Friday, November 30, 2012

Here's some British dude who thinks video games aren't art

The Guardian just published an opinion piece from Jonathan Jones who wants to take to task the "overly serious and reverent praise of digital games by individuals or institutions who are almost certainly too old, too intellectual and too dignified to really be playing at this stuff."

He also really wants you to know that he hangs out at Oxford.  A lot.

The Museum of Modern Art has apparently offended Jones's (effete) sensibilities by introducing video games to their collection.  Jones not only thinks that most people in the art world are too "old", "intellectual", and "dignified" to play video games, and therefore to know whether or not they belong there.  Interesting, because it seems that Jones himself is the one to "intellectual" and "dignified" to play them and understand the artistic capabilities of the medium.  He also claims that art "has to be an act of personal imagination"—fair enough—but that this aspect is absent from video games, rendering them "not art", I guess.

On one hand, I think Jones misunderstands MoMA's reasons for introducing video games to their collection.  He does give an example that chess pieces may be crafted with some artistry, but the game of chess itself is not art.  I think MoMA is actually quite interested in the design of video games: in charting the evolution of their design, in exploring the possibilities of design, and even simply finding aesthetic pleasure in their design.  As digital works occupy an ever larger portion of our culture, MoMA  actually has a duty to be responsive to these changes.  Code and digital images say as much about contemporary culture as a manuscript or painting would have in the past and have no less artistic merit.

Jones thinks the things that make video games unique as a medium and interesting as art disqualify games from the distinction of art.  To him, video games are "playgrounds" in which creators have ceded control of their works.  If he considers the format of video games too open-ended to contain any real vision, perhaps he should take on abstract art in its entirety as well.  I think Jones would have a hard time arguing that a video game is not a "work."  All works have meaning for author and audience.  The creation of any work is ultimately the result of personal vision—no matter how many people collaborated on it, regardless of commercial or artistic intent, irrespective of how the audience engages with that work after it enters the world.  Creation is the result of intent, and thus Jones's qualifier of "personal imagination" makes any work art.  His qualm with video games as art seems to be more of a matter of personal preference.   I am frankly surprised that Jones, an art critic, seems uninterested in the unique artistic possibilities of video games.

1 comment:

  1. I once saw an exhibit at the DIA composed entirely of chess boards and their pieces . . . just sayin.