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Forums _ The Lounge _ SimCity 3000 and art

Posted by: mipadi May 17 2010, 09:12 AM

I stumbled across this YouTube video last night:

Quick synopsis: a guy basically spends several years designing the "perfect" city in SimCity 3000 -- or, at least perfect in the sense that it maximizes population. What's more interesting, though, is why he did it. A writer the creator. Here are a few of the more interesting quotes from the interview:

For me, SimCity 3000 is more than just a game. It has evolved to become a tool or medium for artistic self-expression. While most games today are focused on destroying things and killing other players, Sim City instead allows one to exercise the imagination to create, and express. Many people say, ďOh, itís just a game!Ē But they are mistaken.


Moments like these compel me to physically express progressions in my thought, I have just happened to do that through the form of creating these cities in SimCity 3000. I could probably have done something similar - depicting the awesome regimentation and brutality of our society - with a series of paintings on a canvas, or through hideous architectural models.

There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle - this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. Itís a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They donít rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years.

It shows that by only focusing on one objective, one may end up neglecting, or resorting to sacrificing, other important elements. Similarly, [in the real world] if we make maximizing profits as the absolute objective, we fail to take into consideration the social and environmental consequences.

What I found fascinating is that he essentially used a game to express an artistic idea. It reminded me of an article about The Sims by Chuck Klosterman that appeared in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. After playing The Sims, Klosterman snagged an interview with Will Wright (the creator of both The Sims and the SimCity games) to ask him a few questions, particularly about the consumerist nature of The Sims. Wright responded that no one ever really understood The Sims; everyone thinks that buying more stuff makes your Sims happier, but Wright points out that in the long run, it just causes problems for your Sims (stuff breaks, gets stolen, etc.). He points out that the key to long-term happiness in The Sims isn't found in buying more shit. (Although I think that concept has changed, now that Wright no longer works directly on the project; The Sims 3 has a very consumer-oriented theme.)

Wright states that part of his goal in creating The Sims was to answer the question, what is life? Is it about financial success? Love? Happiness? Friends? The Sims allows you to explore these ideas, says Wright. As Klosterman points out, that is, in fact, one basic definition for art.

I've always been a big fan of the SimCity games and, to a lesser extend, The Sims, because they suit my personality: there's no way to "win", you can only beat yourself and your previous "best". I never really considered, though, that the games could be used in an artistic way.

What do you think? Can computer games be "artistic", or are they purely entertainment?

Posted by: brooklyneast05 May 17 2010, 09:33 AM

man this is the shit. i always loved the sims for the creation aspect too. i didn't play to beat the game. i just made houses over and over and over and over because i loved building the best house i possibly could. i think i also like games where you're trying to beat your previous best. that's probably why i gravitate toward sports games because it's more fun to me to try to beat my stats and have a better game than it is for me to go on some complex mission throughout an entire game.

i never really picked up on the meaning of the game either though. i definitely never learned the lesson of what life was. although now that i read that it makes complete sense. my sims life usually spiraled out of control whenever i started getting richer and buying more stuff. i usually lost my job because to get a promotion i needed to be more social and talk to my friends. instead my sim usually preferred to play on the computer or on the pinball machine. so i ended up letting him do that and then the next time i'd call my friend, she would say that she couldn't come over because she was too busy watching the grass grow. that really mirrors real life.

who knew the sims was so deep. i think that's cool though. i think games can be artistic. i'm not really a big gamer. i think the games i play now, sports games, are entertainment. however, other games have such an in depth plot with so many things thought out about them, i can't see how it couldn't be artistic. a really intricate in depth story in a game seems like it could be on the same level of books or movies.

Posted by: serotonin May 17 2010, 09:57 AM

I used to spend so much time on the Sims. I would try to model players exactly after myself or my family and create a house as similar to mine as I possibly could.

What do you think? Can computer games be "artistic", or are they purely entertainment?

A game is typically for entertainment but I think it would be fairly closed minded to think that that's it's only value. For instance, lots of MMORPGs teach people a lot of things about economies (Assuming the game incorporates auction houses, trading, crafts, and other forms of sales) and undercutting, price gouging, supply/demand, emerging markets, etc. Other games can actually be simulations disguised in the form of a game. SCI-FI REFERENCE TIME! Has anyone read the Ender's Game series? The military created a game that basically taught the kids how to do whatever the military wanted them to. There were war games as well that were basically an advanced form of laser tag that taught them a lot, too. Anyways, enough of that.

I think there can be a great deal of artistic expression so long as someone has the desire to well, express. Artistic expression isn't about impressing others or conforming to social norms. If they want to express themselves through a video game, no one really has the ability to stop them (aside from you know, breaking his shit).

Posted by: mipadi Aug 6 2010, 09:59 AM

QUOTE(serotonin @ May 17 2010, 10:57 AM) *
What do you think? Can computer games be "artistic", or are they purely entertainment?

I suppose the quick but uninteresting answer is that art and entertainment are orthogonal, so a computer game could be both.

But a more complex answer is that yes, I think games can be art, although not all of them are. At its core, art is made to tickle the emotions or make you think about life, and I think a game can do that -- as noted in my opening post, The Sims arguably does this.

In the case of SimCity 3000 that I posted, I wouldn't say SC3K is art -- rather, it's a tool for creating art. In this case, it's basically a canvas. So a more correct answer may be that games can certainly be used to make art.

And, of course, any media can be analyzed in its cultural context. Video games, like any other media, often exhibit certain truisms about our culture, or life in general.

Posted by: ButtsexV2 Aug 6 2010, 07:09 PM

Sims is art, sure. Games like Grand Theft Auto are, to an extent, art.

I can't think of a whole lot of games that aren't art. Maybe some sports games, but then you look at shit like the Need for Speed series and idk

Posted by: Matsumoto Aug 11 2010, 09:35 AM

QUOTE(mipadi @ Aug 6 2010, 10:59 AM) *
In the case of SimCity 3000 that I posted, I wouldn't say SC3K is art -- rather, it's a tool for creating art. In this case, it's basically a canvas. So a more correct answer may be that games can certainly be used to make art.

I agree, I think anything that allows you to create is indeed a form of art. But to some people, myself included, the ability to create is also entertaining for them. So I think that video games can definitely be artistic and entertaining to some degree. However, I can't really relate L4D to being artistic, maybe in some people's minds killing zombies is actually artistic? I would just find games like that to be purely entertainment, but who knows?

Posted by: mipadi Aug 20 2012, 09:36 PM

Totally gonna necro this topic to point out that I ended up writing a about this topic.

No one comes here anymore, so I'm just going to let this waft into the aether.

Posted by: Simba Aug 21 2012, 02:28 AM

i remember dis and reading your blog post