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Video game art is a specialized form of computer art employing video games as the artistic medium. Video game art often involves the use of patched or modified video games or the repurposing of existing games or game structures, however it relies on a broader range of artistic techniques and outcomes than artistic modification and it may also include painting, sculpture, appropriation, in-game intervention and performance, sampling, etc. It may also include the creation of art games either from scratch or by modifying existing games. Notable examples of video game art include Cory Arcangel's "Super Mario Clouds" and "I Shot Andy Warhol,"Joseph Delappe's projects including "Dead in Iraq" and the "Salt Satyagraha Online: Gandhi's March to Dandi in Second Life," the 2004-2005 Rhizome Commissions "relating to the theme of games,"Paolo Pedercini's Molleindustria games such as "Unmanned" and "Every Day the Same Dream", and Ian Bogost's "Cowclicker."
Artistic modifications are frequently made possible through the use of level editors, though other techniques exist. Some artists make use of machinima applications to produce non-interactive animated artworks, however artistic modification is not synonymous with machinima as these form only a small proportion of artistic modifications. Machinima is distinct from art mods as it relies on different tools, though there are many similarities with some art mods.
Like video games, artistic game modifications are often interactive and may allow for single-player or multiplayer experience. Multiplayer works make use of networked environments to develop new kinds of interaction and collaborative art production.
According to Järvinen and Keo, no video game is truly abstract because the notion of abstractionism implies the existence of only pure forms. In video games, however, even those with an abstract art style, the simulation of at least an environment should be present. The abstract art style in video games must satisfy two elements:
Abstract game art, or abstractionism, is the first game art style to appear because of technology's limitations when video games started becoming popular in the 1970s.
The stylized art style in video games, which Järvinen refers to as caricaturism, is greatly reminiscent of cartoons and comics. Games whose characters and elements have exaggerated features fall under this category. According to Keo, stylized games are also not confined to the limitations imposed by photorealism, which means even the laws of physics in these games do not have to be faithful to that of the real world.
Realistic games are the last to appear simply because technology has already advanced to the point where companies can develop high fidelity games. Appearing only in the 1990s, realistic video games, which Järvinen refers to as photorealism, have two classes or subcategories, namely televisualism and illusionism. Televisualism is "apparent in sports simulators" as "they simulate the aesthetics of sports event television broadcast." Illusionism, on the other hand, uses "photorealism for fantastic and imaginary purposes."
Artists may intervene in online games in a non-play manner, often disrupting games in progress in order to challenge or expose underlying conventions and functions of game play. Examples of this include Anne Marie Schleiner's Velvet-Strike (a project designed to allow players of realistic first person shooter games to use anti-war graffiti within the game to make an artistic statement) and Dead in Iraq (an art project created by Joseph DeLappe in which the player character purposely allows himself to be shot and then recites the names of US soldiers who have died in the Iraq War).
Site-specific installations and site-relative gaming modifications ("mods"), replicate real-world places (often the art gallery in which they are displayed) to explore similarities and differences between real and virtual worlds. An example is What It Is Without the Hand That Wields It, where blood from kills in Counterstrike manifests and spills into a real life gallery.
Video games can be incorporated into live audio and visual performance using a variety of instruments and computers such as electronic keyboards embedded with music chips. See also chiptune and the Fijuu project.
Generative art mods exploit the real-time capabilities of game technologies to produce ever-renewing autonomous artworks. Examples include Julian Oliver's ioq3apaint, a generative painting system that uses the actions of software agents in combat to drive the painting process,Alison Mealy's UnrealArt which takes the movements of game entities and uses them to control a drawing process in an external program,Kent Sheely's "Cities in Flux," a Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas mod that glitches and distorts the game's world in real-time, and RetroYou's R/C Racer a modification of the graphic elements of a racing game which results in rich fields of colour and shape.