The Art of Contested Spaces


In the Contested Spaces article from Henry Jenkins and Kurt Squire, games are viewed as a spacial art in contrast to seeing them through the lens of narrative art or interactive cinema.

Looking at games such as Deux Ex and Grim Fandago, the space inside games is explored, then a series of parallels are drawn between art and game design:

Romanticism – Example:Sacrifice

Many game designers are recruited from art schools and many
continue to paint and to scan through art books searching for
inspiration. As a consequence, a close consideration of game space
reveals a broad range of aesthetic influences, including
expressionism (which maps emotions onto physical space) and
romanticism (which endows landscapes with moral qualities). As
game designers dig deeper into these artistic traditions, they may
develop more emotionally evocative and meaningful spaces.

Surrealism – Example:American McGee’s Alice

Surrealism is another modern art movement that has influenced
game design. The surrealists created dream-like images which
nevertheless followed many conventions of representational art, often
deploying familiar stories (such as those in the Bible) as a basis for
psychologically complex, symbolically-laden environments. Game
designers, similarly, exploit the graphic possibilities of 3d modeling to
create immersive environments that are vivid and tangible and yet
totally imaginary.

Atmospheric Design – Examples:Shenmue, Myst

Game designers increasingly focus on the overall “mood” or
emotional color of their projects. Hoping to produce games which can
provide a broader range of emotional experiences, they are drawing
inspiration from classic melodrama, where elements of mise-en-
scene become emotional correlatives for their protagonist’s woes.

Social Spaces – Example: Star Wars Galaxies

Multiplayer games, such as
Asheron’sCall, are borrowing lessons from urban planners to create
opportunities for sociability, becoming the center of vast “virtual
communities” and other news games, such as the Sims, are
encouraging players to actively create content and share it amongst
the fan community, designing clothes, objects, and buildings that
constitute these virtual worlds.

In each of these styles of art, it seems that this new high fidelity media allows us to push the limits of the previous authors and discover what happens when interaction is given to these fundamental aesthetics.


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