Are Video Games Art?

If this blog dedicated to geek culture wasn’t clear enough, I’m an admirer of video games. Since their creation, games have been questioned as a true art form. Although I’m late to the debate, I’m sure it still rages in the minds of passionate gamers and older folks that don’t quite understand the power of games. Even still, the goal of my first blog post is to show firm evidence why games are, in fact, art.

What is Art?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

In this trusted definition, there are indicators that  video games can and cannot be classified as art. Thankfully, the second clause uses the word “…typically…,” which makes “…painting or sculpture…” not the only creative endeavors that can be classified as art.

Creativity and Imagination

If video games do not show “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination…,” I am not sure if any medium properly expresses these primal human traits. Sure, video game artists do not use paint or clay, but they create worlds, beasts, wars, and stories that are alive in the digital space. Hopefully we will never see an alien invasion or hyper-feminized dragon, but video games place “you,” the character, in an environment where your input is necessary to progress the story line and reach its conclusion. In my opinion, it is this observer input that further enhances the “…beauty or emotional power” of video games.

Beauty and Emotional Power

For those who do not play video games, it is either incomprehensible or inconvenient that they, the viewer, must push an art form to its conclusion. Literature and film, which will forever be majestic and triumphant forms of art, are altogether passive experiences. A book does not stop your progress and demand that you complete a word puzzle to continue and a film does not ask which direction the main character should take—the path to the beach or toward the mangled, dark forest. It is not these challenges and decisions that make video games art, it is the mental investment to the conflict at hand which inflate the “…beauty of emotional power” of video games.

The Active Participant

The conflict in a game can be as simple as not dying on the shell of a spiked tortoise before you can save the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, but this challenge makes victory that much sweeter and the payoff that much more emotionally resonant. Of course, not many people have cried of joy in a Mario game, but consider modern video game scenarios: saving your kidnapped daughter, surviving the fallout of nuclear war, and ensuring happiness for the people that your character loves. At the end of the day, the beauty and emotional power of the game comes from the quality of its creation: graphics, writing, and gameplay. The same can be said for film; graphics can be an analog for set design and casting, writing is writing, and gameplay can be an analogue for pacing and directorial efforts. Without time and care, even proven mediums of art can be utter trash—video games, the youngest of all mediums, still have some growing pains in terms of quality, but they are quickly catching and, in some cases, surpassing the quality of entertainment in film and literature.

The Evolution of Art

In my opinion, the reason for denying video games the title of “art” simply comes down to ignorance and resistance to change. In the world of art, video games are the young man with a penchant for making entertainment pieces instead of thought-provoking evaluations of the human condition. Slowly, video games are growing up—if Pong in 1958 was video games’ cave drawing, then today they are in the midst of a beautiful and emotional Renaissance.

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Author: The Scrivnerd

The purpose of this blog is to analyze my favorite works of art and release my (asinine) beliefs on an unsuspecting public. I hope that you enjoy my thoughts on these gems of film, television, video games, and literature. Feel free to leave a comment and I will try my best to answer you. Thank you for reading

2 thoughts

  1. Great first post…couldn’t be more spot on and applicable.

    I don’t see how people can disagree other than simply being “resistant to change.” Video games absolutely are art for all the reasons above and more. At very least all people must admit video games are a package containing art among “other things.” How else can one explain all the design, writing, music, directing, etc. that goes into the final product?

    This got me wondering whether Film was ever questioned as art in its early stages. Can’t provide an answer on that, but did find another article arguing that Film is art, but Television is not (it is instead a “medium”). Made me LOL. Really? Rather than provide a true (scholarly) response, I’ll simply ask…so Freddy Got Fingered (which I actually do find hilarious) is art, but Game of Thrones is not?

    Of course there are limits to labeling things as art (as there are to all things in life!), but this is certainly not one of them. Let people call video games art and enjoy it. It doesn’t take away from other forms of art…we can always have different categories of art if it helps lessen the pain :).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dominic, thanks for being the first comment on the entire blog! I think we might both be a bit biased in the debate for video games as art, but you make some interesting points; I don’t know if film was questioned, but it seems likely. I bet it was seen as demonic and one of those new-fangled inventions that only kids like—same as music and video games. Similar to that, maybe video games will be considered art when we (the generations that grew up with games) becomes the qualifiers and classifiers.

      And wow, I’ve never seen “Freddy got Fingered” come up so naturally in a written paragraph haha. However, someone would classify that as art; is it absurd and dumb as shit? Sure, but in someone’s classification it is art—similar to what you’re saying about us all having different views on what “art” is. Maybe it doesn’t matter what is art, only that we enjoy and respect something. Thanks again for commenting,

      Mike S.

      Like

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