Challenging Assumptions: On Art and Videogames

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Ask yourself this question: are videogames a form of art? If you found your way to this article, I would guess that your answer is yes. Over the last few years, almost everything I’ve heard from hardcore gaming fans and members of the gaming press is in the affirmative, but I’m not convinced.

Art is a fickle beast. Its definition is painfully fluid and has been tumultuously churning since the 19th century. Look, games might not be art, and that is okay. Before we convince ourselves that videogames are an art form, let’s take a look at the relationship between art and games and understand where our convictions originate.

art and videogamesJohn Sharp seeks to move the conversation pertaining to the relationship between videogames and art forward. He has taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the Georgia institute of Technology, and Parson’s The New School for Design, as well as given talks at multiple GDCs, so his experience and exposure far exceeds mine.

In Works of Game: On the Aesthetics of Games and Art, Sharp recognizes videogames as a flourishing medium that exhilarates an immense number of players across the globe. He seeks to understand why they are exhilarating, and why communities of artists, players, and game developers often hold conflicting views on games and art. By augmenting this conversation with “unconventional voices [from] artists, philosophers, or specialists in other industrial fields”, Sharp builds a bridge between each community and strengthens our understanding of the relationship between videogames and art.are video games art

So here’s how “Challenging Assumptions: On Art & Videogames” is going to work. In this series, I’m going to read through Works of Game, summarizing as best I can Sharp’s ideas in each section. Together, in a sort of guided reading, we will grapple with his concepts and interpretations. Personally, I think the gaming community has a long way to go before convincing me and non-gamers that videogames are a form of art. So let’s open our minds and start from square one and see if they will persuade us.

Throughout the forthcoming articles, I will occasionally inject my own commentary alongside Sharp’s arguments. I’d also like to pose questions to you, the reader, that can serve as points of reflection or discussion. All quotations and citations will be pulled directly from Works of Game so that it is clear when it is Sharp speaking.

Alright, let’s get going.

Edited by Malia Hamilton

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