Friday, May 6, 2011

Video Games? An Art?

Before the dawn of the internet age, I adored video games.  I'd spend countless hours in front of the Nintendo or Sega playing classic titles such as Tecmo Bowl or Phantasy Star.  Like most kids my age, passion for video games was met with severe resistence from parents who claimed them to be mindless and counter productive.  After all, it was just another activity to distract us from our homework.

But us creative little youngsters would argue the games enhanced our creative/cognitive skills and, of course my personal favorite, honed our "reflexes."   Well, it appears as though the Smithsonian now agrees.

Game designers can earn grants up to 200,000 dollars if their game can be considered a work of art?  Sure, why not.  The evolution of the video game has taken extraordinary leaps in the past decade; in fact designers have created entire virtual communities that some seem to prefer to live in, while others actually find real financial success in these alternate worlds.  So now that the gaming world is capable of making these multi-layered communities and games that feature indepth alien worlds with enough detail to trick you into thinking that it might be real, why not consider them a legitimate art form?

In fact, game designer Jane McGonigal strongly thinks students aren't playing ENOUGH video games as she firmly believes that simulating crises in an online setting will better prepare us for a real disaster.  She is the designer behind the game World Without Oil which depicts a world with depleted resources, rising prices, and the possibility for social chaos.  Gamers communicate with each other on how to both problem solve and cope with the issue with the hope that, one day, they can use this acquired knowledge for practical purposes.

The merits of this hyopthesis can be, and should be, challenged, but the fact that we are having the argument at all is a testament to the rise of gaming and its expressive qualities.  Though video games always had some sort of creative value, today's games have increased their interactive ability to not only create a new kind of social order, but the ability to build communities that extend beyond the borders of "real life."  So even though the results of this community and creativity do not exist in the "real world," it does serve a useful purpose as it helps stretch the mind and allows users to think in different parameters.

So how could this not be art?

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