[-empyre-] Art cred and advocacy

Ana Valdés agora158 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 3 07:33:32 EST 2013

I started to review computergames when the computers were primitive and the
graphics poor, games made for Commodore 64, Spectrum, Atari. The year was
1988 and I played Seven Cities of Gold and wonderful textgames, Leather
Goddesses of Phobos and many more. The games were considered at that time
entertainment for children and for nerds. The narrative was pueril and the
gender inexistent, the main characters were boys with shiny weapons and
their reward after fighting and defeating trolls and drakes and demons was
to marry the princess and rule the kingdom.
Middle Age ruled and few games were urban, glorious exception was Larry
Leisure Suit :)
The most modern of the arts was the bearer of ancient and old fashioned
tales where the rites of passage were only relevant for boys.
I wrote a book about digital cultural and games and interviewed Brenda
Laurel and Roberta Williams. Brenda worked at that time at Atari Lab and
later in Interval, the institute sponsored by Paul Allen, cofounder of
Microsoft. With his support Brenda launched Purple Moon, a label for
computer games for girls. They went bankrupt some years later when Allen
pulled out the support, the argument was the market was not ready for games
for girls.
And Roberta was one of the geniouses behind King's Quest and Lara Croft,
the dagger of Ahmon Ra and the Colonel's Bequest, two nice and enjoyable
adventure games with a female main character.
The year is now 2013 and the games are still made for a 14-year white
teenage boy as target.

On Sat, Mar 2, 2013 at 6:02 PM, Timothy Conway Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu>wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi, Paolo,
> Thanks so much for such a stimulating opening post. It rekindled my
> disappointment with the Smithsonian "Art of Videogames" show because it
> seemed to be much more a promotion of design than of gaming (even in the
> traditional, corporatist sense).  Although the weekend I was there also
> featured "interactive" gaming geared toward kids in the central court, the
> theme was dress up and shoot 'em up rather than anything truly
> collaborative or social.  Clearly the MOMA's embrace of gaming as design
> also fits this trend (but I wouldn't expect MOMA to embrace gaming as new
> media since it declared the death of new media in a show a few years back
> -- even its recent forays into "new media" in the "media gallery" have been
> more video and display based rather than computational and interactive).
> An aspect of the history of social gaming was the early importance of
> socially oriented CD-Rom and net.art.  When I curated CTHEORY Multimedia (
> http://ctheorymultimedia.cornell.edu) with Arthur and Marilouise Kroker,
> we were delighed to receive politically oriented pieces whose interactive
> aim was intellectual collaboration rather than 'winning.'  I think that a
> lot of socially-oriented artists and collectives went in the direction of
> designing interactive CD-Roms and net.art pieces, such as VNS Matrix, Linda
> Dement, Norie Neumark and Maria Miranda, Art Jones, Muntadas, Suzanne
> Treister, the Labyrinth Project (Nina Menkes, Kristy Kang, Marsha Kinder),
> and Michelle Citron (you can find references to their works on the Contact
> Zones website, (https://contactzones.cit.cornell.edu).  I don't think
> we'd associate these artists with gaming in the "Art of Gaming" sense, but
> they certainly filled the void of social gaming at the time.
> Looking forward to hearing more.
> Best,
> Tim
> Director, Society for the Humanities
> Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
> A. D. White House
> Cornell University
> Ithaca, New York. 14853
> ________________________________________
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [
> empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of paolo -
> molleindustria [paolo at molleindustria.it]
> Sent: Saturday, March 02, 2013 11:17 AM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: [-empyre-] Art cred and advocacy
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello empyrialists,
> thank you Claudia and Renate for inviting me.
> I'd like to start by reframing the introductory post. Just a little bit.
> If your filter bubbles include gaming circles you have witnessed the
> many collective cheers, hoots, and metaphorical stadium waves raising
> upon every glorious step of the videogame medium toward high-culture
> acceptance.
> The repeated "video games can never be art" claims made by Roger Ebert
> from 2005 onward forced a multitude of North American game developers,
> critics and players to confront the mysterious Art Thing, possibly for
> the first time in their lives. Their honor, their reputation and, most
> importantly, their favorite pastime was being attacked by a prominent
> tastemaker.
> In the following years, a fierce movement of DIY art criticism emerged
> within the game industry. Programmers started to google terms like
> "aesthetics"; game journalists filled their indignant counter-articles
> with pictures of Duchamp's Fountain. Every strange, intimate, weird
> looking game was measured for its potential to defuse Ebert's argument.
> Even hardcore gamers started to cry while playing (and wrote extensively
> about it) demonstrating they also had feelings. Those little sprites and
> polygons really mattered to them.
> As the narrative goes, from that cycle of shame and pride emerged a new
> sensibility. While the gaming community matured and developed higher
> cultural ambitions, the blinded masses of non-gamers and the mainstream
> press became more and more sympathetic to the popular form.
> The recent move by the NEA to include games as possible recipients for
> grants has been interpreted as a federal seal of approval (although, in
> the past, the agency funded videogame projects through individual artist
> grants). The exhibition "The Art of Videogames" at the Smithsonian,
> shortly followed by the acquisition of 14 game titles by the MoMA, has
> been saluted as the ultimate institutional validation of the "games are
> art" truism.
> In the midst of the celebrations it wasn't appropriate to wonder whether
> or not the Smithsonian show was a populist publicity stunt "generously"
> supported by Entertainment Software Association. The curatorial process
> involved an online poll asking netizens to vote for their favorite games
> - it didn't make a big difference since only 5 among the 80 chosen
> titles were actually playable.
> And I haven't heard many commentators reflecting on the fact that the
> aforementioned MoMA acquisitions were part of the Architecture and
> Design collection. What does it mean to put Pac-Man right next to swanky
> furniture? Is the hip and yuppie field of interaction design
> imperialistically claiming videogames? Are games furniture? Can
> architecture make you cry (like videogames, of course)?
> For those who don't hang out in certain niche art circles, it doesn't
> really matter that artists have been appropriating, hacking, and
> creating videogames (and videogame culture) for about 20 years now. It
> doesn't matter that a myriad of game-themed art exhibitions swept across
> the digital art world, arguably becoming its most popular sub-genre.
> Last night Stephen Colbert cracked a joke about the exotic idea of
> arcades at the MoMA but we rarely see games presented in relation with
> computational, interactive, combinatory and digital art, or even with
> relational aesthetics or performance. All these forms are way more
> related to games than the kind of art that collects dust inside museums.
> These issues did not matter because that exciting, pedantic, fractal,
> never-ending dispute we call "art" was never the point of this debate.
> The point was to "elevate" the cultural status of videogames as a whole:
> as a medium and as an industry.
> For gamers it was a retroactive validation of the countless hours they
> spent moving pixels and polygons around: "We knew we weren't wasting out
> time!"
> For the industry it was a way to snort some of that magic art dust
> without accepting the responsibilities that come along with a privileged
> space for cultural experimentation: "We don't want just weird artsy
> games in galleries and museums. We want Pac-Man!"
> The game industry and the culture surrounding it can be best understood
> as a traumatized child or an abused pet. Throughout the years videogames
> have been repeatedly treated as cultural punching bags and convenient
> scapegoats. The folks personally involved in this field reacted to the
> long stigmatization by developing a certain brand of groupthink, a
> perennial persecution complex, and a compulsion to stick together no
> matter what.
> In the past I've been accused of damaging the reputation of the industry
> by making games about controversial issues; works defying players'
> expectations or rejecting clearly defined goals were dismissed as "not
> games".
> Now games for social change are often mentioned as symptoms of the
> "maturation" of the form via New Age gurus like Jane McGonigal.
> Independent/artsy titles are presented next to idiotic shooters to
> support the launch of the new PlayStation. Imagine the toilet industry
> using Duchamp to achieve cultural validation (and possibly get art
> grants and tax breaks in the process).
> What did not change between now and then is the tendency to
> conceptualize the gaming field as an  homogeneous space devoid of conflict.
> I would love to see a conversation *not* informed by the catch-all
> attitude of the "Videogames and Art" controversy of these recent years.
> If we are talking about games we must learn to qualify the objects in
> question. Because there are major differences between a commercial
> product like Pac-Man and a personal and profound game like Cart Life.
> The lack of critical discourse within the game industry should not
> influence the way we treat games outside of it.
> And while we push arcade cabinets in and out of museums we could also
> try to complicate the terms of the debate.
> Instead of asking ourselves if and how games can be art, maybe we can
> start to think how art can be more like games: popular, participatory,
> accessible and yet complex; able to engage people deeply and for more
> than a fleeting moment; capable of providing richer experiences the more
> you get intimate with them.
> Love,
> Paolo
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre


cell Sweden +4670-3213370
cell Uruguay +598-99470758

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with
your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always
long to return.
— Leonardo da Vinci
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20130302/38337423/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list