Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Josh Bricker ("Deterrence Machine")

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to agree. As a medium I think they have great potential to become art, but video games out of the box are not art. They may be artful or even beautiful, but most games never go beyond simple aesthetic pleasure. Culturally we tend to needlessly attach the term ‘Art’ capitol ‘A’ to something whenever we want to imbue an object or thing with value or prestige. I have never understood why a thing/object not traditionally considered art needs to be re-categorized as such. Like with video games, why do we feel the need to make them fit into the ‘ART’ box? Why can’t video games just stay video games and be judged as shitty or amazing, or beautiful video games? I mean aren’t video games fucking awesome for the very reasons that they are not art? For the most part, art is stuffy, boring and pretentious. Oscar Wilde famously said about art:
Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.
In contrast video games are activity based fun; pure entertainment of the highest order. For the sake of fun, capitol ‘F’ and the future of the industry I hope the two worlds continue to exist separately. For me to regard a video game as a piece of art it needs to transcend the purely superficial and visceral joy associated with the vast majority of video games and game play. I want art to tell me something new about the world, try and expand my understanding of something and tackle the existential. It’s a very narrow view of how art can operate and probably signifies an over reliance on pragmatic, rational thinking, but looking at and making art in this way wards off the persistent feeling of nihilism I get when I make and look.
An obstacle in the general acceptance of video games as an art form is video games rarely if ever provide any insights or values. Most games are usually nothing more than crass (but extremely entertaining) exercises in the spectacular. Generally the gate keepers of the art world demand more from its art then pure experience, but as the old guard is replaced by the new, meaning once our generation becomes the old guard, we’ll see that change and video game art will eventually become absorbed into the mainstream (my guess is it’ll probably get twisted and commercialized- similar to the way graffiti and street culture have been legitimized- into a marketing tool so corporate America can sell Mt. Dew and Red Bull). In fact you could make the case that the stigmas surrounding video games as art have already started to disappear. As gallerists have discovered ways to commodify game art, artists like Corey Arcangel have begun to show at institutions like The Whitney, opening doors for the future legitimization of video game art and artists.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was
when I beat the original Medal of Honor I strutted around like a proud peacock for about a week solid. I played non-stop for four days straight. To this day it’s the only game I have ever beaten.

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they
were in the past.
True. In recent years the gaming industry has become one of the leading forms of entertainment in terms of revenue, often going toe to toe with or outright beating Hollywood for the almighty entertainment dollar. Highly anticipated game titles routinely gross more in the first 24hrs of release then the most anticipated films during an opening weekend. Stratospheric earning power, combined with shadowy funding from military/government sources and the pervasive, global reach of the gaming industry make gaming one of the most important mediums in contemporary culture to understand and critically engage. While the connection between violence and video games may be tenuous, there’s clearly a connection between video games and propaganda. Games like Call of Duty raise interest and support for the U.S. military and have become a part of the militarization of society. A recent Call of Duty commercial reinforced this point with the tag line “There’s a soldier in all of us” and gun battles being fought by people (presumably Americans) in work attire. Additionally in 2010, the U.S. military spent $50 million dollars developing combat training games and even developed a first-class shooter of its own, similar to Call of Duty, called “America’s Army” which is openly used as a recruiting device and is free to download from the internet. As a medium, video games pose a danger in that their often violent natures are rarely, if ever, reflected upon meaningfully by users. Video games require active participation unlike other media such as music or movies, which raises their potential to distance user associations between violent actions and possible consequences. I see this is getting convoluted so I’ll end it here. But it’s a big question that deserves more critical analysis then I am capable of. So to summarize: yeah, shit is real important.

Why should people view your piece?
Cool generic explosions.

1 comment:

Reggie Bol said...

Hmmm, a talking bear....I'm down.