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Another "Are Video Games Art" Post - But With a Twist

I really hate this question.

No, I don't hate it. I loathe it. I'm getting sick of all the heated debates about whether or not video games are art. I wish I could go back in time and tape Roger Ebert's hands together and away from his keyboard so he never typed those immortal words.

Yet here I am, posting about it.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I spent last weekend at V-Con, Vancouver's long-running SF convention (those of you interested in the con itself can find my recap here, as it was a marvelous time). One of my tweets on Sunday morning, I expected to get more response than it did (which is none).

I said "Currently in a panel on "Are Games Art," where it's put forward that we're asking the wrong question. Interesting!"

And this is why I'm blogging about it. Not because I want to open the debate yet again. But because I found this particular viewpoint interesting.

The lone panelist was Palle Hoffstein, who has worked in the video game industry for years. He's an interesting guy, and he offered a bit of a different take on the whole thing.

I wish somebody had filmed his presentation, because it was quite good. First, he talks about the definitions of art that people typically use.

I won't go into the whole thing, but his first one is that something is art because it "moves me." He then goes on to say that this isn't complete because there are plenty of things that he would consider art (like the Mona Lisa) that really don't move him at all.

(Thanks to WebMuseum)

I have to say that, while it's a beautiful painting, I have to agree. It doesn't move me either.

He then goes on to knock down various other definitions of art.

After all of that, the question comes up. Maybe we're asking the wrong question. The question isn't "are video games art?" It's "are movies even art?"

Yes, some movies can have artistic qualities, just like some games can have those qualities. Can specific examples of both movies and video games be considered art? I think he might say yes, but I'm not sure. 

He trashes Ebert's examples of why games aren't art by basically saying "sure, most games have those qualities" (such as pointing a gun and shooting at things). But if you categorized all video games based on what a large majority of them contained, you would have to do the same for movies. Are all movies porn? He said that 90% of all movies each year are porn movies. Considering how cheaply they can be made and distributed, that sounds like it could easily be correct. Should all movies be classified that way?

No. And neither should games be classified by their most common element.

When Palle took questions from the audience, a number of people started trying to argue with him, but ultimately most of the arguments boiled down to what an individual considers "art," rather than what can widely be considered art. Some people's definitions were so watered down that they encompassed almost everything, making the definition useless.

Ultimately, I think this question is moot in regards to almost anything, because any definitive answer boils down to what the definition of "art" is. He never provided one. Nor should he have, since that wasn't the point of the panel. Yet I find it interesting how the questions always came back to what the definition is.

Which, to me, really has no answer.

Which is why I hate this particular question.

And which is also the reason I'm not sure why I'm bringing it up. I think the effort to turn the question on its head intrigued me.

What about you? What do you think about throwing the question back in their faces rather than answering it?

To me, there really is no answer.

 

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