My interest in games, not being a gamer, lies mainly in their aesthetics and storytelling possibilities. Growing up, gaming consoles were practically forbidden at home and became familiar with videogames mainly through related media (cartoons, playing cards, etc.). As a visual magpie, if something looks beautiful and conveys a narrative in a curious way, I will probably fall a little bit in love with it. Even better if I can then actively dive in and run around within its boundaries and stretch out the borders, hence why I am curious about videogames. As a medium, they are just so very rich in possibility.
Last year I was able to visit ACMI’s Game Masters exhibition that featured dozens of playable games and celebrated the work of notable game designers from around the globe. Detailed write-ups of each game along with associated corporations and creators were given alongside each station, shedding light on how much energy really went into making a game – from initial concept to finished product. Te Papa also hosted this exhibition, and a number of other institutions including the Smithsonian and Museum of Modern Art in America have recently chosen to host videogame-focused exhibitions.
I came across an article written by Keith Stuart last night which engages with this and the question of whether videogames can ever be considered art or an artistic medium:
He writes in response to an article written by Jonathan Jones, who takes offence at the MoMA’s decision to include a videogames sector within its walls, which can be found here:
According to Jones, videogames will never be a true artistic medium as players “cannot claim to impose a personal vision of life on the game”, a statement I disagree with to a degree. As discussed in Wednesday’s lecture, the scale to which players can repurpose games to their desire is incredibly flexible; perhaps machinema will be considered a form of pop art decades from now…
Stuart engages with the notion that games are seen through a relatively narrow light in the media. Unfortunately, the mainstream media’s interpretation of ‘videogames’ is more often than not focused on violence-heavy FPS games, and while it does a fantastic job of presenting their supposed dangers (influences on society, connection with psychotic gunmen, etc.), many reports often glide over the many amazing features and positive influences videogames as a medium possess.
Whether or not videogames are an art form depends a great deal on one’s relationship with gaming culture and one’s definition of art. To me, the fact that Te Papa and MoMA have chosen to dedicate exhibitions to the global, societal influence that games possess speaks volumes about how society is changing both in relation to and because of them, and their role as cultural artefacts (though of course, the impact of this really depends on one’s feelings towards museums as legitimizing institutions and games as a medium…).
Both writers raise interesting points, but overall I side more with Stuart – particularly his idea that “defining art is madness, and dismissing a vast, vibrant and creative medium is folly”. Gaming is forever changing, and to overlook the medium simply because it is relatively young, or to attempt to define or judge it within a narrow definition, would be to miss out on a great deal.
There is a lot to discuss within these articles, and I hope to do so in more depth in future, but for now I’m curious to hear your thoughts – do you think that videogames are art?
Game Masters Exhibition: http://gamemasters.acmi.net.au/