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The Inclusive Vision

Essays in Honor of Larry Gross

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Edited By Paul Messaris and David W. Park

Larry Gross is one of the most influential figures in the history of media studies. In this collection of original essays, his former students reflect on his groundbreaking contributions to three major developments: the emergence of visual studies as a distinct field of media theory and research; the analysis of media fiction as a symbol of power structures and a perpetuator of social inequalities; and the growing scholarly attention to the relationships between mass media and sexual minorities.

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3. Cultural Competence in the Art World of Video Games (Bill Mikulak)

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3. Cultural Competence in the Art World of Video Games

BILL MIKULAK

Introduction

Video games are a realm of contemporary culture that is hotly contested. Critics bemoan their violence, addictiveness, and negative stereotyping of women and minorities. Their champions consider them artworks, whose cutting-edge technologies immerse gameplayers in vibrant, challenging environments that can communicate emotionally intense narratives and improve mental and physical aptitudes.

I will first describe the popularity of video games, then give examples of cultural institutions that have judged them to be art. Next, I will consider arguments against that designation, and use theories of Larry Gross and Howard S. Becker to shift away from romantic preconceptions of art and artists toward a more sociological and communication-based view of art worlds, into which video games fit well.

I delineate the major genres of video games and then turn to a central aesthetic concern within this art world, playability. Finally, I turn to some members of the video game community who have applied playability to solving real-world problems.

Genesis of This Inquiry

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