Indie Game Dev | CS Student
I started writing an article a couple of weeks back considering whether games should be considered art. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that games are indeed a form of art. It wasn’t an easy decision though. I hit road blocks at every turn. Every argument I started to reason, I thought of a counter argument. I found a lot of reasons why some games should be considered art and some games shouldn’t be. I found a lot of reasons why some pieces of art should be considered art and some shouldn’t be.
Let me try and explain.
I originally argued that all art can be classified as art because it delivers a message. That’s what separates the arts and crafts, the message from the utilitarian use. That definition didn’t always hold up though. The best example I can think of is listed below in my original piece – Tony Smith’s “Die”. It’s supposed to mean many different things. Its six foot by six foot in size so it represents death. I personally don’t see it. I don’t understand it. I see a large box.
I have other examples. Salvador dali, for instance, creates some very interesting work. I like it. I’ll admit, I am a fan. It has no common message though. The same goes for the countless pictures of Christian art created through the renaissance. They typically tell a story and warn people of not offending the church. They are basically period propaganda pieces. Would the propaganda posters of WW2 or today be considered art?
What about architecture? Why is that considered art while pottery is not? Both are utilitarian in nature. Both serve a purpose and neither (usually) share any message.
So what is art then? I still firmly believe that the difference between art and crafts is that art shares a message of some kind. Art will often deliver an emotional message. That is what separates literature from art; art delivers its message through emotions and images while literature delivers it through reason and words. Crafts don’t deliver a message but are merely aesthetically pleasing and help accomplish a task. Because of that definition, art may not mean the same to all people. It also encompasses my biggest conflict; why are films considered art and not video games?
Certainly, not all films are art nor are all games. Like film though, games can make a person feel. They can transmit a state of being, a sense of urgency, and transplant the thoughts or a person in some other time or universe. They can deliver a message. They can provoke players to feel and to respond in the same way that traditional art would.
If one would think that games can’t make audiences feel then I would remind people of the death of Aerith. The death of Aerith at Sephiroth’s hands (Final Fantasy 7) sparked massive fan fair and rumors. Players couldn’t handle her death. Rumors spread all over the internet that Aerith was coming back and that she wasn’t really dead. (I should remind readers that these rumors spread during the early days of the computer boom and internet adoption, back during the hay days of AOL to put it into perspective. Internet use wasn’t the same then as it is now which only furthers the proof of impact of Aeirth’s death) Players actually mourned her death. They wanted to seek redemption. Her death made players feel. The Battlefield series, as much as I wouldn’t want to admit it, force players to realize the angst and destruction of war. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” generally make people feel despair.
Games do provoke an emotion and response. They deliver a message in a way that neither film, nor traditional art, nor literature can. It’s a new media that is still very much in its infancy. The level of detail and creativity required to provoke such response have only come about in the last 20 years, a short time in the world of art. I think that’s why many critiques don’t consider games to be art. It’s to new. I assure everyone though that games are both a form of art and entertainment. They liven the soul and speak to people. They make players react and think in ways that other media can’t.
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