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NEA: video games are an art form

NEA: video games are an art form

The US federal government, by way of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), now considers video games a form of art, making a true step toward recognition for the oft under-recognized form.

The NEA is a program under the federal government which has the mission of deciding which grand artistic projects are worthy of receiving Federal funding. Artists around the country can submit applications to the agency for works which will enhance the public good. It allows artists who are creating outside of the commercial art world to work and live, through grants of up to $200k; artists who otherwise would have to either enter the profit-centered world of commercial art, or stop creating (or starve, I suppose).

This week, when the NEA opened its 2012 submission window, it also announced that the guidelines would be changing as to what art is acceptable. The category which was formerly known as The Arts on Radio and Television is now called The Arts in Media (Yes, I know: paint and stone are also forms of media, but stick with me here). The new category will include all art submissions for television, film, and radio—as before—but has been expanded to include interactive technologies and media delivered by satellite or internet (previously it only included land-based television and radio broadcasts).

The official line is this:

Projects may include high profile multi-part or single television and radio programs (documentaries and dramatic narratives); media created for theatrical release; performance programs; artistic segments for use within an existing series; multi-part webisodes; installations; and interactive games. Short films, five minutes and under, will be considered in packages of three or more.

Unfortunately that means that video game developers who want one of these grants will not only be competing with television and radio producers, but also with producers of web and satellite radio broadcasts. It’s not a category of their own, but it’s still a sort of ‘official’ recognition.

What does this actually mean for developers? It means that if a developer wants to create games for people, doesn’t want to charge money for them, but still wants to be able to eat, there is an option. One can apply for a grant, and potentially get paid by the government to be a creator, just as painters and sculptors have been able to do for many years.

And for the public it means that we may begin to see some video games of the ‘public’ works’ variety, games which are released for the world to enjoy, which may have good production values, but which are also not part of the commercial video games world. What these games will look like, we have no idea at this point, as it’s a completely new thing. The projects that receive funding are chosen by the agency, and there are not many guidelines or descriptions for what kinds of projects will be accepted.

We also have no idea just how many video game projects will actually be approved. It’s possible that none will be chosen as the agency could decide to put all the grants to other projects which fall inside the new category.

Whatever happens, the inclusion of interactive narratives in the NEA guidelines is a big step, and opponents of the recognition of video games now have one less arrow in their quiver. Artist who wish to apply for a 2012 grant must do so by 1 Sept 2011.


  1. wizardbaker Oh ho ho ho

    happy day
  2. Vern Can I get a fuck yeah?
  3. Jpoon I already knew this YEARS ago...Way to finally catch up people.
  4. Gandalf Suck a dick, Ebert.
  6. primesuspect
    primesuspect How brilliant. Definitely next in line for an NEA grant.
  7. Edwardius Five bucks says every game that'd actually be considered art won't even be classified as such. Another blunder for the art community!
  8. Kwitko
    Kwitko This news story has brought the best and brightest to Icrontic.
  9. Ryder
    Ryder I have not words.
  10. The Best and Brightest Came here for this story. An all around excellent article.
  11. GHoosdum
    Kwitko wrote:
    This news story has brought the best and brightest to Icrontic.
    Came here for this story.

    How prophetic, Seth! :respect:
  12. Elizabeth ridiculous.Actually they could have invented some other word for their favorite video games,art is the worst choice,though
  13. toto Who are these guys to decide that?
  14. jer11 every art nowadays is utter garbage.
    it makes people stupid and egoistic.
    videogames don't need the contexts of art.
  15. ardichoke
    ardichoke The Derp is strong with these ones.
  16. Carlos Who know we might finally see some educational video games. I would like to play a Cold War era based game that doesn't involve me killing JF Kennedy.
  17. radarboy
    radarboy Maybe this will lead to more games in the vein of what The Chinese Room is developing: First person, interactive games with an emphasis on story and immersion. This is a good development since a lot of what the NEA provides grants for doesn't resonate with younger generations.
  18. doabarrellroll
    doabarrellroll I guess the definition of art is that it serves no other purpose except itself.

    That being said, I guess you could admire a game for it's nostalgia factor in the same way you can eat off a set of Norman Rockwell plates and be reminded of the "good ole days".

    Some selections of music from games you could consider art, they work as great entertainment absent the game itself.

    I'm going to stop talking because I'm taking this waaaaaaaay too seriously.
  19. midga
    midga Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
    The Graveyard
    Everyday Shooter
    Cave Story
    ANYTHING by Amanita
    Blueberry Garden
    the Grow games

    And those are just the most "artsy" games I could think of off the top of my head. Many many games can easily be considered art as a whole, not just the pretty pictures or the soundtrack, and it's not even hard to stretch a bit and include some of the more commercial ones out there. Not all art has to be profound and make a statement, but many games succeed in doing that very very well. The fact that it's only being recognized as such in this decade is kinda sad.

    And art can and often does serve a purpose beyond itself. Hell, look no further than a place of worship to find art all over with the purpose of glorifying a deity. Art can be used to convey a message, to evoke a certain range of emotions, it's even used in therapy. I'd even bet most people in the privileged world have eaten art.

    I'm gonna stop there, not because I'm taking it seriously (because I do), but because it's waaaaaay past my bedtime.

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