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Issue Date: Vol. 51, No. 6, June 2011, Posted On: 5/12/2011

U.S. Govt. Officially Classifies Videogames As Art

Marcus Webb
video game, arcade video game, coin-op video game, National Endowment for the Arts, Schwarzenegger vs. Entertainment Merchants Association & Entertainment Software Association, First Amendment protection of video games, media art, Smithsonian Museum, American Art Museum, he Art of Video Games

WASHINGTON -- The National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency supporting artists and arts organizations, said it is classifying videogames as an art form for purposes of funding artistic projects in fiscal 2012.

NEA's announcement is not expected to influence a crucial videogame case that is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, Schwarzenegger vs. Entertainment Merchants Association & Entertainment Software Association essentially hinges on whether or not videogames constitute an art form that deserves First Amendment protection. | SEE STORY

Last November, a broad coalition of videogame manufacturers, publishers, law enforcement officials and academics, among other luminaries, argued before the high court that youth access to videogames should not be restricted due to so-called "violent" content.

In their verbal and written arguments before the court, supporters asserted that games deserve the same First Amendment protection of freedom of speech and expression that are accorded to books, movies and music.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its verdict this summer in the case. The verdict is expected to determine whether states, cities and local jurisdictions may ban youth access to games based on content.

The new NEA guidelines have been expanded to include "The Arts in Media" as a grant category, replacing The Arts on Radio and Television. The new category plainly includes "all available media platforms such as the Internet, interactive and mobile technologies, [and] digital games…"

The NEA said it plans to award taxpayer-funded grants, generally from $10,000 to $200,000, to next year's projects.

In a separate yet parallel development (also in the nation's capital), curators at the federally funded Smithsonian Museum said the American Art Museum will display a new exhibit entitled "The Art of Video Games" between March 16, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2012.

Curators said the exhibit would be "the first to explore the 40-year evolution of videogames as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies."

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