Making a game for ten friends and no one else ever
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 October 2012, 7:00 am
The other day I talked about videogames as art (or not).  This led me to ask: what was different about the paths of development for videogames and art?

In the beginning there was charcoal and a cave wall.  It was art made for a few people.  Later we developed more advanced techniques, yet the distribution stayed the same: as a small, physical object, more art could only be seen be those in close proximity.  Given the high cost of trade and travel, few people would ever see a particular piece.  In this way, art originated as something for only a few people.

It grew, of course, with kings and popes commissioning larger pieces and architecture, the latter of which could be seen by many people and was intended to be.  Yet it was ultimately for the small, elite group.  It was not so much for mass consumption as for elite display to the masses.

Only relatively recently has art become something which could be sold on large scales and in large quantities to the masses.  Printing presses allowed books to spread further (though they still remained pretty expensive).  Eventually we worked out how to mass-produce reproductions of images, so that paintings could be spread, though not in painting form.  Lately it is music and movies which can spread everywhere.  Yet music was originated at the smallest scale of all: only in hearing range and only until the echos stopped.  Movies grew out of plays which carried a similar temporary nature.  The overall idea is that all previous forms of art developed at small scales and over a very long period of time.

Videogames have not had such time.  Computers are young.  Getting games onto them is even younger.  This difference in age will make videogames different as an art form.  Maybe they are thousands of years away from being art, just like those cave drawings.  Though I hope we can get there sooner (or are already).

Beside the time difference though, there is a matter of scale.  Videogames are hard to make.  This is true on both the low and high ends of the quality spectrum.  I could easily make terrible music, paintings, or plays.  Music and acting are merely sound and movement while painting requires some small amount of hand-eye coordination and a bit of money.  Making a game is far more difficult, requiring the ability to understand a foreign language written for another type of thought.  This only gets more difficult as you try to increase the quality and range of distribution.

You could make a song for ten friends.  For thousands of years people have and they still do.  Could you make a videogame for ten friends?  It's quite a lot of work for such a small audience.

This is the difficulty, that videogames are growing up in an age of mass distribution.  They are created for different reasons than any previous art.  Other art forms are under these same pressures as costs rise along with distribution, and I'm sure you can find plenty of people to complain about that (I won't in this post), but they grew and were defined long ago.  Videogames are growing and being defined now.

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