Are Video Games Art? US Government Says Yes

Linda Sharps

Urgent to Roger Ebert: it turns out that video games ARE, in fact, art. The US government says so, so it must be true.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently expanded the guidelines for its new Arts in Media category, and in the process of doing so, declared all forms of media, including video games, content made for the Internet, and mobile technologies, as officially sanctioned art forms.

Of course, anyone can call something art. (Um, for example.) The reason the NEA's endorsement is newsworthy is because it means digital artists—including video game creators—are now eligible for grants from the federal government to fund their projects.

As in, up to $200,000 of your tax dollars for someone to design another reason for kids to stare slack-jawed in front of an Xbox.

I have to admit, it's a little hard to wrap my head around the idea of the government underwriting certain art forms, when we've got a federal budget deficit of, what, is it $1.5 trillion now? I'm also the first to admit, however, that I have no idea what would help the situation. Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts' $167.5 million budget? Sure, and let's cut public radio next, and maybe we can kick a kitten while we're at it.

It's interesting to note that the NEA requires grant recipients to raise one additional dollar for every dollar it hands out, which creates a sort of domino effect. The way the NEA sees it, each dollar it gives actually generates $26 in economic activity—payment for artists and staff, parking revenues, pre-theater meals, and so on.

It may be that this new categorization will create a massive return on investment for the government. Who knows, a grant may fund the next Angry Birds, which was made for just $140,000 and has generated
more than $70 million to date.

The NEA grant money ranges from $10,000 to $200,000 depending on the scope of the project. Interested in applying? Get on it; anyone who wants to start a project before May 1, 2012 needs to submit their application to the NEA by September 1 of this year.

What do you think about video games being categorized as art by the NEA?

Image via Flickr/vancouverfilmschool

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