Is Art Defined by the Constraints of the Medium?

Art Defined by Tic Tac Toe

During board game night a discussion broke out about how is art defined? While we delivered in the Wasteland Express the software developer opined that his job was artistic but that of an engineer was not. This being true because the medium in which the engineer worked was more greatly constrained.

Needless to say, strong opinions were hurled. I find the question of how is Art Defined to be an interesting question but the moral of the story, and the point of this blog, is more about how to we come to a consensus on a question that, by its nature, has no easy answer.

At issue; at least for the fellow trying to define software development as art, is how to we determine if an endeavor is so constrained that it can no longer be considered art. When confronted by thorny issues of this nature I think the best strategy is to simplify the question as best as is possible. It’s always going to be difficult, if not impossible, to determine what constitutes a line in the sand as far as constraints and be able to get to the bottom of Art Defined.

I started, on the drive home after having been thoroughly thrashed in the Wasteland yet again because I have too much fun making deliveries and taking on raiders and forget about the Victory Conditions, but that’s my issue and I’ve completely lost the train of thought on this sentence, best start again. As I was driving home, I thought about how most people who play chess at a moderately high level consider a well-played combination to be artistic. Certainly, chess has more constraints than engineering. If a game of chess can be artistic then we must conclude that a particular engineering design can be as well.

That being said, I must simplify further. How about checkers, I said to myself while waiting at a red light. Darn those red lights. No, even better, Tic Tac Toe. If we are going to simplify, let’s go all the way. Can Tic Tac Toe be artistic? No, I said to myself. End of story! Wait, I argued with myself, don’t be so hasty, Tom. Really? I replied. Yep, I answered. Let me give you an example.

In Game One the O player makes three moves and wins the game because the X player doesn’t make a blocking move. In Game Two the O player makes moves so as to block player X and set up a situation where she or he has two paths to victory and cannot be blocked. Is not Game Two more artistic than Game One?

We’ll, I said aloud to myself as the couple in the car one over looked at me like I was crazy. Did I mention I was waving my arms and hands to illustrate the moves on the Tic Tac Toe board? Well, you may have a point, I said nodding to the superior knowledge of me.

No, problem, I replied in an attempt at modesty. You would have come to the same conclusion if given enough time. Thanks, I said, although I suspect I was being a little condescending to myself.

In any case, if we decide that one Tic Tac Toe game can be more artistic than another, we are admitting the game can be artistic, although perhaps less so than a chess game, but artistic nevertheless. If this is true, it seems impossible to conclude anything other than all human endeavors possess the possibility of being artistic, regardless of how constrained they might be. There is the potential for art in all things.

This being the case, which I think I’ve proved to myself beyond a reasonable doubt, I think all engineers can now rest easy knowing they are capable of artistic designs. Now that I’ve resolved Art Defined, let’s tackle a bigger problem. How can I possible win a game of Wasteland Express if I don’t pay any attention to the Victory Conditions … a mystery that may never be solved.

Tom Liberman

World of Warcraft = Victory!

About a month ago I wrote about a candidate for the Maine State Senate who was being attacked for playing World of Warcraft. It was supposedly her “disturbing alter-ego”. Well, the election is over and … She Won!

Send your congratulations to her Facebook Page.

Hooray for the Horde!

Hooray for gamers!

And especially hooray for voters! Well done!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water

World of Warcraft and Maine Politics

World of WarcraftI love this story and I eagerly await the outcome of the election.

In short, a woman is running for the State Senate in Maine as a Democrat and was “outed” as a World of Warcraft (WoW) player by her Republican opponent. There was an ad posted that quoted some of her in-game messages “I like to stab things”, “I love poisoning and stabbing”, “I can kill stuff without going to jail”, and similar. The goal was to discredit the candidate as someone who doesn’t live in the real world.

As far as I can tell the smear attempt has backfired badly and the candidate is getting support from everywhere, including a fellow Horde member who happen to be Republican.

The candidate is a big fan of Skyrim and gets a big thumbs up from me even though I’m not a MMORPG player myself. I am friends with quite a few players (long live the Alliance!).

The most interesting aspect of the story, for me, is the level to which gaming has saturated both the United States and the world. I love gaming and have been playing role-playing games since I was a teenager and plan on continuing until the day I die. It’s great fun and the fact that, apparently, the majority of people understand the difference between saying, “I like to stab things” in a game, as opposed to in life, is encouraging.

From Angry Birds to World of Warcraft; I say, keep playing!

Would that the spirit of cooperation between Republican and Democrat Horde members could somehow make its way to Washington D.C.

In the end, we’re all part of a great big faction called The United States of America.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Book: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water