My opinions are “essential reading,” but you already knew that, or else why would be here? Or: the approximate difference between a film and a movie.

In this case, it’s my opinions about video games as art, but of course I intend to take that quote out of context and apply to anything I care to opine on.

I’m grateful for this post on the Utne Reader blog about But Our Princess and my recent interview in Wisconsin People & Ideas.  There, editor in chief Christian Williams says:

It’s that magical weaving of technology with childhood reminiscence that makes B.J. Best’s prose poetry book, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle (Rose Metal Press, 2013), so engaging. I first caught wind of Best’s new book through a Q&A piece in the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas. For anyone who questions the validity of categorizing video games as a contemporary art form, Best’s opinions are essential reading. He identifies the abstract and surrealist underpinnings of classic video games, and points out that he’s not the only one who considers them modern art; in late 2012, New York’s Museum of Modern Art announced a new initiative to collect and exhibit classic video games that it considered significant in terms of art and design.

I think, as a culture, we’re beginning to move past the question of whether video games can be art, especially now that Roger Ebert and his ill-informed post that everyone keeps bringing up in this debate are dead.  Sometimes comparing games to film is dangerous, but I think the intentions in making both are similar:  most films’ primary goals are to make money, thus enabling the studio to put out further films.  While there are certainly numerous arts and artists at work on any given film, most seek to entertain first, and proffer some artistic message or meaning second.  There are others, though, which emphasize art over entertainment, even at the expense of profitability.  Our culture has even adopted an informal classification for the two types:  things that entertain (comedies, action, horror, etc.) are movies, serious works (drama, independent, experimental) are films.

Video game publishing is very similar in terms of how games are made and what their purposes are, and gamers have tried to come up with similar terminology, but I find it wanting.  It seems most playable things are games, while certain “serious” pieces are art games.  The movie / film distinction isn’t as dichotomous as I suggest, but things seem even muddier when it comes to game / art game.  Because the medium of the video game is so malleable and myriad, achieving more specific definitions might be difficult.  But once a distinction like movie vs. film sufficiently establishes itself, I believe the issue of whether or not games can be art will finally be settled.  They can be, and we will have a specific name for them.

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