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  • 'Video Games Can Be Art' Is Not Enough

    - Sean Gouglas and Michael Burden

  • After crossing the threshold to see the dark, institutional inner workings (stepping behind the stage), Chell confronts the enslaved GLaDOS, who is bound by tubes and wires to the very structure she controls, her physical imprisonment paralleling her algorithmic constraints. GLaDOS tries to reason with Chell, pitifully exclaiming, "This isn't brave. It's murder." The player can choose not to act, which conversely means that in choosing to act - to incinerate GLaDOS - the player feels responsible for the experience of Chell as, just like in the Milgram experiment, the test subject is guided to the point of committing murder.

    Many artgames explore ideas of process, in particular natural processes: the experience of time, the milestones of a lifetime, the emotions of loss and regret. But artificial processes are also central to human life, and videogames have the potential to explore these issues in ways that other artforms cannot, because of their unique affordances.

    Portal demonstrates the great potential for videogames to speak uniquely to the increasingly human experiences of being consumed by the machine. Our world is increasingly controlled by algorithms. They run society - they enact the majority of trades in the financial markets, they decide what films get made, they drive cars, they fly planes safely (mostly). They influence everything from deciding the next president to where to place a television ad. Humans are becoming just part of the processing - a necessary input in increasingly complex and inscrutable calculations. Video games are about human expression within algorithmic control - how do we play within the confines of the rules of the game and within an artificial gameworld? The proving ground of the Aperture test facility makes this its central tension, exploring what it means to be human within an increasingly algorithmic world.


    Gaut, B. (2000). 'Art' as a Cluster Concept, in Carroll N. (Ed.) Theories of Art, (ed.). (pp. 25-44) Madison, WI.: University of Wisconsin Press.

    Tavinor, G. (2010). Video Games and the Philosophy of Art. Retrieved 1 21, 2012, from Kotaku:

    Wolpaw, E. and Faliszek C. (2011). Portal 2 - Post Mortem. Game Developers Conference. Retrieved 14 12, 2012, from Wolpaw and Faliszek noted that during playtesting for Portal, a "small percentage" of players were content to ride the platform into the fire, believing it a natural ending for the game.


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