: Ian Bogost On Gaming's Goodness: Part I

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Ian Bogost On Gaming's Goodness: Part I

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PSXE: Roger Ebert got a lot of attention when he said video games weren’t art. Later, he retracted the statement. Are games art in your eyes?

Bogost: "This question assumes we have any idea what 'art' really is. During different periods of human history, art has meant different things. There was a time when art was restricted to rituals and ceremonies. By the middle of the 20th century, the traditional idea of art just got blown up; then art was just anything you could get away with. Most of the time, people don't know what they mean when they say, 'videogames are art.' It's not exactly like paintings and opera, which have a certain position in the cultural world. And that has changed over time, too.

I think the question to ask is, 'what do games do for art?' and 'how do they change what it means to experience art?' This could mean changes into the way art is conceived and experienced. It could mean new ways of framing artistic practice. I don't think there's one answer. Is the urinal on display at the museum art? Well, it did something, it had an effect on the art world. It doesn't really matter if it was art or not. Art gets judged by history and situated in relation to other works."

In the second part of the interview, we talk about the "gamer" label and how we should leave it behind if we want to progress, the dangers of focusing on ultra-realism, and when mainstream media sources will finally give this industry some respect.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Ian Bogost's blog. Also, we definitely recommend the book; it's really empowering for video game fans and a breath of fresh air in comparison to the negative feedback we often hear. So head on over to Amazon and consider a purchase.

Part II will go up soon, so stay tuned.

9/20/2011 Ben Dutka

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011 @ 10:08:59 PM

I was thinking about this today when I caught the news report on online gamers solving the decade long HIV protein problem in 3 weeks. News outlets almost invariably opened with something negative to say about video games.

It's obscene, how on earth can me engaging my mind in my entertainment be worse than sitting on my ass and watching a movie? I mean I do sit on my ass and watch movies but I consider it the least productive of activities.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011 @ 10:17:39 PM

I read about that too world, ain't that some crazy sh*t. Gamers figured out something that scientists could not. What what for the gaming community !

Andi agree with what you say about watching movies/tv be the least productive activite of activites. Atleast with games your increasing and training your hand/eye coordinations, and depending on what types of games your playing, your using problem solving skills, choosing tactics, using memory.

Hell, even games like cod test your eye reflex. Games to a great amount of good, I'm just shocked that to a vast number of people games are still looked at as being mostly violent and childish hobbies.

But its just like ian bogost said, it depends on what games you pla and what you want to see.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 12:48:10 AM

Yeah, I read it too, and even sent Ben the article and I was kind of surprised he didn't make a new thread about since it put gamers in such a good light.

Anyway, I'm sure Ben had a good reason but since he didn't post it, I will....


Video-Game Players Make Breakthrough in AIDS Research Under UW's Crowd-Sourced 'Foldit' Project
By Curtis Cartier Mon., Sep. 19 2011

For years a complex biochemical problem related to AIDS research had beguiled scientists worldwide.

That was until some UW researchers got wise to the art of crowd-sourcing.

Now, thanks to a program called Foldit, which makes molecular coding into a competitive online video game, an important piece of the AIDS-cure puzzle has been solved.

A research paper published Sunday by the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology details how online users of Foldit successfully mapped a protein-cutting enzyme from a particular AIDS-like virus found in rhesus monkeys. This enzyme helps the virus spread and counteracting it relies on mapping its exact molecular structure--a task that until now had been too monumental for scientists to accomplish.

Here's a screenshot of the protein structure that solved the rhesus-monkey problem.
(see link below)

University of Washington
‚Äč Firas Khatib, a UW biochemist, led the project from the chemistry perspective, while Seth Cooper, a UW computer scientist, handled the Foldit program's design and implementation.

In a statement sent to reporters, Cooper said of the program:

"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans."
Khatib, meanwhile, spoke with Seattle Weekly about the project last night.

He says that the breakthrough is a huge accomplishment for science in general more than for AIDS research specifically, and that it could help researchers worldwide refrain from pulling out as much of their hair.

"This is the first case that we're aware of where online gamers solved a scientific problem that hadn't been able to be cracked by all scientific methods developed," Khatib says.

"My big hope is that other scientists with challenging problems they can't solve, and have been banging their heads over for years, will come to us and say 'Can you help?' "

Khatib says that Foldit's success is not owed to simply being an online game, but being an online competitive game. Some 236,000 players have registered for Foldit since it launched in 2008, and by putting real-time scores and rankings that change depending on how well-designed the players make their molecular structures, the program taps into the competitive nature of gamers.

"If we had just posted it as 'Hey, can you help us?', I think we would have gotten a few volunteers and some would have stuck around," Khatib says. "But the fact that there is this competitive aspect, that unleashes a lot more motivation."

The next step for Foldit players is going to be not just mapping existing genetic structures, but creating new ones. And one of the world's most common ailments is in the cross-hairs. "We want to have players design a protein that will inhibit the flu virus," Khatib says. "This is just the start."

Here's a great video that shows the ins and outs of Foldit, plus 2 "before & after pics" of the virus.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2011 @ 10:14:43 PM

That was a fantastic read. Even though these topics have been touched on by countless others, I think Bogost really provided a great take on the "video games as art" discussion. Art is by default a very abstract concept, and Duchamp's Fountain really makes you question what art actually is. I think the process of making video games is a complex combination of art forms: art design, sound design, hell even motion capture could be considered an art form since it captures a person's movements and manipulates and alters them to match an in-game character model.

Thanks Ben, I will check that book out (added to my wishlist right next to Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth) and am looking forward to Part 2!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 6:31:18 AM

Yes that art-reply stood out for me too. Good answer.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 1:01:12 AM

I'll have to read this book.

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Lawless SXE
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 3:17:48 AM

Interesting words and thoughts. I particularly like the idea of the gaming industry needing to explain itself to those outside of the circle, as they still have a very negative stigma attached to them. I mean, I don't think that most of the owners of a Wii even consider to be a device for games, but rather a toy... or something.

May have to look into this book, and can't wait to read the second half of this interview.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 10:34:37 AM

That one intrigued me as well, if gaming is to be more than tolerated it will have to represent itself better. To a degree the culture stays in a closed loop, even avid gamers don't care to keep up with it and only pay attention to one or two releases per year because they aren't even reached about the other offerings.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 5:09:07 AM

LOL @ "urinal on display"

<wipes eyes>

Man that was funny. Great interview Ben. And what I mean by that is, way to find a guy who makes sense in the gaming community.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 1:00:52 PM

Well, Bogost says, "Even if gaming has fantasies about being as big as Hollywood, it doesn't have the same value.".

I think that there is a word missing there, the word 'perceived'. The big budget games cost as much as a movie to make, they generate revenue in the same order of magnitude as movies, in that sense they have the same value. I also am not sure that the artistic merit that Bogost talks of really sits well with sending people out to the Tonight show to whore the new movie. Really that's neither value nor artistic merit, that's hype, and manipulation of people's perception of the movie.

In that sense, games do lack the perceieved value both in terms of the intrinsic value, economically, or measured in terms of 'worth'; but also in terms of artistic value. Games simply do not promote themselves the way that movies do.

That said, I find the spectacle of some young actress running around the talk show circuit wearing 5 ounces of cotton in short dress format, to be a very cynical promotion of a product based on the attractiveness of said actress. It's got nothing to do with art or perceived value, and a lot more to do with the hotness of the actress. OK, not all movies are promoted quite that way, but the talk show circuit is not about artistic merit or any other value it's about promotion pure and simple.

Games could do this, but games do not have recognizable stars to send to the talk shows. How do you send Cole from Infamous, or Drake from Uncarted, or Sam from Vanquish, or the MasterChief from Halo, or any of the non-human game characters? So, who do you send? I think that there are fundamental differences in the media that prevent games from promoting themselves in the same manner as movies. Then again, when you have phenomenon like Hatsune Miku in Japan, where an entirely virtual 'star' holds concerts (I believe there has even been one stateside), anything is possible.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 6:52:14 PM

That was the best interview I've read in a while, and its only part 1. I'm really interested to see his replies to your other questions Ben.

In particular, I thought his comments on how gamers represent the industry were probably the most enlightening. Its true, we truly don't represent it very well at all when compared with the film industry.

If video games are ever gonna be taken seriously as a professional and artistic entertainment medium, we're gonna have to actually show others why its good. And by that, I don't mean show off CoD multiplayer, because that's obviously gonna be laughed off if you try to compare that to a movie. But show them a real game, with a great single player and everything, and maybe you can start to show them a taste of what gaming has to offer.

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