Artist’s intentionality is a tricky thing to deal with in criticism. Does the artwork mean what the artist claims it means or what the audience interprets it to mean? It’s a question that artists and critics have debated for many years longer than videogames have existed and they are going to debate it for many years more.
The truth, I think, is somewhere in the middle. The artist’s intent isn’t the be-all and end-all of what the artwork means, but neither is it to be entirely discounted. When we judge an artwork as either being a good or a bad piece of art, we are usually judging it in relation to what the author intended to do when they created it – or, at least, in relation to what we surmise are the author’s intentions from the artwork itself. Watching Inglourious Basterds, I don’t think “This is a terrible rom-com!” because, clearly, Tarantino wasn’t trying to make a rom-com. Ultimately, what the audience gets out of the artwork is final, but what the audience gets out of the artwork is, in some way, going to be influenced by what they think the artist was intending to do. (more…)