Breaking vs. Bending the Rules

There’s something fascinating about fighting video games. It takes a little time to get past the technical elements, both as a player and spectator, but once you know what to look for, it’s almost beautiful to experience. The fast-paced combos timed at the perfect moment after a well-executed “read” or “mind game.” Players have to know their opponent’s reaction times and habits, and learn how to adapt.

I’ve been wondering, as the nerdy social hermit that I am, if the competitive arena of video games qualifies as Art.

It’s interesting to explore as a writer (which I’ll just assume, for purposes of this post, is a type of “artist”). One part that intrigues me the most is the idea of “breaking the rules.”

In writing, and in other mediums, how writers address the rules allows the form to evolve. Poems no longer have to follow a specific meter or rhyme scheme (or even rhyme at all) because our predecessors purposefully broke that requirement. Stories no longer need to be told linearly, be written through a single perspective, or follow the usual beginning-middle-end format.

Video games, however, are a lot more limited in that regard. The “mechanics” of the game dictates the rules, and they can never change. A character has a hit-stun that lasts a set number of frames. A character is always of a specified “weight class.” Unlike writers, players, can’t up and break the rules; they can only bend them. They can minimize the disadvantages of their avatar and maximize the strengths by developing nuanced movements and “spacing” techniques. Evolution of an avatar/character’s “metagame” still evolves, similar to writing, but in a very different way.

What does that mean then? Does that distinction have any sort of significance? Does it make video games more or less artistic? Or am I really just making a moot point here?


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