Video games have come a long way since their inception in the 1970s. Today, they are a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of active players worldwide. But one question has been debated for decades: do video games count as art?
Some argue that video games are a form of art because they are created by artists, require skill and creativity, and can evoke emotions in players. Others argue that video games are simply a form of entertainment, lacking the depth and complexity of traditional art forms.
In this article, we will explore both sides of the debate and examine the arguments for and against the idea that video games can be considered art. Whether you’re a gamer or an art enthusiast, this topic is sure to spark interesting conversations and make you think about the nature of art itself.
The debate over whether video games can be considered art is a complex and ongoing one. On one hand, some argue that video games have the potential to be art because they are a form of expression that can evoke emotions and tell stories. On the other hand, others argue that video games are not art because they are interactive and rely on technology, which makes them different from traditional forms of art like painting or sculpture. Ultimately, whether or not video games can be considered art is a matter of personal opinion and depends on how one defines art.
What is Art?
When considering the question of whether video games can be considered art, it is essential to define what we mean by the term “art.” From a philosophical perspective, art has been defined as a form of expression that is intended to evoke an emotional response in the viewer or player.
One of the most influential philosophical theories of art is that of Immanuel Kant, who argued that art should be judged based on its formal qualities, such as color, line, and composition, rather than its representational content. According to Kant, art has the power to “purify” the mind by freeing it from the constraints of practical reason and allowing it to engage in pure contemplation.
Another influential philosophical theory of art is that of Arthur Danto, who argued that art is not defined by any essential set of properties, but rather by the cultural context in which it is created and received. Danto famously argued that the painting “Good and Bad Art” by Harold Stevenson was a work of art because it was exhibited in a museum and given the title “Good and Bad Art,” even though it was not technically well-executed.
From a cultural perspective, art is often defined by the traditions and practices of a particular society or community. In Western culture, for example, art has traditionally been associated with the creation of objects such as paintings, sculptures, and architecture, while in other cultures, such as those of Africa and Oceania, art has been more closely associated with performance and ritual.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the diversity of cultural perspectives on art, and a greater willingness to consider non-Western forms of art as legitimate expressions of human creativity and imagination. This has led to a more expansive and inclusive definition of art, one that recognizes the richness and complexity of human cultural expression.
In conclusion, the question of whether video games can be considered art is not a simple one, and depends on how we define the term “art.” From a philosophical perspective, art is often defined as a form of expression that evokes an emotional response in the viewer or player, while from a cultural perspective, art is often defined by the traditions and practices of a particular society or community. Ultimately, whether or not video games can be considered art may depend on our willingness to expand our definition of art to include new and emerging forms of cultural expression.
The Artistic Elements of Video Games
Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of video games, allowing players to experience a narrative through gameplay and cutscenes. Games such as the “Final Fantasy” series and “The Last of Us” have complex, compelling stories that have garnered critical acclaim, showcasing the potential for video games to convey emotional and thought-provoking narratives.
Aesthetics in video games refer to the visual and auditory elements that create the game’s overall appearance and atmosphere. Games like “Journey” and “Braid” are known for their beautiful, minimalist art styles, while others like “Red Dead Redemption 2” and “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” feature stunning open-world environments and intricate character designs. The use of color, lighting, and music also contribute to the immersive experience, highlighting the artistic value of video game aesthetics.
Interactivity is a defining characteristic of video games, as it allows players to actively participate in the game world. This interactivity can manifest in various forms, such as exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. Games like “Portal” and “Myst” are praised for their innovative puzzle designs, while “The Elder Scrolls” series and “Fallout” series offer vast, open-world environments for players to explore and interact with. The level of player choice and agency in shaping their gameplay experience contributes to the artistic merit of video games.
The Argument for Video Games as Art
Artistic Expression in Game Design
Video games have long been a source of creative expression for game designers, and it is this artistic expression that has led many to argue that video games can be considered a form of art. In this section, we will explore the various artistic elements that contribute to the argument for video games as art.
Pixel Art and Animation
One of the most recognizable artistic elements in video games is pixel art and animation. Pixel art is a digital art form that is created by using individual pixels to create images. In video games, pixel art is often used to create characters, environments, and other visual elements. Pixel art can be used to create a unique style that sets a game apart from others, and it can also be used to create a sense of nostalgia for players who grew up playing retro games.
Animation is another important artistic element in video games. Animations are used to bring characters and environments to life, and they can be used to tell a story or convey emotions. Some of the most memorable moments in video games are the result of well-designed animations, such as the iconic “Halo jump” in the Halo series or the breathtaking vistas in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Sound Design and Music
Sound design and music are also important artistic elements in video games. Sound design is the process of creating and implementing sound effects and music in a game. In video games, sound design is used to create an immersive experience for players, and it can be used to enhance the overall atmosphere of a game. For example, the creepy whispers in Silent Hill or the pulse-pounding music in Resident Evil can create a sense of fear and tension that is crucial to the gameplay experience.
Music is another important artistic element in video games. Music can be used to set the tone for a game, and it can be used to convey emotions and moods. Video game music has come a long way since the early days of chiptunes, and many games now feature orchestral scores that are on par with those of Hollywood blockbusters. The music in games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda has become iconic, and it has helped to create a sense of identity for these franchises.
Writing and Dialogue
Finally, writing and dialogue are also important artistic elements in video games. Video game writers are responsible for creating the stories and characters that players interact with, and they must do so in a way that is engaging and compelling. Some of the most memorable characters and stories in video games are the result of well-written dialogue and plotlines, such as the complex characters in The Last of Us or the emotional storytelling in What Remains of Edith Finch.
In addition to storytelling, dialogue is also an important artistic element in video games. Dialogue can be used to convey character personalities and emotions, and it can be used to advance the plot or provide exposition. Some of the most memorable moments in video games are the result of well-written dialogue, such as the hilarious banter in Borderlands or the emotional confessions in Life is Strange.
Overall, the artistic expression in game design is a crucial element in the argument for video games as art. From pixel art and animation to sound design and music, writing and dialogue, video games offer a unique and diverse range of artistic expressions that are worthy of consideration as a form of art.
Emotional and Intellectual Engagement
Video games have the unique ability to elicit powerful emotional responses from players, as well as stimulate intellectual engagement through gameplay mechanics and narrative structures.
Player Agency and Choice
One aspect of video games that sets them apart from other forms of media is the level of player agency and choice. Players are often given the freedom to make decisions that directly impact the outcome of the game, creating a sense of personal investment and responsibility. This level of interactivity can lead to a deeper emotional connection with the game world and its characters, as players feel their actions have real consequences.
Thematic Depth and Complexity
In addition to player agency, video games often tackle complex themes and ideas that can resonate with players on an emotional level. Games like “The Last of Us” and “BioShock Infinite” explore themes of loss, sacrifice, and redemption, while “This War of Mine” and “Papers, Please” delve into the harsh realities of war and political corruption. These themes, when handled with care and sensitivity, can create a powerful emotional impact on players, fostering a deeper connection to the game and its message.
Furthermore, the narrative structures of video games often employ non-linear storytelling techniques, which can create a more immersive and thought-provoking experience for players. This approach allows players to piece together the story and its themes in a way that feels uniquely personal, leading to a greater intellectual engagement with the game’s message.
Overall, the emotional and intellectual engagement that video games can offer players is a significant factor in considering whether they can be considered art. By creating meaningful experiences that resonate with players on a personal level, video games have the potential to transcend mere entertainment and become a form of artistic expression.
The Argument Against Video Games as Art
Lack of Physicality and Tangibility
The Inherent Limitations of Digital Media
Digital media, such as video games, exist in a digital format, which can be perceived as a limitation compared to physical media like paintings or sculptures. The lack of a physical form can be seen as a detriment to the artistic experience, as some argue that the tangibility of an artwork is an essential component of its value. Video games, as intangible entities, may not possess the same level of presence as physical art, which can affect the way they are perceived and appreciated.
The Technological Barrier
Another aspect of the lack of physicality in video games is the technological barrier that they pose. Unlike physical art forms, video games require specific hardware and software to be experienced, which can limit their accessibility and availability. The technological requirements for playing video games can create a barrier for some individuals, particularly those who may not have access to the necessary equipment or may not be familiar with the technology. This technological limitation can impact the way that video games are perceived as an art form, as it can create a divide between those who can access and appreciate them and those who cannot.
In conclusion, the lack of physicality and tangibility in video games can be seen as a limitation when considering them as an art form. The inherent limitations of digital media and the technological barrier can impact the way that video games are perceived and appreciated, potentially hindering their status as a legitimate art form.
Commercialization and Industry Influence
The Pressure for Profit
The video game industry is driven by the need to generate profits, and this pressure can influence the creative direction of games. Developers may prioritize popular genres or gameplay mechanics in order to appeal to a wider audience, rather than taking risks and pushing boundaries with their creative choices. This can result in a lack of innovation and originality in the industry, as developers may be hesitant to take risks that could potentially lower their chances of commercial success.
The Influence of Market Demands
Market demands can also have a significant impact on the direction of video game development. Games that are expected to be commercially successful often follow certain trends or tropes, and developers may feel pressure to include certain elements in their games in order to appeal to a broader audience. This can lead to a homogenization of the industry, with many games featuring similar mechanics, themes, and narratives. As a result, it can be difficult for truly unique and original games to stand out and be recognized as art.
The Future of Video Games as Art
Emerging Trends in Game Design
As the gaming industry continues to evolve, so too does the potential for video games to be considered art. In this section, we will explore some of the emerging trends in game design that are shaping the future of video games as art.
Immersive Experiences and Virtual Reality
One of the most exciting trends in game design is the development of immersive experiences and virtual reality (VR) technology. VR technology has the potential to transport players into fully realized digital worlds, creating a sense of presence and immersion that has never before been possible in gaming. As VR technology continues to improve, it is likely that we will see more and more games that take advantage of this technology, creating truly immersive experiences that blur the line between reality and fantasy.
Indie Games and Artistic Independence
Another trend that is shaping the future of video games as art is the rise of indie games. Independent game developers are often free from the constraints of corporate publishing, allowing them to create games that are more experimental and artistic in nature. Many indie games challenge traditional game design conventions, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the medium. As indie games continue to gain popularity, it is likely that we will see more and more games that are considered artistic works in their own right.
Overall, these emerging trends in game design suggest that the potential for video games to be considered art is only going to grow in the future. As technology improves and independent developers gain more visibility, we can expect to see more and more games that challenge our perceptions of what video games can be, and push the boundaries of what is possible in the medium.
The Potential for Further Integration into the Art World
As video games continue to evolve and mature as a medium, there is growing potential for further integration into the art world. This integration can take various forms, from collaborations with fine artists to exhibitions and museums, as well as recognition and awards for game art.
Collaborations with Fine Artists
One way that video games are integrating with the art world is through collaborations with fine artists. Some game developers are partnering with artists to create games that blur the lines between art and entertainment. These collaborations often result in games that are more experimental and artistic in nature, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the medium.
For example, the game “Journey” was created in collaboration with the artist David Hellman. The game’s beautiful and serene landscapes were inspired by Hellman’s paintings, and the game’s music was composed by Austin Wintory, who worked closely with the game’s developers to create a score that complemented the game’s visuals.
Exhibitions and Museums
Another way that video games are integrating with the art world is through exhibitions and museums. As video games become more accepted as a form of art, they are beginning to be showcased in the same venues as other forms of art. This can be seen in the growing number of exhibitions and museums dedicated to video game art and culture.
For example, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, Australia, hosted an exhibition in 2018 called “The Art of Video Games,” which showcased the history of video game art and highlighted the work of contemporary game artists. Similarly, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., hosted an exhibition in 2012 called “The Art of Video Games,” which explored the evolution of video game art and featured a range of classic and modern games.
Recognition and Awards for Game Art
Finally, video games are also gaining recognition and awards for their artistic merit. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of awards and prizes dedicated to recognizing the artistic achievements of video games. This includes awards for game design, animation, music, and writing, as well as awards specifically for game art.
For example, the Independent Games Festival has a category for “Excellence in Visual Art,” which recognizes the best use of art in a game. Similarly, the Game Developers Choice Awards has a category for “Best Visual Art,” which recognizes the best use of art in a game. These awards help to legitimize video games as a form of art and highlight the creative achievements of game developers.
The Potential for a New Art Form
The Potential for New Expressions and Experiences
As technology continues to advance, video games have the potential to create new expressions and experiences that were previously impossible. With the use of virtual reality and augmented reality, players can immerse themselves in fully realized worlds, allowing for a more interactive and engaging experience. The potential for new forms of storytelling and narrative are also being explored, with games like “What Remains of Edith Finch” and “Gone Home” leading the way in experimental game design.
The Possibility of Expanding the Definition of Art
The potential for video games to be considered a new art form also lies in their ability to expand the definition of art itself. As technology becomes more integrated into our daily lives, the boundaries between different forms of media are becoming increasingly blurred. Video games have the potential to blur these boundaries even further, incorporating elements of traditional art forms like literature, music, and visual art into their gameplay and storytelling.
The Implications for the Gaming Industry and Society
The potential for video games to be considered a new art form has significant implications for both the gaming industry and society as a whole. For the gaming industry, this could mean a shift towards more experimental and artistic game design, with a focus on creating games that are not just entertaining, but also thought-provoking and meaningful. For society, this could mean a greater appreciation for the artistic potential of video games, leading to a more nuanced understanding of their impact on culture and society.
1. What is the definition of art?
The definition of art is subjective and varies depending on who you ask. Some people believe that art is a form of expression that conveys emotion or tells a story, while others believe that it is a skill or technique used to create something beautiful or functional. In general, art is often considered to be a creative work that is intended to be appreciated for its aesthetic value.
2. Are video games considered art by everyone?
No, the debate over whether video games can be considered art is ongoing and there are differing opinions on the matter. Some people believe that video games are a form of art because they require creativity and skill to produce, while others argue that they are not art because they are interactive and rely on technology. Ultimately, whether or not video games are considered art is a matter of personal opinion.
3. What are some examples of video games that are considered art?
There are many video games that are considered art by some people. Examples include games like “The Last of Us,” “BioShock,” and “Shadow of the Colossus,” which are known for their immersive storytelling and stunning visuals. Other games, such as “Journey” and “Flower,” are more abstract and focus on creating a sense of atmosphere and emotion.
4. What are some arguments against video games being considered art?
Some people argue that video games are not art because they are interactive and rely on technology, which sets them apart from other forms of art like painting or sculpture. Others argue that video games are primarily designed to be entertainment, and therefore cannot be considered art. Additionally, some people believe that the use of technology in video games detracts from the creative aspect of the medium.
5. Can video games be considered art even if they are not considered art by everyone?
Yes, video games can still be considered art even if not everyone agrees that they are. Art is subjective and can be appreciated and interpreted in different ways by different people. What one person considers to be art, another may not, and that is okay. Ultimately, whether or not video games are considered art is a matter of personal opinion.