How do we define a work of art?
Everyone has its own truth to impose, I will limit myself in citing some distinguished ones.
For Heidegger is a matter of exposing the World and reveal the Earth. I try to explain: take a greek temple, it is not reproducing anything. It lies there, amidst a valley. And it encases a statue of a God.
“The temple, as an Opus, gathers around itself the unity of those paths and relations in which birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace, endurance and decline acquire the shape of destiny for human being. The prevailing expanse of these open relations is the world of this historical people.” (Heidegger, The origin of the work of art).
The World intended by Heidegger is the set of stories you can tell starting from a Culture, loosely speaking. Earth is instead what is immutable and revealed thanks to the work of art. The fury of the storm manifests itself because the temple is there, which sits still and gets struck; the sunlight is revealed when it rests on the walls that shine, and the cerulean sky, which finds its place as a background for the panorama that, without the work of art, would only be a valley. Between World and Earth exists a continuous fight where the former tries to dominate the latter, an inextinguishable force which tries to re-absorb the World in its cradle. The work of art stands as a link between these two entities and exposes their conflictual relationship.
What about videogames? How do we frame them in this view? In a way, it is a more mixed environment, thanks to its artificiality. World and Earth are not that separated, the videogame is potentiality in actuality (borrowing words from Aristotle), transformation of ideas coming out of a self-defining hyperuraniun (hi, Plato) in virtually worlds completely usable inside their own laws. A Matrix, but less disturbing. No forces that incorporate all creation (human creation, or its virtual equivalent), without affecting the dynamism depicted in the Temple example; the work of art is the World itself, at the same time Link and Earth, one and triune. As I said before, one sees these entities as mixed, and in a certain sense the art is brought to un upper level, a micro-cosmos exposing itself.
Level UP! Mithology puts eyes to statues, in order to let us reflect in them and look for ourselves inside myths, persistent in hive minds, as if to say “here, these are your models, how do you feel scattered among them?”. Videogames put eyes on themselves. Every time is a new discovery: are we those statues, those heroes, are we able to find our Triforce?
Time ago I read somewhere , that superheroes of our comics are the new Gods. They claimed their place in the Cloud of human thoughts, built their Pantheon. In each one we can find human characteristics, our characteristics. The humanity of Spiderman, faced with Ock’s created dilemmas; the stubborness of Batman after Bane broke his back. We can extend: the resilience of Mario, starting a new journey each time a random Toad reveals that the Peach is in another castle. Those are not superheroes skills, they are our domain, we just have to look beyond the frames, paper or screen.
We have our guides of good judgement, of Courage, of Wisdom, of Power. We have no indication on how to sacrifice lambs to punitive God, but we have example of a God (Gods) which is our most contemporary enacting, as the old gods were expressions of a world whose epigone is mostly seen in petty smallnesses, because all the good that was in it has been carried on in the evolution of our values. It merged, as naturally as it is, inside the numerous forms of “moral beauty” we can see by looking around, especially outside institutions, and especially in those new gods where everyone can find its identification, as the old religions did with our forefathers.
As a part of digitalized generation, we live in-between this reality and virtual abstraction. Our alter egos have the capacity of being whoever they want to be and this possibility is mirrored in our physical side with that little shiver that bursts in front of the closing scene of a Final Fantasy, or when Mirror’s Edge OST starts.
Links are created and we are connected, in-between these worlds.