What is this” Call of Duty” you speak of?
The infamous Call of Duty franchise known for its one of a kind first-person shooter games has had an impact in the community around it and also for art. The series first started on Microsoft Windows with its first release on October 29, 2003, then later expanded to several consoles and handheld devices such as Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo consoles. The Call of Duty series is owned and published by Activision, while the primary developers are Infinity War (2003- Present), Treyarch (2005- present), and Sledgehammer Games (2011- present). It has produced a numerous amount of iconic games over time with the first original Call of Duty in 2003 and its latest release of a duel package game of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered on November 4, 2016. The game uses a variety of engines to run the game, including the id Tech 3, Treyarch NGL, and the IW engine. The earlier games in the series were set primarily around World War II, but as the series progressed it introduced games about the cold war and near-future setting. The Call of Duty series is one of the most popular first person shooter games today, as for February 2016 the Call of Duty series has sold over 250 million copies. Their sales of all Call of Duty games have topped $15 billion.
What is art?
According to the definition on Merriam Webster, art is
“the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”
I see art as an expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. So now we must ask ourselves where do this tie in with videogames, and can they really be considered art? For me it is specifically centered around the Call of Duty series and its community around it. For me really consider it art I first asked myself who was to be the artist behind the art of Call of Duty, which I came to the conclusion are the developers who are the team that really put each game together. Based on what I have learned throughout the course of Gasp 159 I believe the Call of Duty series should be considered art because of the collaboration of each producer team that goes into making the final product of each Call of Duty game, the aesthetics that go into each game, and the Machinima based on the different games in the series.
The collaboration of each developing team that put together their skills through their profession is what really lets us claim that Call of Duty is art. This can further be explained with the quote by Howard Becker that states.
“Artists are some sub-group of the world’s participants who, by common agree-ment, possess a special gift, therefore make a unique and indispensable contribution to the work, and thereby make it art.” (Becker, 35)
Basically stating that the entire team that works on making the final end product whether it’s the Developers, directors, producers, designers, programmers, and even the actual artist for the game each one contributed to the game with their own skill set and is in fact what makes the game art through their efforts. Each individual is the artist in their field contributing to a different part of the end product that brings each Call of Duty game we love and enjoy today. What if you played a game missing something such as background music or in the case of Call of Duty perhaps all the normal sound effects you hear by the characters such as gun shots and walking? Without each contribution it wouldn’t be the great game we know and love today. This can further be explained with the quote by Hunicke et al that states
“Game design and authorship happen at many levels, and the fields of games research and development involve people from diverse creative and scholarly backgrounds” (Hunickle, 1).
Making it that the artist within the game the creates the mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics of the game with each individual contribution. This is all important with understanding who’s is the artist of the game because without an artist could it really still be considered art? It makes us really understand the work and effort a group of people can put into the final art piece of Call of Duty we see. Each individual person adds a piece in their field of work for how they want you to experience it. In the end when you appreciate their work and continue to play their game it gives them a sense of comfort that artist feel with their art is interpreted and understood.
Through the collaborative efforts of each developing team we can examine the aesthetics within the game to also argue why Call of Duty is art. In every Call of Duty, each component of its design is an important facet of the player’s experience; focusing on the visuals and sound alone would neglect the most important difference between video games and other forms of art – the interaction. This can further be explained by Niedenthal’s (2009) three definitions of aesthetics.
1 Game aesthetics refers to the sensory phenomena that the player encounters in the game (visual, aural, haptic, embodied).
2 Game aesthetics refers to those aspects of digital games that are shared with other art forms (and thus provide a means of generalizing about art).
3 Game aesthetics is an expression of the game experienced as pleasure, emotion, sociability, formgiving, etc (with reference to “the aesthetic experience”).
The images, graphics and multiple colors depicted in each game can be seen as art even down to each individual character’s design. Each character, building, and plant took someone time and effort to create making it their contribution of aesthetics of art for the final masterpiece.
We also see the progression of this as each new game is released and the quality only gets better and better such as in the images below comparing images from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2009) and Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remasatered (2016).
The mechanics that go into the creation of each Call of Duty game fundamentally influence how players experience it (and are thus part of its aesthetic), they cannot be excluded from an analysis of a game as a work of art. Players like what they see and experience through the aesthetics of each game which makes them continue to play each game as the series progresses, because to the gamers it is art just as a painter considers their work art a developer may consider their game art.
Another important aspect to why the games of the Call of Duty series should be considered art is through the Machinima that has emerged through each game. From playing this series since Call of Duty 4, I encountered Machinima about the game. This brings back my memory of a viral video created using the Call of Duty 4 game called, “The Bazooka Dance,” where they made essentially a simple funny dancing video with game . Art is defined as a range of human activities that create visual or preforming arts that express the authors imaginative or technical skill. In the article Understanding Machinima by Larrisa Hjorth, she states
As a genre once evolving from gaming cultures, machine has grown to become its own “art-form”. Fusing art, cinema, new media, and games, machinimas genealogy echoes that of other misunderstood genres like net”
This essentially means that we should see machinima on games as perhaps as art in its own individual category, but still as art. As the series progressed we see different forms on machinima created through each game getting more advanced each time. It brought forth Youtube channels on gameplay, short films, and even about real world imitation. So examples of famous channels include Ali-a, Vanoss Gaming, and Reckless Tortuga which through their videos link the community to something greater which is truly art. Another important example of Machinima art with a greater meaning through call of duty is created by J. Joshua Diltz and Joseph Delappe called,” 6 days in Call of Duty.” It’s essentially nine minutes of a multiplayer match with nothing but the visuals, the sound of the game and music for homage to the lives, both military and civilian, lost during the Second War of Fallujah. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2hSbuvvUq0
The impact the machinima through call of duty is another reason why it is accountable for the series to be considered art.
In conclusion Based on what I have learned throughout the course of Gasp 159 I believe that the Call of Duty series should be considered art because of the collaboration of each producing team that goes into making the final product of each Call of Duty game, the aesthetics that go into each game, and the Machinima based on the different games in the series. Aside from that, I believe the art is in the eyes of the beholder. People play the Call of Duty series and to them it can be see as art. Of course this brings up the issue of the people that don’t think its art but it can be simply seen as not for them just as in the same idea that not everyone enjoys a painting or see’s the artist meaning within them. This is why for my conclusion is the the most important concept learned in the course through the words of Roland Barthes concept of
“The Death of the Author,” as the art should be interpreted by the player/observer.” The birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the author.” (Barthes 1967, p. 6)
It is the concept of arts meaning not being held by the artist but it is really what the observer, or in this case, player, experience from it is what we truly call the art. They create the game for what they want the player to experience out of it, but it is really on how the player feels and what they experience from the game upon playing it. The entire game itself is a piece of art with how each of its mechanic’s work with more art within for the graphic design’s aesthetics. It is all finally enjoyed through the Call of Duty community by simply playing games from the series or through machinima on the series. In the end, to the true gamers through their experience of the aesthetics created it truly is art which is what’s most important.
The important people that made this argument possible!:
- Howard Becker. (1982). “Art Worlds and Collective Activity” in Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press: pp. 1-39.
- Hunicke et al. (2004). “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research”
- Ng, Jenna, and Larrisa Hjorth. Understanding Machinima. New York: Bloomsburry, 2013. Print.
- Roland Barthes. (1977 ). “The Death of the Author.” In Image, Music, Text. New York:Hill and Wang.
- Simon Niedenthal. (2009). “What We Talk About When We Talk About Game Aesthetics.” InDiGRA 2009: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory.
- “Art.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2011.
Web. 8 May 2011.