Thursday, March 17, 2011

Patronizing the Arts

A loyal fan walked up to me the other day and he said something very interesting. He said, “Mister, I sure do love Johnny Outlaw more than I love mommy, daddy, George Washington, and life itself. But Mister, my art teacher said that Johnny Outlaw is just a game. It isn’t real art".

You heard right. This is what they’re teaching in schools these days: Johnny Outlaw isn’t art. Blasphemy is being taught as fact. Now, I’m sure in time the curriculum will be adjusted to accommodate Johnny Outlaw, but this goes beyond Johnny Outlaw. All video games are victims of such prejudice. You have heard their cries. You hear them say that video games can’t be ‘art’. At least, not in the way that every other medium can be art. This is patently false. Once again, the art community has fallen behind as technology marches forward.

First they told Orson Welles that film would never be art. Then he made Citizen Kane.

They told Tom Wilson that comics would never be art. Then he made Ziggy.

They told Michelangelo that ceilings would never be art. Then he painted the Sistine Chapel.

At last they told me that video games could not be art. The rest is history.

Video games are nothing more than the next step. They are the cathartic paintings of cavemen refined for modern sensibilities. The fact of the matter is that video games have always coexisted and intermingled with the traditional mediums. Some of the earliest games found their roots in painting.

Look here, at 19th century painter Francisco Goya’s painting titled Ganon Devouring his Son (Ganon is the Spanish name for Chronos, the father of Zeus). Over a century later, game designer Shigeru Miyamoto would base his most popular game off of this painting. You may know that game as Super Mario Bros. 3.

And look here, we already have films based on video games. Films such as “Resident Evil”, “BloodRayne”, “Pokemon 4Ever – Celebi, Voice of the Forest”, and “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li”. Are not all of these films ‘high art’? Why can a film be considered art when the very video game it is derived from is not? Why are video games denied entrance into that pantheon of the arts? Do video games demand their own ‘separate but equal’ classification?

Now, I don’t know if video games have rights, but if they did, this would be an atrocity. Should we not then err on the side of caution? Should we not let video games be art?

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