Do you remember that seminal interview between David Cronenberg and Salman Rushdie about the cultural and artistic relevance of videogames? Nope? Ok, no worries, here's the salient, juicy part:
"Cronenberg: Do you think there could ever be a computer game that could truly be art?
There's a beautiful game called Myst. Have you seen that?
I haven't seen that.
They say this is democratic art, that is to say, the reader is equal to the creator. But this is really subverting what you want from art. You want to be taken over and you want to be-
Exactly. Why be limited by yourself? But they say, "No, it's a collaboration."
I like computer games. I haven't played many. At the Super Mario level I think they're great fun. They're like crosswords because once you've beaten the game, you've solved all its possibilities.
There's nothing left.
Whereas this is not true of any work of art. You can experience it over and over.
And if you come back to it in five years it's a different work, it's a different thing.
There's a different thing between a puzzle and a book. These are just very clever puzzles and they are very enjoyable and they require certain skills which are quite clever, useful to develop. Sometimes they make you use your mind in very interesting ways because it requires natural steps. You have to think in ways you wouldn't expect in order to find the solution. But it's just a game.
You would say, then, that a game designer could never be an artist?
Never say never. Somebody could turn up who would be a genius. But if one thinks about non-computer games, there are many which people say have the beauty of an art form. People say that about cricket, people say about every game. But actually, they're not art. You can have great artists playing games. You can think about a great sports figure as being equivalent to an artist. I could see that there could be an artist of a games player, a kind of Michael Jordan of the Nintendo.
They have those competitions internationally.
In the end, a work of art is something which comes out of somebody's imagination and takes a final form. It's offered and is then completed by the reader or the viewer or whoever it may be. Anything else is not what I would recognize as a work of art." (The full interview is also available here)
This exchange is fascinating not only because Rushdie's fatwa was one of the main inspirations for Croneberg's masterpiece, eXistenZ, but also because recently, the author of The Satanic Verses has changed his mind on the whole videogame vs. art debate. A 180 degree turn, I'd say. Check this out:
Rushdie's latest book, Luka and the Fire of Life (English, Italian) is an interesting literary experiment as the novel successfully remediates the conventions of videogames. In a sense, it is to print what Scott Pilgrim was to comic books and film. Luka and the Fire of Life is the subject of my latest column for WIRED magazine (February 2011), "Mr. Bit". Also mentioned in the piece other two contemporary authors who are not shy about their passion for digital games, Alex Garland and Nicolo' Ammaniti.
You can read the full article, in Italian, by clicking the image below.