Games now eligible for National Endowment for the Arts grants

By Steve Watts, May 09, 2011 9:45am PDT

Video games are among the new types of interactive media eligible for 2012 National Endowment for the Arts grants. The grant application guidelines for the Arts in Media category lists "digital games" as a new platform, along with Internet, interactive and mobile technologies, and arts content delivered via satellite, radio, and television.

The grants, which typically range from $10,000 to $200,000 can be given for works that are either arts in themselves, or about the arts. A game that helps to teach you about the opera, for example, would be eligible even if it isn't itself an artistic work.

The timing of this decision makes it interesting in light of the impending US Supreme Court decision on California's violent games bill. The NEA is an independent agency, but works under the federal government. Art is a form of protected free speech, which is why other artistic forms like music and movies don't have federal laws restricting their sale to minors. If the NEA recognizes video games as an artistic medium, a Supreme Court decision in California's favor could put the government at odds with itself.

Over the weekend, professional Luddite-curmudgeon Roger Ebert tweeted that under this definition, "just about everything" can be considered art. Besides his tendency to troll gamers (even after conceding), he has a point that this particular definition is fairly broad. We'll let you decide what that means for art, games, or both.

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