Recently there was a post on Linkedin asking the question: “Which is harder…art or programming.”  This was my reply:

“I think first there should be a correction to the question. When directing games I always referred to the Visual Arts team and the Engineering Arts team. Both are essential pieces to creating a final artwork: the game. Both have unique challenges. It is dangerous to claim that either is more difficult and damaging to the process. For example, one challenge with Visual Art is that everybody can look at it and have a opinion about it. The challenge with programming is that NOT everybody can look at it and form an opinion. I am a Visual artist, and yet I have seen pages of code that rival fine art in their elegance. Cheers.”

I suspect that the post and the over-simplistic way the question was posted was intended to elicit a split reaction. The responses were divided.  Many said programming flat out, ironically for the same reasons I cited above.  That being the ability to look at a piece of visual art and form an opinion and the inability to form an instant opinion of code.  I thought this was a particularly sad and telling reaction since that is looking at the process and not the result.  Visual art is the result of much deliberation and psychology that is basically the code of it.  While someone can certainly look at a piece of art and form an opinion, that does not mean that they understand how that reaction was created by the artist (the logic).  More importantly, if there is an adverse reaction to the piece that is not intended (a bug), it doesn’t mean they understand the way to fix it or change it (bug reproduction).

At the same time, most visual artists can look at the way a piece of code works in the function of the software, but it does not mean they know how it was created or how to fix any bugs that come up.

It is precisely this ignorance and departmental elitism that creates team damaging, and I dare say, studio destroying friction.  Both are tools employed to create a final artwork that is exclusively neither.

Some said simply “both” which I loved because it reminded me of my daughter’s first day of kindergarten wherein she determined that some children were taller than her and she was taller than them. “We are taller than each other!” she exclaimed.  I like that for this problem.  Visual Art and Engineering Art are harder than each other!

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