[-empyre-] Art cred and advocacy
agora158 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 3 03:48:13 EST 2013
Paolo, so nice to see Molle here in -empyre. I have been following your
wonderful games since many years and use them as case examples of esthetic
refined and political clever when I teach about games, first in Sweden and
now in Uruguay.
I hope you are familiar with Gonzalo Frasca, an Uruguayan game researcher
and theoric, one of the first to take a PhD in gaming,
He did a game I love, the 12th September,
On Sat, Mar 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM, paolo - molleindustria <
paolo at molleindustria.it> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello empyrialists,
> thank you Claudia and Renate for inviting me.
> I'd like to start by reframing the introductory post. Just a little bit.
> If your filter bubbles include gaming circles you have witnessed the many
> collective cheers, hoots, and metaphorical stadium waves raising upon every
> glorious step of the videogame medium toward high-culture acceptance.
> The repeated "video games can never be art" claims made by Roger Ebert
> from 2005 onward forced a multitude of North American game developers,
> critics and players to confront the mysterious Art Thing, possibly for the
> first time in their lives. Their honor, their reputation and, most
> importantly, their favorite pastime was being attacked by a prominent
> In the following years, a fierce movement of DIY art criticism emerged
> within the game industry. Programmers started to google terms like
> "aesthetics"; game journalists filled their indignant counter-articles with
> pictures of Duchamp's Fountain. Every strange, intimate, weird looking game
> was measured for its potential to defuse Ebert's argument.
> Even hardcore gamers started to cry while playing (and wrote extensively
> about it) demonstrating they also had feelings. Those little sprites and
> polygons really mattered to them.
> As the narrative goes, from that cycle of shame and pride emerged a new
> sensibility. While the gaming community matured and developed higher
> cultural ambitions, the blinded masses of non-gamers and the mainstream
> press became more and more sympathetic to the popular form.
> The recent move by the NEA to include games as possible recipients for
> grants has been interpreted as a federal seal of approval (although, in the
> past, the agency funded videogame projects through individual artist
> grants). The exhibition "The Art of Videogames" at the Smithsonian, shortly
> followed by the acquisition of 14 game titles by the MoMA, has been saluted
> as the ultimate institutional validation of the "games are art" truism.
> In the midst of the celebrations it wasn't appropriate to wonder whether
> or not the Smithsonian show was a populist publicity stunt "generously"
> supported by Entertainment Software Association. The curatorial process
> involved an online poll asking netizens to vote for their favorite games -
> it didn't make a big difference since only 5 among the 80 chosen titles
> were actually playable.
> And I haven't heard many commentators reflecting on the fact that the
> aforementioned MoMA acquisitions were part of the Architecture and Design
> collection. What does it mean to put Pac-Man right next to swanky
> furniture? Is the hip and yuppie field of interaction design
> imperialistically claiming videogames? Are games furniture? Can
> architecture make you cry (like videogames, of course)?
> For those who don't hang out in certain niche art circles, it doesn't
> really matter that artists have been appropriating, hacking, and creating
> videogames (and videogame culture) for about 20 years now. It doesn't
> matter that a myriad of game-themed art exhibitions swept across the
> digital art world, arguably becoming its most popular sub-genre.
> Last night Stephen Colbert cracked a joke about the exotic idea of arcades
> at the MoMA but we rarely see games presented in relation with
> computational, interactive, combinatory and digital art, or even with
> relational aesthetics or performance. All these forms are way more related
> to games than the kind of art that collects dust inside museums.
> These issues did not matter because that exciting, pedantic, fractal,
> never-ending dispute we call "art" was never the point of this debate. The
> point was to "elevate" the cultural status of videogames as a whole: as a
> medium and as an industry.
> For gamers it was a retroactive validation of the countless hours they
> spent moving pixels and polygons around: "We knew we weren't wasting out
> For the industry it was a way to snort some of that magic art dust without
> accepting the responsibilities that come along with a privileged space for
> cultural experimentation: "We don't want just weird artsy games in
> galleries and museums. We want Pac-Man!"
> The game industry and the culture surrounding it can be best understood as
> a traumatized child or an abused pet. Throughout the years videogames have
> been repeatedly treated as cultural punching bags and convenient
> scapegoats. The folks personally involved in this field reacted to the long
> stigmatization by developing a certain brand of groupthink, a perennial
> persecution complex, and a compulsion to stick together no matter what.
> In the past I've been accused of damaging the reputation of the industry
> by making games about controversial issues; works defying players'
> expectations or rejecting clearly defined goals were dismissed as "not
> Now games for social change are often mentioned as symptoms of the
> "maturation" of the form via New Age gurus like Jane McGonigal.
> Independent/artsy titles are presented next to idiotic shooters to support
> the launch of the new PlayStation. Imagine the toilet industry using
> Duchamp to achieve cultural validation (and possibly get art grants and tax
> breaks in the process).
> What did not change between now and then is the tendency to conceptualize
> the gaming field as an homogeneous space devoid of conflict.
> I would love to see a conversation *not* informed by the catch-all
> attitude of the "Videogames and Art" controversy of these recent years. If
> we are talking about games we must learn to qualify the objects in
> question. Because there are major differences between a commercial product
> like Pac-Man and a personal and profound game like Cart Life. The lack of
> critical discourse within the game industry should not influence the way we
> treat games outside of it.
> And while we push arcade cabinets in and out of museums we could also try
> to complicate the terms of the debate.
> Instead of asking ourselves if and how games can be art, maybe we can
> start to think how art can be more like games: popular, participatory,
> accessible and yet complex; able to engage people deeply and for more than
> a fleeting moment; capable of providing richer experiences the more you get
> intimate with them.
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
cell Sweden +4670-3213370
cell Uruguay +598-99470758
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with
your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always
long to return.
— Leonardo da Vinci
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