H.McDonald – High and Low Art

Heather McDonald

Paper 4

Art 85

High and Low Art

From the 1930’s to present, the arts and designs of modern and post modernism has brought about strong historical, cultural, and communicative reach around the world at an increasing rate. The distinction of each work in the levels of high and low art creates strong comparisons and differences. In the video game industry there is no exception despite the almost never-ending fight to figure out its place in the world. With the creation of the first hand held portable console called Microvision in 1979, and the video game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in 2001, one can see how its reach in the art world brings strong effects and influences in the future years.

When it comes to video games I would think that most people would consider it a low art because it’s typically something that’s following a certain trend or even personal experiences recreated in a fictional setting by the artists and developers. Though if you are on of the many that are part of the ever growing industry or playing the games they create, they seem more like high art because we all understand and appreciate it universally. However, sticking to the low art mentality, the creation of the Microvision brought about a very modern twist in a current generation of home consoles and arcade systems of the late 1970’s to 80’s. “The Microvision was the very first handheld game console that used interchangeable cartridges,” and despite that it failed to live up to what it was made for, it’s basic mechanics at the time were revolutionary. In 1981, what could have become a major seller and a historically famous product ended up at its demise over technical flaws. The creation of it gave strong inspirations and influences into future portable consoles, such as the Nintendo Gameboy, 3DS and Playstation Portable. One would think that despite it not being a widely known product in gaming history, it should at least be given credit and appreciation because without the Microvision, all future portable devices may not have existed today with similar mechanics.

Similarly in conceptual design where each aspect of the product builds a strong interaction between product and consumer, it can be found with with the post-modern game title of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. This low art title brings a mix of historical and fictional events to create a “post-modern tragedy.” When it comes to the post-modern theme, Burke states that, “anything goes with anything, like a game without rules… meaning becomes detachable… they slide past one another failing to link up into a coherent sequence.” With the Microvision, there wasn’t a very far reach in communication to the consumer until other companies made similar products with different names. However with Metal Gear Solid 2, there was an interwoven tragedy of history and fiction to create a very strong connection into the lives of the player. Although the situations the characters were in may not have been experienced by the player, there’s enough emotional similarity to capture them deeper into the story. Chris Zimbaldi explains this to make it clear that not only the technical but the conceptual designs of a product can make something as obscure as a video game become a strong influence on the art world.

In conclusion, when you think of a work of art in the context of low or high, there can be complications to how it influences the group that follows it strongly and to everyone else over the understanding of the work. However even though the Microvision is a failed modern hardware and Metal Gear Solid 2 is a strong post-modern software for gamers, they both influence people strongly in different ways. Metal Gear Solid takes history and adds a tragic fictional twist while the Microvision inspires other companies to take the concept and make it a strong technical product to run future portable game titles. Even if they are two totally different products, their reach in the gaming industry has created very strong bonds between man and technology as it evolves.

“What is High Art.”

Burke, Barry. “Post Modernism and Post Modernity.”

Wikipedia. “Microvision.”

Chris Zimbaldi. “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty as a Post-Modern Tragedy.”


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