A little over a year ago, Roger Ebert was publicly denouncing the potential of video games to be considered art. This month, however, the National Endowment for Arts has publicly, if completely indirectly, disagreed.
The NEA, the largest public funding for arts in America, is expanding its Arts on Radio and Television grant program to include digital games, and renaming it Arts in Media. 2Player: Computers. Games. Art. is the resulting exhibit, which features five computer game artists displaying their work in various forms. Mark Essen, Paolo Perdicini, Jason Rohrer, Pixel Jam and Eric Svendang each present their own interpretation of what video game art means to them. Essen and Perdicini have taken their exhibits to contemporary art museums around the world. Essen has shown his exhibit at the New Museum in New York City, and FACT (The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool. While 2Player was at FACT, it was only part of a year-long "season of gaming at FACT. The season includes interactive game events, competitions, and a game-themed film program." Perdicini has shown his work in the National Museum for Contemporary Art in Athens and the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro.
"The games designers in this exhibition are all resolutely low-fi. Their interests and style are all in opposition to the mainstream computer industry and reacting against the multi million pound texture mapped hyper-realism of contemporary games," according to the official description of the exhibit.
Many of the art pieces are, like the name of the exhibit suggests, playable by two people. This allows people to interact with the art piece, but also examines how art relates to the ways in which we communicate. Placing these games in an art gallery allows viewers to consider gaming graphics and mechanics of gameplay in the context of contemporary art.
2Player: Computers. Games. Art. opens at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester, UK on Saturday, where it will stay until September 5th.