Digital Arts and Literature – Is it Just a Game?

Abstract (in English): 

“Games are not serious; digital art and literature are playful; therefore they are not serious”. Formulations such as these are sometimes used when discussing the playfulness of digital art and literature. The origin of this argument is based on the traditional opposition between “serious” and “playful”. Because of their interactive nature, digital art and literature have often been considered as particularly close to play - and to “mass culture”. Depending on the approaches, this proximity is interpreted as an opportunity, or as a risk, as I will show in this article.

On the one hand, art and play are so closely related that it has become commonplace to assert: “art is play”, “play is art”. On the other hand, it seems equally impossible to deny the existence of playfulness in art and literature. Indeed, is it not one of their fundamental privileges to allow free, unselfish play with the materials, codes and conventions, while science, craft industry, and industrial design are "condemned" to produce and capitalise?

Some forms of electronic literature are experimenting with ways to “deviate” the paradigms of interface control – either by introducing unexpected elements in the involved media contents, or by creating a surprising relationship between the manipulation gesture and the resulting reactions on the interface.

I thus propose in this article to situate the “artisticity” and the literariness of digital works (whether they fall into the category of interactive or generative poetry, hyperfiction or videogame) at least partially within free play, along with the constraints, rules and conventions of the digital discourse.



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Patricia Tomaszek