Letter From the Editor: Shall We Play a Game?

Tiffany Funk

Editor-in-Chief, VGA Reader


Would you like to play a game?
—War Games, 1980

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.
—Zork, 1979

I am pleased to present the inaugural issue of the Video Game Art Reader (VGAR), a peer-reviewed journal for video game audiences and video game practitioners interested in the history, theory, and criticism of video games, explored through the lens of art history and visual culture. Our aim is to break down the barriers restraining video game discourse. We are not limited to prescribed narrative choices like in a text-based adventure like Zork. We don’t have to engage in the well-worn debates between narratology and ludology, hardware and software, indie or AAA, lest we be eaten by a grue. Our mission is not only to advocate for video games as art, but also engage in a meaningful art criticism of games.

We recognize that it’s daunting investigating such an interdisciplinary subject as video games, and even more intimidating recognizing the scope of its global, diversified audiences. A survey of texts regarding video game discourse reveals a dizzying array of subjects and subjectivities, including computer science and information theory, psychology and sociology, post-colonialism and globalization, gender studies and queer theory, not to mention the array of programming texts encouraging game development through both industry and grassroots methods.

The advantages of VGAR advocating for video games as art is that the art historical and visual culture disciplines are already fundamentally interdisciplinary, and come packed with a long history of analytical tools and techniques for analyzing such diverse cultural artifacts. Video games are both performative and material, and communicate meaning through a complex of visual, audio, and embodied methods. VGAR provides a platform for these insights and experiments, from all corners of the gaming globe.

That is why our inaugural issue celebrates video game culture as inclusive and global. Our opening article is an interview with the art director of the first independent Cuban video game, Savior. The following essays from art historians, literary theorists, game designers, artists, educators, museum curators, and programmers all engage with video games as an important part of the global art landscape. Each engages with what makes good game art with special attention to the transnational cadre of gamers that play them.

So, shall we play a game?