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Government May Fund Video Games, If Considered “Art”

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The argument of whether or not video games should be considered art rages on, however, it seems like tolerance for them as an art form is on the rise. Recently however, it seems there can be a win chalked up for the “yes, they are art” side of the debate. The National Endowment of the Arts has updated its funding/grant guidelines to include “digital art” which encompasses video games. More specifically, the wording defines something as eligible as long as it is “about the arts” or “projects that can be considered works of art.”

This is definitely interesting, and is of course a good thing. Video games finally starting to get the recognition they deserve is fantastic news. With games like Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire, or LittleBigPlanet, the line between video games and other “art forms” is undeniably being blurred. Alice Myatt, the Director of Media Arts at NEA explains how they are expanding their interpretation to include video games specifically. In the same article from Ars Technica, it goes even further:

So we called up the NEA Media Arts staffer Mary Smith to ask what seemed like a pretty fundamental question. How does the NEA define “works of art”? Turns out, the agency doesn’t. “We usually leave that up to our panels,” Smith explained “Peer advisory panels evaluate the project.”

And who will constitute these panels? “We don’t know yet because we need to see who applies,” she said. “Then we’ll see what kind of expertise we’ll need.”

Thus, the question of whether a given proposed gaming project adequately discusses or constitutes art will be answered by those whom the NEA picks to tackle the problem.

More specifcally, the NEA even defines what constitutes an “art work” as explained by Ars Technica:

Creation. Artistic endeavors that meet “the highest standards of excellence across a diverse spectrum of artistic disciplines and geographic locations.” This could be a request for money for a design competition or for a series of design workshops.

Engagement. These are projects that promote some art form. Among the listed possibilities are those “that extend the arts to underserved populations—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.”

Learning. Projects that encourage professional development among artists.

Liveability. These include artistic activities “that are intended to foster community interaction in public spaces” and “cultural sustainability activities that contribute to community identity and sense of place.”

Finally, in order to take advantage of the monetary compensation (usually ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 depending on the situation), you must be involved with or sponsored by “a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3).”

Overall this is great news for small developers and the game industry as a whole. It looks like games might finally be starting to get the recognition they deserve! What do you think of their ways of defining art? Do you think a panel is the best way to decide if a game is an art form? Let us know in the comments below!

Sources: Ars Technica, NEA Website

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David Jagneaux Senior Editor
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