Networking and Art (with more questions than answers) by Cally! Womick

“Losing my anonymity in this world I think is something that I find terrifying.” Alex O’Laughlin

For many of us this, this statement rings true. The public life is brutal, demanding, and demeaning. To be a public figure is to be subject to public scrutiny in every word and deed. To lose a part of oneself to others. To be, as Sarah Chalke described it, a little less human. Perhaps this is why, more and more, people are swarming upon opportunities to test out the experience without truly sacrificing a part of themselves. That is, they re taking on pseudo-anonymous identities through networked gaming, online forums, and their corollaries.

As console game usage declines, multiple reports have marked increase in the prevalence of online gaming- sometimes as high as 25% from year to year. The market implications of this trend are already clear- companies are shifting their focus from in-home gaming experiences to networked gaming experiences. Popular examples, in no rank order, include games designed for XBox 360 Live, Facebook, and the iPhone. Ranging from traditional first-person shooter games to more innovative cooperative experiences, like Zynga’s Farmville, these games are redefining the way that people think about entertainment.

But what does this mean for art? Can these “games” also be considered works of art? An argument could be made for their performance-based nature, but intent is unclear. After all, the experience is user-defined, with the only limitations being those of a game’s functionality. In what category do filmed recordings of these interactive experiences fall? It is not uncommon for users of the online game World of Warcraft to record raids- missions carried out by organized bands of users- and post them to the Internet. At what point do these cease to become mere recordings of history and works of creativity? At the moment they are uploaded for viewing? When a soundtrack is added? Never?

Is the art world comfortable accepting such a number of anonymous Internet producers? Do such persons consider themselves artists at all? Thinking back to the ruminations of O’Laughlin and Chalke, is there perhaps more personal sacrifice involved in the production of traditional media art? The answers to these questions are, for now and perhaps always, completely subject. Time will tell how art critics answer them.



– World of Warcraft raid: