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Are Videogames Works of Art?

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2024, 71(), pp.266-307
  • DOI : 10.17527/JASA.71.0.12
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Received : December 15, 2023
  • Accepted : January 13, 2024
  • Published : February 28, 2024

Daniel Martin Feige 1

1Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design

Irregular Papers

ABSTRACT

Video games are one of the hot topics in contemporary philosophical aesthetics and art theory. In addition to the question of what could be central aesthetic characteristics in contrast to other media, the question of whether they are a medium capable of being art is among the most discussed current topics. The paper will argue that there is no general problem with incorporating videogames as a medium capable of arthood, while most videogames are rather an expression as well as extension of instrumental reasoning rather than aesthetic rationality. It proceeds in four steps. After carving out central dimensions that separate videogames from other arts and media, the paper discusses the influential contributions of Tavinor and Nguyen on the question of the arthood of videogames. It argues that neither a cluster-theoretical approach nor an approach that understands videogames as the art of agency are plausible candidates to understand the possible arthood of videogames. In contrast, it proposes to go back to insights articulated in German Idealism and critical theory and explain the arthood of videogames in the following way: Something qualifies to be an artwork in the realm of videogames if the form of playing it allows for is at once a reflection of its gamehood and at the same time (read: without being able to understand this in terms of two distinctive topics or steps but rather as two sides of a coin) a reflection of the player’s practical agency within a collective form of life. To exemplify this conception of the arthood, the paper finally discusses four games, Braid, Bioshock, Planescape: Torment and Kentucky Route Zero that fulfill their claim to be works of art to varying degrees.

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