Towards an Art History for Videogames
There is a lesser-known history of the games themselves. By this I mean a more intimate account composed of a long heritage of games deliberately concerned with the artistic, political and personal. For these, the term “artgame”2 comes in handy. This term refers to videogames intended to provoke artistic ideas but still be understood contextually as games. The “artgame” stands in important contrast to “game art,” which is usually produced by conceptual artists and aims to treat games not as a form unto themselves but as raw material for new works. The line between the two, however, can and does blur. It’s sometimes unclear whether or not a given piece of digital art is intended to be read as a “game” or as “game-based conceptual art,” and I would argue that as games and art converge to insist on an unassailable distinction between the two is to engage in futile pedantry.
Compare with John Sharp’s early idea of “works of game” as appropriate to a Ludic Age, and his reimagination of “artist games” therein : Sharp. Works of Game. MIT Press. 2015
and with Brian Schrank’s attempt to map out a relationship with the Avant-garde in the visual arts of the 20th century : Schrank. Avant-garde Videogames. MIT Press. 2014