Monday, October 15, 2012

Are Video Games Art?

This is obviously a very difficult question to answer, and it is further complicated by the fact that there is no simple answer to the other question: What is art?

An argument that video games are art was put forward earlier in an excellent post made by my classmate Christopher.  The post contains a video that rebukes Roger Ebert's claim that video games can never be art because of their interactivity by pointing out the improvisations that can occur in music, especially in jazz.  I would take the argument further.  Literature, film, painting and sculpture also require interaction.  Even when the artist has a specific message in mind different viewers, readers, and players will make unique interpretations of a piece. 

I also believe that the interactivity of video games can be an advantage to them as an art form.  You should see some of the totally insane things players have built in games designed for player creation such as Minecraft, LittleBigPlanet, and Spore.  Even shooters like Halo and Crysis have produced some cool creations.  Click on the links to see some.

The interactivity of video games can also be important when considering a definition of art as a human creation meant to elicit an emotional response.  When we watch a good movie we become emotionally invested in the characters.  Its why we root for them to overcome their challenges and feel upset if our favorite dies or fails.  Consider the emotional impact games such as the Mass Effect Series might have then, games where the player's own choices determine their character's relationship to the others and whether they live or die.

If we consider paintings and sculptures as art, then there is definitely no reason not to regard some of the spectacular visuals provided by video games as art.  Below is one of my personal favorites, and I encourage any readers to comment with a link to their own favorite.

The underwater city of Rapture from Bioshock
So what do you think of the video games as art argument?  Personally, I've always best liked this simple definition: If you have to ask if its art, then its art.


  1. I personally have never understood why someone would NOT consider video games art. There are so many dimensions to the medium, and I think all of them lend themselves to the label of "art." For one, I think your point about the "spectacular visuals" nails it because we as a society consider still images to be art, and we consider moving images to be art, so what about the still and moving images in video games would not be art? The fact that it can be controlled by the user is even more evidence, because the game creators don't only have to craft a single space for visuals, but have to take into account all the different contingencies of play.

  2. I think that video games represent a new type of art, but it is art none the less. All of the worlds they create are enormous and detailed, and for the most part, completely gorgeous. I think it doesn't necessarily get looked at as art because video games involve the viewer. I feel that people view art as an observational practice. Just because the game involves us does not make anything on the screen way less art. Even the shooter games have an aesthetic that I would define as art.