Art Games: Here We Go Again Indeed

I don't know what's up with this month. March seems to be the month of debating the "are games art" question. I almost feel like we're starting to beat this one to the ground, even though nobody's really gotten to an answer that satisfies.

I say this, because in all of the shuffle in the blogosphere about art games recently I seem to have missed that even Gamasutra featured an article trying to get to the core of the issue. Bryan Ochalla wrote the cover feature Are Games Art? (Here We Go Again...). Unlike other posts that we've seen recently, this article asks a number of prominent industry professionals of their position on the topic. I was happy to see that Santiago Siri was also included.

The initial results are that "unsurprisingly, the answer among game developers is a resounding 'yes.'” But when it comes to finding a more concrete answer as to why games are art, or what constitutes a game as art, things went in several different directions. Each person quoted in the article has a more or less different understanding of what makes a game art. Or, perhaps more to the point, what makes anything art.

According to Tim Schafer, "art is about creatively expressing thoughts or emotions that are hard or impossible to communicate through literal, verbal means." On the other hand, Rod Humble says that "art is that which can make at least one person a better human being." Differently still, Michael Samyn quotes an unnamed artist who proposes that art is “objects or situations that provoke cultural discussion," in this post.

Realizing that everyone seems to have a different idea of what art is, Samyn makes a good point: "Contemporary artists can simply make up any definition for the word art that suits them. So the question whether or not something belongs in a category that anybody can redefine whenever they see fit, seems absurd."

It all really just brings us back to where we started. Somebody asks, "are games art?" One side cheers "yes!" Then the other side scorns "no!" They give each other menacing glances and go their separate ways, mumbling under their breaths. After all of that it seems like, just maybe, we're facing a problem of tolerance and open-mindedness (or lack thereof).

In the end, arguments of inclusions and exclusions eventually just feel to be devoid of substance. Which makes me wonder if we need to accept the relativism of our situation and allow for broader definitions. Assuming, of course, that definitions are even appropriate at this point on account of their exclusive nature.

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