2013-02-11

Art and Culture go Hand in Hand

On Videogames, Art, and Culture: Part 2

Summary: This paper consists of three parts. The first part is about how videogame design is an art form, the second shows that art and culture go hand in hand, and the last section explores the idea that a videogame could be a cultural work of art, as can be works from other art forms.

In the last article, I explained that videogames are an art form. Next, to examine a potential link between videogames and culture, here's an excerpt from Monton's Arts and Culture Policy:


Arts as included in this policy will include the broad areas of visual, media, literary, material and performing arts.Culture, which consists of learned ways of acting, feeling and thinking, as opposed to biologically determined ways, is a term used to describe the way of life of a people. It includes all the traits and elements that distinguish a given society, its identity and its vision of the world. It includes our values, beliefs, customs, language, lifestyles and traditions. For the purpose of this document, culture will be included insofar as it relates to artistic manifestations.(1)


Since videogames are "artistic manifestations", aren't they a part of our culture?

Videogames have gone from a new technology to one of the most popular and most profitable pastimes around. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, released in November 2012, sold for 500 million dollars... in 24 hours. In May 2012, Angry Birds, a popular game for mobile devices, reached one million downloads. Even independent games like Braid, Journey and Minecraft have done well in today's market.

Given their enormous popularity, videogames undoubtedly affect Canada's lifestyle. But who exactly plays videogames in Canada? According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 50% of Canadians are gamers and the average Canadian gamer is 31 years old. Also, 90% of kids and teenagers (ages 6 to 17) are gamers.(2) And this popularity will surely rise: the Association predicts that the Canadian videogames industry will grow by 17% during the next two years. All of this means that the vast majority of the next generations will be gamers or will at least know what videogames are and how they work.

Videogames are already a part of popular culture, but are they a part of minority cultures? One could argue that they are, in a certain way, as long as a large portion of the members of the culture are gamers.

I know a lot of Acadian gamers. There's even a Facebook group called "Les Gamers Francophones du N-B" (The francophone gamers of New Brunswick). Plenty of Acadians pass lots of time playing videogames; however, these games are produced by other cultures, not our own.

Is that a problem? Not necessarily, but why aren't there any "Acadian" videogames about Acadian themes?

Cultural art helps promote the culture and contributes to their pride. It's obvious when reading Moncton's Arts and Culture Policy: art is essentially linked to culture.

Certain game designers have started to explore many personal and social themes in their games. This creates a richness in the variety of games. It also gives birth to numerous perspectives and voices. It would be interesting to bring this richness home, to deliver a cultural message in a new art form known by a large part of the population, especially the younger generations.

Since videogames are so popular and increasingly accessible, can't videogames about Acadian issues be relevant cultural pieces?


Notes and References



Special thanks: Jesse Waterman, Justin Robichaud, Shannon Robichaud. and everyone with whom I've talked about videogames, art, or culture.

1. Moncton's Arts and Cultural Policy: http://www.moncton.ca/Assets/Residents+English/RPTC/Arts+and+Culture/Arts+and+Culture+Policy.pdf

2. Profiles of Canadian Gamers 2012: http://www.theesa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/ESAC-INFOGRAPHIC-2012_EN-Copy-900x70001.jpg

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