“Can games be art?” It’s a question I spent part of yesterday complaining about while brandishing a forkful of jacket potato. I used to engage with the debate on those terms but it’s so unhelpful – a strange grab for cultural legitimacy by association. When it comes up in such an explicit way it tends to feel like the games industry has smeared itself with makeup, stolen its mother’s heels and is trying to get into a club it’s heard is super important using a fake ID.
That’s why I was curious to read The Great Art Upgrade by Paolo Pedercini. It’s an infodump/transcript from the Art History of Games keynote he delivered back in 2013. It covers off the main points of the conversations which were taking place (and still are) in mainstream and games media but then it flips over, focusing on what art has been doing with games over the most recent decades.
It’s not the only talk I’ve read or attended which does that, but the collection of works involved is wide-ranging and well-chosen. I’ve also spent the last few days with several of Pedercini’s observations or comments floating round in my brain, gradually integrating with or reworking some of my other ideas.
“For the game industry it was a chance to snort some of that fancy art dust without accepting the responsibilities that come along with working in that special area of culture.
“And critics, game makers, and scholars like us, people in this room who know about art and know about games, failed to propose a different narrative, a narrative that highlights the richness and the variety I just outlined.”
Also it meant I got watch RetroYou’s Blue Boot a few times: