[-empyre-] art games pre computers

Julian Oliver julian at selectparks.net
Wed Mar 19 04:07:30 EST 2008

..on or around Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 07:42:42AM -0700, Jason Nelson said:
> this might have already been covered in this conversation, and I am sure
>   there are ample materials already available, but it might be useful to discuss
>   art games created prior to computer based games. 
>   my reasoning: I'm curious if the majority of 'art games' or whatever you want
>   to call them, were created post computing era. certainly there are examples
>   of pre computing era "games created by artists as artworks", and there are
>   many created now without any code involved.  but is there a connection between
>   the increase in "games created by artists" and the wide spread use of computers?
>   if so, why might this be the case?
>   is it a distribution issue?  meaning did many artists adjust board games in the 40s,
>   but then not have the capital to reproduce them?  and the net has simply opened
>   the availability?   or is there something in computer games that has sparked artists?
>   what is that?
>   if this is common knowledge to everyone else or already covered here....then simple
>   references would help....

i like too many of the Fluxus games to begin a list. a good reference
point however would be the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus collection.
it has around 70 Fluxus games, some of which are pretty widely known as
artistic games, albeit not as early as the games of Duchamp. AFAIK the
biggest exhibition of Fluxus games was at the Massachusettes Museum of
Contemporary Art (MASSMOCA) in 2001. it featured Rube Goldberg like
games through to puzzles and board-games without grids.

of note is an interesting irony pointed out by Celia Pearce, a (video)game
theorist at Georgia Tech:

There is deep and tragic irony in going to an exhibition of Fluxus
artifacts#. Objects whose entire purpose was to elicit play exist now
only as the corpses of their former selves, trapped in a "Mausoleum"
within the object-centric commodity-based world of Art with a capital

my 2 bits,


>   cheers, Jason
> Jim Andrews <jim at vispo.com> wrote:
>   Here's a book of essays edited by Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell called
> Videogames and Art:
> http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/00/226001.ctl
> Among other essays, this includes "Videogames as Literary Devices" by me.
> Which looks at
> The Intruder, Natalie Bookchin
> Viewing Axolotls, Regina Celia Pinto
> Pac Mondrian, Neil Hennessey & friends
> Arteroids, Jim Andrews
> The essay looks at the various degrees of subordination of game to art in
> these four pieces.
> Here are links to these online games:
> Arteroids: http://vispo.com/arteroids
> Pac Mondrian: http://pbfb.ca/pac-mondrian
> Viewing Axolotls: http://arteonline.arq.br/viewing_axolotls
> The Intruder: http://bookchin.net/intruder
> Jason Nelson raises the issue of "games as art or art as game". The Intruder
> and Viewing Axolotls strongly subordinate game to art, whereas Pac Mondrian
> and Arteroids don't subordinate game to art that way. Yet all four pieces
> are most interesting not as computer games but in their artistic dimensions.
> A 'literary device' is a little engine of literary perception. Metaphors,
> figure of speech, similes, plot reversals, and so on, are what are
> traditionally associated with the term 'literary device'. In digital
> literary art, games also can be 'literary devices'.
> William Carlos Williams, in the late fifties or early sixties, said "A poem
> is a machine made out of words." The energy and meaning goes around and
> around through literary devices of one sort or another. Poems are playful,
> at least in that sense.
> ja
> http://vispo.com
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julian oliver
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