Artplay, which is short for “art gameplay,” is a new fine art genre. It uses a range of game features for the sole aim of producing art. More precisely, what belongs in the fine art register is abstracted from a design-oriented game assembly and repurposed.
The debate over whether games can be considered art is misguided. Ontologically, art and games are distinct. Art is produced to be perceived, contemplated and discussed, games are produced to be played, interacted with and tested. In games as games, there is an indispensable level of use value.
The question, if anything composed as a game can really be an artform, comes down to this: can game elements become expressive in an artistic way?
What words are for literature, colors for painting, sound for music, concepts for conceptual art, and so on, game elements, i.e. rules and material game components, has to be for artplay.
Artplay avoids a common feature of games: being made up of elements that go beyond the act of gameplay. Rules and material game components are incorporated in artplay together with the reference to their symbolic value.
Artplay can be defined as gameplay without a game. It’s pure gameplay, beyond transcendence and immanence, or, to put it another way, artplay is a singular, completed piece of art made of game elements.
Games are mechanical, artplay is organic. When mechanical features are interwoven into an artplay, they resemble the inorganic parts of an organism.
In artplay, the conflict between ludic and narrative components that can be found in storytelling games is sublated. Within the field of artplay, rules are presented, followed, broken and possibly amended. Their role is repurposed exclusively for the creation of narrative and aesthetic values.
Artplay ought to be presented in front of an audience. There was a time before art became institutionalized when it was displayed publicly. In the future, architects might create residences just for artplay performances.
Milan Marković (he/him) is a philosopher, writer, art-playwright and stage director from Serbia working in various fields of art and theory. Milan was the conceptual director behind two TTRPG oriented experiments in artistic storytelling, Letandur (2009) and Hamlet-Workshop (2019), as well as the creator of the artplay performance “The Way: Short Artplays“. Currently, he is working on producing new artplays and several philosophical tracts. Find him online on twitter @posvitt