As I was preparing to go to E3 this week, I was delighted to see Paola Antonelli’s fascinating talk: “Why I Brought Pac-Man to MoMA“ on TED. Her reasons for including 14 classic video games in the MoMA collection are that they are all examples of good design. This collection is to celebrate and preserve these games as early examples of interaction design. I applauded the initiative even before I heard her presentation. After watching it, and knowing how much video games have evolved since those early examples, I would love to see MoMA continue to build the collection and include more recent innovations in interaction design.
However, this collection also created a heated debate about whether video games were art. Some argued that since they were not art, they should not be part of the MoMA collection, overlooking that these were part of a collection on interaction design. Even more interesting – the debate continued in the comments on the TED website with some people passionately arguing for each side.
As someone who works in the video game industry and with artists everyday, I asked myself – and a few colleagues – are video games art? We all agreed that the early examples in the MoMA collection are definitely not art. However, when we started to think of some recent games, we could come up with examples that could be considered art. When you look at the definition of fine art:
fine arts, plural
- Creative art, esp. visual art, whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content
- - the convergence of popular culture and fine art
- An activity requiring great skill or accomplishment
- - he’ll have to learn the fine art of persuasion
there are a few video games on the market in the past few years that meet the first definition. All of them are well known in the game community, but they are unfortunately not as well known in the broad public. Some game developers are working to create beautiful, emmersive worlds, meaningful narrative and an emotional or intellectual experience that goes beyond shooting, fighting and solving simple puzzles. As the technology on which these games are built evolves, artists, writers and designers will be able to take us more into the realm of art. It will be interesting to be part of the evolution!
Meanwhile, watch Paola Antonelli’s presentation. What games do you think are great experiences due to interaction design? Can you think of any games that could be considered art?