Playing and Metagames

Table of Contents

This article defines the state of our vision, which connects to the world through a computer’s UI and uses data to make decisions, as a new type of “Symbolic Form” for the 21st century. This form replaces the “Symbolic Form” of the earlier age, which was defined by technique of perspective from painting. This article also analyzes particular Japanese contemporary art pieces that reflect gaming images and considers their special qualities as well as the artists’ worldviews. This analysis is conducted from the viewpoint of gamers, who repeat cycles of “playing,” actions and decisions made during play; and “metagames,” macroscopic strategic decisions based on analyses of data and trends.
The Omniscient or: Exdeath (2017) by Kazuki Umezawa, an artist who highlights “playing” in his work, has a traditional composition that calls to mind the work of Michelangelo by bringing to the form of painting the gaze of gamers, who reach new high scores through an elucidation of the internal game mechanisms. Card Sleeve (2018) by Alan emphasizes “metagames” through the insertion of secondhand market prices for Magic: The Gathering cards into a tableau to reflect the price of the work itself. The idea of taking the art scene as a metagamic environment and emphasizing the data of the card’s monetary value reflects the worldview of competitive gamers in the Internet Age. From the above examples, it is clear that the dual-layered viewpoint created from “playing” and “metagames” is the foundation for contemporary art works that use games as their driving motif.