I realized this morning that even though there is a big movement to try and get games classified as art, that it doesn’t seem to include the source code.
Most people will agree that creating textures, modeling 3D objects, composing soundtracks, writing storylines are all artforms that are part of making a game. One crucial piece that’s oddly left out is the code that brings it all together and allows the game to exist.
Maybe it’s lack of common understanding, but no one seems to get the code side of things. There are awards now for finished games, awards for best audio, best looking graphics, but nothing for the programmer. We’re the unsung people that program long hours, making it all work and giving marketing the features they love to put on the back of the box, and yet there’s not an award for “most optimized renderer”, “best file system access without a singleton”, or “best ability to stay at 60 frames a second without hitching”.
Maybe I’m the only person that sees the distinct lack of acknowledgment, maybe it’s because code is so difficult to grasp that we’re overlooked, or maybe it’s because programming isn’t considered a traditional artform.
Code is how I create. I bring to life characters through my code. I can generate scenery dynamically without any pre-modeled objects, from ocean waves to fractal trees. I know I can’t be the only person that feels a connection to others when reading the code they’ve written. The way the brackets are placed, their use of if/elese instead of switch, how their systems are abstracted; it all gives a glimpse into who they are. You can see how they think, what they deem important, and the amount of care they took to make things work efficiently.
Programming a game is also a collaborative effort. It brings people together. Each of them contributes their abilities to make one single compilable codebase enabling game designers and modelers to show off what they’ve created. The code sits in the background, staying out of the way and presents the hard work of everyone else. I enjoy playing games and just pausing the action and looking at what has been created. I explore the frozen frame and brain storm on the techniques needed to create it. I learn from what others have done even though the code itself is the most hidden part of the game.
Is code art? I think it can be. It elicits emotion, brings ideas and people together, and when done well, is beatiful.
Can people’s minds be changed to see what programmers create as an artform, or will code continue to be considered unimportant and something that only geeks understand?