from and on "extra lives"

January 5, 2011
From Tom Bissell's essay "The Unbearable Lightness of Games":
I wrote in my essay that art is "obligated to address questions allergic to mere entertainment... In my humble estimation, no video game has yet crossed the Rubicon from entertainment to true art." Here I was trying to say that what distinguishes one work of art from another is primarily intelligence, which is as multivalent as art itself. Artistic or creative intelligence can express itself formally, stylistically, emotionally, thematically, morally, or any number of ways. Works of art we call masterpieces typically run the table on the many forms artistic intelligence can take: They are comprehensively intelligent. This kind of intelligence is most frequently apparent in great works of art created by individuals. Unity of artistic effect is something human beings have learned to respond to, and for obvious reasons this is best achieved by individual artists. Many games--which are, to be sure, corporate entertainments created by dozens of people with a strong expectation of making a lot of money--have more formal and stylistic intelligence than they know what to do with and not even trace amounts of thematic, emotional, or moral intelligence. One could argue that these games succeed as works of art in some ways and either fail or do not succeed in others. "True" art makes the attempt to succeed in every way available to it. At least, I think so.
That essay is in his book "Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter". I noted that this was exactly what I was getting at with my "Theory of Multiple Intelligences for Art".

Overall Bissell does a good job explaining some things about narratology vs ludology -- the story of the game vs the play of the game.
Stories are about time passing and narrative progression. Games are about challenge, which frustrates the passing of time and impedes narrative progression. The story wants to go forward and the "friction force" of challenge tries to hold the story back.
I liked this parenthetical aside:
Even forms of creative expression that do include story use it in a way that leaves no doubt that the real art is happening elsewhere, as in, say, opera.
Anyway, he points out the obvious truth that few other forms have a mechanic: a novel doesn't have to explain the first chapter explaining how it should be read. (Though I can think of some art installations that do.) Still, it's the idea of having a mechanic, a novel interaction, that makes me love games, and excited about making my own. -Wow. Teapartiers understand their fetish object The Constitution as little as most Fundies know the Bible.
Still, it can get lonely. One of the perks of the job is that I get to use the mini-wormhole generator in my unit for personal purposes, so long as any distortions I create in the fabric of space-time are completely reversible. I modified it slightly to pry open really tiny temporary quantum windows into other universes, through which I am able to spy on my alternate selves. I've seen thirty-nine of them, these varieties of me, and about thirty-five of them seem like total jerks. I guess I've come to terms with that, with what it probably means. If 89.7 percent of the other versions of you are assholes, chances are you aren't exactly Mr. Personality yourself.
Charles Yu, from "How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe"
(so far a nice blend of Italo Calvino and "Einstein's Dreams", with a 50's sci-fi flavor as well.) - I like how Starbucks logos gradually use zoom to mask that - dude, it's a mermaid spreading her tails for you!