Daniel Sell is making people fight over on Twitter. So I recovered an old post I made somewhere else concerning the same topic, are games a form of art?
First, a quote:
Glorantha is one of the richest and most vivid created worlds in fantasy, a world where everything from the dirt to the stars is literally made of mythology… (Greg) Stafford did more to advance the art form of role-playing games, and in more roles—as publisher, designer, editor, world-crafter, and inspiration—than anyone else after Gygax and Arneson.
—EDITORIAL, The New York Review of Science Fiction, June 2019
This quote was taken from a Chaosium’s newsletter, and it’s an abstract of what you can find in the cited article from The New York Review of Science Fiction.
It sounds great, right? But there’s a problem. RPGs are games, not works of art. We must stop trying to convince others and ourselves that rpgs are art, as though not being art meant they are second category. Do you know what other great things in life are not art? Sex. Food. Sleeping. Chess. Amusement parks. Tacos. Being healthy. Pure water. Slam on an Atari Teenage Riot gig. They are not second category, right?
Of course there is a link between RPGs and art: fiction, artwork, the aesthetic, but a game is still a game without these, and these don’t make the game. Greg Stafford doesn’t need to be regarded as an artist to be regarded as a great creator. Greg Stafford was neither better nor worse than Diego Rivera just like Michael Jordan was neither better nor worse than Juan Rulfo. The four were the best in their own thing, but there is no comparison between the four.
Other great passages from the NYRSF:
December 2018 was the fifty-first anniversary of the ancestor of the modern role-playing game, Dave Wesley’s Braunstein, a Napoleonic miniatures scenario which offered character-based roles for multiple players. First played in 1967, it expanded over the next three years to include scenarios set in Central America and the Wild West written by his friend Dave Arneson. Arneson then adapted the basic Braunstein idea into Black Moor, a fantasy game heavily influenced by The Lord of the Rings and based on the medieval miniatures game Chainmail by Gary Gygax. In 1974, Gygax’s new company, Tactical Studies Rules, published the first edition of Gygax and Arneson’s Dungeons & Dragons.
Although TSR was based in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the first copy of D&D ever sold ended up in the hands of Greg Stafford in Oakland, California. Stafford had begun writing stories about the fantasy world of Glorantha while in college in the mid–1960s, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and Joseph Campbell. In 1975, he launched a small company, The Chaosium, to publish board wargames based on Glorantha. He published two titles—White Bear and Red Moon and Nomad Gods—while he worked with Steve Perrin and a team of other designers to create a role-playing game set in Glorantha: RuneQuest was published in 1978.
But, what do you think? Is roleplaying games a form of art? And if so, why?
In conclusion: people see the separation of game as product or as art, as a good/evil dichotomy.
But that’s not the case and I tried to make it as clear as possible. I understand Jeff Richard, he thinks that when I say games (specifically the games the company he is Vice President and Creative Director at publishes) are not art, I mean they they are not as good as Mozart or Egon Schiele or, I don’t know, Blake, Shelley, Rodríguez Galván, Borges. But that’s not what I am saying.