“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
Greetings, NPCs! We’ve another community event lined up for you.
To articulate our never-ending quest to raise the standard of discussion and civility in the world of gaming, we undertook the first in a series of “Asking Big Questions” posts back in May. In that first entry, the question was “What have you learned since you started blogging?” My heart was warmed by the response we received. Many of you shared your experiences, your anxieties, your histories with us and bared your souls to each other. I found that brand of humanity inspiring; we were transparent and open with our peers and ourselves.
If you weren’t around or otherwise didn’t participate, I highly suggest you take a look at some of the answers furnished by the great and sometimes very much unsung writers out there among us. Some of them left their responses in the comments, while others created entire blog posts dedicated to expressing what they learned through the blogging process.
And now to business… Let my colleague, the Evergreen Sage Mage, explain:
Recently in the Mage Chat, a few of us had a rather heated discussion on the issue of whether games are art. There were a lot of ideas being thrown around at what seemed like light-speed, so it was hard to keep up. Not all mages were present to share their two cents so, fired up by the conversation, The Purple Prose Mage and I took some time to bounce some ideas around and came up with a writing challenge, in the spirit of openness, where anybody who wants to voice their thoughts on the issue has a chance to do so. We proposed TWRM to host it, and there you have it. Here’s what we came up with for the second Big Question Challenge!
If you are interested in sharpening your pencils and have some thoughts to share, you are cordially invited to write up a response to the issue within a week of this posting. 500 words maximum. This first post you are reading is the announcement post, and after we collect the mages’ responses we will put them into a follow-up post for everyone’s enjoyment, next Monday.
Are video games art? Should video games be considered art pieces? Should some games be considered art, and not others? Why? What does it all mean?!
-the Evergreen Sage Mage
Video games as art. The subject crops up now and then (like a weed or like a rich harvest, depending on your perspective). To some it’s an important discussion to have. To others it’s largely irrelevant, and some say it ought to remain that way.
Allow me to briefly phrase where I stand on the issue, below the 500 word limit!
Since The Well-Red Mage’s inception, I’ve approached video games as an art form in general terms but not in absolute specificity, meaning I don’t consider every single video game ever to be “artsy” or to have been created explicitly to be art. It’s hard to classify the odd fan-service or running around blowing heads off online as art.
However, my broad working definition of art as “a deliberate, meaningful, expressive activity which creates artifacts or otherwise observable effects” means that I fundamentally disagree with those who say video games are not art because they’re not hung up in a museum. Not only are there actual video game museums now with physical art pieces hung there, but that limited definition of art excludes art history and other obvious art candidates which cannot be hung in museums: storytelling, literature, poetry, symphony, dance (which is indeed interactive, just like video games). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t believe music to be art, and yet music isn’t the same thing as paintings, sculptures, or artifacts.
It’s precisely because “art” is so broad, including visual, musical, interactive, and design aspects, that I consider games to be art. Note that I think this is regardless of whether a select group in majority or a collective of authorities on the subject deem something to be art or not. I don’t think that just because Ebert didn’t consider them art that that means that games are not actually art, for a specific example. I lean more toward art in the creation not the observation. I don’t think that anyone or any group can make authoritative claims on what human activities and effects do or do not count as art, because the creator of such an activity or effect may have expressed themselves through that vehicle in a way which the critic in authority has no jurisdiction over. So I want to be careful in saying what isn’t art, and err on the positive rather than the negative.
For me, “games as art” is not a plea for legitimacy from others outside gaming. It’s not a plea for legitimacy for my work either, since I believed games were art well before I began writing about them. It’s a plea for those who enjoy games to appreciate them in a deeper way, including deepening the conversation, but it is not a plea for making games less fun. Great thing about gaming is there’s a lot of variety.
But don’t just take it from me! One of the beautiful things about being individuals is that we have our own individual thoughts and opinions. Don’t let the collective decide for you. Don’t buy into mob mentality or whatever’s popular. Certainly don’t let celebrities and authorities figure out the world for you. I will do whatever I can to maintain this site as a hub for mutual respect even through disagreement, so let’s hear some varying takes on whether video games are art or not! Our contributors are going to have the opportunity to express their own opinions very soon.
We’d like to invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts on this important (or not so important) issue. You can either leave us a comment below or if you feel so inclined you can write up a whole blog post and link back here, detailing the nuances of your personal beliefs and arguments.
Either way, agree or disagree, I believe our world is richer for us talking to each other.
In your service,
-The Well-Red Mage
Here’s a short(ish) list of articles on the topic:
“Video games can never be art” (Ebert)
“Right. Moving on…[My Response to Ebert]”
“5 good reasons games are not art”
“For France, Video Games Are as Artful as Cinema”
“Are Videogames Art? Time Will Tell”
“Sorry MoMa, video games are not art”
“Are video games art: the debate that shouldn’t be”
“Games aren’t art, says Kojima”
Some video format stuff of some relation:
Brenda Romero – “Are Games Art?”
Kellee Santiago – “An argument for game artistry”
Extra Credits – “‘Art’ Is Not the Opposite of ‘Fun’ – Why Analyzing Games Makes Them Better”
Idea Channel – “A Defense of Overthinking Pop Culture”
Errant Signal – “Keep Your Politics Out of my Video Games”
Games as Lit. 101 – Counterpoint: “Interactivity Invalidates Art”
Games as Lit. 101 – Counterpoint: “You Can’t ‘Win’ Art”
Games as Lit. 101 – Literary Analysis: Art Games
Games as Lit. 101 – Artistic Responsibility
Games as Lit. 101 – The Challenge/Experience Shift
Games as Lit 101 – Do Social Issues Make Art Better?
Arcademia – [Interview] James Portnow Guides Designers with Extra Credits [art and games addressed around 3:48]
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