So Joystick Division has an editorial on how old games don’t stand up to the test of time, and the point of the article is that because they don’t, video games can’t be art.
Now, I am completely sick of the “are games art?” discussion. Like I have said in the past, it doesn’t fucking matter to me, no matter what old-assed movie critics say. Likewise, I don’t really give a shit what some failed movie student says. I’m really getting sick of movie folks trying to justify how awesome they are by bagging on games because they are embarrassed by porn and Transformers.
That being said, the thing that prompted me to respond to this post was the statement that old games don’t have relevance because they are dependent on technology, and because of that, games aren’t art.
First off, fuck you. This is complete bullshit. Yes, Tennis for Two is outdated. So is Birth of a Nation. Would the average person want to sit down and experience either? No. Comparing Ikari Warriors to Citizen Kane is stupid and unfair. Citizen Kane came out over one-hundred years after the equivelant of Tennis for Two, the modern Zoetrope. Have you sat and absorbed the "art" of a Zoetrope movie lately? I bet not. You even mention Half Life 2 in your article stating that technological advances have not reduced the impact of the game, thus undercutting your whole stupid article. Just because an art form is an art form doesn't mean people will make good art. Again, go watch Transformers, or maybe Avatar.
A great amount of vitriol is reserved for Ikari Warriors in this article, based on the fact that the author received a PS3 version and “had a lot of trouble taking it seriously.” Well, since I have an original Ikari Warriors cabinet in my garage, alongside my Galaga, Bad Dudes, and T2 cabs, I think I can speak to that, especially since as a fan of the Ikari Warriors arcade I am one of the fools who purchased the disastrous PC port.
Ikari Warriors on the PS3 is not the original creator’s format. It is intended to be experienced on the arcade by people with quarters. Come to my house and play it in my garage, and bring some money. I promise that the experience will be different that playing the port on your PS3. How do I know this? I love Galaga on an arcade cab. And I hate it on the Xbox 360. On the 360, the controls don’t work well, and I find myself driving towards the achievements in the game rather than experiencing the game or trying to get a high score. Ikari Warriors PC had the same effect. Functionally it was the same. But the medium affected the experience.
The author brings up current cave paintings as an example of “art is art” and because they are paintings, everyone appreciates them. Well, let’s do an experiment. Let’s take the Sistine Chapel, whitewash it, and replace the images with stretched out replications of cave paintings. Then you can walk into the chapel, and appreciate the “art” that are cave paintings. Based on your logic, I’m sure the experience will be the same….right?
Again, I don’t care what is considered “art.” This may taint my views. I never watched Citizen Kane in my formative years. I was much more influenced by Stratego and Battletech, and later Starflight and Wasteland than Gone with The Wind. Does any of that affect which is considered art? Is a Battletech novel art but a Mechwarrior video game not? Does it matter?
In all, it comes down to entertainment. I like to be entertained, whether it’s from something that I can immerse myself in or something that makes me think, or a device that expells lead at supersonic speeds (and that's a whole 'nother discussion). If you want to sit around and feel superior because you don’t appreciate or like something, I guess that makes you an expert and me just a consumer (or a designer). But if I have one of my rare free hours and I can choose between partnering up with my Ikari partner, rescuing Ronnie from Ninjas, or enjoying Shia Labeouf’s latest masterpiece, I know that I’ll be on the joystick instead of the remote. Enjoy your art.