One of the numerous debates within the gaming world over recent years has been whether or not games can be considered art. Quite simply yes, games should be considered art just as much as society looks at paintings and classic literature as art. At the same time, we should not necessarily be comparing them to those forms of art either.
So if games should be looked at as art, why am I saying that we should not be comparing it to what society thinks is already art? Video games are a form of interactive media and I feel that in itself is a separate “category” of art. You can liken the greatness of a movie to that of a piece of classic literature, or even a play, but you cannot get a true comparison between the two. It’s pretty obvious that a movie and piece of writing are two very different forms of media, yet both are considered art by many. So where is it fair to exclude video games from being considered art because they don’t fit in any pre-established form of art? Why can’t they be the hipster of art and be their own form of media to be considered as art?
When thinking of art and video games at the same time, I bet many people just think of concept art or the vistas provided by a games landscape. While this is art by technical definition, there is more to it than just having a pretty looking game. There can be art found in the story, in the music, or even in something as simple as to how innovative a game is for its time.
The biggest argument I’ve seen against games not being considered art is due to the reason they are goal oriented and rule driven. Let’s take a quick look at the definition of art shall we?
Now, think about how games are created for a few minutes. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Done? Okay, now that you’ve given it some thought, let’s continue. Developers don’t pull their ideas for what they want a game to be out of a pre-determined “idea box”; they sit and put their creative skillsets to use in order to give us another world to experience.
Over the past couple of years more and more games have started to make you feel attached to your character or one in the game. A good example of this would be Telltale Games’ take on The Walking Dead. To many, there is nothing more heartbreaking then playing alongside a character from the start of the game only to have them violently killed off because you had to either run from the horde of the undead or save them and risk your own life.
Of course, not all games can be or should be considered art. While Grand Theft Auto V looks like a pretty game, especially on new consoles and the PC, it doesn’t do much in the whole “evoke strong emotional response” category. Then how can a game be considered art if it lacks an emotional story or something similar? Let me use Valve’s Portal as an example. Sure puzzle games are widely popular to this day but not many of them want you to rely on real world physics to solve them. A game such as Portal can, and should be, considered art for the simple reason of how it changed the way people (developers included) looked at how physics worked within a games design.
Another common point amongst those who think games cannot be considered an art form is that games are created and meant to be sold to make money and not influence or provoke any sort of reaction from players. While it is true that games are also meant to make money, the same can be said about most works of “modern” art. Just look at movies: trailers are released to build excitement in hopes that thousands, if not millions of people will go see it when it is released in theaters. Even pieces of classic literature have been reprinted and have sold millions of copies.
Video games can and should be considered art, but perhaps not in the same capacity that fine art is by most. I feel that the biggest hurdle towards games being taken seriously as an art form is actually themselves. We need developers to stop making copy and paste games year after year and start releasing games with more originality. I understand that is a huge risk for most Triple A developers, since most of them follow the old adage of “don’t fix what isn’t broke” when making new games. That is a task easily accomplished by independent developers, but sadly indie games are not given much of the attention they deserve.