collectors/collections Re: [-empyre-] games as art or art as game

Melanie Swalwell melanie.swalwell at
Mon Mar 24 12:01:50 EST 2008

Hi Ilias, and thanks for your thoughtful post.

Your comments make me think of private collectors.  I have found it
intriguing to collaborate with collectors of games in recent years.
Often collectors have been pathologised in popular discourse (*why*
would they want to do *that*?)... but I find the activity deeply
interesting.  Those I have worked with are far sighted people, who
work out of genuine interest in, and valuing and love of, these

I think quite often of Walter Benjamin's claim that while 'public
collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful
academically than private collections, the objects get their due only
in the latter'.  Benjamin was a keen collector of books.

In another essay, he juxtaposes the attentions of the art lover and
the reviewer, directing us to the attention received by these objects
by those who have a passion for them:

'…the paid reviewer, manipulating paintings in the dealer's exhibition
room, knows more important if not better things about them than the
art lover viewing them in the gallery window.  The warmth of the
subject is communicated to him, stirs sentient springs.  What, in the
end, makes advertisements so superior to criticism?  Not what the
moving red neon sign says – but the fiery pool reflecting it in the

Digital games are not books that can just sit on collectors' shelves
for very long periods of time, being sometimes taken down and looked
at lovingly.  Institutions will have a role, I think, in the
multidisciplinary challenge of making these complex objects work.  I
think that digital games have a similar mimetic charge to the neon
advertisements of which Benjamin wrote -- that they will continue to
stir the senses of those who play them, who will not only be those who
"know important things" about them.


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