Art/Game Debate

I’m on vacation now so I shouldn’t care about this, but this World of Stewart article on “Are videogames art?” is so wrong that I can’t help but be annoyed.

The main point is that interactivity is, by its nature, not artistic since you aren’t seeing the work as “the artist intended.” (?)

no two people will play a game in the same way, and therefore will not be basing their reactions on the same source material. Much of the essence of art lies precisely in its non-interactivity – the fact that the viewer is compelled to see the piece as its creator intended. But videogames are like handing out boxes of crayons at the entrance of a gallery. If you can control the art, then you’re influencing it, when the point is that it’s supposed to influence you.

Ignoring the age old debate on “intent” — if I draw a stupid doodle, is it art? What if it ends up in a gallery 200 hundred years later? Is a 700 year old religious triptych art even though, back then, it had a very real functional use? — the fact that something has to happen/exist in a predefined way for it to be art is complete bunk and ignores the last century of art altogether. Quick, somebody call Rhizome and tell them that, all along, they weren’t supporting art! Interactive Art is obviously a lie!

The main fallacy in the argument is that an interactive system can vary per person and per “play” and that this is beyond the scope of the artist’s design. The fault is that while it can be true when you look at the minutiae, it is completely false when you look at the whole system. The system is the canvas, and all the interactive (and otherwise) elements within it are the dabs of paint. The system that was designed doesn’t change, only elements within it. You can’t go off an join a monastery in Grand Theft Auto because it was never designed to let you do that. If that’s not the artist’s influence, then I don’t know what is.

Art is the vision of an artist. It’s a precise and defined work, whose meaning can be open to interpretation by the viewer, but whose content is always the same. In such a way, the different reactions of different people to the same piece of art tell us things about who we are, both individually and collectively. If a concept as broad as “art” can be said to have a single purpose, it’s surely that.

Once again, in an interactive space, the system is the vision and the system — with all its inherent rules and laws — is the precise and defined work. Look at the avalanche, not the stones.

There are more points to argue, but that’s the most asinine of them all. It’s Canada Day and I’m on vacation and I don’t want to bother with the rest.

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