Are video games art? This is a question I have been wondering for years, and I was pleasantly surprised when I recently ran into a gaming blog named VGartsite. Luca – the guy behind this project – blew me away with his deep knowledge and unique point of view.
I spent hours reading his posts, until I decided to ask him for an interview.
As a fan of his work, It is a real joy to be able to host Luca on my blog!
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1. Welcome Luca and thank you so much for accepting my interview request. For a starter, please introduce yourself to RGL’s readers.
Hello, my name is Luca Frangella, and I am the founder and owner of Video Games Art. I am an Italian physics & math teacher at a gymnasium.
I started this project, “Video Games & Art”, in order to promote video games as a form of contemporary Art.
I take joy in researching and talking about art, science, philosophy and sociology of video games. Plus, I like sharing thoughts, memories, emotions, feelings and opinions about the games I grew up with, and those that still accompany me through my life!
2. What was the first video game you ever played?
I was born in 1974 and was very lucky to experience video games at an early age. I am sure
the first one was Pong, I have vague memories… I think I was 5 or 6; I remember a home console, owned by my cousins or family friends, maybe Intellivision or Atari.
I have clear memories of my small hands on that weird knob interface moving the paddle on a
black & white screen! Love at first sight! My life was doomed 😀 , but I realized that just in my 40s! I clearly recall I played other early games on Intellivision together with my primary school
They were the likes of Burger Time, Donkey Kong, Frogger, et cetera…
3. What about the first gaming system you ever owned?
Well, I do not know if it counts, I had several pocket LCD games like Nintendo Game &
Watch, Polistil Time & Fun, etc.
My memories of the early 80s are clearer; my elder brother Nino bought a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k in 1982 or 1983; he was studying computer science at University.
I have clear memories of the games stored on cassette tapes; at the time games had no
copyrights in Italy, they were sold as supplements of computer magazines with made-up
titles; I later discovered the original titles.
I am talking about games like Manic Miner, Atic Atac, Jet Pac, School Daze, Back to School, Knight Lore, The Way of The Exploding Fist, The Hobbit and so on! How can I forget the distinctive sound of loading games? Absolutely Sublime!
A few years later my cousin Luigi bought a Commodore 64; I had great fun with Ghostbusters, Spy vs Spy, Impossible Mission, et cetera… Later on, my other elder brother Stefano bought a Commodore Amiga 500… It was a revolution! Lemmings, Another World, Altered Beast, Shadow of the Beast, Bubble Bobble, Batman, Shinobi, Sensible Soccer, North & South etc.
As a teen, I was really impressed with the graphics of Defender of The Crown! In the meanwhile Nino had bought his first home PC running DOS and later Windows, so I even got to play a few early DOS and Windows games.
I clearly recall the likes of Deja Vu, Myst, The Bizzarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble, Doom etc. One of my favorite titles ever was Alone in The Dark, WOW!
Me and my brother Stefano were completely enraptured!
Oh and I even played Resident Evil 1 on Windows!
4. Were you an arcade gamer? If you were, what about your favorite titles back in the 80s / 90s?
I was! I walked into an arcade for the first time at an early age! Again, my life was doomed!
I used to go there with my brother Stefano and my cousin Luigi. I would play Pac Man, Space
Invaders, Lady Bug, Yie Ar Kung Fu, Popeye, Bomb Jack, Dig Dug, Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins,
Commando, 1942, Operation Wolf, Nintendo Tennis, Street Fighter, Out Run, Track &
Field, Asterix & Obelix and many more… I was completely amazed by the laserdisc game Dragon’s Lair!
5. I am going to name a few video game genres: please tell me your favorite retro title for each of them:
Alone in the dark
Marble madness and the first release of Prince of Persia (1989)
C) Puzzle Games
D) Role-playing games
Defender of the crown
E) Racing Games
G) Sports Games
H) Any other games whose genre I did not mention?
Shinobi and The last express.
The latter is a 1997 adventure game designed by Jordan Mechner, Prince of Persia’s creator.
6. While growing up, what gaming system did you have the most fun with? Are you still a regular gamer?
My elder sister Rossella bought a PS1 in 1995 as a Christmas present for her sons, so I also played some PS1 games with my nephews. Since then, I have tried a lot of different consoles: Xbox Original, PS2, GameCube, Wii, Xbox360, just to name a few.
I stopped playing on Windows systems between 2005 and 2009, but then, I started again in 2010. How bizarre: my elder brothers Nino and Stefano do not play video games any longer! They stopped in their 40s!
Instead, I have never stopped and have no intentions to! At the moment, I am playing on Windows 10, PS4 and PSVR. VR is a revolution, I love to take refuge in my headset!
To be honest, I am having more fun now – starting from 2010 – than during my teens!
When you are a kid, your approach is superficial, games are like toys. Now, it is
different: games are like experiences to me! I am a long-time cinephile and also a
comic book collector; but since 2010 I have been spending my free time with games more
than with movies or comics!
7. Do you play online or with your friends/family members?
No, I do not like online games, and I prefer single-player experiences, mostly narrative games.
8. What is/are your finest memory/memories related to video games?
Well, as I said, I was enraptured by Alone in The Dark in 1992; my brother and I used to
spend the night playing, trying not to wake up our parents… Unforgettable sleepless nights! Also Resident Evil 1 was a great night experience in 1996! I remember my childhood Summers playing arcade games, in particular Yie Ar Kung Fu; I was really a master!
Again, I can still hear the sound of loading games on the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64! The several afternoons I spent playing C64 with my schoolmates! The first time I saw Dragon’s Lair… WOW! The several days I spent trying to solve Lemmings’ puzzles! Swinging for the first time through the skyscrapers of New York in Spiderman (2002, PC)! Too many memories, sorry!
By the way, today I have deeper emotional connections to video games. I grew up with VGs
and VGs grew up with me! The medium has evolved and matured!
9. What prompted you to start a gaming blog?
In 2010, I started to play more than I did in my teens without even realizing it! In 2015, I finally realized that my life was doomed by VGs! My older brothers are both programmers, my older cousin Luigi is dead, but he too was a programmer! I have always lived surrounded by computers and games!
My older brothers and cousin stopped to play in their 40s, they no longer felt the gaming fire in their adulthood. I did though! Why? As I said, I grew up with VGs and VGs grew up with
me! Today VGs are not just the simple electronic toys or the challenging entertainment systems of my youth.
I realized that video games are following the same evolutionary path as Comics. Comics were considered children stuff for a long time, they took the big leap in the 80s and now you can find them in any bookshops. Graphic novels are universally considered pieces of expressive art.
Video games are becoming more and more about serious storytelling and/or expressive, interactive experiences, and I intend to encourage and promote such an evolution. That does not mean denying the glorious past of VGs and my teen memories!
It is just something different, something more, something to add and not to take away. Something that can live together with the playful, simple and easy entertainment for teens.
The same goes for Cinema and Comics, it is a matter of market and industry expansion,
a change of cultural paradigm. Today’s titles are still dominated by easy, violent kills,
shooting and fighting mechanics, but I think that someday games too will be universally considered pieces of expressive Art! When will this happen? in 20-30 years, in my opinion.
I wrote an article about it: https://vgartsite.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/expressive-evolution-of-video-games-cinema-and-comics-comparative-analisys/
10. What is the goal of Vgartsite?
Video Games & Art is a project aiming to promote video games as a form of contemporary, expressive art, just like cinema.
VGArt searches for original interactive mechanics, innovative and mature titles providing deep narration filled with serious contents, fine aesthetics and sublime emotions.
Whatever gives players an intellectual and unforgettable experience is within my sphere of interest.
11. Last but not least: any future plans or secret wishes?
Future plans: to keep playing and writing about games for the rest of my life!
Secret wishes: to play AAA big budget games aiming at the expression of deep contents and storytelling, not aiming at killing, fighting, challenges or easy entertainment.
Titles coming with revolutionary interactive mechanics such as to go beyond cut scenes.
I call it “the total immersive artistic experience”, because VGs borrow a lot of features from movies, comics, novels, etc. but they have an extra “weapon”: interactivity!
Thank you very much for this opportunity Andrew, it was a total pleasure being featured on your blog and a privilege letting your readers know about my project.
Below are my social media accounts: please come and say hi!
I’m an old-timer mom of a pre-teen who loves playing video games in his lap top. I don’t have anything against these, but I think it is so addicting that my son prioritizes it against his homework.
I’m sure my son is typical of any pre-teen or teen and I think these games are a lot of distraction for their schoolwork.
As a concerned mom, it is so hard to push my son to do his homework before starting a game. He will always start a game, and do his homework in between the game.
I don’t know how to make him think otherwise.
It’s always the topic of conversation among his classmates, friends and cousins.
here Luca Frangella.
TV, internet, smartphone, comics, table and video games and all entertainment media are potential distractions for children and teens. It’s a matter of education. My parents taught me the importance of studying, of doing my duty at home and at school. First work, then pleasure. Children must be accustomed to earn fun, play and pleasure by doing first their duty. You have to teach your children to be responsible and conscious of duty, limits, timetables, etc. Children must be accustomed to recognize and respect parental authority. The best way is to get them used to the value of knowledge. Children have to find pleasure in studying and being curious about the world around them. Education needs good words, love, inspirations, etc. etc. but that’s not enough. Good words are not enough. Education needs several “no”, limits, autohority, prohibitions, conflicts between parents and children. You must be strong. I’m not saying you have to offend your son, I’m saying you have to demand your son to do his duty, and he must obey, you must never let him win, never! You have to be patient, strong, like a rock! You have also to be wise!
A wise Mom never despises interests of his son. Comics, games, internet, etc. they are not evil. They are good interests for child and teens, just like movies. You have to teach your son to distinguish positive games from negative games, you have to criticize violent and stupid games and appreciate smart games. But don’t make too much censorship, let your son think for himself and form a critical conscience. There a lot of good comics and games with great intellectual potential. It’s a matter of education, of habits, of values, of duties, of responsability and counsciousness.
Luca left an excellent comment, but I would like to add my personal experience with my kids.
As soon as I realized that James was struggling to cut down on playing, I was quick to set some strict rules.
He knows he would lose every privilege if he did not respect them and he has never given me a hard time about stopping to play.
He himself says this is the best decision I could make, as knowing there are limits lets him enjoy his gaming time to the full.
Hope this helps.
Thanks again for your comment, please do not hesitate to reply, if you have further questions.
Great empirical and pragmatic point of view, thanks Andrew, you’re not only a great blogger but also a good father!
Thank so much Luca, much appreciated.
I love reading interviews like these, getting some different ideas and experiences from other gamers out there. Luca here has definitely seen it all, and at age 45, is likely to continue playing for years to come. To be able to read about his experiences in the gaming industry, and something that he still does today, plus how his passion for gaming led him to create his own gaming blog. I can definitely see you posting more interview articles in the future and I’ll have some fun reading up on them.
Hello Todd and thanks for stopping by again, I am glad that you appreciated the interview.
Luca is someone I look up to, he knows his stuff and can really engage his audience.
Also thank you for your encouragement, publishing interviews is both fun and rewarding and there are more in the works!
I absolutely loved the Lemmings game!!! Reading this interview brought back many fond memories of playing with our old Atari when my brother was still with us. We would play Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man. My mom would even play with us and that was a real treat.
I think video games are an awesome form of art! My favorites remain Donkey Kong 64 and Final Fantasy X.
Thank you again for a wonderful look at retro games and the future, too!
Hello Karin, always a pleasure to read a comment of yours. 🙂
So glad that you appreciated my interview with Luca, I am planning to ask him some more questions in the future, including specific opinions on my and my most loyal readers’ favourite games.
Till next retro article!
Niceee man, this article brings back so many memories. I was born in 81′ and played most of the games mentioned here. We also played Toki a lot 🙂 My first gaming system was Commodore, I had like 2 boxes of casettes with games. Man I wish I had that back. My opinion on this article is simply this, interesting, you’ve managed to get an interview and asked the good questions. Keep it up
Thank you for your support Doole, you are more than welcome to jump on the nostalgia train and sit next to us. 😉
I appreciate your feedback too, be sure that more interviews will come.
Till next retro post!
Hi Andrew, great interview with Luca. This interview brings back a lot of memories for me. I remember many of the games and systems he talks about. The Intellivision and Atari were the first systems I played, as well. Many great times with my friends and family on those. I know the ultimate purpose of your interview though was based on the artistic aspect of video games. I have never really look at them that way before. I do enjoy the better graphics in the present games than the past, but I like the simplistic part of where games came from. Ultimately, where do you stand on the artistic side of gaming? Should it be considered art or entertainment?
Hello RanDaMan and thanks for taking time to leave a comment on my blog.
Glad my interview gave you a new perspective on video games. 🙂
As for your question, the short answer is entARTainment. 😉
The long one is that I consider video games the right mix between entertainment and art. I have been playing for so long and I have tried so many titles that I can safely say that I have seen art in video games under many forms, not only under the visual one.
For this reason, I firmly believe that combining excellent textures, a great soundtrack or a captivating storyline with an engaging gameplay can result in larger-than-life creations.
Unity is strength, in any field…
Thanks again for stopping by, I hope you stay tuned for more retro posts!
Very nice interview and such wonderful memories! 🙂
Actually I still love video games although the passion grew up in me in a different way than my brother.
Right now I feel more enjoyable making video games and for some strange reason I felt recently an urge to go back to the roots so now I’m having fun with retro gaming mostly through emulators although I still own my older bro’s Zx Spectrum, my Amiga 500 and an amazing (for the time) Acorn Risc PC 600.
Back in the ’83 I wanted to learn assembly and make games for the Speccy but I could never find enough time to do that because of so many healthy outdoor activities… ah! what a epic time I had! I don’t regret at all spending less time on a keyboard mainly because now the added wisdom allow me to focus better on programming.
As a matter of fact I’m working on a regular basis on Z80 assembly and slowly but consistently, I’m acquiring the needed skills to produce a decent arcade conversion of the early 80’s on the mythical Zx Spectrum! 🙂
On top of that, I have almost completed my own Zx Spectrum emulator, so to sum up, my passion for video games is also filtered by my passion for programming and I don’t think is going to fade away any time soon!
I use Unity to develop video games at work, but the feeling of programming those limited old machines without any software layer in your way, is so priceless… pure joy just for the sake of doing it! 😉
Hello Stefano, it is a great pleasure to have Luca’s brother here. 🙂
Thank you for telling us a bit about yourself and giving us a heads up about your current and future projects. Please keep us posted on your progress, you are more than welcome on my gaming blog!
I understand your point of view, bro. You are a retro gamer, that’s good. In my opinion you are bond to childhood nostalgia, that’s good. But you stopped to play contemporary modern games. I remember the last console you played, GameCube. You totally ignored PlayStation era. I suggested you contemporary titles on PC, with no success. That’s ok, no problem. You’re more a programmer than a gamer, that’s okay.
It was different for our elder brother Nino, he completely stopped in his 40s, he isn’t a retro gamer and he doesn’t program games but ordinary software.
By the way, do you remember the first Pong console we played? Was it Luigi’s console?
I had no idea what was Pong so I had to google it. I don’t think that I ever saw or played that game but it looks fun. My first ever game was Super Mario 🙂 This brings so much memories, have you seen this Disney animation called Ralph Breaks the Internet? I think Disney is genius, selling it your kids and US!
It is great to see someone is so passionate with games like Luca because I grew up with video games, many siblings. I miss playing PS1 the Biohazard (Resident Evil) and the computer game like Price of Persia, the first game ever that there was blood when you died lol
Will keep following your posts, I feel nostalgic, in a good way 🙂
Hello Nuttanee, great to see you again!
Actually, I had hyperlinked Pong, sorry you missed it. Next time I will highlight sources better. 🙂
I saw the movie with my kids, it was a lot of fun, as usual when Disney is involved.
The plot kind of reminds me of Alien Storm’s ending, with the characters breaking the cabinet’s screen and pouring out on the streets.
Thanks for the compliments, I am glad to bring back good memories. Whenever you feel nostalgic, both mine and Luca’s blog can be your home.
I thank you all for your appreciations. Honored by your attention!
Once again, thanks a bunch for enthusiastically accepting to be interviewed!, Luca. I will not forget it.