Contra Mundum – Episode 4: Unintentionally Hilarious Glass Blowing Talk

This podcast was a lot of fun to do because it’s with my little sister. She’s an amazing artist, so I knew that I wanted to do a podcast with her while I was home on break.

Here’s one of her more recent artworks that I really love:

Christina's Painting

I actually have two of her paintings in my apartment at college. They definitely make my boring room a little more interesting.

The podcast was a lot of fun, but was… um, slightly awkward. See, glass blowing has some strange terms, and… Well, you’ll see.

I was afraid that my H4N recording device didn’t pick up the entire episode, because it had cut off by the time I went to hit the stop button, but thankfully it did. Lucky, because I didn’t want to lose any of this one.

Here’s the SoundCloud version, if for some reason, you’d prefer to watch that. I’ve got maybe two more podcasts before I run out of space on my SoundCloud page. After that, it’ll be just YouTube.

In next week’s episode, I sit down with a professor from my college and talk about academic writing, so you budding intellectuals should take notice. But honestly it’s a very interesting and informative for any writer.

See you next week!

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Are Video Games Art?

Let me start this off by saying that this is my un-expert opinion here. I’ve never been a big art fan. I only recently even developed an appreciation for art.

That said, I do love video games. My love of video games began watching my dad play games like Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun and Age of Empires. I would watch him play for hours hoping he might let me play for a few minutes. This was back in the days before every person in my family owned a computer and our only computer looked like this…

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This thing is a dinosaur. Wait, am I old??

Today, my hobby has expanded to include titles like Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed, Sims 3, Portal and currently, a weird little number named The Talos Principle. So I do feel as if I can be a reasonable source of thoughts on video games.

This post was inspired by an article I read this morning from a site called Heat Street. The TL;DR version is that a bunch of video game critics seem intent on demonizing anyone who thinks video games are art. Which sucks, yeah, but it got me thinking.

Are video games art?

Naturally I did what any English-lover would do: I consulted a dictionary. The Merriam-Webster definition of art is “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.”

Do video games fall into this category? Well, they would certainly seem to.

Just playing some of the games that I’ve played – Skyrim in particular – I can see the creativity, imagination, and skill that went into creating them. And you can’t play Skyrim for ten minutes without having to stop and think, “Dang, that’s gorgeous.”

 

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If this was a painting it would be considered art. Also, source.

And there are definitely games that express important ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Of course, sometimes those thoughts and feelings are just, “Holy crap, big dragon, big dragon!” Then there are video games like the one I’m currently scratching my head through, The Talos Principle. The game makes a point of inserting random philosophy and hard questions into every level. Playing the game has really made me ponder the ethical and moral issues surrounding artificial intelligence.

Video games seem to fulfill both parts of the dictionary definition. Right? Then, why the controversy? Seriously, Wikipedia has an article about it.

Well, it seems the problem is that there are a lot of critics who deny that video games are art. Take Roger Ebert, an extremely popular and respected critic, who said this:

“To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.”

Mr. Ebert (yes, I know he’s dead), excuse me sir, but no. I do not consider video games to be “a loss of precious hours” any more than I consider binge-watching my way through Stranger Things such a loss. Most gamers don’t. This is his opinion. Unfortunately, it is a very popular and well-respected one.

I think an argument could be made that there are games that worthy of such comparisons, but then again, I’m not even necessarily calling video games good art (although I believe some can be). But bad art is still art. Why aren’t video games? There are video games with stories that I have enjoyed more than novels. But novels are considered an art form. I’ve played games with better visuals than some paintings. But paintings are considered art.

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This is “art” guys. A picture of a signed urinal…

Another Ebert comment:

One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.

First off, I have to say that Ebert was severely handicapped while writing this article in that he wrote it in 2010 and had never actually finished a video game… Secondly, there is a school of thought that says that art should be or could be experienced instead of just observed. There’s even a book on it. I have to wonder what his thoughts would have been on “choose your own adventure” style books. You could “win” those too. Does the fact that you could win them negate their value as art?

Personally, I prefer to experience stories, novels, plays, dances, and films. Actually, I think it’s a mark of bad art if I don’t experience it. Good art begs you to feel something. The reason that I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War over Batman vs. Superman is because I experienced Civil War more. In BvS, I was bored out of my gourd and just observed it. One movie captivated me. One didn’t. Both are considered art.

I think the real problem is that many people a) mistake their opinions for fact and b) don’t consider things that they don’t like art .

I walked into an art museum around two years ago with a friend. We spent about an hour there being impressed by centuries of art. And then I walked into a particular section of the museum. My immediate thought was, “What on earth?” I tilted my head to the side like a confused poodle trying to make sense of what I was seeing. I had stumbled into the “modern art” section of the museum.

Honestly, most of it didn’t do it for me. I am not arrogant enough, however, to think that it won’t for someone else. Just because I feel like a certain painting could have been done by a drunk three-year-old does not negate that painting’s value as art.

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This was sold for $60 million! I don’t know what the person who bought this is experiencing, but I think they need drugs to do it.

Art is subjective, which means that it’s different for every person. I don’t think that just saying that will make video games art, but I do think that it’s worth thinking about.

By the way, even Ebert later changed his mind about video games. He eventually conceded that video games could be considered art to some people and even said that maybe someone would make one that would satisfy him. He conceded these points in a condescending way only he could manage, but I give him points for conceding it none the less.

In conclusion, I think video games qualify as art (again, only my opinion, but hey, art is subjective, right?). I also think those who think video games are not art are wrong (my opinion too). Furthermore, I think those who give their opinions as facts without, well, facts, and then demonize people who disagree with them are jerks.

This post is getting long, but I want to end with one final thought. I spent 1,000+ words on this topic, but the truth is that it doesn’t really matter to me. Whether or not video games are art is probably not a big issue to most games either. We don’t play games because they are art. We play them because they are fun. Whether or not video games can be classified as art is irrelevant, really. Whether we enjoy them or not is the real question, and one that can only be answered by each individual gamer. Enjoyment is subjective too.

So forget about intellectual theories (unless that’s something you enjoy) and go out there and enjoy your play-through of Skyrim, Batman: Arkham Assylym, Civilization V, or even Goat Simulator if that’s what gets you going.

Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t enjoy something just because they think it’s worthless, or lowbrow.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s My Gift?

We’ve been talking a lot about using our gifts in my evangelism class at Liberty, and it made me think, “How are you supposed to know what your gift is?” Now, I know what mine is. Or at the very least, I know what my primary one is. I write… Clearly. But there was a time when I didn’t know what it was, so I want to share my theory of gifts with you.

Let me start off by giving you a little scenario. It’s 3 am. You fell asleep four hours ago, and you have to get up in four more hours. Now you’re awake. You’re groggy and tired, but your mind won’t let you fall back to sleep. You’re thinking about something. You want to do something, just to get that thing out of your head.

What is it?

For me, it’s writing. I could literally write all day, every day. I can’t get the stuff in my head on paper fast enough. I just have to do it. That’s my gift. That’s my calling. What’s yours? What could you do any time of the day? I’m not just talking about things that would be appropriate for the time of the day. I’m talking about a compulsion to go out and get something done even if it’s midnight.

Is it singing? I have a friend that could sing the spots off of a Dalmatian. She’s doing it All. The. Time. It’s what I believe she was meant to do. Or maybe it’s art. My little sister makes the most amazing paintings and drawings. Case in point:

Source: Christina Martin Art & Design Facebook page

Source: Christina Martin Art & Design Facebook page

Maybe you’re a writer like me. Maybe the ideas come so hard and fast you don’t have time to catch your breath, much less write it all down.

It doesn’t have to be a talent, either. It could be an idea or a concept. Maybe it’s the needy that keep you up at night. Maybe your heart bleeds for starving children in Africa. You could have a message that the world desperately needs to hear. Heck, it could even be politics. I don’t know your heart.

The point is that whatever that thing is, the thing that won’t let you sleep, the thing that fills you with joy just to think about doing it, do it! And do it for the glory of God. Gifts are no good if you don’t use them.

P.S. If you liked that painting, go check out more of my little sister’s stuff by clicking here.

Accidental Art Appreciation

Against my better judgment, I have acquired an appreciation of art.

I’ve spent the last eighteen years of my life studiously avoiding an interest in art. But now, I find myself actually looking forward to learning about it. I was reading my western civilization textbook and found a painting by a guy named Peter Brueghel the Elder from 16th century Europe and I thought to myself, “Wow, he’s surprisingly advanced for his time period. I could almost mistake him for an American.” I don’t know how this happened to me!

Strike that. On second thought, I do know what happened. I started quiz bowl. In case you don’t know, quiz bowl is like team Jeopardy, but harder. It’s known by some (probably mainly our coaches) as the “varsity sport of the mind.” It’s also a ton of fun, has minimal time commitment, and requires that we travel to get to competitions. Because the questions encompass pretty much every subject known to man, it is extremely useful to specialize, and most people have several specialties. For instance, we have one girl on the varsity team who is our science whiz. We also have a sports guy who is also very good at Greek mythology questions. Personally, my specialties include antebellum and War Between the States period American history, current events, Egyptian and Norse mythologies, and—you guessed it—art.

The art thing started when I downloaded an app to my tablet, called “Quizlet.” It’s basically a database of quizzes you can use for any purpose. It is absolutely invaluable to a quiz bowl player. I knew by that point that art comes up a lot in practice, so I decided to take a quick peak at one art quiz that I found. Before I knew it, I had 42 individual pieces of artwork memorized by image, name, and artist. Suddenly, I started noticing my friends looking to me when it came to questions about art, and you know what, that felt pretty good. I kept looking up more and more artworks just so that I could answer questions in practice.

Eventually, however, I stopped just doing it for practice. A few weeks ago, I noticed that I had something I had never possessed before: preferences for art. For instance, for sculptures, I prefer Michelangelo to Donatello. For paintings, I like Rembrandt and Da Vinci a lot. I also like Americans like Wyeth and Hopper. I even prefer Renaissance period art to medieval art.

I’m honestly not sure where all of the sudden fondness for art came from, but I figure it’s probably the same place that my enjoyment of classic literature comes from. Speaking of literature, my post tomorrow will be on my TBR list. That’s “to be read” for those of you that don’t speak nerd.

See y’all tomorrow!