Art Reveals Truth: Do Games Reveal Truth?


Oh, no. Not this debate again. Yes, I’m afraid so. To quote The Dude, “New shit has come to light, man.”

But not on purpose. Video games were the farthest thing from my mind as I was reading an interview on with David Simon, creator of “The Wire” and “Treme”. Simon used to be a journalist, but has moved on to television. His shows are known for their realistix slang, authenticity and frankly, being better than 90% of the stuff out there. He was asked, if he loves realism so much, why doesn’t he make documentaries. This was his response:

We know more about human pride, purpose, and obsession from Moby-Dick than from any contemporaneous account of the Nantucket whaler that was actually struck and sunk by a whale in the nineteenth-century incident on which Melville based his book. And we know how much of an affront the Spanish Civil War was to the human spirit when we stare at Picasso’s Guernica than when we read a more deliberate, fact-based account. I am not comparing anything I’ve done to any of the above; please, please do not presume that because I cite someone else’s art, I claim anything similar for anything I’ve done. But I cite the above because it makes the answer to your question obvious: Picasso said art is the lie that allows us to see the truth. That is it exactly.

Which stopped me in my tracks. We do, as a people, learn more about humanity from fiction than we do history books, which are devoid of emotion, but full of facts. Fiction may skimp on facts, but there is a soul there that highlights the best and worst of the world.

So my question is…what truth do video games allow us to see? What insights have you gleaned from playing games? I’m not talking about learning what a FAMAS is or even being more curious about Objectivism from playing Bioshock and looking it up on Wikipedia, but more of glimpses into the human condition and lessons of life that are readily apparent in other mediums. Answering this question will go a long way towards settling the debate on whether games are art or not.

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Age: 34 PSN ID: Starkiller81. I've played games since before I can remember, starting with my dad's Atari and I haven't stopped yet. Keep them coming and I will keep playing them.

3 thoughts on “Art Reveals Truth: Do Games Reveal Truth?”

  1. I think that saying that art reveals a truth is a bad way of wording it… art makes you think and contemplate is more accurate. Art will provoke thoughtfulness in people, be it from art showing us a painting of innocence that will make us think of how simple life was when we were younger or from art that may depict a shocking rape scene that provokes a gut feeling of disgust which will ultimately lead to us thinking about what in the depiction made us feel the way we did.

    With my definition games from Portal to Postal can be considered art, but there’s a lot of in-between that wouldn’t be… in the same way that not every piece of stained canvas is an artistic painting, not every coded piece of interactive software is an artistic game.

    However, in the end, since art is such a vague concept that everybody has their own definition for (much like the meaning of love or the value of life) I can’t say that anything isn’t artistic, only that something doesn’t strike me as artistic. While I disagree with Ebert when he says that games aren’t art, clearly his definition of art differs from my own, so it’s possible that if I used the word the same way he did then I’d agree with him.

    With the videogames as art argument, people are going to disagree and that’s just fine… it’s a discussion, not a war. Nobody can really win as long as anybody disagrees, and there’s nothing anybody can really do to convince everybody.

    As for games that made me think, I’d say Bioshock and Fallout 3 made me think a fair ammount about morality and greed. From what I can tell, I’m one of the few people who didn’t steal anything in Fallout 3 when I played through it my first couple times…

  2. I think this is highly debatable, especially with some games more than others.

    Lets take for instance one I think does not fit this standard (or perhaps sadly does)
    Uncharted 2 (and probably other titles too). Look at the main couple. Drake and Chloe. Ill be frank….she is a hoe. And the relationship drama that entails it is so cliche. Sassy comments, edgy girl, guy is putty in her hands, but in the end, she is his sex toy (maybe Im too critical of it but thats what I saw) I think games like this highlight on certain things that are….not really all that real. I look at females in games and think most of the time they are bi-products of the creators, the fantasy of the guys who create them. I think its unrealistic. Hot sassy in your face chick who happens to be good at everything and a total badass but falls for dude anyway, right. Now catch me if Im wrong but this is NOT how most things are in real life. BUt then again, perhaps this IS what people want. Now I may be straying fro the idea of this article, but this is the first thing that came to mind. How every female in games are this ‘sassy-edgy-take-no-lip’ kind of stereotype now. And maybe it doesnt teach us anything, but I could be wrong.

    The next thing I think of is like any story. Good stories CAN teach us more about humanity. When it comes to videogames I think some of them can. They are, to me, like a movie that you can play. I found myself wanting Uncharted 1 and 2 to be more like movies at times just based off of their content. Other games will hold plot points similar to books or movies as well. I think its another form of media. They too can hold a message.

    Looking at what John said above is also very VERY interesting. In games like Fallout where you have infinite choice, you can learn more about YOURSELF than maybe by reading a book. In a story or a movie there is a plot and it plays out as so. But in a game where you get to choose what happens and what you do, it changes things. You can be a horrible person or be a white knight and a hero. Games can let you see truth and insight into how you are. I know when playing certian games I think “I dont want to do option X” but I may for the sake of getting a rare item. But there is that moment when you sit there and you see a truth about yourself “I dont want to kill Timmy for this” and it teaches you something you may not have known. You can also see this in how a friend may play a game. They allow more options. I think they (videogames) are more windows into your own self rather than being universal. Videogames share in the plots and themes that movies and stories do, but the real uniqueness is the fact that YOU can sometimes choose what happens and that tells you more than a pre-defined plot can.

  3. When I see a painting, I can say “i like it” or “I don’t like it”, but I cannot tell you how it was made, because I am not a painter.

    A lot of people think they are experts on music because they have blogs about it and “review” albums, only as a listener. You will like what you like, which doesn’t give you a good, or bad, taste in music. Perhaps you find a particular guitar part to be awesome and impressive, but unless you play guitar yourself, your opinion is only speculative and subjective.

    It’s the people who also create art that can say whether something is really art or not, not the audience that it is meant to entertain. The people creating video games have arts degrees, many of them draw and imagine the characters and locations we see and enjoy. Many of them lay out storyboards like a film or television show. Musicians write and preform all the music contained.

    If all the parts individually are art, and then combined in a user-controllable environment, is the total package not art? Is a Museum itself art, or does it just contain lots of works of art in one package?

    The insight I’ve gained from video games is that the experience can be similar to watching a film, reading a book, experiencing a live band or dreaming. Not always is it great, just like watching a film I didn’t enjoy, or seeing a band I didn’t care for, or playing a game I didn’t have fun with. Artists create art to entertain other people, some of it is for other Artists (audiophile quality recordings of bizarre genres) and some of it is for the masses (mp3s). Video games can fall into both of these categories. Not every game is for every gamer.

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