Artists in fields like photography, dance, theater, literature, painting and sculpture have been seeking funds from the NEA for many years. But the NEA has now expanded the eligibility pool to include people doing interesting things with video games, mobile applications and websites. Applicants need to be affiliated with a 501(c)3 nonprofit arts organization and violent games won't be considered.
We talk to Alyce Myatt, director of media arts for the NEA. She says the organization has now recognized that people experience art in a number of ways outside traditional arts venues, including games. Games aren't getting special treatment, though. Applicants will be held to the same standard of artistic excellence and artistic merit as artists in any other medium. Myatt admits that those are pretty subjective terms but she says the panels that judge applicants will have knowledge and experience in relevant fields.
It's not likely you'll be seeing games like "L.A. Noire" or the latest Madden getting a whole lot of funding out of the NEA. Violent games aren't going to be considered, for one thing, and it's not like the companies making those games really need grant money. But our guest John Sharp, professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, says the reasons go beyond that.
He sees something like "L.A. Noire" as more craft than art. Sharp says it aspires to be like cinema, and while it's beautifully built, it lacks a sense of co-authorship between designer and player that sets a game apart artistically. For an example of that, Sharp points to a game called "Passage," where you take a five minute bittersweet walk through life itself.