For the video game community, summer is the season of reflection. Players are still working through the dense stack of games released during the winter and spring, developers are toiling away on next fall’s big titles, and critics are trying to make sense of the medium as a whole. Things slow down a little bit, which gives folks time to think about the bigger artistic and philosophical questions facing video games.
One can only stare into the endless abyss of competing philosophies for so long before becoming unhinged. Thankfully, the changing seasons save us from consuming ourselves. Mother nature announces the end of summer by turning the leaves gold and brown. The video game industry does something similar by releasing the annual Madden installment. Conversations about theory will soon give way to conversations about specific games: Will Gears of War 3 make us cry? What will Journey teach us about companionship? Is Apple eating Sony and Nintendo’s lunch? New grist is added to the mill and converted into fuel for next summer’s existential evaluation.
Grappling with intractable questions of art and meaning is valuable, but exhausting. Those that do it publicly expose themselves to potentially embarrassing corrections (just ask Roger Ebert). As a rule, my wariness and caution tend to stop me from writing to much about The Nature of Art With a Capital “A,” but this week I’ll make an exception. For those wishing to stay topside, here’s the simple version of my argument: notions of what constitute art have changed throughout history. Because of this, asking whether art will change to accommodate video games is just as valid as asking whether video games can be art. We would do well to remember that artistic strata are ultimately human constructions and are therefore malleable.
To those of you still with me: let’s talk about Shakespeare.