[Game: Half-Life, Valve, 1998]
Half-Lively:

Half-Life, Black Mesa, and the Work of Art in the Age of Post-release Modification

 

Introduction:

In an unassuming former monastery building adjacent to the church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, there is a wall decorated with the remnants of a mural painted by Leonardo da Vinci. In English, the mural in question is known as The Last Supper, and—due to a combination of the oil-painting-like techniques employed by da Vinci (which differed considerably from Fresco techniques, and thus were very unconventional for mural work) together with aspects of the construction and later history of the building—the work is badly damaged.

Meanwhile, about 20 minutes away, in a space on an upper floor of the Galleria Vittorio Emannuelle II shopping complex (next to the Milan Cathedral), at the time of writing this there is an exhibit known as Leonardo3 which includes, among other features, a computer-aided reconstruction of what The Last Supper would have looked like at the time of its original completion by da Vinci in 1498. The question I now pose to you, dear readers, is a simple one: if these were the only two options in existence, which one would you say is what is meant by the phrase, ‘The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci?’

I’ll give you my own answer to this quandary in due time, and (regardless of your own response) it’s almost guaranteed to be an answer you don’t expect. But I can’t provide it just yet, as first I need to take some time to introduce and discuss the main topic of this article: Half-Life. And I need to do that in order to adjudicate a similar superficially straightforward dilemma. The Half-Life remake Black Mesa is a terrific game, is an incredible labor of love, and is the single greatest fan-led project of its kind ever completed. But on top of all of that, does Black Mesa also count as being Half-Life itself?

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci - Half-Life, Black Mesa, Valve, art, Walter Benjamin

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[Game: Half-Life, Valve, 1998]
Half-Lively:

Half-Life, Black Mesa, and the Work of Art in the Age of Post-release Modification

was last modified: July 6th, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Infinifactory, Zachtronics, 2015]
Infinite and Individual:

On Zachtronics’ Infinifactory, and What it Means to Approach Games as Art

 

Introduction:

Most players agree that games can be art, yet act in ways that betray the fact that they do not personally approach games as art. For such players, it is as though the word ‘art’ is merely a badge that gets to be worn by things people particularly like. They see that some people seem to like novels quite a bit, and that those therefore get to be art. Well, they want to make it clear that others now like games a great deal, so of course they want games to be allowed to wear the badge too. I am certainly of the opinion that games can be art, but from my perspective the word ‘art’ does not refer to a vague and insubstantial category of preferred works.

In this article, I would like to zero in on this topic of games as art. My test case for this purpose will be the design-based puzzle game Infinifactory. This example is a very conscious choice on my part, as Infinifactory is one of the many games that I consider to be poised between conceptions of games as art and conceptions of games as not art. If that sounds strange or you’re already making assumptions about where I’m going with this, don’t worry: I’ll explain myself with considerable specificity in the sections that follow.

This article will have four primary parts. First, I will present a working definition of art that I consider to be both flexible and rigid enough to be tenable. Second, I will apply that definition to games in general. Third, I will justify my claim that players often approach games as though they are not art. Then fourth and finally, I will describe how one may conceive of Infinifactory as a work of art. In doing all of this in a systematic fashion, I aim to foster a more specific and concrete discussion of this topic than most of the extant debates and articles produced about it over the past few decades have engendered, as a small contribution to spreading the formalist revolution in the study of games to a wider audience.

Infinifactory screenshot with corpse - Zachtronics - games as art, definition of art

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[Game: Infinifactory, Zachtronics, 2015]
Infinite and Individual:

On Zachtronics’ Infinifactory, and What it Means to Approach Games as Art

was last modified: December 30th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Paradox of Fiction, Philosophy of Art, Psychology]
Why Stories Make Us Feel:

Colin Radford’s So-called “Paradox of Fiction” and How Art Prompts Human Emotion

 

Introduction:

In the mid-1970s, philosopher Colin Radford wrote an article entitled “How Can We be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?” In the article, Radford argues that emotional responses to works of fiction are as irrational as they are familiar. He calls this the paradox of fiction. And Radford’s fellow philosophers of art have spent the decades since that article’s publication arguing with each other about the best way to disagree with him.

As a person whose own art is the writing of fiction and whose academic background is primarily in literary theory, I am particularly interested in this topic, as well as in the philosophy of art more generally. The issue I have with almost all of the responses to Colin Radford over the years is that they largely agree that there is a paradox to be solved. In this article, I will argue that Radford’s evaluation of emotional responses to fiction as a ‘paradox’ is, at best, too hasty, and, at worst, blatantly incorrect.

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[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Paradox of Fiction, Philosophy of Art, Psychology]
Why Stories Make Us Feel:

Colin Radford’s So-called “Paradox of Fiction” and How Art Prompts Human Emotion

was last modified: February 26th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski