Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Readings: Is Quincy-produced video game art? Is Fenway Park grass art? Harvard parts with bells

Is the video game “BioShock” art? "BioShock," produced by the Quincy, Massachusetts, branch of 2K Games, has sold 1.5 million units since it was released in August. On Sept. 15, Washington Post blogger Mike Musgrove wondered if it’s more than just your average sci-fi first-person shooter set in a mutant-infested underwater city:
Video game fans sometimes like to argue that this medium is the world's next great art form, but there never seems to be an abundance of titles that provide any confidence that games are working their way out of the cultural ghetto. “BioShock,” an action-packed title that also has some serious underlying themes, seems as if it could help make the argument that games could be regarded as a "serious" art form able to comment on the human condition, and all that stuff.

[Pulitzer Prize-winning Post book columnist Michael] Dirda said the game showed him that video games "obviously have artistic value" and will likely become more of a recognized art form.

So: Is "BioShock" art? "I would hesitate to go that far," he said after a short pause.

When there's a video game that makes the player depressed, that's when the medium might be onto something as an art form, Dirda said. It's easy to like something that makes you feel powerful in its fantasy world, as games generally do. But would anybody play a game that makes him sad?
Washington Post interview with "BioShock" head designer, Ken Levine, in which he talks about video games as art – or not.
The Boston Herald reports that Levine studied theater and writing at Vassar and dabbled in writing scripts in Hollywood, before finding work with a Cambridge game designer.
Reports and reviews in the Boston Phoenix, Boston Globe and Patriot Ledger (“A Quincy company’s much-anticipated video game is testing the limits of the ultraviolent gaming genre with a strategy that enables players to kill characters resembling young girls.”).
Update: PCWorld blogger Matt Peckham weighs in.

Is Fenway Park grass art? Peter DeMarco writes in the Sept. 16 Globe about how Fenway Park groundskeepers make images appear in the ballpark’s grass:
That [Fenway’s director of grounds David] Mellor is a maestro at his craft is obvious to anyone who sees the field, either in person or on television. But he was also a pioneer in lawn design, creating one of the first truly intricate plaids ever seen on a baseball field, a veritable Scottish kilt of grass, while with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993.

"Certainly groundskeepers had tried different things, but they'd never taken it to the level David had," said Roger Bossard, the Chicago White Sox's head groundskeeper for 41 years. "Obviously everyone is doing it now. But David was, once again, the father, the innovator, of these patterns."

Harvard parts with bells. Harvard University has given a rare Russian bell to its original home, Moscow’s Danilov Monestery, according to Harvard and Bloomberg reports. The Soviets apparently banned all bell ringing in 1918 when they tried to stomp out the Russian Orthodox Church and four years later began to destroy church bells. Eighteen bells survived and found their way to Harvard after an American “plumbing magnate” bought them as scrap from the Soviet government and subsequently donated them to the university. A Russian oil and mining tycoon has paid to have replicas cast for Harvard in exchange for the originals (which you can sorta hear here).

And Harvard is planning a bell festival and symposium for June 1 and 2, 2008, with bell ringing and talks on bell casting and the history of the Harvard bells.

For more on the bells, look here and here.


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