Play-ability?: A Taxonomy of Art Games


Session Title:

  • Games: Aesthetics and Criticism

Presentation Title:

  • Play-ability?: A Taxonomy of Art Games




  • Playability is a phenomenon that transforms its subject. Introducing playability changes the rules that frame how we relate to a place, a situation, an object, one another – or an artwork. In this context, play is a productive cultural force, that is, it contributes to creative process. However, play has a difficult relationship with art. Culturally, play and electronic games in particular are often perceived as ‘low’ culture – as not for adult consumption or critically engaging. Contributing to this misunderstanding, some art games use signifiers and gestures from games without incorporating playability. The boundaries that define art and play are constantly in flux. Serious games apply principles of game design to real world situations; play in art galleries shift relations between viewer, object and space; game designers seek to innovate through new aesthetics and critical engagement; games situated in cities encourage playability in daily life. Via a study of playful interventions in cities this paper outlines a taxonomy of encounters between play and art, articulating opportunities for critique, aesthetics, performance and signification in each. An understanding of playability, and the ways in which it transgresses boundaries between art and game, public and private, individual and collective, will be explored to identify links and common ground between art games and electronic art.