Final Project Proposal: Video Games as a Form of Formal Art

  1. Growing complexity and formality of video game art
  2. Inclusion of video game references in modern art
  3. Video game design as a career for formally trained artists
  4. Legal and critical debates about this subject
  5. Art exhibitions in the last 10 years surrounding this topic

As I do more research, I’ll be able to get more specific—right now, I’m mostly focusing in on the conversation in the art world right now about whether or not video game design even qualifies as art—critics and artists have been weighing in, some looking at the immersive nature of game design as a new horizon for digital art and aesthetics, and others claiming that the fact that games are, well, playable, renders them some non-art medium entirely (or claiming that it’s commercial, and therefore a commodity more than a formal art composition). What’s really interesting to me is that there was a Supreme Court case determining that video games are an art form, and yet it’s still this concept that’s totally liminal and still up for debate for so many people. I’m hoping to construct a Storymap out of that conversation/argument, with visual evidence both from artists who are incorporating elements of game design into their formal work, and formerly formal artists who have launched careers in game design.

Some sources that I’m likely going to include:

I’m also actively trying to hunt down an article I came across in an old issue of BOMB. I know this conversation goes back far enough that it’s in art journals from 5-8 years ago, I just haven’t tracked down all of my sources yet—Roger Ebert had a lot to say on the subject, but at the same time, the Museum of the Moving Image and the Smithsonian have done a few shows that were all based around the idea of video games as art. I’m hoping to track down arguments, exhibition reviews, etc.

Some artists I’m planning to look at:

Feng Mengbo

Daniel Benmergui

Steph Thirion

Cactus (Jonatan Soderstrom)

Specific games that have launched conversations like this:

  • Mass Effect
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • Firewatch
  • Dear Esther
  • Fallout 4 (and most games that come out of the Bethesda lineup, really)
  • Journey (though this one’s harder to track down information for and screenshots of)

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