If someone were looking for an example of how games aren’t art, they might well point to the phenomenon of speed runs. You can see them on YouTube, and I’ve wiled away a few hours of my life watching people blitz through Quake and Mario levels, completing in seconds what I distinctly remember taking tens of minutes. It can be hypnotic, much in the way that watching someone solve a Rubik’s Cube in a thirty second blur of twists and turns can be hypnotic. I’m left thinking, “Wow, crazy. I’d never spend the time it takes to get that good at that!” Juggling iss another good example: when I watch a talented performer juggle a half-dozen knives through the air, I always imagine all the times that she didn’t manage to catch them all before she got to the point where I’m watching her on stage. I’m impressed with, but not envious of, the dedication required for such feats of hand-eye coordination.
You never hear about people bragging about how they can speed read through Hamlet. Aside from certain French art house films, you don’t see races to determine who can blitz through the Louvre in the shortest time. There may be art that happens fast, but seldom do we focus on getting through the art as quickly as possible. Clock-watching is a phenomenon of sport and competition, a way to determine with absolute certainty who’s first and who is last, and thus seems to belong solely to the “game” side of video games, a slap in the face to any artistic ambitions my Xbox or PS3 might have.