Hi-tech play is fair game as art 1

December 9, 2005

I was a little disappointed that computer scientists and English academics alone were asked to "ponder whether computer games could be artistic equals of great novels" ("Lara can hold a candle to Emma", December 2).

Those who are not subject specialists may be unaware of the substantial existing scholarship in an inevitably interdisciplinary field that already considers computer and video games as significant cultural artefacts deserving of rigorous study. But even they might view comparison with the literary potentially as meaningless as asking whether architecture or dance could be the "artistic equal" of "great novels".

As an academic trained in literary studies I would not seek to question the near-universal relevance of the opinion of literature scholars, but it is a shame that the expertise of those in art and design, education, cultural studies, film studies, sociology, psychology, media studies and many other disciplines was missed.

Games aesthetics, game narratives, game consumption, formal game structures, the politics of games, game communities and the pleasures offered by games, all of which have a bearing on the questions of whether and how games might be considered an art, have been subject to detailed critique and analysis for some years now. Perhaps it is time to ask: what have UK academics already had to say about games and art, games as media, games as creative performance and games as simulations?

Some sense of the range and vibrancy of non-technical research can be found, for example, in the work of Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska (Brunel University); James Newman (Bath Spa University); Jon Dovey (Bristol University); Graeme Kirkpatrick and Jason Rutter (Manchester University); and Helen Kennedy and Seth Giddings (University of the West of England) among others; and in the projects sponsored by the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts Futurelab and at the Institute of Education, London.

Barry Atkins
Programme leader, MA digital games
Liverpool John Moores University

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