Last weekend I was in Fort Worth, Texas for NAEA, an awesome conference full of enthusiastic art educators. I lead a workshop on game design specifically for the art classroom. While many of the activities we usually incorporate into game design workshops (learning about the elements of game design, and building our own games) stayed the same, this workshop focused on what do games mean in an art context. Are games really art?
We talked about Roger Ebert’s now infamous statement that “video games can never be art,” and Kellee Santiago’s TED talk rebuttal. We looked at instances where game designers use very traditional fine arts to create their games, and at museum exhibits at the MoMA and Smithsonian on video games and the fine art found inside them. Throughout these discussions it became increasingly clear that these art teachers want to embrace new forms of art and new media. They want to connect with the art that their students enjoy. They see so many artistic pathways for their students in games, including fine art, graphic design, and animation, but also game design itself. These teachers talked about how creating an experience that draws an emotional response is art. They said, “We accept film. We accept performance art. Of course we accept games!”
It was refreshing and exciting to work with a group of educators who are so willing to be flexible and tie their artistic curriculum to what policy is focusing on (STEM learning) and what kids really enjoy.
Also, one group of art teachers created a sim out of Post-it notes and paperclips called Art School where players had to make art and critique each other’s work in order to “graduate” and win the game. Art School was super fun, and surprisingly challenging!