Dan Houser on Making Movies, Games as Art

April 6, 2011 -

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser weighed in on whether games are art and if the studio responsible for Grand Theft Auto will ever switch gears and create movies instead of games. The question is a viable one as more details emerge about its latest project LA Noire. Frankly, LA Noire is as close to being a movie production as you can get the way Houser describes it:

"The game, like many of our recent games, has been an absolutely enormous production," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "With 'L.A. Noire,' we employed a massive number of actors in the game – over 400 – along with hair and make-up artists, a great television director, and as the game is set in the golden era of Hollywood, a lot of original costumes, props and other research from the studios themselves."

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Games We Play Art Exhibit Closing March 30

March 24, 2011 -

After what organizers call "a wildly successful run and standing-room-only opening night," the Games We Play Art Exhibit In San Francisco finally comes to a close on March 30.

Organizers Present Creative (a casual and social game company), and Nieto Fine Art (a contemporary art gallery in the heart of San Francisco) will celebrate the conclusion of the game-related art exhibit with a closing reception on March 25. Organizers say that the first annual Games We Play exhibit was so successful that the opening party during GDC week exceeded capacity and left patrons waiting to get inside for a look at unique pieces from both established and new artists who have worked on a multitude of infamous video game titles from the industry's leading game companies.

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Game-Based Art Serves Up Cuban Political Commentary

November 19, 2010 -

Cuba, already angry at a mission in Call of Duty: Black Ops which has players attempt to assassinate a young Fidel Castro, might not be so pleased with an artist’s videogame-based commentary on the Caribbean island.

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WikiLeaks, Call of Duty, Inspire a Work of Art

October 27, 2010 -

Some of the recently published WikiLeaks documents have become part of a work of art. Created by Josh Bricker, "Post Newtonianism," was selected as one of the top 25 videos in the Guggenheim Museum's YouTube Play competition. The competition saw more than 23,000 submissions.

Bricker's art is a two-channel video that uses audio from a WikiLeaks video released earlier this year documenting a U.S. military offensive in Iraq.

"Post Newtonianism" features two panels featuring actual war footage on one side, and recreated scenes from "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare." The video is further complimented with audio from the WikiLeaks video that is gradually merged with audio from the video game. The title was inspired by the writings of Edward Said.

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When Theatre Meets Games: The Dudleys!

July 28, 2010 -

NYC playwright Leegrid Stevens is working on a play that uses 8-bit game aesthetics and chip tune music to create a unique play about an imaginary classic 8-bit videogame about the trials and travails of life. Working with the Theater for New City and manager Danielle Karliner, Stevens is creating a play called The Dudleys! to begin in August at the Joyce and Seward Johnson Theater.

According to the description of the play on Leegrid Stevens' website, "THE DUDLEYS! takes the adolescent memories of a man and translates them into a malfunctioning 8-bit video game, the kind he used to play as a young adult." But instead of imagining some classic game, the man plays "The Dudleys," a game about the man's family of fifteen years ago, during the aftermath of his father’s death and funeral. Besides the trippy setting, the play will be complimented with original music composed on vintage video game systems - Atari, Gameboy, Commodore 64 - and 8-bit video .

The play will have a run time of 1hr., 40 minutes. Tickets are available at the aformentioned link for $15.

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Anime Artists Fight Tokyo Virtual Child Porn Bill

March 17, 2010 -

A piece of Tokyo legislation that would forbid visual depictions of sexually stimulating characters—who appear to be under 18 years of age—has been put on hold.

Anime News Network reports that the legislation was first proposed on February 24. In a later post on the subject, the site stated that the Democratic Party of Japan indicated that it would postpone a vote on the measure until at least June.

Kotaku reported that several well-known Japanese manga creators appeared at the Tokyo Government Office to voice their displeasure with the proposed legislation. Kotaku interpreted the legislation as blanketing all virtual characters, including those in videogames.

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Gandhi Avatar Preparing for Second Life Freedom

January 20, 2010 -

An academic artist, who previously used America’s Army to make a political statement about the Iraqi war and recreated Gandhi’s Salt March in Second Life, has another online installation underway which features the Indian peace advocate.

Joseph DeLappe has imprisoned his MGandhi avatar in Second Life as a recreation of Gandhi’s post-Salt March prison term.

In real life, Gandhi was imprisoned by the British from May 5, 1930 through January 26, 1931. In the Second Life reenactment, MGandhi has been in a cell on Odyssey Contemporary Art and Performance Island (link for Second Life denizens) and will be “released” on January 26.

While imprisoned, MGandhi has not been idle; DeLappe’s avatar has been interacting with visitors and performing daily readings from the Bush-era Torture Memos. The readings are being fed to DeLappe’s Facebook account and his Twitter handle.

To celebrate MGandhi’s freedom, DeLappe is organizing a release party, entitled the gg hootenanny, which will feature the ability to sing-along, via voice chat, to protest songs from avatars such as The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, Pope Benedict XVI, Hello Kitty, Jim Morrison, Prince Charles and Spongebob Squarepants. The event will take place at 10AM, 6PM and 11PM SLT (Second Life Time) on January 26.

For gamers not into virtual worlds, fret not. DeLappe is also encouraging non-Second Lifers to pick up a guitar and sing inside their online game of choice on January 26, as he demonstrates in the embedded YouTube video, where he sings Bob Dylan’s Masters of War inside an FPS (America’s Army?)—a performance in and of itself.

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IP Litigator Scrutinizes Videogame Art

December 3, 2009 -

Where does art inspired by videogames fall under the fair use doctrine? A U.S. Intellectual Property lawyer takes a look at just such a topic in an interesting entry on his blog.

Ben Manevitz centers his article on three pieces of art from Brock Davis, which show interpreted scenes from Dig Dug, Donkey Kong and Missile Command.

The four factors (for the U.S.) for determining fair use are:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted workas a whole;
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Manevitz argues that the art in question meets the criteria of points 1 and 4:

The fair use analysis is actually fairly straightforward. You've got a transformative use that will have no impact on the market for the games, or even the potential derivative market for the games. That's factors one and four in favor of fair use.

The author claims that the works do not meet the second factor however:

Admittedly, the game screen is a creative work, which puts factor 2 in the not-fair-use column and it could be argued that the amount taken is substantial - it would depend on the determination of what, exactly, constituted the work; is it the game overall or individual screens.

Manevitz goes on to examine possible trademark implications:

… Atari might be able to argue that a consumer seeing the paintings might be confused as to the source or - in this case the stronger argument - sponsorship of the paintings.

He concludes that game makers might be able to make an “objectively reasonable trademark infringement case against the artist,” before noting that the “saving grace” for the artist might be “the practical factors militating against the manufacturer's bringing suit, to wit, the negative publicity, the paucity of available damages, the relative age (value) of the marks allegedly infringed, etc.”

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Unlikely Inspiration Behind Glasgow Interactive Art Bar

December 1, 2009 -

A vacant storefront in a Glasgow, Scotland shopping mall has been transformed into an art bar, complete with a life-sized, interactive Pong installation.

The TimesOnline details the efforts of the National Theatre of Scotland—in conjunction with local artists—to open the bar, entitled Allotment. The first of two December events, taking place this Saturday, will feature the giant Pong  system as part of an installation examining the theme "gaming and morality."

So, what was the motivation behind the theme? Artist John Houston explained, “There’s a lobbyist in America called Jack Thompson who is basically the Mary Whitehouse of video games. He’s bitterly against violence in video games, even though they are rated for a mature audience and are not meant to be seen by seven-year-olds.”

Houston, also responsible for creating the popular viral video that remixed Radiohead’s Nude with dot matrix printer and hard drive sounds (kind of a modern day version of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music), continued:

With Pong, we wanted to challenge that idea by taking it a stage beyond killing soldiers or stealing cars, like in Grand Theft Auto, and create stripped down games that remove the computer and allow real people to influence the games. In essence, as people walk into the middle of the game, they can control the movement of the graphics in this primitive tennis match.

Fellow artist Kieran Hurley added:

There is a moral implication of how much you want to mess up somebody’s game, how much you want to make yourself an obstacle to somebody else. But at the end of the day, it’s just a really cool thing to have in a bar.

There you go. Jack Thompson, muse.


|Image Via Acrosstheboard|

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Dress Your Xbox Live Avatar for the Recession & Get a Little Poorer in the Process

August 13, 2009 -

Times are tough, so why not blow your last few bucks on virtual threads for your Xbox Live avatar?

Designer Michael Connell spoke to Kotaku about his new line of fashion for XBL. While some of Connell's designs pay homage to the popular Steampunk style, he also gives a nod to the down economy with "Recessionista" clothing:

I was thinking about making a statement, if you will, that even though this time of global recession, everything isn't bad." Connell said. "And in the 30s, in a time that was really bad, much worse than it is today, it wasn't all bad. There was fashion that was quite interesting. And this fashion wasn't the couture that was happening at the time...

 

[I hope] to kind of show that there are good things and we've been there and we'll get out. Clearly these are subliminal messages, but this is what I was inspired by. If you design a collection I think the most important thing is there needs to be heart and soul and direction.

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GP on CBC

June 24, 2009 -

I just completed an interview on CBC's Q program. Also appearing was Mike Thomsen of IGN.

The show was styled as a debate on sexual violence in games, with a lot of attention paid to RapeLay. I've never held back my contempt for the game and didn't on today's program.

I believe that they archive the previous day's show into a podcast. If you're interested in listening, check out the Q show website.

UPDATE: If you missed the program, CBC has posted the podcast version.

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T2 CEO: Government Should Not Determine the Games You Buy

June 24, 2009 -

Eurogamer caught up with Take-Two Interactive CEO Ben Feder for a wide-ranging interview which is now available on the site.

While much of the conversation deals with various T2 games, Feder did touch upon the Manhunt 2 controversy and the notion of government censorship of games:

We firmly believe that games are art. A), we have the right to produce art. B), the consumer should have the right to make their own choices, providing the labelling on the package is clear about the content of the game.

Apart from that, I don't think it's the role of governments to determine what you or any of your readers can, or should, buy. They should be able to make their own choices. Government has no role in that at all...

Asked whether the interactive nature of games requires them to be viewed apart from, say, movies, Feder said:

It's not a difference with distinction... It's as if to say art as a painting is different than art as a sculpture. For sure they're different art forms and they use different mediums, but they're art nonetheless - they're forms of expression.

That, at least in the United States, is something that's guaranteed by the constitution, and in democracies in Western Europe there are very similar concepts about the ability for individuals to express themselves. If you stifle that, then society and the economy pay a pretty heavy toll.

Of particular interest given the ongoing RapeLay controversy, Feder was asked whether T2 might theoretically permit edgy developer Rockstar to create a game featuring sexual violence or abuse of children, Feder commented:

Look, I suppose there's a line somewhere. I don't think we've even come close to it. At the end of the day, we're also a commercial enterprise and we do intend to turn a profit with our games. That, in and of itself, provides a certain boundary beyond which we won't go.

I suppose there are more lines [beyond] which we'd be uncomfortable, but I don't think any of our games in the past, or any of our games that I've seen in development, come even close to that.

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Artist Sues Activision, Discovery Channel Over American Chopper

June 12, 2009 -

An artist who creates custom designs for - among other things - motorcycles has sued Activision, The Discovery Channel and two other defendants in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

In the suit filed on May 26th, artist Justin Barnes (left) alleges that he created a number of original designs for motorcycles constructed on The Discovery Channel's American Chopper series. Barnes claims that TDC in turn licensed the use of his work for a variety of merchandise, including video games, without his authorization. Barnes has copyrighted the works in question, according to his complaint.

Although Barnes accuses Activision, he does not mention a specific game. However, Activision has published two games based on the T.V. series, American Chopper in 2004 and American Chopper 2: Full Throttle in 2005; these would appear to be the games at issue in the case. From the complaint:

Defendant Activision has sold without authorization video games incorporating certain of plaintiff's copyrighted designs worldwide, nationwide and in the State of New York.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the lawsuit here...

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Game Character Posters, Obama-style

April 22, 2009 -

Games Radar has served up a series of printable posters depicting familiar game characters in the style of the now-famous Obama campaign theme created by visual artist Shepard Fairey.

The characters span a broad range of games, including:

  • Tomb Raider
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Katamari Damacy
  • Half-Life
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Thanks to: Sharp-eyed GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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The Return of the "Are Games Art?" Debate

April 10, 2009 -

Have you heard? 

There seems to be some debate as to whether or not video games can be considered art.

All kidding aside, “Are games art?” is a passionate and oft-debated topic; your opinion probably depends on how you’re defining art.  If you define it simply as a work produced using skill, creativity, and imagination then the answer is very likely yes.

However, if, like Devin Faraci of movie news site CHUD, you define art as “something purposefully created or presented with the intention of communicating an idea or feeling” then you may, like Faraci, conclude that games do not fit the bill:

[Games] may be artistic... and they may be used as art objects - an exquisitely hand painted Monopoly board, for instance - but games are not art. The carved chess pieces are art, the actual playing of the game of chess is not...  in the end a game is simply a series of rules... If rules themselves were art, the US Congress would be the most prolific artists of our time.

Now before anyone cracks their knuckles in preparation of a strongly worded email, Faraci offers one final thought.

For the people so hung up on getting video games recognized as art, I have to ask: why? Why does it matter to you that your hobby is validated in that way? If you're having fun, isn't that enough?

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen met Devin Faraci once and promptly forgot how to pronounce his name...

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At Leipzig Con, Artist's Mashup of 9/11 and Space Invaders Creates Controversy

August 22, 2008 -

ECA sister-site GameCulture reports on the controversy sparked by a French artist's exhibit at this week's Leipzig game conference.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders, the Games Convention included "Invaders!"—a work by French-American artist Douglas Edric Stanley. The original installation consisted of a Space Invaders machine set amidst a large interactive space. In that installation, the game screen was overlaid on an 8-bit backdrop depicting the two towers of the World Trade Center, which fell in September 2001 after being struck by a pair of hijacked jetliners...

 

The juxtaposition of the terrorist attack and a classic arcade game, coupled with the full-body gestural control scheme, seems as though it could have been an involving, if challenging, experience. Like Danny Ledonne's Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, "Invaders!" pushes back at our tendency to lock horrific events into an untouchable cultural trophy cabinet, forever off limits and sacrosanct...

As GameCulture's Aaron Ruby notes, American gamers initially reacted badly to Stanley's exhibit. After some reflection, however, there seemed to be more acceptance that his point was to make a commentary about America's current war strategy, rather than trivializing the 9/11 attacks.

Full Disclosure Dept: Both GamePolitics and GameCulture are owned by the Entertainment Consumers Association.

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Kronodebate. Becaus apparently people who only post on Reddit are supposed to police twitter before they're allowed to question anything about the people involved.09/18/2014 - 10:40pm
KronoI highly doubt many, if any are using journalistic integrity as a cover for harassment. The people harassing are essentially trolls. They aren't interested in subtle. More often it's othe other way around. People use "but X is being harassed" to shut down09/18/2014 - 10:38pm
Andrew EisenAnd exacerbating everything is the fact that all the cries of ethics violations have been obnoxious and easily proven false.09/18/2014 - 8:59pm
Andrew EisenProblem is, I would imagine, the sheer number of people who are using journalistic integrity as a cover for their harassing actions or only bringing it up on the false pretense of journalistic integrity.09/18/2014 - 8:47pm
Andrew EisenHaving said that, I can certainly see how one would be frustrated if they truly just wanted to talk about journalistic integrity and someone said they were one of the people harassing Sarkeesian, Quinn and others (though I've seen no examples of that).09/18/2014 - 8:44pm
KronoThat's been the common refrain, that talk of journalism ethics is just an excuse to harass people.09/18/2014 - 8:44pm
KronoLines like "like a partial compromise with the howling trolls who’ve latched onto ‘ethics’ as the latest flag in their onslaught against evolution and inclusion." are taring everyone questioning the ethics as a harasser.09/18/2014 - 8:43pm
Andrew EisenKrono - Except, none of the articles were talking about gamers complaining about journalist ethics, let alone called them white male misogynists. They were talking about the gamers who were harassing others.09/18/2014 - 8:36pm
Kronomakes plenty of sense. It's rather hard to dismiss someone as a white guy running a sock puppet when they've posted proof they're a woman, or black, or another minority.09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronothat any critics of journalists were white guys that hated women, and could be dismissed as such. It seems to have helped some. It's kind of difficult to maintain the white guy narrative in the face of a bunch of women and non-white guys. So the tag09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronothat, someone vented on a #gamergate 4chan thread about being dismissed like that. The suggestion they got in return was to organize their own hashtag in response, with #NotYourShield being suggested. Thus the tag came into use to combat the undercurrent09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronomuch more general problem. And while several of the articles were fairly tame, they spured a bunch of people to dismiss any critics of the journalism involved as misogynistic men. Usually with insults aimed at the geek stereotype. After about a week of09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Andrew EisenSleaker - Not sure what that has to do with anything but yeah, the gender percentages differ depending on how the study defines what a gamer is.09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
KronoThe rhetoric pushed by the spearheading articles that the "gamers" complaining about journalist ethics were just angry white male misogynists, insulted a lot of people that were previously fairly neutral. It made it go from a Kotaku problem, to a09/18/2014 - 8:31pm
Krono@Andrew I'm not surprised overlap exists. I expect much of it is a rush to jump on the bandwagon, either by reporting on the original articles, or rushing out their own. The point is that was a major flashpoint, much bigger than the reddit mass deletion.09/18/2014 - 8:31pm
Sleaker@AE - well the gamer trend was described with stats on Factual Femenist. Only 1 in 7 males plays games 20+ hrs going into college vs 1 in 40 females. So gaming is definitely still male dominated despite fake stats trying to say otherwise.09/18/2014 - 8:30pm
Craig R.Do conspiracies ever make sense? The fact that people are now having to defend themselves against nutjob websites like Breitbart.com shows how far down into the rabbit hole we've all been forcibly dragged.09/18/2014 - 7:05pm
Michael ChandraBut when the mountain obviously exists...09/18/2014 - 5:49pm
Michael ChandraMind you, if someone makes a mountain out of a molehill with a secret agenda as motive, it'd be fine.09/18/2014 - 5:48pm
Andrew EisenOkay, so I guess I'm not making sense of #notyourshield because it doesn't make any sense.09/18/2014 - 5:28pm
 

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