Saturday, May 22, 2010

Digital Art vs. Video Games

In class, we briefly talked about Hansen's problematic omission of the subject of video games in his book, New Philosophy For New Media. I believe the big question is: what is the difference between digital art and video game images? Hansen explains that in the digital image the body creates the image; the image cannot exist without the body. Our bodies serve as a filter of the data that the digital interface supplies and through our filtration, we create an image. Video games have allowed players to create different digital material as an effect of their bodily intervention since the early 1980's. The comparison is even more compelling now with the rise of new video game consoles and arcades that involve the human body to higher and more active degree such as the Nintendo Wii, the Rock Band games, and Dance Revolution.

So if both of these mediums engage the body, then what really sets them apart? For me, the answer is pretty straightforward. With video games, there is always an objective involved (as with all games). While the player is indeed creating and manipulating digital images by way of their bodily input, the manipulation of the image is only a byproduct of the objective of the player, and that is to complete the game, advance to the next level, save the princess, etc. The digital art that Hansen writes about is "objectiveless" for the viewer. Everyone can interact with these pieces in their own unique way and there is no prize for the viewer who completes the interaction in the best way. I think this simple difference separates the two mediums enough for Hansen that he feels it is not even necessary to mention. If there was a video game where the player merely just controlled a character through a digital space, but there was no other goal beyond that set forth for them, then I think the digital interface would cease to be a video game.

--Jonathan Masino

1 comment:

  1. The distinction b/w new media art and video games that you draw here seems plausible enough, but I don't really follow how this distinction explains (or excuses) the elision of any reference whatsoever to this activity from a book that wishes to theorize the positive effects of embodied affectivity vis-a-vis digital imagery against the "passivity" of cinematic spectatorship. Since video games, at least superficially, resemble the aesthetic strategies Hansen advocates, it seems to me necessary for him to address how they are alike and how they differ. Are video games another form of passive spectatorship and, if so, how? And, if they are not, then might we not have to rethink the positive claims made about so-called "activity"?