Space Invaders - playable javascript version of the game via Matt Haynes' tech blog: matthaynes.net

Space Invaders – playable javascript version of the game via Matt Haynes’ tech blog: matthaynes.net

There’s a bit of an argument brewing between the culture and technology sections of The Guardian over whether or not video games should be considered art.

Interestingly, a group of us were having a sort of parallel debate as we headed to Llanymynech last week. We were discussing the cuts to arts funding and wondering what had happened to the fine arts. How have they ended up on the sidelines? How is it possible that they are now something that needs defending, rather than at the heart of cultural discourse and practice? There was a fascinating programme on BBC4 recently about the history of metalwork. In it, they made the point that a hundred years ago, the streets of every city and town in Britain were visually transformed by the collusion of art and technology in the cast-iron lamps, railings, fountains, monuments and other street furniture. When you think of the “Victorian Era”, you are subsumed in this joint venture between artistic expression and technological innovation. A hundred years ago, it would have been unthinkable for such a visual transformation of the landscape to not include input from artists. But now?

Or perhaps we should be looking in a different place. Maybe the digitial world is our Victorian streetscape. The gaming industry has absorbed the concepts of telematic art in a way which the world of fine art has simply failed to do. One might argue that the gaming industry represents a collusion of art and technology as significantly transformative of our social and cultural landscape as anything in the 1890s. Perhaps the real problem here is that a majority of practicing fine artists either see no merit in this partnership, or fail to see how they might be a part of it. After all, motion-capture technology has created a place for mime artists, dancers and character actors within the industry – adding a new dimension to their practice and creating new markets for their artistic abilities. There are now just as many potential places for authors, poets and – yes – even fine artists, regardless of whether or not their current practice is digitally-orientated.

Perhaps the question of whether or not video games are “art” is moot. Perhaps what’s more important is the fact that the gaming industry is “art-friendly”. In a time when local and national government increasingly is not, perhaps it’s time for fine artists to forge new partnerships?

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