An Educational Digital Environment of Contemporary Aesthetics
Focused on Slow Gaming
Ieva Gintere
Institute of Social, Economic and Humanities Research, Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences,
Cēsu street 4, Valmiera LV4201, Latvia
Keywords: Digital Art Game, Contemporary Aesthetics, Slow Gaming.
Abstract: The article discusses the concept of an educational digital environment with elements of game, Art Space
which has been created on the basis of analysis of the art games produced between 1999 and 2020, and
incorporates an explanation of their cultural context. Art Space is related to serious art games and focuses on
the aesthetics and historical heritage of contemporary games. It invites the user into a virtual art academy with
several rooms where he/she can create individual artefacts. Art Space is intended to clarify the stylistics of
contemporary art games and hopes to open a new page in new media art devoted to research into contemporary
art. The article provides a review of recent literature on digital art- and edugames, as well as proposes an
innovative approach in digital media creation using the aspect of slow gaming.
This paper traces the development of a new digital
environment, Art Space. It belongs to the niche of
modern art- and educational gaming. Art Space is
identified as a digital environment because its
interactivity is less important in a comparison to a
regular game. The goal of Art Space is to educate its
players concerning digital aesthetics as well as to
stimulate reflection on its conceptual aspects. Because
Art Space is strongly linked to serious gaming, its
theoretical discourse is related to the research into
gaming. This paper presents an analysis of the pertinent
literature concerning game theory and art game
analysis focusing on the aspect of slow gaming. The
author suggests treating the digital environment as an
effective tool for transferring knowledge of
contemporary aesthetics to college and university
students as well as to a wider, general audience.
Work on the digital environment is being carried
out through collaboration between the researcher, Ieva Gintere (Vidzeme University of Applied
Sciences, Latvia) and the game artist,
Kristaps Biters (Art Academy, Latvia) in the
framework of a post-doctoral project led by Ieva
Gintere between 2018 and 2021. The methods used
are stylistic analyses of games as well as studies of
gaming theory. The project encompasses a body of
articles published during the development of Art
Space with a theoretical analysis related to its concept
(Gintere, 2019; Gintere, 2020a; Gintere, 2020c) and
the creation of a demo version of Art Space (Gintere,
Biters, 2020).
The author of this study suggests developing the
educational aspect of contemporary aesthetics in
serious gaming that has been missing to date. In Art
Space, which is devoted to the subjects of education
and contemporary art, the mode of slow gaming has
been used in order to pave the way to a thoughtful
kind of individual education as well to support a more
reflexive and immersive approach to modern artistic
phenomena, and to encourage their understanding and
2.1 The Situation in Edugames
Regarding Contemporary Aesthetic
Recently, digital educational or serious gaming has
been developed in multiple directions. However,
Gintere, I.
An Educational Digital Environment of Contemporary Aesthetics Focused on Slow Gaming.
DOI: 10.5220/0010403201630168
In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2021) - Volume 2, pages 163-168
ISBN: 978-989-758-502-9
2021 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
education related to contemporary aesthetics has been
neglected. Several authors have presented the
research situation into modern edugaming without
mentioning the subject of contemporary aesthetic
theory. As Baptista and Oliveira (2019) have noted,
“few cultural variables” were identified in the
literature about serious games, including little
mention of the specific area of modern art and
aesthetics. In the literature review by Malegiannaki
and Daradoumis (2017) there are no serious games
devoted to this field. The lack of this kind of gaming
is also obvious in a more recent article by Ferdani et
al. (2020). They have examined the state-of-the-art of
games around culture, but no aesthetic aspects were
taken into account.
There are many games with an aim to reconstruct
the phenomena of the past such as the spiritual beliefs
of the ancient Egyptians and the culture of ancient
Rome (Mortara et al., 2014). There has been little
focus on the present time, so there is a need to
document, analyze and categorize the currently
relevant aesthetical environments in digital games
from the point of view of today. By doing this the
research community could thus gain an accurate
image of the present-day artistic styles and document
changes as they develop. The audio-visual traits of art
games, the specific means of expression, appearance
of different styles, nuances of shapes, colors, manner
of design and other artistic features are almost left
aside in gaming theory. Since games can have a short
shelf life today, the aesthetic representations in some
games are at risk of being lost after a period of time.
There are few scientific studies documenting stylistic
analysis of games. Abstractionism is a recognized
category of games (Gee, Dolah, 2018), Koc has
examined the modern trend of vaporwave (Koc,
2017). Photorealism is present in the discourse of
games, too (Järvinen, 2002). However, an illustration
of aesthetic styles in art gaming is scarce. The author
of this study has recently sketched the profile of
gaming stylistics and named games representing them
(Gintere, 2020b).
2.2 Complexity of Aesthetics Today
The lack of serious games about contemporary
aesthetics could be explained by its complexity. The
aesthetic trends of contemporary art are not an easy
subject to master. They may seem to be edgy and not
easily understandable. This is caused by the
intellectually charged tradition of modernism that still
governs our cultural arena and requires a specifically
educated public. Because the public today is mostly
orientated towards gaining practical knowledge, it
might miss the metaphysical information that can be
obtained by studying arts’ theory and philosophy and
thus miss becoming familiar with contemporary
cultural capital. Aesthetics today possess a complex
stylistic language that can be difficult to understand if
the public is not informed about its derivations, and
cultural context. Particular styles might need to be
decoded. For instance, it is important to explain why
the quite robust style of pixels is still used in gaming
very frequently while there exist other technical
resources to create a photorealistic environment with
curved lines and smooth figures. Pixel style refers to
the classical values of aesthetics where geometrical
forms are said to be the best images of absolute beauty
and harmony. A geometrical shape has the status of
an ideal form recognized not subjectively, but
universally (Kane 2014), i.e., everyone must agree it
is perfect. Even if this concept seems to be outmoded,
it is deeply rooted in Western culture and the modern
means of expression does not improve upon it.
One of the general goals of Art Space is to express
the intellectual baggage that each style encompasses
as simply as possible. The information should be easy
to perceive in order to be enjoyed.
The author of Art Space suggests that game-based
digital media should become agents of cultural
transformation with an aim to help to introduce
contemporary art traditions to an audience even wider
than students of art. Shliakhovchuk and her colleague
in a recent literature review concerning serious
gaming claim that “video games explicitly or
implicitly encourage gamers to absorb their built-in
cultural messages” (Shliakhovchuk, Muñoz García,
2020). Games have been proven to be capable of
affecting the way people think and develop
intercultural literacy. They are acknowledged to be
tools inhabiting and disseminating cultural meaning.
Gaming has a capacity to stimulate intellectual
awareness in particular when it is not oriented to a
rapidly achieved result, but rather when oriented
towards exploration and making deliberate choices.
2.3 Slow Gaming
Art Space has the aim to find an effective approach
for explaining the difficult area of modern art and its
theoretical heritage. This explanatory style largely
dictates the tempo of play in Art Space. It is a
sandbox-style game-related contemplative
environment with an art gallery and short textual
materials that are intended to clarify the theoretical
aspects of styles such as pixel, generative art,
futurism, and others. Art Space has been built as a
virtual art academy with several rooms representing
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
each style. The users are guided by a narrator. In the
game the Orbs of Knowledge discuss the cultural
context of styles, show examples in gaming, and their
antecedents in the era of modernism. In addition, the
user is invited to act creatively using the stylistic
means of expression of each room. The creative
elements also affect the dynamics of interaction.
During the last few years, some authors of new
media art have demonstrated an alternative feeling of
time and an unusual emphasis on reflection. Although
the paradigm of existence in the modern world has
proved to be fast paced, recently there has been a
tendency towards slow interaction in gameplay. As the
gaming theorist Tim Marsh has stated, slow games are
“intended to focus attention/concentration, and provide
openings and opportunities for reflection,
contemplation, and learning”. The authors of games
with a slow interaction are artists Ernest Edmonds,
Michael Brough and Ian Bogost, to mention a few.
Slow games are created with the aim of raising
awareness, of “deep attention, reflective, and
contemplative experiences”, in order “to stimulate
thought and shape experience”, and thus to open better
opportunities for deepened thought (Marsh, 2016).
In Art Space play is “similar to performing, or
dancing with technology”. It aims “to create a sense
of calm and allow participants to break away, clear
their minds, and unwind”. The style of interaction in
Art Space depends on the user. Although the tempo is
not permanently and obligatory slow, its’ flow is
similar to the games that could be called
contemplative such as The Night Journey (2010)
which is aimed not at fast reaction but rather at
reflection and exploration of the environment. Also,
in the famous Minecraft (2011), as Tim Marsh has
noted, the speed of the game “is dictated largely by
the player” yet one can see moments “when the player
stops and pauses to watch the beauty of a sunset or
marvel at the sudden rain” (Marsh, 2016). This kind
of lingering is characteristic of games that enhance
the capacity for philosophical reflection like Every
Day the Same Dream (2009) and Graveyard (2008).
This group of games has been described by
(Chittaro, Sioni, 2018), as well. The authors have
carried out research regarding existential video games
which are “employed to encourage users to reflect on
the impact of death awareness on their lives”. This
“could be considered as a sub-genre of serious
games”. Moreover, there are many serious games and
art games with the purpose of reflection that could be
classified as contemplative. In these games the player
can take his/her time without a risk of breaking “the
subtleness of the experience” caused by a time
limitation and without interrupting “the flow of
emotions” the game can evoke.
Furthermore, there are game-based artworks
where the mechanics are much slower such as the
“game poems” The Slow Year (2010) by Ian Bogost,
Vesper.5 (2012) by Michael Brough and the Shaping
Form artworks (2007) by Ernest Edmonds. These
activities might take days or months for the player to
see the changes caused by interactions such as
walking-by or hand waving. Vesper.5 only allows the
player to take one step a day. The work replays all
previous steps evoking reflection on steps that have
already been taken, before pausing to wait for the
player to take their daily step (Marsh, 2016). These
works develop the capacity for sedate observation,
consideration, and peacefulness.
Papa Sangre (2010) is a unique example of slow
gaming that could be called an audio horror game. It is
focused on the acoustical experience. “The player must
have patience and move slowly through the space […]
Through controlling the pacing in this manner, the
game forces players to listen while they move, paying
attention to the sounds that other characters or objects
are making as well as to their own sounding bodies in
the virtual world” (Collins, 2013).
In comparison to a purely entertaining game, the
user of Art Space needs more time to reflect upon the
messages and atmosphere of the digital environment.
The author of this study believes that this type of
game-based works has the potential to raise cultural
awareness and to develop an intellectual approach to
disciplines in the humanities. In these disciplines,
phenomena “are understood to change through
consecutive readings and interpretations” and are
“highly contextual and subjective” (Levenberg et al.,
2018). Art Space provides a space to question cultural
ideas and stresses individual meaning-making. This
approach has been less important in gaming to date
since most games have been largely orientated
towards action. However, a more developed
reflective approach would diversify game culture,
widen the scope of the analysis, “inscribe new value
into video games andpave the way for a new
generation of games” (Styhre et al., 2018).
Slow play also refers to the concept of critical play
coined by the well-known game designer and theorist
Mary Flanagan. She claims that games should not link
players to the “slavery of play” but should rather help
them better understand the deep significance of
artists’ messages and see the world in new ways
(Flanagan, 2016). This kind of perception regulates
the tempo of play and excludes rushing. The
contemplative approach to play in Art Space
determines its rather moderate speed of interaction,
but this can be combined with a rapid style of play.
An Educational Digital Environment of Contemporary Aesthetics Focused on Slow Gaming
2.3.1 Details of User Activities in Relation to
Slow Gaming
Art Space typifies slow gaming for several reasons.
Firstly, its user is invited to read the textual
information that explains the historical and
conceptual context of styles. This requires serious
attention and time even though the texts are laconic.
The metaphysical information that can be obtained by
an insight into arts’ theory and philosophy will not be
revealed quickly. Yet the appealing virtual space in
the game that talks about the roots of styles in a most
simple way has been created with the goal of making
users intrinsically motivated to gain new knowledge
concerning contemporary art. Thus, the author of Art
Space intends to support the process of education
regarding styles and strengthen an appreciation as
well as discursivity of contemporary culture capital.
Secondly, the user of Art Space is able to create
his/her own artefacts in the virtual art academy using
the current trends of digital art inherited from
modernism, such as, glitch, pixel aesthetics, hacking,
generative art, noise, futurism, photorealism, naïve
art, and the kitsch/camp style. The player must
complete the tasks by building and editing objects to
represent the given art style. Building and editing
mechanics give the player the freedom to replicate the
specific styles. Apart from creative activities and the
educative/informative nature of the game, there are
no rules to follow and no specific goals to achieve.
The player explores the stylistics and finds the magic
of the artistic effects of each room.
The third reason why the interaction in Art Space
can be described as relatively slow is that the user will
be acquainted with the historical antecedents of each
style and its contemporary witnesses. Observation of
the artworks by the game players is also considered a
slow, meditative action. The references to the games
made by artists in the first decades of the 21
will serve as educational items. For example, by using
the effect of glitch, the player could be introduced to
Error City Tourist (2016) which is an example of
glitch in the modern art game area. Likewise, the
player could discover precursors of glitch in the
modernism era through the painting by Vincent van
Gogh, Bedroom in Arles (1888). It shows the first
signs of deformation in modern art that turned into
significant deviations from images of conventional
reality. Thus, the new game will encompass the
historical background of digital art games today.
Art Space has an educational function, yet above
all, it is an artefact that invites the users to immerse
themselves in the aesthetic atmosphere. Even more
important than the informative, and creative aspect
for the user is the opportunity to enjoy the rooms of
styles in Art Space. This process cannot take place
hurriedly. Art Space offers nine rooms of
sophisticated aesthetic styles. For instance, in the
room of Generative art fine colorful lines are freely
drawn to obtain multiple shapes (figure 1).
Figure 1: Art Space. Generative art room, screenshot
(Gintere, Biters, 2020).
The Hack room surprises with slowly horizontally
moving transparent waves and dark geometrical
forms whose grid is tinted brightly green. The user
needs to build a construction in order to exit the
hacked space (figure 2).
Figure 2: Art Space. Hack room, screenshot (Gintere,
Biters, 2020).
The Pixel room is a hall with a meadow-like floor
that blossoms with tiny flowers and other floristically
designed elements in pixel forms surrounded by a
light green forest (figure 3).
Figure 3: Art Space. Pixel room, screenshot (Gintere,
Biters, 2020).
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
The noise room will familiarize the user with the
noise-related sound examples. Antecedents to these
are explored in a black hall with a chess-like floor
illuminated by pastel-white lamps, marble mystic
spheres and screens of noise visualizations (figure 4).
Each of the rooms has its own stylistic character and
mood. They make an ensemble of contemporary
aesthetic trends demonstrating a particular stylistic
signature and cultural context.
Figure 4: Art Space. Noise room, screenshot (Gintere,
Biters, 2020).
The goals of the innovative digital environment
named Art Space are to educate its players concerning
digital art, and to suggest a new trend for edu- and art
gaming focused on contemplation and slow gaming.
Art Space is an experimental example of this
endeavor. This product has been created as a
prototype for emerging gaming and educational
platforms with an aim to enhance a wider acceptance
of contemporary aesthetics, as well as to support an
understanding of its artistic significance. Following
the completion of the prototype of Art Space, the
author of this article hopes to create an alternative
digital soundscape of sound art and immersive
aesthetics. It would offer a virtual trip into the modern
tradition of noise-related artefacts, coupled with the
feeling and concept of immersion, while including
their cultural backgrounds. The final phase of the Art
Space project contains a study to collect the players’
reactions to this aesthetic environment. This survey is
intended to show the educational impact on users as
well as recording their experience of slow gaming in
Art Space.
This research has been supported by a grant from the
European Regional Development Fund project
“Leveraging ICT product innovations by enhancing
codes of modern art” No.
within the Activity “Post-doctoral Research
Many thanks to Wayne Chislett for his kind
support and proofreading.
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