Created by the US Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is an independent government organization (there’s a conundrum), that has dedicated itself to the support of outstanding works in the fields of the various arts in the United States. Mostly by supplying grants, this organization has helped artists in many fields’ complete works and achieves dreams that may have never happened otherwise. Not the most prominent organization, the actions of the NEA are followed mostly by those in the know and those who seek their help. Yet today, the NEA made a decision that, while relatively small, is going to provide a lot of ammo in the video games for art battle that is so heavily ongoing.
According to an article at dailytech , and various other outlets, the NEA has officially declared “video games, mobile technologies, and certain Internet-related content” to be art forms. That means that grants as large as $200,000 are available to men and women who can prove that their technology is worthy and significant enough contributions to the arts.
First let me just say that’s great news all by itself. We live in soul crushing times, and any actions to encourage the advancement of any artistic fields (my beloved video games most definitely included) is a welcome and uncommon one. The NEA does good work, and this is a great day for any aspiring developers with a great idea and a strong will, but not much else to help them through to completion.
That not being myself, I take this story with a grain of salt.
Mostly because I don’t need the government telling me that video games are art. I’ve been on that bandwagon since around the NES days, and I don’t plan on hopping off any time soon. Now if I already thought that and this is a move that will only advance that cause, why am I so bitter about it? Well really it’s all about perception. To the average Joe, this story would represent a beacon for gamers. The day that we “finally got what we wanted”, when our passion began to be widely recognized and mass approved by one of the pillars of American society (the U.S. Government).
To me that’s a little insulting. It’s like when the Playstation came out and the kids who started to beat you up in school for playing games started it themselves. Then everyone else looked at you and smiled because this is surely what you wanted right? Well no it’s not. I wanted a sequel to Earthbound and a Mario game that lasted forever. I didn’t give a damn if a jock knew what Final Fantasy was, just like I don’t give a damn now if some suit puts a giant “art” stamp on a game and tells me it’s okay to enjoy it.
Yet as more and more people start becoming interested in gaming, and the profits soar from it, we already see how companies are bending their products to fit inside the comfort zone of the average American who still thinks games are for kids….but is strangely drawn to them anyway. You know they call it the “mainstream” because it’s shallow, and I don’t want to see this mainstream wave carry the industry into a vast ocean of everything else. Video games captured attention by providing something unique to both entertainment and art, and any success the industry enjoys was built upon the efforts of men who never once questioned their crafts nor sought the approval of all who walked to judge them to be successes or not.
Not wanting to get lost in a rant (more so anyway) I’ll just say this. The NEA’s actions are harmless and worthwhile in this matter, and represent a hand outreached to unsung artists in the field of gaming. I just hope that people realize that gamers never asked for that hand, don’t need it to stand, and will slap it away if it tries to turn us and the industry we love into a mass approval, mass production machine like the larger film and music industries have become.
Gaming is art and it’s for gamers. If you want in, that fine. If not, we’ve been doing plenty well for ourselves without your approval.
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