Games As the Next Avant-Garde

Darius Kazemi, of Tiny Subversions, recently posted his transcription of a GDX talk given by Ian Schreiber on “Duchamp, Pollock, Rohrer: Games as the Next Avant-Garde”.  In it Schreiber posits that a greater understanding of the twists and turns underlying Art History would benefit those game developers wishing to push the medium further.  He says that the contemporary dichotomy between those lauding media-centric views and those championing the experiential in games was settled over 50 years ago by the art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg.  Greenberg pursued a purely media-focused theory of modernist art while Rosenberg talked more about the experiences of the viewer.  Schreiber maintains that contemporary game criticism is primarily “Greenberg-esque, judging games on formal elements, if it’s fun for the reviewer it’ll be fun for the player.” and calls for a more Rosenbergian style of criticism,

[The] problem is games are interactive, everyone has a different experience, that experience carries highly personal meaning. In short, games are a postmodern artform. At the same time we review them as if they’re modern art. Ask yourself, if you write reviews, what would postmodern game crit look like? If we accept games as varied experience, how do we review and critique that?

While Schreiber, as channeled by Kazemi, simplifies the Greenberg-Rosenberg dichotomy a bit much, it’s an interesting and enlightening read for anyone looking for a more experiential focus to games criticism.