This week at The L Magazine, I finally end the discussion of whether video games are art by declaring: “Yeah, sure, okay.” Have something to add? Too late. But more importantly: why’s it such a big deal? Here’s a taste:
With that said, I do wonder what good it does to triumphantly declare video games “art” in the first place. “Art” is a word we say when looking at something to indicate to others that it’s especially worth looking at, as a sort of token of attention. This is useful because the primary goal of most contemporary art wasn’t to get your attention in the first place; the artist who made the work was too busy interviewing rape victims in Ecuador and splicing together their responses with magazine covers from the 1980s, or whatever, to make everything shiny and accessible for the viewer. Video games are in the opposite situation: they’re crafted from the beginning to capture and hold the player, and because of that their more creative elements get noticed without needing to be noticed as art.
So let’s give it a break, shall we? Not all good things need to be art, any more than all art needs to be good. Not all things we could call ‘art’ would benefit from the label, because many things—video games, babies, pancakes—do not need the hagiographies, physical conservation, and endless cocktail parties the “art” label can provide. People who think video games are for kids are the same middlebrow assholes who point out wrestling’s fake, and we don’t need to win their love by appropriating words like “art” that middlebrow assholes respect. Can video games be art? Sure, why not, if you’re gonna make a big thing about it. Can they be design? Absolutely. But aren’t they more interesting as games?
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