JP man makes video games as art

(Courtesy Image) The title screen of Anthony Montuori’s video game “Debtris.”

Jamaica Plain artist Anthony Montuori is redefining what art is with video games he creates himself.

The lifelong gamer, recent School of the Museum of Fine Arts graduate and Institute of Contemporary Art employee creates his own video games. While video games often are basically puzzles, Montuori adds in high-art concepts, too.

His games poke fun at the occasional hopelessness of life. In “Debtris”—a play on the popular commercial video game “Tetris”—the player stacks the tiles to earn money to pay back student loans. In “Ragz,” the player must try to collect coins that are impossible to collect. But Montuori said he considers the games art just as much as entertainment.

“The initial drive was certainly art-world motivated, and now that I have committed to it, I’d say [the games] come from a place I can only describe as 50 percent art and 50 percent video game. A lot of the games aren’t really very fun or game-like, and some of them are more fun than they should probably be given that they end up in an art gallery,” he said.

His games are relatively simple and made in the style of early 1980s games with low-resolution graphics.

Montuori isn’t alone in creating games that are art in the format of a game.

“I am an artist who likes to make or do whatever I feel best serves a given context,” he said. “This is certainly something that is changing or has already changed. A handful of game-making groups or individuals are producing very successful games that flirt with a high-art status.”

Montuori didn’t expect to combine his art career with his childhood love. But that changed with one class.

“I took a programming class called ‘Intro to Hacking’ with the artist Steve Lambert,” Montuori said. “The next year was my master’s thesis exhibition, and one day the thought clicked that I should do an ‘arcade’ art installation. After a few months working towards that show, I began to fall in love with programming, and rekindled my love for games, and haven’t really looked back since.”

He said he also hopes that redefining the line between art and gaming will make players rethink the game.

“When [players] find that I am an artist making games they may perhaps understand it as [high] art that looks like game that isn’t really game and approach it differently.”

Some of his games and other artwork can be found on his websites, and

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