Myke Olson
October 22, 2002
LCC 4400
The Art of Computer Game Design (Week 10)

The Future of Gaming

In The Art of Computer Game Design, Chris Crawford discusses why he thinks computer games "constitute a new and as yet poorly developed art form." The article, written in 1982, is certainly dated. 20 years ago, PacMan was a technological achievement. In retrospect, I do consider the "classic" computer games, such as PacMan as art. They laid the foundation for what computer games are today and still hold entertainment and historical value. Few people would care to own a copy of Microsoft Word 1.0, or bother writing a paper using it just for the historical experience. (Of course, there are execeptions to this. The Apple/Macintosh community does tend to collect old computer hardware and software. The original Mac with System 1.0 still gets up there on eBay) I can still get enjoyment out of the original arcade-style PacMan, though. I actually remember, not too long ago, playing Ms. PacMan on an arcade-style machine at Ric's Pizza in Eatonton, GA with my sister several summers in a row. We were still quite entertained by didn't need to have 3-D realtime shadowing and realistic moon phases to be entertaining. While it may not have been possible to see so at the time, I think the graphics of the early computer games...even Pong... are historically important and should not be overlooked because they look 'crude.'

That being said, it is amazing to see how far computer graphics and computer gaming have come in just 20 years. Newer games require faster processors, more RAM, and better graphics cards. Computer games drive the development of hardware the same way that pornography drives the development of the Internet. Microsoft Word doesn't need a graphics card of displaying 1.1 billion textured pixels per second. Streaming video and pay-for-access technologies are being pioneered by the porn industry (arguably also art and entertainment) in the same way.

With all of these advancements in technology, it's a wonder what they will come out with next. It's easy to imagine that graphics will get even better...then what's next? Holograms that look so real that you actually think you're in a medieval world? When Crawford says "Fantasy thus plays a vital role in any game situation. A game creates a fantasy representation, not a scientific model," it makes me wonder what if that were not the case. I instantly think of the scene from the movie Toys with Robin Williams. At one point, after the mean uncle takes over, we see dozens of children in a room supposedly playing violent video games. We find out that they are really operating toy helicopters that are actually shooting people and burning villages and that the children are chosen for their quick reflexes. If video games become so real, is that what is next? Is the line between "art" and "war" that where you actually start killing people in real life? But what if the artwork is so well done that you think it is just a game?

The Art of Computer Game Design is a good look at the classification of games and seeks to answer the question of whether the artwork in games is indeed artwork. While it may not have been possible to realize so in 1982, the graphics of computer games are becoming increasingly important. Today, there are entire teams of people dedicated only to making graphics for games and not just for coding the software to do something. When watching the special features DVD of Monsters, Inc., the director mentioned that the most important part of the movie is the story. Although a game might make long strides because of it's graphical abilities, it comes down to the story that makes the difference. Writing a good story is an art in and of itself.