Gear” series let us witness how the real-life suffering and hardships are reflected in the games, and also amazed at the producer Hideo Kojima’s dual talent in the field of movie and game. In the forum of “CAFA Game Art Exhibition”, Yoji Shinkawa, the illustrator of “Metal Gear” series, had a wonderful conversation with Yoshitaka Amano, another famous Japanese game designer, as they are both God-like figures involved in the game production for their respective game types.
Game as the carrier of digital media art
The game developers have made various novel attempts in the gameplay at the aesthetic level, as not only game rules and systems are of artistic, but the visual presentation and attribute of emphasizing interactive experience within games can be viewed as artistic elements as well. A majority of artworks can achieve the state of interaction, that is, an interaction between the creator and the audience, which is actually a one-way communication, while games integrate the form of digital media with players’ new requirements and as a result change the relationship of the receiver and the media – from passive acceptance to active control, and then to active participation.
“DragonBox” is an educational game series featuring its unique gameplay. It has five "worlds" with twenty levels each, and beating each level allows the dragons that the player possesses to grow into a new, more advanced form.
Some games imitate the relationship of cooperation or competition between people in reality. This kind of high imitation inevitably contains the divisions and conflicts between race, gender, region and class, and there is not any language communication (language in the narrow sense) with each other from a random summoning, but it guarantees a natural process in which people can establish a relationship of mutual trust from strangers.
When we claim that the game is only a pure fiction, we don’t realize that the so-called “fiction” possesses a kind of authenticity beyond reality, as said by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. It is assumed that all great game designers holding dreams of reforming visual art, like all artists, movie directors, eminent writers and poets, dive into this brand-new industry and lift the media characteristic of the industry as a potential technology to the aesthetic level as much as possible.
“Walden” is a video game developed by USC Game Innovation Lab. It translates the experience of Henry Thoreau’s stay at Walden Pond in 1845: surviving through self-sufficient living, enjoying solitude, seeking inspiration in nature, and living a deep life. (Original text from Baidu Encyclopedia)
Game designers usually focus on creating games that its visual system can be readily accepted by those who had known nothing about digital games, either it is to put the most ancient game forms (such as Rock Scissors Paper, Rubik’s cube) into a new one, or to make efforts on the categorization of video games at the level of visual art, both of which requires their extraordinary imagination and humanistic care. Of course, it is just the integration of all these idealized visions with the latest technology of digital media that makes the unique visual innovation and experience possible.
Nicky Case created a series of interactive web games that generate people’s discussion, such as “We Become What We Behold”, “Parable of the Polygons”, and he tells some profound truth of sociology through simple interactions within the game.
Apart from its recreational function, the game as the carrier of digital media has been experimented by game developers in interdisciplinary fields, including art, physics, medical treatment and other social disciplines. For example, “Variant: Limits” – bringing the game into the teaching of college education, “R-mission” – helping children with cancer to fight against the disease by presenting the cancer treatment process, “Minecraft” – allowing players to learn history through famous historical scenes and Chinese classical architectures that restored in the game world, “DragonBox Numbers” – using the form of game to illustrate basic mathematics for learning, “Walden” – using the means of game to interpret the essence of the world literary classics. At the same time, expressing art concepts through the game is increasingly being used in the contemporary art field.
“ARTé: Mecenas” is a simulation game. The player is set in the background of Italian Renaissance as a member of the Medici family to establish a personal business empire through investing in artists, churches and potential cities, and then push forward the historical process with the production of art masterpieces. It is regarded as a useful way to learn art history and art-related skills.
A game with cultural “gene” does not mean it is entirely without “addiction”, as the game still need to be restricted to a system of rules and attract more exploration and discussion in public areas of society, such as in an art museum. From these perspectives, it is easy to see the significance of the exhibition “Play Beyond the Game” since it is held in the CAFA Art Museum that is affiliated to a distinguished university with deep cultivation. Through an authentic experience, visitors – the “participants of the game” who come to the exhibition can get a profound understanding of how the game enter the discourse system as an art form.
Author: Wang Jing (General Editor, the official website of CAFA Art Museum)