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Rockstar's Houser: 'Art' Is Irrelevant, We Make Enjoyable Games
Rockstar's Houser: 'Art' Is Irrelevant, We Make Enjoyable Games Exclusive
November 18, 2011 | By Staff

November 18, 2011 | By Staff
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    20 comments
More: Console/PC, Exclusive, Design



The legitimacy of video games as a medium of artistic expression is irrelevant to Grand Theft Auto series maker Rockstar Games.

Speaking to Gamasutra in a rare interview, studio co-founder and vice president of creative Dan Houser called the argument a "parlor debate," saying that it never affected the studio's output.

"We make something we think above all is going to be enjoyable for people to play. Otherwise they are not going to keep doing it -- and the idea that anything could be artistic and not enjoyable is something that I am not sure I agree with," he says.

According to Houser, games are a commercial medium -- just like pop music and cinema -- and can be artistic just as easily as they can be exploitative. True, the public in general has a hard time grasping this, but will the common man accept games as a credible medium?

"In some ways I hope not, because we will become more and more controlled and Academy-sized [as an industry] and you'll lose a lot of the freedom that we enjoy," he says.

More thoughts from the elusive Houser at our extensive Gamasutra interview.


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Comments


Steven An
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Thank you, Mr. Houser, for stating truth. The whole "games as art" debate only has value in the legal sense - and we've passed that barrier. Now, let's move on and stop giving a shit about what Robert Ebert thinks.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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Is that like Roger Eberts evil twin?

Paul Tozour
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Well said, Steven. Time to put that whole stupid debate behind us.

Jeremy Reaban
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Sounds like they are preparing for GTAV, pushing back against the claims of many players (at least on the internet) that GTAIV was too boring and serious (and which pretty much opened the door for Saint's Rows)

Ramon Carroll
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God. I'm so glad to hear Houser say this. I agree with him 100%.

Duong Nguyen
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Is that why Rockstar invests millions in the look and feel of their games? Because "style" is irrelevant? The "style" and look and feel, is very much an art and a domain of pure art within games. After all isn't it the horde of "artists" which creates it? If Artists don't create "art" then what do they create? Art is an integral part of all games, at all levels. Whether it meets the artificial criterion of some art snob to be included in some gallery is irrelevant..

Michael Joseph
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If Artists don't create "art" then what do they create?

--



All people who construct a 3d model (for example) are artists? What if the model is constructed from referenced concept art? What if the concept art has gone through several revisions at the behest of an art director or game designer?





The point is, there are distinctions between types of art based on the amount of creative freedom the "artist" has. There are distinctions and some people think those distinctions are important. It's like saying all food is food and all cooks are equal. The fast food french fry and burger cook is equal to the gourmet chef at a five star restaurant. It doesn't make you a food snob to appreciate the very real differences.



Maybe you would prefer a division of grades? Michelangelo was a grade 1 artist, Joe First Person Shooter Character Modeler/Animator is a grade 79.

Duong Nguyen
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I've meet many "grade 1" artists in the industry, their skill and depth is right up there with the best sculptures or craftsmen but they work in digital clay vs marble or paint. Their work gets seen by millions if not 10s of million of people so who is to say they are "grade 79" vs "grade 1" another quite artificial criterion. Studios do not hire people just learning their craft, most studios hire experienced people who have plied their craft for many years and have reached a high level...



I would agree that artists within the industry do have to subdorindate their vision to the overall theme of the game.. but that doesn't dimiss their creation as being non-art. Even Michelangelo had to work on commissions..

Benjamin Delacour
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Right. Art isn't just about the creator's vision. Fine art is art created expressly for the enjoyment of the patrons.

Michael Joseph
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When an artist works on commission they still have full creative freedom. In fact when you hire an artist to work on commission, you WANT them to have full creative freedom because they are the artist, not you and so you trust they will know better than you what to create for a particular space and how to do it.



An artist who takes direction from the person paying him is doing for hire work and not commissioned projects.



EDIT: And going back to an earlier point, is everything resulting from the placing of brush to canvas art? What about crayola? If that's the case then the meaning of art is very low indeed since any expression becomes art whether it's intended to be art or not. Maybe you say it requires training first? How much training? Who decides when you've had enough. All of that sounds a lot more arbitrary than judging the degree of creative freedom.



But if on the other hand _not_ everything an artist "creates" is art, then we can begin to agree that not every model or texture is art.

Duong Nguyen
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Well the analogy doesn't apply since not even every act of Michelangelo qualifies as "art".. does every minor brush stroke or minor chisel strike quality as art? It is the sum total of said actions and ultimately the finial work which has to be considered. Sure companies employee alot of 3D artists whom as part of their job model trivial things, paint trivial textures, animate trivial animation but that is not their "art". It is the final result their own vision constrained within the themes of the game, uniquely expressed as part of a larger whole.



Meh, I'm not trying to define "art" for people, if you think art is any creative expression independent of skill, sure any act will quality, but that is not what "game" artist do though which is what this discussion is about. Games make art and thus are art, whether Houser appreciates it or not doesn't really matter.. but his statement seem contradictory since Rockstar is one of the foremost studios for defining such striking look and feel in their games..

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

William Holt
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Correct me if I'm way off, but as interactivity and level of enjoyment of the same is a key aspect in how video games differ from traditional artistic mediums, by focusing on making a fun game, isn't Rockstar doing something similar to what Escher or Picasso or Dali did with their work? That is, aren't they focusing on only one aspect of what the medium is capable of, and letting the rest be incidental?



Houser's statement, translated to visual art, would be something like "Art is irrelevant, I'm using a lot of blue in my picture."



Sorry, Houser; you're still conciously making art, and by focusing on the most distinct aspect of the medium - the interactivity - you're making a bold statement about what you think about your audience.



And with regards to collaboration invalidating a work's artistic status, that's just silly. Let's stop that argument right here, shall we? It's still art, but it becomes the expression of multiple people, not just the person who translates ideas into a form within the medium.

Michael Joseph
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"And with regards to collaboration invalidating a work's artistic status, that's just silly. Let's stop that argument right here, shall we?"



It's not an argument i was making. Collaborative art certainly exists. The question is, who is/are the artists? Is the person(s) who constructs the set for a ballet stage that was designed on a computer by a set designer an artist?



Clearly they are an integral part of a creative collaboration, but for some that's not enough... they must be artists. I think there's a bit of conceit in that perspective.

Michael Joseph
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Does art have to be good or at worst benign? Can art be harmful, bad or evil?



I'm not an art historian but I'm sure there's been many works that portray bad things in a way that advocates those bad things... but I'm not sure I can think of any such works that are generally revered.

Dylan Woodbury
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You don't have to always strive for art, but making games that are deeply meaningful to people is important too. I don't see why we can't have it both ways.

Jan Kubiczek
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@dylan: yes, there is just too little of that. i am tired of always bringing up shadow of the colossus and the marriage when talking to no gaming people. ;-)

Kelly Kleider
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[Edit for typo]

What? Only artists create art? If a game is a collaborative endeavour, then surely all participants have some claim to the "artist" label. Or this whole thing (art vs craft) has been debated countless times... I'll sum it up:



BLAH...blah blahblah blahblah craft not art blah blah blah modern theory blah blah blah reader response blah blah commissioned work not art blah blah artist intent blah blah dogs playing poker blah blah art is whatever you want it to be blah blah blah agree to disagree blah blah.



In summation, blah blah.

Luis Guimaraes
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Making enjoyable games is an art.

Jan Kubiczek
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i consider as art things that have a value in understanding the human condition. something that you remember for longer than the playtime. perestroika for example - a fable about a failed political system. hahaha.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WBRvvn2rv0


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