The Instigator
FourTrouble
Pro (for)
Winning
33 Points
The Contender
SeelTheMan
Con (against)
Losing
2 Points

Bioshock is a work of art

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
FourTrouble
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/3/2012 Category: Arts
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,471 times Debate No: 22555
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (7)

 

FourTrouble

Pro

Bioshock is a survival horror first-person shooter video game designed by Ken Levine and developed by 2k Boston. The game plays off of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged: led by Andrew Ryan, industrialists, artists, and scientists have retreated from the world and built Rapture, a dystopian city at the bottom of the Atlantic. When the game begins, however, the city and its citizens have been corrupted by their own arrogance, as genetically manipulated splicers creep through the corridors and hallways of Rapture. It seems like all humanity has been lost, and it is the player's objective to kill Andrew Ryan and escape Rapture.

In a previous debate with USM, I argued that video games were not actually works of art. But after playing through and considering the aesthetic and philosophical depth of Bioshock, I feel compelled to recant my position. Bioshock is a work of art. It is a monumental human achievement, the magnum opus of gaming, and I would like to take this opportunity to defend it till my dying breath.

I welcome anyone to take this debate, but I ask that challengers take it seriously and not attempt to derail it with semantics or other forms of silliness. I accept the full responsibility and burden of proving Bioshock is a work of art. The first round is for acceptance, although I leave my opponent free to begin making arguments if he/she would like.
SeelTheMan

Con

I will let you start the arguments because you are the pro. I will argue more on the side of that video games in general are not art, which Bioshock is included in. Also we can argue on the definition of art, because there is much controversy and debate on the actual definition of art.
Debate Round No. 1
FourTrouble

Pro

Video games as art

The digital graphics involved in making a video game employ all the traditional forms of art: shape, color, design, lighting, cinematography, style, sound, and music. Think about it: the formal aesthetic principles used by and expressed through video games are exactly the same as those used in other more traditional artistic mediums: images, conceptual art, film, poetry, and music. Can we seriously and consistently entertain the idea that video games, as a medium, cannot be art?

It seems more reasonable to say the video game is and can be a medium of artistic expression: the videogame-medium provides, as do other artistic mediums, a framework for the possible creation of art. This does not mean all video games are art, just as no one seriously thinks all images, films, and music are art. But it does suggest that some video games could be art.

In addition to the purely formal, many video games offer interactive fictional worlds whose content often aspires to the status of art. Whether this fictional content is considered artistic or not depends on the particular video game in question, but there is little doubt that literature, story-telling, and world-creation, are mediums filled with artistic possibilities. Does anyond doubt Shakespeare's King Lear or Hamlet is art? Likewise, if the narrative of a gaming-world dramatized and reflected upon the human condition in insightful and surprising ways, would anyone doubt the video game's fictional content would be art?

I think this much is clear, the parallel between video games and other artistic mediums -- in both form and content -- suggests a set of compelling reasons to believe video games can be a kind of art. To further appreciate a game as art, consider the difference between a video game like Bioshock and a traditional game like Chess. Chess does nothing art does, whereas Bioshock (as I hope to show) does everything good art does. Ask yourselves: if a game does everything art does, is there any reason to deny the game is art?

Bioshock as a game

The game begins with the player floundering on the surface of the ocean, the only survivor of a plane crash. Coincidence or not, the plane crashed meters away from the bathysphere station that transports citizens down to Rapture, and as players descend and the city comes into view, a recording of Andrew Ryan's speech (replicated above) plays. As readers may already know, the speech mirrors the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, which is further implied by the partial anagram between the two names.

What players discover, however, when first entering the city is anything but the idealized city described in the recording. It turns out the lack of moral restriction, coupled to the astonishing hubris of the city's inhabitants, has brought about utter ruin. The player learns that a genetic manipulation technique intended to bestown supernatural powers on its users led to Civil War, and its users (termed "splicers") turned violent and psychotic. This sets the ground for the game's primary objective: escape from Rapture.

Bioshock as art

Early in the game the player-characer confronts Big Daddies and Little Sisters. The juxtaposition of the Little Sister, a cute little girl, with her monstrous protector is at once surprising, strange, and beautiful. It is here that we see the art of Bioshock first emerge. Players are confronted with rescuing the Little Sister or harvesting her; if you harvest her, you get double the ADAM, which enhances you abilities and makes you stronger.

The obvious, rational choice to make is harvesting the, and Atlas, the leader of the revolution in the city, assures you the girl's are not human. He says: "Somebody went and turned a sweet baby girl into a monster. Whatever you thought about right and wrong on the surface, well that don't count for much down in Rapture." The choice seems obvious, as a gamer. But the choice, of course, is made harder by the Little Sister herself, who repeatedly calls you an "angel."

Personally, I couldn't bring myself to harvest the Little Sister. I saved her, and the action was accompanied by incredibly evocative scene in which I realized, at the moment my emotional attachment and investment in the game-world became exposed, that this was what the game had intended: the Little Sisters use our emotions to defend themselves. At first, I kept questioning myself, but I kept saving the Little Sisters. It seemed right, and everytime I saved them, it game an emotional high.

This is the first time, in my experience of any fictional-world, that my emotions were self-directed. Think about it: in Shakespeare's plays, the characters elicit our sympathy and pity and other emotional responses, but they are always passive emotions because we are not actually involved in the fiction. Bioshock choreographs scenes in which we play a central role, and hence, the emotions are directed towards ourselves, feeling either good or bad about what we do.

What is so uncanny about this is that the self-directed emotions challenge our ability to play the game rationally. We allow "monsters" to defend themselves through appeals to our emotions. We experience emotions in the game in a new and suprising way, that itself is in dialogue with past works of art. The Big Daddies evoke fearfulness, the Little Sisters sympathy. Each character and scene is designed to challenge our rationality and our emotions, as the game forces us to be active participants rather than distant observers.

And the moral consequences of Little Sisters has barely been touched on yet. Notice that in most games, characters that elicit the sympathy and psychological response that Little Sisters do are completely absent. In fact, in most games, innocent women, children, and the elderly are usually not found. But in Bioshock, all are characters that force the players to make moral deliberations and reflections, which are themselves offset by their rational need to survive and escape and their emotional commitments. What is art, if not a fiction that explores all these aesthetic and philosophical elements and performs them in the viewer?

Now, we come to the most artistic aspect of Bioshock: the way it thematizes freedom and the linearity of videogames as a medium. At first, the game creates the illusion of freedom by allowing players to move around freely and do what they want. Of course, players are given objectives, but the feeling of freedom is absolute.

The tension between freedom and control, however, becomes manifest what Atlas tells you: "Would you kindly head to Ryan’s office and kill the son of a bitch?" Suddenly, the player-character is killing Ryan, and it is outside the player's control. Before you kill Ryan, he reveals:

"The assasin has overcome my final defense, and now he's come to murder me. In the end, what separates a man from a slave? Money? Power? No, a man chooses, a slave obers. You think you have memories: a farm, a family, an airplane, a crash. Or was it hijacked, forced fown, by something less than a man? Something bred to sleepwalk through life, until they're activated by a simple phrase spoken by their kindly master? Was a man sent to kill? Or a slave? Come here, stop, would you kindly? "Would you kindly?" A powerful phrase, a familiar phrase. Sit, would you kindly? Stop! Turn! A man chooses, a slave obeys."

In this revelatory scene, the player discovers their true nature, as Ryan takes control by uttering the trigger phrase: "Would you kindly?" The game thematizes the player's subconscious desire for freedom in a game-world that has already determined every action the player will do, from beginning to end. The most powerful moment in the game arrives when Ryan commands you to kill him. The player realizes that their role in the game-world, as a lived and experienced narrative event, is no different than the passive observer seen in other forms of art. Out of space, will continue next Round discussing this scene.
SeelTheMan

Con

Aspects of video games are art. Video games themselves are not art. Video games are architecture, but not art.

I would like to define a term.

Architecture- the profession of designing buildings, open areas, communities, and other artificial constructions and environments, usually with some regard to aesthetic effect.
http://dictionary.reference.com...

Architecture is not art. Hundreds of colleges have schools of Art and Architecture. Why aren't these just called art schools if architecture is art? Because architecture is not art.

Here are just a sample of the schools that refer themselves as schools of art and architecture.
http://www.coaa.uncc.edu...
http://www.caad.msstate.edu...
http://www.arts.ucla.edu...
http://www.uidaho.edu...

Video games are artificial constructions and environments. Therefore, video games are architecture and not art.

Thank you.
SeelTheMan
Debate Round No. 2
FourTrouble

Pro

I am thoroughly disappointed by my opponent's response. In Round 1, I explicitly asked that my opponent not use semantics or other forms of silliness. I think completely ignoring my case, and claiming video games are architecture, is such a form of playing with semantics or other silliness. I really don't feel like wasting my time with a debater who explicitly ignores the terms of this debate, so I will briefly explain what is wrong with Con's arguments, and leave it at that.

The claim that Bioshock is architecture is a non-starter:

1) There is nothing that prevents architecture from being art, and my opponent has not shown otherwise. Many works of architecture, for example the works of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, are considered art.

2) A central part of the game is its interactive fiction, which is further thematizes in the tension between freedom and control. As players realize that they have no control over their character, and that they have been under the illusion of free rational choice, when really, what they have been witnessing is the unfolding of a narrative that is independent of the player's choices, shows that the game is not solely architectural. Video games combine the mediums of many different art forms, including music, narrative, text, words, images, sounds, cinematography, etc.

In closing, it is clear that Con has not show that architecture cannot be art, and Con has also not shown that Bioshock is exclusively architectural, as the game also uses elements from many other artforms.
SeelTheMan

Con

Video games do combine mediums of many different art forms. Museums also combine mediums of many different art forms, because of this should we call museums art? No.

My point is that video games may have artistic mediums inside them, but the video game is not an art form itself.


Art- the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
http://dictionary.reference.com...


My opponent says that saving the Little Sisters gave you an emotional high. Emotions based on moral values and sympathy and similar feelings. These have nothing to do with aesthetic values. Just because the situation inside the game gives you feelings of pity and sympathy, these feelings have nothing to do with aesthetic principles. My opponent states "the emotions are directed towards ourselves, feeling either good or bad about what we do." Moral decisions have nothing to do with aesthetics or art.

The argument that the experience of the game were self-directed just goes farther to prove my case. In art, the maker transfers his emotions to the audience. Once someone interacts with the art and makes their own decisions which create their own seperate emotions, they are not recieving the maker's emotions. Once you actively change the art, it then stops being art. My opponent says the game is linear, but if he has to make choices and has options that affect the result, then it is not linear any longer. If a game is nonlinear, then it gives the audience options and these options then affect the result of the game, then it is no longer art.

I realize my first argument was quite weak, but I was tired and decided to just raise a simple argument rather than rebut.
Debate Round No. 3
FourTrouble

Pro

1) Con states: "Museums also combine mediums of many different art forms, because of this should we call museums art? No." Actually, putting together a gallery in a museum is considered a form of art, known as curating. Also, notice film combines image, text, and sound; it combines different art forms in one. Video games do the same thing. There is nothing about combining different artistic mediums that suddenly makes the end-combination non-artistic. On the contrary, combination of artistic mediums can itself be an artistic technique and form of artistic expression.

2) Whether you rescue the Little Sisters or harvest them, the game evokes emotion in the player in the same way a film evokes emotion from viewers and a poem evokes emotion from readers.

3) Con states that, once someone interacts with art, they do not receive the "maker's emotions." According to Con, "Once you actively change the art, it then stops being art." First: many works of art have been changed to create new works of art. There is no reason to assume art would stop being art simply because we change it. Second: what reason is there to believe "interacting" with art somehow makes it not art? Consider: When I see a film, I interact with it by bringing my own personal views and history, and combining my personal identity with the film's identity. There is a structure to the experience of ALL art: a creator, the artwork itself, and the person who experiences the art. For any artwork to be experienced, it requires all three of those structures.

Think about it this way: When you go to a museum and see a Picasso painting, do you have the same experience the 2nd and 3rd time you see the same Picasso painting? No, because each time you see the painting, you are a different person. Each painting affects each person differently because each person's history, identity, mood, and overall well-being influences the way the artwork affects people. The point is: the way each individual interacts with the artwork is different, and that way of interacting determines the experience of the artwork. But that doesn't mean the art itself "stop beings art." Con's claims are completely unsubstantiated.

4) When Con states -- "if he has to make choices and has options that affect the result, then it is not linear any longer. If a game is nonlinear, then it gives the audience options and these options then affect the result of the game, then it is no longer art" -- Con completely misrepresents what I stated in R2 and misunderstands what makes art art.

I was arguing that the player's "choices" and "options" were an illusion. BioShock thematizes the player's desire for freedom by creating the feeling and emotion that player's have made decisions for themselves. But in the key twist in the narrative, the player realizes that every single action, choice, and decision they have made was actually chosen for them. At the key moment, when Ryan utters the words, "would you kindly," he commands the player to kill him. The game takes away control of the player-character from the player, and the player watches as he kills Ryan without wanting to. The player realizes everything he has done up till that point was commanded by Atlas.

But the game doesn't stop there. It choreographs a narrative turn, where the player is freed from following commands, but the player is now brutally aware of the fact that this is a linear game. The player now knows that any illusion of choice and freedom in the game is just that, an illusion. Hence, the game plays off the player's desire for freedom, and uses that tension to force the player to reflect on free will, freedom, determinism, linearity and non-linearity.

Now, Con thinks that non-linear things cannot be art. Why not? There are a large number of non-linear artworks, including many films and poems. Anything written by the so-called LANGUAGE poets in the 80s and 90s is completely non-linear, and the non-linear post-modern novels of writers like David Foster Wallace. Or take the films of Godard and Tarantino, which are often non-linear. Or take a look at some of the great contemporary "time-artists," who create art that thematizes non-linearity in time. Or finally, the photography of Andreas Gursky, which is often considered non-linear. Clearly, art can be non-linear.

5) In closing, I bring readers attention to Con's final statement in R3: "I realize my first argument was quite weak." Con concedes that his argument in R2 was weak, and therefore, Con completely abandons it in R3. So, I clearly won R2. Now, in R3, my opponent again gives a very weak argument, as I have shown in this round by systematically addressing each of Con's points.

BioShock is a work of art. Nothing Con has claimed challenges that fact. The resolution is affirmed.
SeelTheMan

Con

I have a rebuttal for each one of your points. But, I really am tired of this debate. It was the first debate I accepted, and I should not have acceepted it in the first place. Video games are art.

I concede defeat.

Thank you for debating, and good job. I will happily debate you again in a subject where I am more knowledgable.

P.S.
I have never played the game Bioshock.
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by haert09 4 years ago
haert09
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Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
Freeman, would you be willing to debate that? It's definitely a very interesting topic of discussion.
Posted by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
Now that the debate has finished, I think I'll post this. For what it's worth, I think it's an interesting argument against the motion.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
My apologies, I forgot about this debate till the last minute didn't have time to make sure everything I wanted to say fit in the space. I'm gonna introduce a lot of new stuff next round.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
You might be surprised, but my argument will DEPEND on the fact that Bioshock is linear. Bioshock thematizes the fact that video games cannot be non-linear in the way other art forms can, and that is what makes Bioshock aesthetically self-reflexive in the same way all great art is.
Posted by Saracen1337 5 years ago
Saracen1337
I could rant about what IMO is generic boring gameplay, mixed with broken extremely linear levels, but thats the gameplay department, bioshock, when it comes to story, music, environments is indeed a work of art.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
I wasn't expecting "art" to be at the center of the debate, but if someone gives a ridiculous definition, I'd challenge it.
Posted by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
Seeing as you did not define art, can I assume that you expect the definition to be at the center of this debate?

In any case, TDD is right. Shadow of the Colossus is a masterpiece if there ever was one.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 5 years ago
TheDiabolicDebater
Bioshock was great, but have you ever played Shadow of the Colossus?
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
FourTroubleSeelTheManTied
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Con concedes defeat. I must say that I was very disappointed with Con. It was a very interesting topic though.
Vote Placed by tarkovsky 5 years ago
tarkovsky
FourTroubleSeelTheManTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession.
Vote Placed by Travniki 5 years ago
Travniki
FourTroubleSeelTheManTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Conceded
Vote Placed by 16kadams 5 years ago
16kadams
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by Wallstreetatheist 5 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession, also I love the way Pro combines argumentation with pizzazz for an overall enjoyable reading experience.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's arguments did not pierce Pro's case and he eventually concedes.
Vote Placed by Stephen_Hawkins 5 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins
FourTroubleSeelTheManTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FourTrouble produced very well thought through arguments. The best thing about them is I can imagine someone *saying* it, though. Very well done on that front. Regarding seel: -1 conduct for semantics, -3 for FF, -2 for not referring to the game except the parts FourTrouble said, not playing the game, and the in-game soruces FourTrouble presented are more important than the name of schools in this debate.