Nerd’s Corner: Art of gaming
The Art of Video Games exhibition started its national tour in Boca Raton, Fl. Oct. 24.
As one of the first exhibitions to explore games as an artistic medium, it received a lot of hype when it opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum earlier this year.
Unfortunately, the curators were widely criticized for taking public opinion into account when choosing which pieces to display.
This means all the games portrayed are the best-selling ones, not necessarily those that possess the most artistic value.
The exhibition also attempts to give a visual history of video game technology. The only problem with this idea is that Pong is less art than it is utility. There must be artistic intention for a piece to have any hope of affecting an audience, and it just isn’t there in half of what is offered.
One of the games you can actually play at the exhibition is Pac-Man. Sure, you could discuss the developers’ choice of color while gobbling up cherries and ghosts, but it certainly wouldn’t convince any skeptic that video games are an art form.
Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post wrote of the collection: “At the very least, one would like an exhibition that makes critical distinctions, that tells us which games are better than others, and why. What must a game do to become art?”
Do video games even have the capacity to become art?
In a contested article, renowned film critic Roger Ebert wrote that “video games can never be art, …you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome.” He goes on to say that if a game has no points or rules, it “ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, a dance, a film.”
The main problem Ebert has with video games as art seems to be the culture gap that was created by such a rapidly growing industry. He can’t understand video games as deserving their own classification as media. Essentially, they are the rock ‘n’ roll of our generation.
In the 1850s, poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire denounced photography as an art form, advocating its return to “its real purpose, which is that of being the servant to the sciences and arts.” He claimed that photography should not encroach upon “the domain of the impalpable and the imaginary.” The National Portrait Gallery might disagree with Charles.
John Dewey’s definition of art is more nuanced than Ebert’s and Baudelaire’s. Dewey describes art as an aesthetic experience: “ A work of art no matter how old and classic is actually, not just potentially, a work of art only when it lives in some individualized experience.”
In this way, artistic value can be placed on a video game relative to its immersion. As such, games like “Heavy Rain” absolutely fit the bill. “Dear Esther” and “The Unfinished Swan” (which came out Tuesday, Oct. 23) are also wonderful examples of interactive art. These games capture human emotion in a captivating way without the use of high scores and shotguns.
The next time you’re feeling artsy, put on your hipster glasses and try one out. You’ll be glad you did.