She sits down on the couch, her legs crossed so she can turn to face me. We've been in the apartment about 40 minutes or so, an artist-sized apartment with hardwood floors, cluttered with newspapers and magazines. The apartment is above the pottery studio and gallery where she works, the walls at odd angles like someone was trying too hard to seem artistic. I walk into the studio, with its kilns still warm from the students who left half an hour ago and its floor with clay spots, then up the creaky oak steps to the living area, and I'm sitting in her overstuffed couch with her inappropriately close, her blue eyes sparkling in the dim light, and that's when she tells me video games are not art.
Everything I'm telling you is true.
I don't normally drop the "I'm a gamer" line when I first meet someone. I'm not ashamed, but it doesn't typically come into the conversation. It came up with this girl when I mentioned my fascination with new media, such as video games. Video games are becoming more of an art form, I say, a type of interactive fiction that captivates its audience in much the same way that War and Peace, the Sistine Chapel, and Michelangelo's David captivate theirs. I'm saying this to impress her, of course, but I believe it. She doesn't.
"Video games are not art," she declares while grabbing two shot glasses. "Video games are simple mind-puzzles to keep children occupied so their parents can go on with their boring lives. They're products designed to sell, to make publishing houses money, in the same way the next Aladdin movie is." She pours two shots of Jack Daniel's, hands one to me, and drains hers. I follow, listening intently as she dissects the medium of electronic entertainment into an expensive, violent waste of time. Every time she says "violence" she wraps her tongue around the word. I can't take my eyes off her mouth.
Pouring another set of shots, I ask her to define art for me. The Oxford Dictionary, she tells me, defines art as the expression of creative skill through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture. It's both creepy and sexy that she knows this off the top of her head. I ask her what makes Monet's paintings art, as opposed to polygonal renderings of Sephiroth or Cortana?
It wasn't going quite like this a couple of hours earlier. She was just a customer in a coffee shop then, purple streaks in her hair and Kafka sticking out of her messenger bag. I don't normally give the customer a second glance, but she came in asking about free trade coffee and what kind of soy milk do you use and Oh My God is that zucchini bread? And at that moment, I don't know, I just started talking. You wouldn't know it from what you've seen here, gentle reader, but I can charm.
It's strange to see how others (Peter Griffin might call them "Normies") view us. It's not that crazy to think someone in their mid-twenties might have a DS in their bag; it's slightly high-tech and gadgets are the new black, right? But people get a little more judgmental when they see you grumbling at the floating doctor's head in Brain Age, or when you get just a little too animated after grabbing that last hard-to-reach star coin. They end up staring at us like we're the generally respectable looking housewives who went nuts for Beanie Babies years ago, driving across the tri-state area searching for a McDonald's that has the rare pink dog that will complete their collection.
"Who's Cortana?" She asks, reaching for the bottle.
Video games can be art, I tell her, just as commercials can be art. I point out Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will as an example, hoping to look intelligent while making a debate-winning point. That's a two hour commercial for Nazis, and everyone considers it an important piece of cinema.
Most people hesitate when you mention Nazis. Art school girls, apparently, don't even balk.
"Video games aren't powerful enough to be art. Van Gough, Monet, Dali"… there's real feeling in their work." She scoots gloriously closer. "Can a video game move you?" Her hand finds my leg. "Can a game make you feel?" Then she squeezes.
My head's racing. Well, Final Fantasy VII would work here. People cry in the middle of FFVII; they break down in tears when Aeris dies. But I hesitate for two reasons, the first being that admitting to a Normie that I bawled like a child while playing a PS1 game feels like crossing a social line, and in my head I can see the Beanie Baby woman motioning for me to join her. My heart fills with dread. The second reason I hold back is because deep down I know that talking about a fictional woman, even one as useless a plot device as Aeris, will kill what looks to be an amazing night ahead of me.
Saying a solemn oath in my head to make it up to Cloud and the gang, hoping desperately that my privileges as a gamer won't be revoked, I slowly shake my head. My eyes mesmerized by her mouth, I concede. She's right, of course. Video games could never move me the way her art can. And satisfied that she is right, she leans in and hungrily kisses me.
Okay, that part I made up.