The Importance of Pong

The Creation of Pong

Pong the game was not the first videogame but it was the first game to grab the publics attention on a large scale. The game developers Atari initially released the arcade game in November of 1972. During the development of the game, coin-operated, arcade, test-versions had been released and the coin-boxes came back overflowing. So, Atari took that as a sign of the games potential and had tens of thousands of copies sent out across the country (“Pong”). The games growing success as the arcade version led Atari to create and release a home version in 1975, allowing the fun of Pong to continue at home.

pong-first-commercial-coin-operated-video-arcade-game-in-history-side-view-nutting-associatieswpid-pong-video-game4

Home Pong became the hot Christmas gift, selling hundreds of thousands of copies, introducing millions of children to video games, and transforming the TV from a passive medium into an interactive plaything. Decades later, Pong’s iconic sound, intuitive controls, and satisfying game play still resonate, inviting people to try their hand at keeping the ball bouncing as long as possible. (“Pong”)

tumblr_nk9f1dbk9r1tgmzako1_500Pong is a tennis-like or table tennis game that features two-dimensional graphics, which displayed two sides of a black screen _ divided by a dashed, vertical line _ each with a controllable line or rectangle and a ball  that bounced back and forth. Pong brought video games to a mainstream setting; because of the simplistic games popularity, home consoles could be found in more and more homes giving rise to the video game industry. Pong, remains the second longest running video game franchise to exist (next to the Oregon trail), spanning over forty years and demonstrating the longevity of the game. In 2015, Pong was officially inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, which stated that “[b]y most measures of popular impact, Pong launched the video game industry” (“Pong”). Pong was not the first video game to be invented; it did, however, introduce video games to the mainstream public and set a precedent for all that would come in the video game industry.

What came next

Since the release of Pong, video games have risen immensely in popularity and what a video game is has evolved. Within this evolution, the debate of whether or not video games could be considered art had arisen. The establishment of the debate came when Roger Ebert, a celebrated and respected film critic, donned video games to not be art despite the growing claims to the contrary. There are sides to the debate of video games and each thoroughly explains how video games definitively are or are not to be classified as art.

When Paola Antonelli, curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), had announced that she would be curating an exhibit of interactive design featuring videogames, the debate was ignited. The fourteen original videogames to enter the exhibit in 2012 included: Pac-Man (1980), Tetris (1984), Another World (1991), Myst (1993), SimCity 2000 (1994), vib-ribbon (1999), The Sims (2000), Katamari Damacy (2004), EVE Online (2003, Dwarf Fortress (2006), Portal (2007), flOw (2006), Passage (2008), and Canabalt (2009). The

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Antonelli giving her Ted Talk

exhibit did not stop there, however, a year later in 2013 the MoMA added seven more video games to the collection: Magnavox Odyssey (1972), Pong (1972) , Space Invaders (1978), Asteroids (1979), Tempest (1981), Yar’s Revenge (1982), and Minecraft (2011). Pong had been added to the collection, demonstrating the significance of the game to the industry’s development. The curator, Paola Antonelli, explained why videogames had been added to the MoMA’s collections in a Ted Talk where she explained that:

I really do believe that design is the highest form of creative expression…You know, video games can be truly deep... So time, space, aesthetics, and then, most important, behavior. The real core issue of interaction design is behavior. Designers that deal with interaction design behaviors that go to influence the rest of our lives. They’re not just limited to our interaction with the screen... you can see how video games are the purest aspect of interaction design and are very useful to explain what interaction is. (Antonelli)

The presence of the games in the Museum of Modern Art was not widely received. In 2012, Johnathan Jones, a journalist for the Guardian, wrote the article, “Sorry MoMA, video games are not art”.  In the article Jones claims that, “electronic games are more like playgrounds where experience is created by the interaction between a player and a programme” (Jones). The dismissal of video games as a form of art gave rise to the defense of video games not only having a place in the MoMA but also as an art form.  In response to the Jones article, John Maeda at Wired wrote the article titled, “Videogames Do Belong in the Museum of Modern Art.” In which he explains how the games were not acquired as art but he continues to make the argument that “in some cases, games edge past being design to being art as well” (Maeda). He continues to explain how “videogames… played an important role in bringing about the digital age” (Maeda). With Pong at the forefront, there has been public support for the impact that video games have made.

The presence of videogames in the daily lives of so many people there was bound to be a discussion of their importance and impact. The discussion of their existence as art, may not have been the initial intention when Pong was released and brought video games to all those people but it is how the medium has developed.

Pong’s Legacy

In regards to the question of video games as art,  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a 19th century German philosopher, considered art to have an ideal form and that the ideal form of art is reached through a series of evolutions that occur in the display of art (Hegel). Hegel’s claim of this progression of art can be seen over time; not to say that it is improving to an ideal but the introduction to new forms of art and the development of the qualifications for art are obvious. Hegel may have believed that it was his time period that possessed the “Ideal” art but his claim that art is changing and evolving can still be seen throughout the art world. If there is a progression in the definition and qualification of art and videogames have now joined that debate, then it is understandable that videogames could be a progression in art with Pong have leading the way. It could also be said that “typical digital art will arrive… it will become something new” (Hunger). Meaning that the acceptance of video games as a new form of art could occur. With Pong having led the way for videogames to their present popularity, it was also the important basis for all that video games have become.


Sources:

Antonelli, Paola. Transcribed by Joseph Geni. “Why I brought Pac-Man to MoMA”.ted.com (May 2013).

Hegel, G.W.E.. (1998 [1826]). “Philosophy of Fine Art.” In The Art of Art History: A Critical
Anthology, edited by D. Preziosi. Oxford University Press(Oxford: 1998[1826]) pp. 80-88

Hunger, Francis. “Perspective Engines: An Interview with JODI.” Videogames and art. (2013). http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=3014898.

Jones, Johnathan. “Sorry MoMA, video games art not art.” The Guardian. (30 November 2012) https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2012/nov/30/moma-video-games-art.

Maeda, John. “Videogames Do Belong in the Museum of Modern Art.” Wired. (December 2012). https://www.wired.com/2012/12/why-videogames-do-belong-in-the-museum-of-modern-art.

“Pong: Inducted 2015”. The Strong National Museum of Play. (Rochester, NY: 2017).

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Mysterium! From Board Game to… Art?


The Game

Mysterium was designed by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko and the board game was initially released in the Ukraine by the game publisher Libellud. Since the games initial release, there has been an online and app version (which I played) of the boardgame, in which all keep to the unique blend of a murder-mystery board game and a card-based guessing game. Mysterium is a cooperative, murder-mystery game that challenges players to deduce the culprit of the murder, along with the murder weapon and crime scene (Asmodee). The initial premise of the game is:

On a bleak night in December of 1894, tragedy struck the Count of Warwick’s manor in the highlands of Scotland. In the aftermath of a glittering party, a man-servant was found dead, and although the police declared his death accidental, rumors of foul play ran wild. Thirty years later, this unsolved mystery returns to light as a group of notable psychics converges on the Scottish manor in hopes of making contact with a restless ghost and bringing that spirit the peace it has so long been denied…

~Asmodee

In the board game (the app version), you start off with a list of suspects who may have committed the murder. 7880d7c5233ef60a25bcdd399c261a53To solve the mystery the psychics (the players) are assisted by the ghost of the victim, who communicates with them through visions (i.e. illustrated vision cards). The visions are received by the psychics to assist in uncovering the truth but the visions are not always precise and it is up to the psychics to discover the hidden details or meanings from the vision illustrations. The psychics have to deduce the correct culprits from the clues given in the visions.large The visions come when needed but the fewer visions the psychics require the quicker the murder can be solved. Once the psychics uncover the individual behind the crime, they can move on to discover the murder weapon and the crime scene through additional visions. When the psychics close the case they can move on to another unsolved murder with the help of a restless ghost awaiting justice for their murder.

Mysterium as a Game

What is a game? Game is a broad term that many different things could be classified as. A game could be defined as something that is free/voluntary, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governered by rules, and make-believe (Caillois). Another definition of a game could be:

A game is a rule-based system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels emotionally attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are negotiable.

~Jesper Juul

With these definitions in mind, Mysterium could indisputably be defined as a game. mysterium2Mysterium, as a game has all the aspects listed in the above definitions that are required for the classification. The game has a set of rules, which the players have to follow to be involved, which relates to the outcomes. You get only so much information before you have to make a decision and, in the game, you either uncover the killer, murder weapon, and crime scene or you do not. This means that the outcomes vary, and when playing with other individuals the different outcomes would quantify as different values (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) The players also have to be invested in the outcomes because they are investing their time, voluntarily and without compensation. Mysterium requires the players to become invested in the details of the murder-mystery to earn the desired outcome.

Mysterium as Art

Mysterium is a game but is it art? Art could possibly be generally defined as a piece that is, “offering to express a general human (i.e. non-utilitarian) interest… [by] independent workmen and skilled workers producing a certain kind of marginal commodity” (Williams 32). Which, means art could be defined as a product that is created by individuals with the intention of appealing to others in an impractical or nonessential way. Mysterium, also could fall under the classification of art, according to this. The game has designers (as previously mentioned) and illustrators of the incorporated art

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Vision Cards illustrated by Igor Burlakov and Xavier Collette.

work. Mysterium was also created to appeal to the general person without the thought that it was essential or necessary. There are many thing that may not initially appear to qualify as art but there are viewpoints that may very much depict it as a form or piece of art. Mysterium is as much art as it is a game.

 

 

Conclusion

Most things can be seen differently depending on the viewpoint and context in which it is observed and Mysterium is no different. It is both a game and art. Games and art may not be obviously reconcilable but when something is observed from different views and can be found to be both game and art it shows that they may not be so incongruent. Mysterium! From Board Game to Art!


Jump to the Top


Sources:

Caillois, Roger. “The Definition of Play and The Classification of Games” The Game Design Reader. The MIT Press (2006:Cambridge, MA.).

Jesper Juul. (2005). “Video Games and the Classic Game Model”. The MIT Press (Cambridge) Pp. 23-54.

“Mysterium”. Asmodee Editions. <https://www.asmodee.us/en/games/mysterium/&gt;

Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Cary: Oxford
University Press, USA, 1985.

The Artist Behind the Game

The Videogame

Angry Birds is a videogame that was initially released in December of 2009 by the Finnish videogame developers, Rovio Entertainment. Since its release, the game has become widely popular and along with a number of different versions, sequels, and spinoffs to the series the franchise  released an animated film, by the same name, in 2016. The videogame follows a variety of wingless birds out to destroy their piggy enemies and reclaim their eggs. In the game, the player uses a slingshot to launch the colorful birds with their unique abilities at the green pigs’ various structures to destroy all on the field. As the player progresses through the stages, new birds are introduced with different special abilities along with a variety of new obstacles.

Who is the artist behind the successful videogame series?
angrybirdsguy
Jaakko Iisalo, Rovio’s head videogame designer

Jaakko Iisalo, a videogame designer, was the sole designer at Rovio Entertainment in 2009 and had pressure to create a new game. Iisalo had the idea for a game where a flock of aggressive birds went around destroying everything. As the concept for the game was being developed, the initial design for the birds were created_ round, wingless, colorful birds with angry eyebrows_ including the basic concept for the slingshot and structured demolition design. When the antagonists of the game were being created, Iisalo used the design of a pig, which he had been drawing since he was ten years old (Stuart).  As the popularity of the game rose and the series extended, the design team for the game expanded. However, despite the growing, Jaakko Iisalo is the designer and artist behind Angry Birds.

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Screenshot from Angry Birds.

 

Why is identifying Jaakko Iisalo as the artist important?

Understanding what makes Jaakko Iisalo the artist behind the game comes with a sense of further understanding of the videogame. Scholars Hunicke, LeBlanc, and Zubeck present the M.D.A. (Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics) framework to explain how, “[w]hen working with games, it is helpful to consider both the designer and player perspectives… [to] observe how even small changes in one layer can cascade into others” (Hunicke).

Designer   —————>

Mechanics      Dynamics      Aesthetics

<—————   Player 

Grasping how Iisalo, as the artist and designer, understands the videogame explains how the game was designed and what is  its intended purpose.  Iisalo as the artist of the game, had an intention for the game’s structure and design; all the aspects including the objectives, the visuals and designs of the characters, and so on. In understanding the differences between the intentions of the designer and the perception of the player, one is also able to understand the art in the design of the videogame. When one is able to understand “how formal decisions about gameplay impact the end user experience, we are able to better decompose that experience, and use it to fuel new designs, research and criticism respectively” (Hunicke). The artist influences the game and supplies a perspective that differs and influences that of the player.

 



References
Hunicke, Robin, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek. "A Formal Approach to Game Design 
	and Game Research."
Stuart, Keith. "How we made Angry Birds." The Guardian (23 February 2016).

 

Would You Call This Art?

“Hapless soldiers in the future pointlessly defend a pointless box canyon on a pointless planet.”*

10356017_1458444537729372_6395907485079590954_n-720x403Red vs Blue is a science fiction, comedy web series produced by Rooster Teeth that began in 2003. The series follows two groups of opposing soldiers that battle over land, that is described as, “the rooster-teeth-medina-bregman-hall-hiresleast desirable piece of real estate in the known universe: a box canyon in the middle of nowhere” (Rooster Teeth). The series is a parody based on first-person shooter videogames, that started with Burnie Burns’ (the series’ creator) voiced-over gameplay videos of Halo: Combat Evolved. Since its initial release over a decade ago, the series is on its fourteenth season and  has been nominated for and won a variety of awards, including the Webby Award for Animation in 2013. Despite Red vs. Blue’s success as a web series, could it be considered art?

What is art?

There are numerous opinions on what makes good art but defining art is a little more difficult. There have been numerous uses for the word and its use has evolved, to the point where, “art [becomes]… offering to express a general human (i.e. non-utilitarian) interest… [by] independent workmen and skilled workers producing a certain kind of marginal commodity” (Williams 32). This means that art could be defined as a product that is created by individuals with the intention of appealing to others. This relates to Becker’s idea that, “art making lie somewhere between the extremes of one person doing everything and every smallest activity being done by a separate person. Workers of various kinds develop a traditional “bundle of tasks””(Becker 9). With this information art could be defined as a product created by an individual or collective with the intention of having a non-utilitarian or impractical interest for viewers. Does this mean Red vs. Blue is art?

 

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scene from Red vs. Blue season 1 episode 7

 

With this concept of art in mind, Red vs. Blue could be considered art. Red vs. Blue is produced by Rooster Teeth and has a team involved in the creation of the web series. The individuals involved in the series creation, would be the skilled collective, have particular jobs to fulfill as writers/creators, directors, animators,  and voice actors and those tasks come together to create the final product. The series is also not intended for a practical use, it is intended to be viewed by individuals for their own interest. The individuals viewing the end product make the decision to view the series, meaning that the individuals are viewing because of their interest in the series. The series has a collective of individuals that developed it as a representation for viewers interest. Red vs. Blue may not be an obvious kind of art work but there are aspects of the web series, which arguably classifies it as art.

 


 

Sources:
Becker, Howard S. Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.
Rooster Teeth. "Red vs. Blue". <http://roosterteeth.com/show/red-vs-blue>
Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Cary: Oxford 
	University Press, USA, 1985. 

*Rooster Teeth description of series.

 

 

Vanitas … Is it even a game?

What makes a game a game? Does it have to be fun?… because Vanitas was not fun to play.

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Vanitas by Harmen Steenwijck
 

 

Vanitas is a category of symbolic works of art, usually associated with still life paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands.This artistic style is seen portrayed in the game Tale of Tales developed early in 2010, called Vanitas.  Tale of Tales’ Vanitas, is classified as a videogame but is it really a game? According to Roger Caillois, a twentieth century French writer and philosopher, play is defined as, “a free and voluntary activity, a source of joy and amusement,” meaning that play is subjective and at the discretion of the individual’s idea of fun. A game, however, could be divided and classified using, “the [game’s] role of competition, chance, simulation, or vertigo” (Caillois). This definition, or requirements, for a game divides the different categories: the role of competition means that there are games played against others and ones that do not require interaction, the role of chance allows for the possibility of outcomes, simulation games have components that interact with the players, and the role of vertigo is in regards to the sensation of movement.

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Image of Tale of Tales, Vanitas

In Vanitas, the individual slides open a box and there are three objects in the box. The individual can move the objects around and view the composition of the contents. When the individual is finished viewing the contents you then slide close the box and three new objects are placed in the box and if three of the same objects appear the individual earns a star. After every third viewing, new objects are introduced to the contents. The objects range and include things such as: nails, bells, tarot/playing cards, snails, lady bugs, cherries, skulls, crystal stars, and so on.  Quotes and poems also appear on the lid of the box when the objects are being reloaded. As for the additional aesthetics of Vanitas, there is little to do with music just an occasional melody but there are the noises that correlate to the objects, like the sound of a bell jingling or the contents sliding in the wooden box. Although the viewing is artistically appealing, there is not much to entertain the viewer and it become repetitive despite the changing contents.

In regards to Caillois’s ideas on play and games, Vanitas can be called a game. Since one category a game falls under is chance, meaning that there are a number of outcomes possible, and the major aspect of Vanitas is the different possibilities of the box’s contents, it then falls within the parameters of the definition. Even though it could technically be called a game, it may not engage an individual in play, which is more subjective and depends upon the individuals enjoyment and participation. For me, the game was repetitive and I continued to feel that I was missing some objective. Vanitas may have the components of a game but it did not have the fun required to play.

Caillois, Roger. "The Definition of Play and The Classification of Games" The 
	Game Design Reader. The MIT Press (2006:Cambridge, MA.).

Having Fun With Pac-Man

Wakka! Wakka! Wakka! Pac Man is that iconic yellow character who races around the screen collecting pellets while trying to avoid the ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde*). Pac Man was a video game developed by Namco in the early 1980 and it became essential to arcades everywhere. Now, years after its initial release, Pac Man has become a classic with its modern versions, a television show, and the famous character has even earned a place in the MoMA. Pac Man has become one of the most recognizable video game character and the game has brought joy to its players for years (Silverstein). With the different levels, challenges, puzzles, and the iconic aesthetics, the video game Pac Man is fun.

What is it about Pac Man that makes it fun?

Raph Koster, an American game designer and the author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design, believes that “fun is defined as “a source of enjoyment”… via physical stimuli, aesthetic appreciation, or direct chemical manipulation” (40). For me, playing Pac Man gives a sense of nostalgia and whether I am playing some version on my phone or the google doodle version I can always picture an arcade, with the stand up machines of classic video games. Koster also brings up the idea that, “fun from games arises out of mastery… It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun” (40). While playing Pac Man, I found myself becoming increasingly invested in making through the levels and gain the highest score I could. In each of the levels there were themes and patterns, which I was determined to discover and accomplish. I came to understand what Koster meant when he said, “with games, learning is the drug” (40). Making it through the games was a little bit addictive, which made the game fun. The aesthetics of the game, the sound effects, visuals, and design keeps the player invested and entertained with the game.  The sound effects of Pac Man eating the pellets gives a sense of accomplishment. When Pac Man eats the power-pellets (and the ghosts flash) there is a moment of ease for the player to get Pac Man about the maze. Another aspect of the game, that adds a sense of urgency, is when the ghosts get closer to Pac Man and the background noises begin to speed up. All the aesthetics of the game contribute to the overall sense that comes with playing the game.

Pac Man is iconic and the most recognizable video game character in the United States (Silverstein). The nostalgia and sense of joy that comes with playing the classic video game could only be described as fun. Pac Man may have been released in 1980 but it continues to be a quintessential video game that maintains the players interest and provides entertainment to so many.

*Also known as Fickle, Chaser, Ambusher, and Stupid (respectively)

References
Koster, Raph. 2004. Theory of Fun for Game Design. Scottsdale, US: 
	Paraglyph Press. 
Silverstein, Johnathan. 2011. "Pac-Man: 10 Things You Didn't Know".
	ABC News.