Are Video Games Art? Yes, When You Do Them Like This

PHOTO: FAILE arcade

Carly Otness/BFAnyc.com

“The drug dealer always wins in these situations,” artist Patrick Miller told me about one of his newest creations.

He was talking about a video game he helped develop, called Ticket to Ride the White Line Highway. In it, you control a rolled-up, five-dollar bill with a steering wheel as though you're driving a car in Need For Speed. As you accelerate in the game, you have to follow a meandering line of cocaine that is being dropped by a the drug dealer ahead of you. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t snort all of it, and the bastard gets the away from you.

During Art Basel week on Miami Beach, Miller and his partner Patrick McNeil brought a pop-up arcade from New York called FAILE BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade 2013 Miami Beach Presented By Perrier. Together, the two form Brooklyn-based artistic collaboration FAILE.

The other works are similar acerbic. In another one of the games you play a real estate developer, and your job is to destroy palm trees and build condo buildings in their place.

“A lot of our work takes certain elements from culture, and remixes them to make new images and commentary about it,” Miller said. “We like to play with the mythology about what Americana is.” In the case of this show, the brand of Americana pokes at the cocaine fueled wild nightlife, and high-rise developer culture that screams Miami, for better or worse.

Miller says that people usually hear about the shows by word of mouth, and come in excited, but not knowing what to expect. “It’s such a comprehensive installation that people don’t quite understand,” he said. “They see the cabinets and recognize it a sculptural object in itself, but don’t realize that all the games have been created by us.”

The games take a team of four developers, the two artists, a music dude, and help from others to put together.

Inside, the complete arcade felt like a straight time warp to the good ol' days, when the sounds of an arcade had a magnetic draw to kids across the country. At the same time, this art piece felt like a respite from all of the madness of, well, art. The installation took place walking distance from Art Basel Miami Beach, the largest art fair in the Western Hemisphere. Several other renowned satellite art fairs were also within a few blocks radius.

“People are coming from all of these fairs, and they just kind of get full from seeing so much work. And when you come in here, people just sort of let loose,” Miller said.

Not that there’s not a lot of madness with the world of the games. One of my favorites consisted of mashing buttons marked with things like "XXX," "beer," and "lotto" into a party scene. As you add more beer and sex, the party goes buckwild. And then you win. When you mix all of this stuff together, all you can do is win the game.

But sadly the party is leaving Miami, as the pieces are being taken back to New York or being scooped up by some collector whose drinking and XXX days are long behind him. Such is the nature of an art show.

“We came from a street art background, and we’re kind of used to work kind of living and breathing for a moment, and then being gone, and being something that you remember.” Miller told me.

For a minute there it sounded like he was talking about an actual arcade.

FAILE does bad ass stuff all the time. You can check some of their other installations in Brooklyn, and as far away as Mongolia. Check out their website here.

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