I've seen some other arguments about why video games are not "art" but this column from Jonathan Jones is just stupid. There have been lots of comments on the Guardian's own site and on Kotaku and I'm sure, in countless other places and I might not add anything ground-breaking to the discussion but I just had to get a few ideas down here.
I'll get to Jones' contention that video games aren't art but let's not let his first assertion slip by unnoticed - that there is some combination of age and intellectual development past which, people should not praise video games nor should they be playing them. I don't really have a crtique of this argument past the fact that given that, one could quite reading Jones' article there since his bias is so clear we know which way this article is going to go. You know what? That's OK - it's his column and he is entitled to his opinion and he is certainly entitled to not play any games - it's just that I feel sad for him. I don't think everyone should play games all the time but I do agree with people like Jane McGonigal about the positive impact of games, and with other studies that detail both the positive cognitive and motor skill improvements that acrue from game-playing (not to mention the social benefits as well). So I'll hope that perhaps someone will get Jones' a couple games for the holidays and that maybe he'll take some time and play a little - it's a brighter world on the other side.
An interesting note is that Jones' disagrees with MoMA's decision to display video games as art. The interesting part is that his column in no way talks about the process that MoMA went through to arrive at that decision. Nor does he address in any way, how whatever collection of what I can only assume are suprememly qualified judges of art at MoMA have arrived at a decision that someone like Jones' can so clearly see is wrong.
Finally we come to the heart of Jones' argument - I think it goes that because games are a collective product, they can not reflect a personal vision - no one "owns the games" so there is no artist.
"A work of art is one person's reaction to life." -Jonathan Jones
This argument confuses me to such an extent that I have to shake my head a bit at first. I want to ask Jones what he considers art? Clearly paintings - he references those. Sculpture? Music? Film? Photography? (I won't EVEN bring up comic books - I can only imagine how Jones feels about those!) How many people can be involved in the production process before it becomes non-art?
Jones also argues that even the greatest chess player in the world wasn't an artist. Again, this argument much like his cognitive/age cutoff for playing games - just makes me sad. To be able to watch Bobby Fisher play chess without recognizing that as art, well it just makes me think that Jones' world is a dim place indeed.
Why only one person? Why can art not be a collective reaction to life? Why the solitary aspect? To be sure, there have been great artists who were so possessed by incredibly strong personal visions that they made some great art but I utterly reject the notion that art BY DEFINITION requires some hermetic-like solitary act of creation. I reject that because I reject the idea that there IS a solitary act of creation. Van Gogh's reaction to life was a deeply personal one to be sure but one intimately colored and affected by interactions with others. He did not cut an ear off because he was an island unto himself.
Every artist is part of a collective. A collective of experiences. I collective of the production process. Art is by my definition, a social product in that it is mediated through one's own experiences with others. To deny that is to deny that humans are social creatures. To call out video games as non-art because their collective nature is more transparent than some other art forms is just plain wrong.