Game Developers Conference 2011: In The Trenches

The Secret (Art) History Of Games

John Sharp teaches at the Savannah College of Arts and Design, splitting his time between teaching about games and art history. In this talk, Sharp went back in history, beginning at the Renaissance, exploring how cultures through the ages have been shaped by games, and how those same cultures viewed games.

Sharp discussed perceptions of games going back over 400 years.

Sharp noted that some cultures valued games more than others. Feudal Japan used the ancient game Go as a way of mitigating conflict. Instead of Samurai battling on the field, honor in conflict would be attained by Go masters.

In 18th and 19th century Europe, games were used as a way to skirt the social rules of the era. Rules for interactions between young single women and men were highly formalized and restrictive, but various games would allow more flirtatious behavior and even physical contact, something that was forbidden in high society.

Modern electronic gaming grew from a tiny subset of hardcore computer nerds. The first real computer game, Space War, was built on the PDP-1 minicomputer, and existed only in computer science departments. This quote from the creators of Space War should sound familiar to anyone playing modern PC or console games:

“It should show off as many of the computer’s resources as possible, and tax those resources to the limit. Within a consistent framework, it should be interesting, which means that every run should be different. It should make the viewer a participant.”

Today, games are both highly integrated into the culture, yet apart from it. We clearly see conflicts between the growing gaming culture and those who consider gaming a waste of time, or in the case of some news networks, even dangerous.

  • madjimms
    "Today, games are both highly integrated into the culture, yet apart from it. We clearly see conflicts between the growing gaming culture and those who consider gaming a waste of time, or in the case of some news networks, even dangerous."

    I know what "news" network hes talking about. *cough* fox *cough*
  • radiumburn
    Still don't understand how fox can be considered a news network when it seems that its main goal is to push out false information and fear
  • davewolfgang
    Wow you two - this is SUPPOSE to be about gaming. Leave your bias about cable channels because you don't agree with them or don't like one of their show hosts, for a political website, not Tom's.

  • I don't think biofeedback can help , I mean every person is different you can't measure a game like that, could be the greatest game for some people and the worst game ever for others ...
  • dennisburke
    FOX is playing the biggest game of all "Battle For Your Brain". Spending hours watching FOX is more dangerous to society than spending time playing games.

    Playing a stratagy game is no different than playing chess, other than being treated to a great visual watching a sunset art?

    I like playing fps games...maybe because it reminds me of playing 'Hide and Seek' or 'Cowboys and Indians' as a kid...the thrill of a chase, etc.

    Art will always be in the eye of the beholder and it cannot be defined.
  • So MSNBC and CNN aren't slanted one bit? Get out of your caves.
  • yose3
    we born playing games and we die playing games!
  • Khimera2000
    this is all cool, but to be honest whats really going to happen is once the new consols are released, everything spoken at these confrences about quality, new technolagy, and intergration will be lost (unless its intergrated into the consols).

    As it looks from my side these companies will be tooooo buisy trying to program for technolagy that they all but ignored since the release of currant generation consols.

    the games comming out will be full of leaks, bugs, and problems, then when they get ported to PC it will be made worse.

    There is nothing impresive happening in the game industry. they can talk all they want, but like De Vinci, if all you do is talk and draw pictures thats all they will ever be talk and fluff.

    once they use whats out there then ill start listening, till then I would be terrified to try anything these companies would pump out just by the chance of bugs destroying the experiance.
  • sudeshc
    In my opinion games are art it all starts with good concept/story and takes it to another level games are do inspired by culture but more or less global culture. we can or can not say they are waste of time or are dangerous as all of us know "too much of anything is not good" and there are always exceptions.