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Video games as an art form

The meaning of «video games as an art form»

The concept of video games as a form of art is a commonly debated topic within the entertainment industry. Though video games have been afforded legal protection as creative works by the Supreme Court of the United States, the philosophical proposition that video games are works of art remains in question, even when considering the contribution of expressive elements such as acting, visuals, stories, interaction and music. Even art games, games purposely designed to be a work of creative expression, have been challenged as works of art by some critics.[1]

In 1983, the video game magazine Video Games Player stated that video games "are as much an art form as any" other field of entertainment.[2]

The earliest institutional consideration of the video game as an art form came in the late 1980s when art museums began retrospective displays of then outdated first and second generation games. In exhibitions such as the Museum of the Moving Image's 1989 "Hot Circuits: A Video Arcade", video games were showcased as preformed works whose quality as art came from the intent of the curator to display them as art.[3] Further explorations of this theme were set up in the late 1990s and early 2000s with exhibitions like the Walker Art Center's "Beyond Interface" (1998),[4] the online "Cracking the Maze - Game Plug-Ins as Hacker Art" (1999),[5] the UCI Beall Centre's "Shift-Ctrl" (2000),[3] and a number of shows in 2001.[4]

The concept of the video game as a Duchamp-style readymade or as found object resonated with early developers of the art game. In her 2003 Digital Arts and Culture paper, "Arcade Classics Span Art? Current Trends in the Art Game Genre", professor Tiffany Holmes noted that a significant emerging trend within the digital art community was the development of playable video game pieces referencing or paying homage to earlier classic works like Breakout, Asteroids, Pac-Man, and Burgertime.[6] In modifying the code of simplistic early games or by creating art mods for more complex games like Quake, the art game genre emerged from the intersection of commercial games and contemporary digital art.[3]

At the 2010 Art History of Games conference in Atlanta, Georgia, professor Celia Pearce further noted that alongside Duchamp's art productions, the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, and most immediately the New Games Movement had paved the way for more modern "art games". Works such as Lantz' Pac Manhattan, according to Pearce, have become something like performance art pieces.[5] Most recently, a strong overlap has developed between art games and indie games. This meeting of the art game movement and the indie game movement is important according to Professor Pearce, insofar as it brings art games to more eyes and allows for greater potential to explore in indie games.[5]

In March 2006, the French Minister of Culture first characterized video games as cultural goods and as "a form of artistic expression," granting the industry a tax subsidy[7] and inducting two French game designers (Michel Ancel, Frédérick Raynal) and one Japanese game designer (Shigeru Miyamoto) into the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In May 2011, the United States National Endowment for the Arts, in accepting grants for art projects for 2012, expanded the allowable projects to include "interactive games", furthering the recognition of video games as an art form.[8] Similarly, the United States Supreme Court ruled that video games were protected speech like other forms of art in the June 2011 decision for Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. In Germany, prior to August 2018, the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK) software ratings body enforced Strafgesetzbuch (German code) section 86a as outlined by the German government, which banned the sale of games that contained imagery of extremist groups such as Nazis; while Section 86a allowed for use of these images in artistic and scientific works, video games were not seen to fall within an artistic use. On August 9, 2018, the German government agreed to recognize some of the artistic nature of video games and softened the restriction on Section 86a, allowing the USK to consider games with such imagery as long as they fell within the social adequacy clause of Section 86a.[9][10][11]

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