Let me start by clarifying what I mean.
By fine art I'm referering to art created for its own sake, and particularly implying the motivation being the artist's personal vision rather than other considerations. I'm not saying that fine art is necessarily incompatible with other artistic considerations, however, just that it isn't dependent on them, and that they are optional. I'm also not making a quality judgment on my work or anyone else's, I'm contrasting different types of art. I also hate implied limitation of fine art to visual mediums (not that anyone on here was actually implying that). It's an antique conception. I consider film-making, creative writing, and performance arts as candidates for fine art. Even culinary art can be fine art.
I'm contrasting it with commercial art which is created (often at the direction of another) with the primary intention of being sold or otherwise profited from. A commercial artist creates to the needs of the market, not necessarily to a personal vision. A work of commercial art might be created as a perfect expression of the artist desires and vision--the happy situation where the possibilities of the market (commercial art) and the personal drives of the artist (fine art) happen to coincide. Commercial art can also be done apart from any personal vision, purely because it will sell (you need to eat). Commercial art can still be enjoyed and feel like it comes from the artist. Sometimes it is purely a job, but hopefully more often than that it is an enjoyable experience.
I bring up event hosting as a third possibility, specifically in connection with GMing. Event hosting is about accommodating to the needs and comfort of the attendees--making the experience the best it can be for them. It is similar to commercial art in focusing on a goal other than the art itself.
The way I see my GMing is that I am a creator and/or presenter of a world springing from a personal vision intended to produce certain aesthetic experiences in players and myself as we explore a shared imagination environment.
So that's what I mean by fine art versus commercial art or event hosting.
I'd worry it is more focused on the GM's vision, rather than player involvement and enjoyment. Sounds like more of a show piece than something willing to evolve with player input.
Yes and no. It absolutely is created to focus on my vision. Just like a painting or a song created without caring whether it sells. I invite players that I think will enjoy it, and give them enough information to decide if they want to try out the experience.
Fine art sounds generally more serious than most games I would enjoy, not that I don't enjoy serious games, just not when it is forced.
Fair enough. I wouldn't consider it forced, because my players know I have a strong vision for my games. I have more potential players than are able to be accommodated in one game, so I see who is interested in what, and invite the players that seem interested in the particular game. So I already have buy-in before they ever get there--and then we have a session 0 to make sure they are still interested.
I'm reminded of the great intro clip on Tony Diterlizzi's website where he says "Art! What is art? ...I don't know, but here are some pictures you might like!"
His Planescape art strikes me as phenomenally excellent commercial art with a dash of fine artistic vision. He created it (I assume) primarily to meed the business needs of TSR, but his personal vision is clearly evident (unless he was told how to make it look, which I doubt).
Yes. I know of no other game master who has a... high enough opinion of their work to consider it "fine art". It seems, well, a tad arrogant, I'm afraid.
See definitions above.
I think that if the GM is thinking of their own work in that way, *separate* from the entire gaming session being fine art, there is a major problem.
The entire gaming session most definitely can be fine art--and could probably even be so if the GMing was more commercially oriented (running something people will actually show up to play) or hosting oriented (focusing on making sure people have a good time hanging out, regardless of what gaming happens), if the players were really
good at making that happen. Regardless of the GM's angle, some of the most rewarding experiences can be when your players really engage with the world. It's pure delight getting to see your players role-playing in-character as they are talking about and trying to figure out what is going on in your world, treating it as real.
I've seen a lot of GMing that was done for purpose of emotional power. Heck, I yank character emotional strings most chances I get. I was in a larp a few weeks ago, where I was an NPC in a nightmare scene intended to evoke the horror of abandonment. And I'm told we were good enough to make the player lose sleep that night.
Indeed! I would even assert that the standard mantra that we are there to "have fun" isn't entirely accurate. Although we are present to have a positive experience (hopefully), it seems to me that there are valid expressions of positive role-playing that aren't accurately described as "fun."
I once made a print out of (abbreviated) forms that the PCs were expected to fill out in a D&D game at the uber-beuracratic Fortress of Disciplined Enlightment on the order-saturated plane of Mechanus. I designed the forms to resemble the annoying forms we all have to fill out in real life--requesting the same information in more than one place, redundantly stupid questions, etc. The goal was to allow players to feel the irritation and annoyance of having to go through this crap. To preserve player sanity, I abbreviated it with "..." in places, and it was only a few double-spaced pages, although numbering suggested it was many, many pages longer. Hopefully it was balanced well enough. None of the players complained much or rage-quit.
As to the OP, a fine art has a few accepted definitions, most of which would be greatly stretched to accommodate running a game. I think performance art or applied art is better suited to his intention, but I could be misunderstanding his intent. That said, I disagree that the GM is the provider of the art and instead think that it's an entirely collaborative affair among the GM and the players. Each has different roles and abilities to affect the outcome of the performance, but they aren't separable performances. I also consider a role player game to be an unique niche of performance art where the performers are also the consumers of the art, which makes each performance tailored specifically to a unique audience meaning that they rarely have the same level of effect on a wider audience.
Yeses and noses.
I didn't bother with distinctions such as performing or applied art. More granularity than I'm aiming at. Performance could be either fine are or commercial art by the definitions I'm using.
A GM who creates a world provides an artistic imagination environment (much like a painting in nature). I don't think that element of the art needs to be collaborative at all, though it certainly can be (as with songwriters).
Once you present the world to the players, you now have a collaborative artistic experience that grows out of the first not-necessarily-collaborative experience. In the actual running of the game it would be impossible to have a non-collaborative experience.
Now, the GM's immediate contribution to that collaborative artistic experience (we're assuming artistic goals) can be either commercial art or fine art in nature. If he/she tailors the experience to
the players or PCs, it is fine art, while if he tailors it for
the players it is commercial art.
Just like some people prefer different music or other forms of art, people are going to prefer different gaming experiences, so some people's music is another person's noise. If you are going for a fine art game, you make sure to invite people who you think will appreciate it, otherwise it isn't going to be a good experience for anyone.
My first reaction on reading the original post on Wednesday was, if DMing was to be compared to an art form, then I would consider good DMing to be "Commercial Art."
Having thought about it more for a couple of days, I still think that. What you are producing as a DM should be for the consumption of others. Sure, there should be some personal satisfaction in what you are doing, but in the end, the goal is to give something to the players.
If no one is there to experience the world and story elements you have created, it can't really reach it's potential for enjoyment, but that is a separate consideration than the intention of the work.
Commercial art is defined as the art used in selling, or advertising. What you are selling to the players is an experience. You are attempting to persuade them to invest time, energy, emotional energy, and thought into a world and scenario that you are creating for their enjoyment. In the end, if the players don't buy into what you are selling them, the experience is not a good one.
Fine art, on the other hand, is defined as art done simply for the sake of its own aesthetic. While the entire gaming experience might produce such a thing, I am not sure that I would enjoy playing with a DM who was trying to do some sort of performance art where the DMing itself was the thing to be admired.
I'm not intending "GMing" to refer primarily to running the game. I probably should have been clearer. I'm using it very broadly to include everything from initial concept and world creation to running the game. In actual play the art isn't a DM performance, it is a collaborative artistic experience.
With commercial art you create a world and scenario aimed at certain players or certain types of players. Then you create a collaborative artistic experience with the players as you play the game. It is a success if they enjoy it, and a failure if they don't.
Fine art is creating a world and scenario out of a personal vision, and unless you are very anti-social it is one that you hope some others will also appreciate. If you find others who do appreciate it, you can have a great collaborative artistic experience playing the game. If you fail to find others to appreciate it, it doesn't necessarily mean the art has failed. It might just mean it hasn't reached its audience (like hating a concert others love).
I actually enjoy DMing games as commercial art (or just mindless fun on occasion). I also enjoy DMing as fine art, and I feel like it is a rather neglected or maligned style nowadays.
I think if people gave it a try they might find they liked it once they found the right game.