I’m going to go down a very interesting, slightly controversial road with this one. It’s been discussed before, but it’s relevant in this interesting space and time of video gaming. As video games are becoming more and more cinematic and as video games are added to art museums, it seems that the question is still there: what exactly is a video game? Is it just a trivial pastime/full-blown obsession or can it actually be an art form? Should it even aspire to be an art form? Let’s take a closer look.

Critics

There are several critics who say that video games can not be an art form. Probably the most well known of them is Roger Ebert, who wrote in 2005 that games could never be an art form. His position inspired a many responses, and it is not my intention to rehash that topic again. Rather instead just to show that there are those who say that video games are not the same as various art forms, such as music, literature, and dance.

What is Art?

So in order to see if video games can be art, we first need to define what art is. According to the dictionary, “art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”. But art is really difficult to define – there’s hundreds of books on art criticism, and a variety of definitions. I want to bring up Jerry Kosinski’s famous quote about the true nature of art. He described it as, “the principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke”. Simply put, art makes you feel something. When something, whether it be a painting or a song, inspires an emotion in you, that’s art. Or at least, that’s one definition of it.

Video Games Can Be Art

I think it’s an overgeneralization to say that ALL video games are art – that’s certainly not true. There are games out there that don’t evoke any emotion at all, and that can be quite popular and fun. But they’re nowhere near the artistic talent seen in other art forms. However there are a couple of games out there that are definitely pushing the boundaries of what is considered art. Look at Journey for an example, which has a ton of awards and takes a bunch of risks by having no dialogue, no clear story, and limited interaction between players. The game has garnered a lot of reactions, and there are definitely people who think it’s a form of art. However, Journey really brought the definition of a “game” into question, since it doesn’t follow the rules of traditional games of the past.

There are other games as well that push the boundaries, most notably indie games. But that doesn’t mean that video games as a genre can be considered as art. At least not at this moment, but who knows? As the landscape of video games change, perhaps the question, “Are video games art?” will become obsolete.

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