The first subject I’d like to open a thread about is videogame/art theory, and specifically a so-called “ultimate game/art theory” that I’ve been reading up on recently. It’s quite amazing really, a theory that links cave paintings and brain-jacking VR and everything in between using Jean Baudrillard’s concept of the simulacrum, in ascending order of immersion based on aesthetic and mechanical complexity. The man developing this theory, Alex “icycalm” Kierkegaard, has apparently been writing about it for 15 years, and has 4 books out already, with two more on the way, with thousands of pages of lengthy theory essays, plus dissections of important games that underpin his theory.
What I would like to do in this OP is give an overview of the theory, as I presently understand it, having read I would estimate about half of it, and still reading more as time allows me, then delve into individual aspects of the theory in further posts, as I explore them.
The money quote I think comes about half-way down the Genealogy: https://culture.vg/features/art-theory/on-the-genealogy-of-art-games.html
And this, at bottom, is what happened — what has always happened and what will continue to happen until the entire comedy of art finally comes to an end (or, more accurately, comes full circle… and starts over): a gradual increase in the immersion factor of new artforms, accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the percentage of value of each individual artist’s contribution of craftsmanship towards each completed work. If you are having trouble visualizing what I mean here by “immersion”, try for the time being substituting for it the term “engagement”. Put simply, a chicken-scratch on a cave wall is less engaging than a wide variety of colors mixed and painted onto a piece of canvas (i.e. a painting), which is less engaging than a photograph (which is nothing other than a photorealistic painting…), which is less engaging than a movie (which in its classical, analogue form is nothing other than 24 photographs per second plus a sound track…), which is less engaging than a movie which responds to the viewer’s reactions (i.e. a videogame), and so on and so forth (actually, that’s it — for, reality aside, nothing could ever be more immersive than a videogame, and reality, at least as far as we are concerned, does not count and will never count as art).
This is clarified further in the Set Theory essay where he employs mathematical logic to show that the question is not so much that videogames are art, but that, as he puts it, “art is videogames”, i.e. that a novel or a painting are videogames where “the majority of the means of artistic expression are simply not being used”: https://culture.vg/features/art-theory/on-set-theory-and-the-bastardization-process.html
That is to say that, in the case of novels, for example, all novels ever written, and that will ever be written, are videogames, and it is not possible to find — indeed it is not even possible to imagine — a novel that is not also at the same time a videogame. No technological advance will ever be able to change this. No amazing novelist will ever be born who can surmount this issue. It is simply a mathematical fact that all novels are videogames and that is the end of that.
And voilà: we’ve demonstrated that all primitive artworks can be reduced to videogames in which the majority of the means of artistic expression ARE SIMPLY NOT BEING USED. In other words, we have demonstrated that all primitive artforms are ARTISTICALLY INFERIOR ARTFORMS (since they can only allow for a far lower level of artistic expression than that which videogames can).
Now, there is no way to get around these conclusions. This is mathematics, not journalism or pseudo-academia, in which black can be made to seem white and white black. There is no room for “opinion” here — you either understand what you’ve just read, or you’ve failed the class and will not be allowed to graduate until you’ve taken it again and passed.
Based on this theory, he develops what he calls “the tree of gaming” which establishes art theory on the same strong foundation as biology is established on Darwin’s “tree of life” that explains that species of life are related according to their complexity as it develops over time. In a similar fashion, species of art (the various artforms) and species of games (the various genres) are also related on the basis of their complexity, and he gives rough graphs of these relationships, while also adding in the effects of the bell curve/normal distribution function:
Bell curve of artforms:
Bell curve of videogame genres:
You will note that the right sides of both graphs are identical. This fits in with his theory that primitive artforms like painting, novels, music etc. are merely genres of videogames, so the highest/most complex genres will dominate both graphs.
There is a lot more to it, but I want to keep the OP as brief as possible and deliver what I see as the utmost essentials of the theory so that people can be introduced to it in as simple and direct a manner as possible, then we can take it from there in further posts.