Art Critic Thinks Video Games Have No Place In Museum

You thought it finally was over. That annoying debate about whether video games are art would finally slink off and die somewhere, right? After all, the Smithsonian American Art Museum mounted their Art of Video Games exhibit this year following the intense voting in 2011. And the highly esteemed Museum of Modern Art just announced plans to set up 14 classic games in their halls next year. So, debate over, no?

Not according to Jonathan Jones, the art critic for the UK's Guardian newspaper. Reacting to the MOMA news, Jones roundly declares that games can't be art. The kernel of his argument goes like this:

Walk around the Museum of Modern Art, look at those masterpieces it holds by Picasso and Jackson Pollock, and what you are seeing is a series of personal visions. A work of art is one person's reaction to life. Any definition of art that robs it of this inner response by a human creator is a worthless definition. Art may be made with a paintbrush or selected as a ready-made, but it has to be an act of personal imagination.

That argument is pretty hard to make with games like Papo & Yo, Mattie Brice's Mainichi or, say, Braid out in the world. All of them explicitly come from personal places, leaving aside the fact that they're all moving in their own way. Aside from actual games, other excellent rebuttal — like this one, this one or this one — already exist.

Jones doesn't let on just how much he's been exposed to video games in his editorial. But he sure sounds like he doesn't want to be either. Too bad for him.


Comments

    Yet film can be considered art even though it is the work of numerous hands and minds. The key is the fact that there is a director, drawing from the talents of others in order to bring his/her vision to life. Likewise there can be an individual in the production of a game that informs and guides the creative decisions being made.

    I think the main thing that often prevents games from being classified as Art is the commercial aspect. While it doesn't outright prevent the game from being Art, it often means the focus is on producing a piece of entertainment; something that's polished, fun and considerate to the needs of the player. I feel that Art is often defined by its challenge, the fact that it isn't fun but poses uncomfortable questions or makes you see things differently. It's the same parallel with films: you have the big blockbuster movies that are primarily conceived for profit and the smaller productions that seek to convey a message or theme. Games can be fun, thought-provoking, or both. It's just that we're still at a stage where the majority lies purely in the former.

      you've hit the nail on the head. Any dismissal of an ENTIRE MEDIUM is absurd. I have no problem with people telling me that COD is not art - it isn't. But neither was Mission Impossible, and yet film remains an art form. Any discussion needs to be about games in question, rather than dismissal of the medium on the basis of a perceived commercial culture in the mainstream.

    I wonder what he thinks of other contemporary interactive art the major galleries love to show off at regular intervals.

    Failed argument, paintings can be a mutual work and some mutual paintings are celebrated as Art. Music is Art yet it's not a single guy playing multiple instruments. I always thought the definition of Art was an item which only exhists to provoke an Emotion. Thus a Movie, Song, Painting or Sculpture can be art as well as a Video Game.

    And let's not forget that in the early days of 8 bit there where many one man studios making games. So all those are Art by this guys definition.

    Let's remember that Picaso's works where originally not considered art, that Van Gogh works where not considered art but are now. Critics like to shut out things to make the stuff they let in more special.

    In his defense the games he lists "Pac Man" and "Tetris" while great games and a massive part of Gaming history are not art. Assassins Creed 3, Call of Duty, Halo 4, Borderlands 2 (my personal GOTY) are not Art, great games by all accounts but not art. Art is hard to describe I love things because they are Art and I love things because they are just fun, but to deny something's potential to be Art because it pushes the boundaries of what Art is or how it provokes an Emotion goes against everything that is Art.

    I don't get the whole "is y able to be art?" stuff. Doesn't anything that requires creativity when designed/made have the potential to be art? Like cars, paintings, movies, parade floats, architecture. Heck, you could probably even make a lawn mower that could be classified as art.

      also the result lying in your toilet after a nice shit could be considered art

    I agree, taking a crappy in-game screenshot and then framing is not art.

    It is interesting that at the turn of last century this exact same debate was happening in art circles except the new medium that was being discussed was film. And almost the exact same reason that Jones is stating was argued back then by people who could not accept folm as art, that basically because film is a collaborative endeavor and art is the product of an individual vision therefore film is not art. Eventuay they settled that the director is the ultimate creative force on a film and therefor it is art ( as anyone who has worked on film knows this is not really the case all the time) .

    So movies can't be art either.

    "Take that Ebert" applies here as well then.

    Last time I looked in an art museum apparently a squiggle and a couple of lines on a blank canvas is called art.

    So frankly I don't think his argument is valid.

      I know exactly what you mean ;P

    It's just an opinion. You don't have to agree with it.

    I don't really think games should be in museums or art galleries either.

    I'd much rather go to a museum of games. I just think a boxed copy of deus ex would look weird next to a sculpture or something.

    People like that just refuse to evolve and like to feel special in their own, closed little world. Though, what is more logical is the fact that Post Modern Videogame art should not, I think, be in the same exibition as Classical High-Art. As long as there is an distinction between the different 'levels' of Art, then everyone can remain happy. Though, for an Art 'critic' to deny all other forms of artistic endeaver as meaningless, is just selfishness and ignorance. The people decide what is relevant. Artistic merrit is not an Dictatorship.

    I agree, I wish this debate would die. Games are not art. The only reasons SOME gamers push for this is to their hobby is seen as more respectable at family gatherings.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/19782890
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/19782935
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/19782956
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/19782964
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/19783293

    The vast majority of comments slam Jones.

    Last edited 02/12/12 9:19 pm

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