Video games - are they art?

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York has announced plans to incorporate computer games into their permanent collection.

From March 2013, MOMA's Philip Johnson galleries will house an interactive exhibition of 14 iconic video games selected for their design and aesthetic merits. 

Among the initial collection are Pac-man (1980), Tetris (1984), Another World (1991), Myst (1993), SimCity 2000 (1994), vib-ribbon (1999), The Sims (2000), Katamari Damacy (2004), EVE Online (2003), Dwarf Fortress (2006), Portal (2007), flOw (2006), Passage (2008), Canabalt (2009)

But this has raised some concerns in the art world from people who believe that computer games don't qualify as art and that by exhibiting them at MOMA, they run the risk of damaging the reputation of one of the most respected artistic collections in the world.

ART_STUDENT_FAKER told us:"There is an important aspect of fine art which is increaingly over-looked in favour of making art more inclusive (which is another debate we need to have - the intentions of the work. Art with a capital 'A' has always known its position.

"I would strongly question that creativity entitles something to be considered art. Creativity means craft. Art proper needs something more."

Another issue is the idea of people going to an art gallery to play computer games. Art galleries are traditionally quiet spaces where people can concentrate and develop a relationship with a piece of work, really consider the artist's motivations and decisions and come away from it feeling somehow altered.

Would including computer games in the collection run the risk of making it feel like an arcade?

arcade machines all lined up

“Would including computer games in the collection run the risk of making it feel like an arcade?”

The art world has always had to change and grow. From cave paintings to Renaissance masters; to photography and video art; to minimalism, Arte Povera and readymades; to graphic art and screenprinting; to performance art and 'happenings'.

In the 1990's, the Daily Mail rallied against Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst saying, "for a 1,000 years art has been one of our great civilising forces. Today, pickled sheep and soiled beds threaten to make barbarians of us all". And yet, Hirst and Emin are now national treasures in the UK, both of whom played a big part in the London 2012 Olympics.

As technology and attitudes have changed, the artistic community has had to evolve to keep up.

So where do video games fit in?Video games have existed since 1947, but they didn't achieve much mainstream popularity until the 1970's. Compared to established artistic techniques, they are extremely young. 

But technology has advanced so far in that time that computer games can now manufacture fully immersive digital environments and render detail that rivals cinema screens.

In terms of artistic credibility, creating a computer game requires an aesthetic eye and a design sensibility and utilises a lot of the same tools as graphic design and digital film-making.

In some ways, computer games provide opportunities for conceptual, experiential and environmental exploration that haven't previously existed to artists.

Arts consultant, Cara Courage says:"what [strikes me] is just how arbitrary these distinctions are. Art, for me, is in the process and the outcome; what is one person’s code is another’s camera or brush, what is one person’s game is another’s theatre production or film."

MOMA's decision to include video games in their collection is a bold statement that they're ready to make this change and the rest of the art world must follow.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

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