bioshock bioshock

Are Video Games Art?


Within the animation community, most people I know are progressive thinkers who already acknowledge video games as art, but the next time somebody tries to claim that video games aren’t art, as Roger Ebert recently did, direct them to this article by Grant Tavinor. It is the most exceptionally well reasoned argument I’ve read in favor of video games being treated as art. Tavinor makes clear that not all video games are art, nor do they all try to be, but that “to establish that video games are art does not rely on establishing that all video games are art.” He also eloquently takes apart the criticism that video games cannot be art because they have rules and competition. Tavinor writes:

Sure, previous works have not involved competition or rules of the kind seen in video games, but with every new art form that evolves there are likely to be new typical features. With the rise of film for example, the art of the moving image came about, and as a result film has an artistic nature quite different to previous forms of art…We are faced here with the kind of debate that follows from any number of studies of the world. Our experience of the world is always incomplete, and when we experience something new-be it something newly discovered, or newly invented-it can happen that the concepts with which we categorise the world need to be modified to reflect the new discovery. Video games may be just such a case in prompting us to revise our understanding of what an artwork can be.

  • GhaleonQ
  • Glad to see you’re on our side, Amid.

  • Isaac

    Are boardgames “art”? Are choose-your-own-adventure books “art”? Is reality TV “art”? Calling something art is meaningless. People who ask if videogames are art should ask more specific questions.

    Are videogames poetic? In general, they have poor writing, like horror movies, cheap action movies, or choose-your-own-adventure books.
    Are they dramatic? In general, the characters can die many times and spring back to life, or die once at some arbitrary moment, which makes for bad storytelling. There’s also a lot of repetition that prevents any particular moment from being special.
    Are they inspiring, beautiful, meaningful? The article uses Bioshock as an example, and in my personal opinion it’s none of those. The story is simplistic and the visuals are clunky. It’s particularly funny that the author refers to Bioshock as “intellectually challenging”, when it’s so obviously spoon-feeds the player that everything he’s fighting against is evil and must be destroyed.

  • Most the arguments laid out in that Tavinor essay are straw men and easily refutable.

    He ultimately relies on an elastic definition of Art which is in line with the Duchamp school.

    That’s not to video games can’t be Art -and most definitely are artistic -but the overwhelming majority of them fall plainly on the side of Commerce.

    The philosophy around gaming is highly engaging but that doesn’t de facto compel it to the same strata as established painting, sculpture, dance, et cetera.

    Why the need to redefine a term to include a new technology? If the shoe doesn’t fit onto Resident Evil, why force it? We have pretty clear understanding of what constitutes Art -despite disagreements on contemporary expansions of the cannon and the eternal debate on “good” art.

    There is definitely room for interactivity in Art. Even “games” like Vector Park approach what we know and expect.

    As the form evolves it may become more and more like film (which push coming to shove is closer to Literature than the Plastic Arts but we’ll accept arguments otherwise) but for the moment christening the whole shebang as Art is grand posturing.

  • purin

    I don’t think this only applies to something big, recent, and involving like Bioshock. I’d say some of the best old video games (maybe even Pong) can be called art for their use of much simpler graphics in the way graphic design and typography can be art.

    Let’s look at probably the best and most popular game for for the NES Super Mario Bros 3, which pushed the NES’ abilities and used them beautifully. How much style can be present in 8 bits? There’s a striking use of black (paired with simple white or with blocks that seem to shine) that’s all but lost in the remakes, the checkered floors and bright red curtains, the angled backdrop in the royal chamber that strikes me as very 80s and early 90s.

    On top of this is a flatness in the “set” that is actually a deconstruction: Topiary casts shadows on the background. There are blocks floating in the air held up with bolts and things hanging from the sky on cables. It’s all just a play:

    The more I look at it, the more I wonder how much of this is just clever use of limited graphics, and how much is great art and design.

  • Rich T.

    I think everyone can agree that videogames *contain* art–Often breathtakingly beautiful images and music or hilarious slapstick animation. If the final product creates a deep emotional response (Shadow of the Colossus, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X), how can that not be considered art? Those three games alone were more worthwhile than 99% of the stuff cranked out by Hollywood.

  • Apricot

    Are videogames art?

    This is one of those questions that is impossible to answer because the premise of the question is completely flawed. That’s like asking “Is this car made out of leather” or “Is this snail hard or soft.”

    Yes, it has art IN it, but videogames are really a manifesto of many elements. They are manifestations of many different arts, but it also includes a lot of logic as well, which cannot be considered art because it is both non audible or visible. The same way the snail is a makeup of both hard and soft parts, videogames are made up of visual and audio arts as well as construction, logic, and ingenuity.

    I can’t call videogames art because that’s not good enough. It’s so much more than that.

  • Read both articles; good discussion. But the one thing that I just couldn’t shake off was the notion that art absolutely must be “deliberate” (Wikipedia) or “intentional” (Gaut) — something both writers implicitely acknowledge.

    Beyond the scope of just videogames, this is what I object to the most, in this discussion. I do not believe that all things considered art were crafted with the intention of being or becoming art, proper; I also do not believe that all things to be considered art in the future will be crafted, purposely and dliberately, primarily to be distinguished as art or an aesthetic, proper.

    Not all art is premeditated. What about a speech, a tribal dance, the prayer of a buddhist monk, the photo of a newborn child, video of the Kennedy assassination, or finding religious figure on a piece of toast (or in the water stain on the wall)? We won’t all agree these things are art, but many people in many different cultures/fields do. I’m afraid there will never be a sufficient definition of art to include everything we would like it to (or, to exclude everything we should like).

  • I tire of the endless debate of what is and isn’t art. It seems the debate itself is the only remaining thread holding up the concept of “Art” itself as a higher creative pursuit. A painting is a painting and has worth as a painting, a video game is a game, a film is… etc. And none holds any higher creative worth than any other. Individual works can compete for value, or effect, but I fail to see any point in pairing mediums off against one another. Art is an enveloping term, like literature, or sport. “Tennis isn’t sport, it’s just a game!”

    So what if we were to agree? Video games aren’t Art. Would that suddenly cause the industry to fall through the floorboards? “Dude, stop playing Monkey Island, haven’t you heard? It’s not art!”

    Furtherbore, art is not a unit of measure. two artistic things compared can’t have more or less “Art”. If you do a painting, it’s a work of art, whether it goes in a gallery, on the fridge, or down the loo. You can make a a shit painting, virtual environment, ceramic vase, sculpture… but it’s still art.

    Or I could be wrong. it’s a debate of semantics and the beauty of that is we can differ in our views, argue about it, piss and moan, but the individual value of nothing changes. If someone likes a thing, it has worth.

  • Aaron

    @ Apricot – same can be said of film, or anything which is designed; an automobile, a building, a chair, clothing etc. They can all be considered art. MOMA has a helicopter on display.

  • Mark

    While there is art produced in the production of the games, the lack of character and storytelling, or interest beyond the commercial value of the property marks it limited in it’s value as art. But like all art, that could be subject to change. Someone, some day, will create a character driven game with strong storytelling that transcends the current limitations of the technique. Sadly this has yet to happen (and that does surprise me).

    Also, 99% of the games produced look like crap. Over-wrought “concept art” looking garbage. Games like Team Fortress 2 and Little Big Planet–at least for visual appeal–are too few and far between. Until then, we’ll have to suffer visual blight like grand theft auto and kingdom hearts.

  • Is it art?

    I dunno. Put a brush in the hands of one man and you get your fence whitewashed. Put a brush in the hands of another man and you get the Mona Lisa.

    It all depends on the artist and the context.

  • This thing again.

    Considering that I have a relatively loose definition of art, I would argue that, yes, video games are art; most people can’t see it or ‘feel’ it because we keep defining art in classical terms.

    “Why the need to redefine a term to include a new technology? If the shoe doesn’t fit onto Resident Evil, why force it?”

    It has nothing to do with force and everything to do with the temporal nature of the New texts. If theater, film, comics, and animation redefined the rules (I should say, parameters) of art, to deny gaming the same leeway is 1) a disservice to the full exploration of art and 2) intellectually dishonest. Things change. The art of music today is defined under whole new meanings than before (with guitars, synthesizers, and, even the infusion of different cultural rhythms and sounds). Classical art is powerful, but if one is unwilling to look at the elements of the Now and refuse its artistic (or Artistic qualities) because it is of the Now, then, essentially, all Art is over.

    (Not sure how well plugs are received here, but I wrote a TLDR response to Ebert over on my blog here:

    And CQ – I would say Bioshock has a number of artistic elements – and is quite close to art – but falls short in number of areas (in that it’s, bottomline, a generic FPS shooter.)

  • Christina S.

    Every time someone uses “but video games are commercial!” as a point against its artistry, I die a little inside. So… Pixar films aren’t art, then? Or any of the commissioned sculptures from Ancient Greece?

    I don’t know. I’m of the opinion that art is anything that’s intended to provoke certain thoughts and/or emotions, and I think a lot of video games fit that bill, even Resident Evil. With the earlier games of that series, Shinji Mikami wanted you to really fear for your life and be on your toes, with forced camera angles, very limited ammo, and – a gamer’s worse nightmare – a limited amount of times you’re allowed to save, which made players really have to think about what they do instead of just shooting everything they see without consequence. This kind of suspense can only be done with programming, not with film, the written word, or paint.

  • Whether video games (or at least some of them) can be considered art or not shouldn’t get in the way of realizing most video games HAVE art…and sometimes really good art. I personally like to appreciate what’s in one, not always what it is as a whole. What I take away from a game as a whole can be seen in a completely different light by someone else.

    I think this debate sort of falls into the whole, “When is it just a MOVIE, and when is it a FILM/WORK OF ART?” sort of train of thought.

    Anyways, I’m really just repeating what others already said, but one thing’s for sure: we should showcase more game animations here! There’s some fantastic stuff out there!

    (On a side note, since we’re on the topic of games: back to that Snoopy – Flying Ace game posted on a few weeks ago. I finally had a go at it and it’s pretty fun game play! I got a kick out of Snoopy’s trademarked maniacal laugh when you pull a good move. Definitely worth checking out.)

  • tgentry

    I work in the game industry so one might think I naturally tend to lean to the “video games are art” side, but quite the opposite is true. I have yet to see a game that I would classify as Art with a capital A. Yes, there’s craft involved, so making a game is a bit of an art, but I’ve never played a game that I thought was expressing anything truly meaningful. Even when writers or designers aim a little higher in terms of story, their efforts are mostly laughable when compared to the refined crafts of filmmaking or novels. Even Bioshock is ultimately an exercise in shooting stuff. Most of the stories I see that try to say something “important” are just cribbing from better movies or books, Bioshock included. Most games are the product of dozens if not hundreds of people, market testing, focus groups, etc. Not the stuff that Art is born from. Even indie games I’ve played that purport to be Art are superficial at best, usually akin to the ‘deep’ poetry that high-schoolers write. All of this aside I think games CAN eventually be Art. They are slowly graduating out of the juvenile mindset that’s dominated the industry for so many decades. It will take some gamemaking Da Vinci or Picasso to elevate games to that next level, which is difficult given the deeply collaborative nature of game making. I haven’t seen it yet, but that’s just my opinion.

  • Sam E

    The comments on this blog sound like painters complaining about the advent of photography or modern “art”. Or 2D animators complaining about the advent of 3D. Or silent film makers complaining about sound. Well, you get the idea.
    If games are not art because they need a story to be art (which they eventually will) then there are a lot of things once considered art that are no longer art.

  • Peter F

    I’ve been a videogame “artist” for 18 years and my kneejerk response to Ebert’s original pronouncement (didn’t he sort of recant, recently?) was to agree wholeheartedly, but Tavinor does make some persuasive arguments, and my original problem with what Ebert said was his use of the word “never”, that videogames can “never” be art.

    If someone could accept what, say, Miyazaki and Pixar do as “art”, the collaborative commercial products of many hands and eyes, than it’s hard to discount the idea that a similar entertainment product with a crafted aesthetic, a vision and message could also be considered something like art.

  • name

    the problem is that this conversation always ends up deteriorating to a “what is the definition of art” conversation, when it doesn’t need to.

    video games are interactive media. ANY kind of media CAN be art if either the audience, or the artist, says it is. doesn’t mean it’s good art, but it’s art.

    if a little kid draws a picture of cow, that can be art. if a little kid makes a simple computer game with a cow that can jump over a fence, that’s also art. and not just because there are drawings in the game – there is also the programming and the gaming structure – which are essentially very similar the writing and the story structure that we have in film. yet in video games you must allow for the possibility of multiple choices from the audience. a lot of the time you also need the writing and story structure TOO.

    there is plenty of interactive media hanging out in art gallerys these days (one example i can think of off the top of my head is the installation about: “eat a piece of this candy. it represents a cancer patient.” ). so to say that one form of interative media is not an art medium is just silly. any medium can be an art medium. now you just need to judge the games individually and decide if they are good art or not.

  • Karim

    Apricot > I can’t call videogames art because that’s not good enough. It’s so much more than that.

    You perfectly summarized my thoughts. Word up!

  • Cyle

    What bothers me about this conversation is the assumption that games that resemble films are somehow more artistic.

    The storytelling, characters, and even visuals shouldn’t determine whether video games are art or not (I believe they can be). It has to be based on the interactive elements– the parts that make it a game in the first place. Story is secondary and should only be used to enhance the interactive experience. When developers try to make games more like movies, it often becomes a distraction. A poorly constructed, cliché-filled movie in which the player has control of the character between each poorly acted scene is not my idea of a good game, and it certainly doesn’t count as art. Storytelling should never get in the way of the interaction.

    I don’t think we should be asking whether video games can be considered art but rather if any game can be art. Can a well designed puzzle that challenges the player to think in creative ways be considered art? I think so. To me, someone who designs a system of rules/objectives that works to create an entertaining experience is as much an artist as someone who writes a story or draws pictures. Effectively presenting a game through pictures and sound is just part of the process and isn’t necessarily what makes it art.

    The way I see it is if a film or painting that captures/creates an experience is considered art, why can’t a video game that simulates those experiences be art too? A video game of something like scuba diving for example can capture the experience as effectively as other art mediums. That’s not to say the interpretation has to be realistic. Making games like Pong or Wii Sports is really just caricaturing real-life activities. Then there are games like Pac-Man that barely resemble real life at all yet provide a well designed experience that engages the participant in a creative way.

  • name
  • Nick

    “Are videogames Art?” is definitely the wrong question. Based on a lot videogames the answer would be no. At the same time, based on a lot of movies made, neither are movies Art.

    The better question is “Do videogames contain the potential for Art?”. Granted the answer to that would be “Yes” since in the hands of a skilled artist most anything could be made into Art.

    Every time a new medium arises it has to go through the “This isn’t Art” phase. Look how long it took for Photography to get accepted as Art.

    I won’t even get into how Animation itself still struggles to be taken seriously as Art….

  • I think you could make an argument that older video games like “Pong,” “Space Invaders,” and “Tetris” are closer to being art than most current games. Those games weren’t trying to mimic cinematic conventions, and were dedicated to exploring the boundaries of gameplay.

    “Tertis” has more artistic value to me than “Bioshock” which, as well-designed as it is, doesn’t do anything all that revolutionary, gameplay-wise.

    If video games want to be considered art, they should focus on exploring and redefining gameplay mechanics, which no other medium (film, literature, painting, etc) can do. That’s its ace in the hole.

  • very well written article on kotaku.

    i’d say the best representation of art in the form of a videogame would be Braid. that game blows minds.

  • when I used to make them they were art… breathtaking examples of art in fact. No none agreed with that and some (thousands) went so far as to say they were utter rubbish… BUT, you wait until I pop my clogs and watch how fast they come out of that bargain bucket

  • Ben K.

    It was nice of Ebert to take it back. He admitted it was wrong of him to pass judgment on something he doesn’t know anything about – the same way he doesn’t review films he hasn’t seen. Artists make video games. Some are more artsy than others. Don’t worry about it and go play Okami.

  • My friend David Pagano and I are both animators in NY who love video games. We also host a podcast called the New York Geekcast and we recorded an episode about this very same topic. Take a listen and tell us what you think:

    I think i agree with Jessica Plummer in that not all games are art, but have sometimes have incredible art in them.

  • Kevin H.

    Are all video games art? No. Are all animated films art? No.

  • NC

    This very argument is the reason why I gave up pursuing a career in video game animation and pursued animation for film. In the past five years I would say video games have lost their story-telling ability, they were no longer about creating a unique story-telling experience but more about being something to do with your frat bros while your drunk (I’m looking at you HALO and MADDEN). I mean outside of “Bioshock” (which I haven’t played so I won’t comment on) whenever people here mention “artistic” video games they tend to be video games from about five years ago.

    So back to the subject at hand, are video games art? It’s like asking the difference between a film and a movie. We tend to give movies that have more intelligence and social awareness the title of “film” and we give flicks like Transformers the title “movie”. That’s how it is with video games, maybe we should come up with a title to give more prestigious games, Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy, Ico, etc. to separate them from more commercial games. Like how we give sequential art like Watchmen, the title “graphic novel”, and monthly Superman stories, “comic books”.

    While we are on the subject of video games, though, can anyone tell me what the point is to sports games? I mean why pay fifty bucks to do something that you could go outside to do for free?

  • THANK YOU. Glad to see video games getting some serious recognition.

  • Hal

    So tired of this argument – the only video game pieces I’d argue are art was the controversial “Twin Towers Space Invaders” cabinet that caused such a ruckus, or a recent installation piece I saw at LACE in Los Angeles where two “SECOND LIFE” users simulated sex in front of a projection of their SECOND LIFE avatars having simulated sex in a real-time broadcast in SECOND LIFE. Video games interface can certainly be used to create art, but in and of themselves they remain interactive games. The problem is all the gamers who don’t want to go to exhibitions and be open minded to whatever other contemporary art is out there want the validation that the thing they devote so much of their time to is “art.” The rest of the time they are games that dangle the carrot of narratives for achieving goals. There is nothing wrong with interactive games pushing the envelope of interactive gaming – in fact “true” games like MODERN WARFARE do more interesting things with the possibility of first person narratives than anything I’ve seen before, within the framework of a game. Video games will pave the way for art inspired by their achievements, but gamers need to accept the fact they play games and be comfortable with that label. That immature need for validation will hold the potential of Video Games as its own unique medium back.

    The problem with BRAID as ART is that it is, at its core, a really beautiful and excellently designed platformer (whose core game mechanic is the time manipulation device) with a pseudo-intellectual post-modern take on Mario overlaid. The story and gameplay mesh well conceptually, but I still think there’s a disconnect between the GAMEPLAY and NARRATIVE portions.

  • VinceP

    Why does this need to be legitimized? I have been enjoying video games just fine for over 25 years and I haven’t for one moment cared whether or not it was art. Who cares? Popular artists will likely never care, simply because video games are typically so commercial.

    It feels like we’re arguing whether bodybuilding is art, or something equally bizarre. I’d field the governator’s pecs if someone is going to canvas for Bioshock. Seriously.

    Why is this on a cartoon blog anyway?

  • Brad Constantine


  • NC

    I didn’t see Cyle’s comment after posting but now that I have I he’s turned me around. It makes sense, film is a visual art form, and video games are an interactive art form. I think the real problem here is both semantics and commercialism. I think that the art community, being as pretentious as it is refuses to acknowledge the artistic contributions of video games because simply of the word “game”. Just as comics were looked down upon until phrases like “sequential art” and “graphic novel” started being coined did the artistic and literary communities acknowledge, begrudgingly, their contributions. The second problem of course being the commercial aspect of video games. The artistic community has this high and mighty view that if you’re not starving for your work than it’s not art (which is of course ridiculous seeing as both Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo both had very successful careers during their life-time). But in their defense the advertising for video games do reach out to the lowest common denominator which is how you get the drunk college kids playing Halo and Madden stereotype. So, if the video game community was willing to fight this stereotype than I think they have chance for recognition. Although there is also the question of does that recognition really mean anything?

    I think Hal makes a good point as well. If there is one thing that is working in animation’s favor, is that we’re growing increasingly more comfortable with the fact that the fine art world may never recognize us. Perhaps instead of asking for the fine artists’ approval the video game industry should just recognize itself as it’s own art form. I’m not sure if there are people out there who consider themselves as video game historians but that is definitely one way of the video game community forming it’s culture. Also, does the video game industry have industry award ceremony like the Annies? (I’m not counting Spike’s VGA because that only increases the stereotypes) But a real award ceremony to recognize the group and individual achievements of the video game industry I think this can help the industry become more self reliant and less interested in what others may think about them. In my humble opinion.

  • Hal

    More gamers should get out to art openings and shows, from hipster warehouse shows with its $2 PBR to gala shows at the Guggenheim with its $12 Peanut Noir. Meet some artists and invite them to play DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION or ROCK BAND or some MODERN WARFARE deathmatch at a later date. Lets see what happens when two worlds collide (hopefully it involves lots of sexy sex and alcohol fueled rants). Then maybe we’ll get something interesting.

    Nothing good ever comes from staying in the same rut of interest on either side.

  • Who has better art? Painters or filmmakers?

    Comparing art in one field to another type altogether is ridiculous.

  • pat
  • Alison

    Some video games are art. Some aren’t. I would consider games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and R-Type and Super Metroid to be art. The level design and game mechanics are genius, they are certainly art. Games that try too hard to be considered ”art” (see: a bunch of indie games) or to have a “message” (lol) will never be art.

  • I’m sorry- I just don’t see myself seeing great artistic, literary minds like Samuel Johnson or George Eliot wasting their time of video games if they were born today. That’s not to say I wouldn’t waste my time playing video games, (just look at my blog with nearly all of the posts about Dragon Quest) but I must say that it is definetly definitly a sign of cultural degradation when people take games as art.

    They say that video games are possibly the best form of art because they are “active” rather than “passive”, but I think that’s rather reversed. Video games are actually very passive, with no intellectual difficulties below the surface. You may feel a great sensation when you you play, but it is mere sensation, and nothing to be pondered at. There may be some allusions to literary works, but they are so watered down as to be palatable to the typical man on the street.

    I think it could actually be said that video games are the death of art.

  • I am reminded of Ken Levine’s (he’s the creator of Bioshock) responce to Ebert.

    Particuarily this quote:
    “Are games art? [….] What methodologies should we investigate to make a proper determination between the state of video games, Aristotelian aesthetics, and Robert McKee’s definition of good writing?
    Here’s my answer in three simple steps: Remove the beret from the top of your head. Throw said beret out the window. Light a fire. Into that fire toss your copy of Aristotle’s Poetics. Crack open a two liter of Mountain Dew [….] You’re a gaming geek. Be proud of that.”

    I think it is very telling when a major producer of video games urges players to abandon and destroy art as the world has known it for 3,000 years and just “crack open a two liter of Mounatin Dew”.

    I think that gives credence to the notion that video games are the death of art.

  • From an animation stand point, I’ve noticed the art jump leaps and bounds over where it was a few years ago. Everything used to be so crappy, there was a vast difference between game animation and feature animation. The gap is still there, but it’s much smaller. And you yourself posted a gameplay trailer for an upcoming video game featuring some absolutely stunning artwork, the name of which escapes me.

    It all makes sense of course, since the game industry is massive. Isn’t it bigger than the movie industry now? Some of that money has gone into creating a better product, even artistically.

    The real confusion will happen when the art rises to the level seen in movies, and we get more interactivity in the movie going experience thanks to some new gimmick that requires the audience to choose their own adventure or something. Then where do you draw the line between video games and movies?

  • There are plenty of independent video games that do not feature movie-like narratives, spectacular graphics, nor do they have conventional storylines or player goals. Sometimes, they just want to explore aspects of the human psyche like memory, nostalgia, and the pursuit of life.

    Such as:
    Gravitation: “a video game about mania, melancholia, and the creative process”
    The Graveyard: “You walk around, sit on a bench and listen to a song. It’s more like an explorable painting than an actual game. An experiment with realtime poetry, with storytelling without words.”
    Rückblende: “… a man confronted with his childhood memories while walking around a summerhouse in the woods, where he used to spend the holidays with his parents.”

  • Video games are better off being exactly what they are — artistic, storytelling, engaging crafts. Pleasures for the senses and the intelligence of mind.

    It is better to be an artistic craft than it is to be ‘art’. There’s far more craft and skill outside of the art world than there is inside of such a ‘high-brow’ place.

  • I hate to state the terribly obvious, but Ebert wrote a new article backing down on his original statement TWO WEEKS AGO.

    So before all of you hang him out to dry, please be aware of the fact that The original position by Ebert is not his current one.

  • A video game can only be art if the player is an artist. It has absolutely nothing to do with the game creator. A crappy game from 1980 is art in the hands of an artist. There’s no other way to make art.

  • Rooniman

    That question has always floated in my mind when playing video games.

  • Ellio7t

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Myst. Of course video games can be “art”. It is a word with no true definition. In a commercial medium there is just little room for a product with a true artistic nature. Mostly for the fact that it is rather costly to try to achieve that end. It is much cheaper to make a lowest common denominator style product. At least in the eyes of producers and executives it is.

  • STeresi

    Anyone who thinks that video games are, or can ever be, anything that even comes close to resembling ART knows nothing of what it means to be human.

  • Chris

    Steresi I find that comment rediculous, and even a bit offensive to many people commenting here. You realy want us to think that all the people who view games as art are ignorant to the human condition? You are trying to tell us that all people who view games as art know nothing of art? That is like saying that if I view Citizen Kane as art I could not appreciate the work of van Gogh. I think that you are pretty much saying is that anyone who thinks video games can be art is stupid.
    A good game, a game of the year quality game is, or should be a fusion of great art style and animation, A compelling story, and great sound design/music, all of this is integrated into one experience that is called a video game. If you view none of those things as art then your view of art is very rigid at best. You also might want to read Gran Trevinor’s article, then you could actually make a counter argument rather that a condesending statment that you hope we will accept as fact.

  • Josh

    Anyone who thinks that videogames cannot, or never will be, anything that even comes close to resembling ART knows nothing about what means to be human. Or is just being very unimaginative. :)

    All snark aside, c’mon, really? Even Ebert retreated from his never-never-la-la-la-I’m-not-listening position in a follow-up essay.

    Making your own videogame has never been so accessible or affordable as it is today. People who might never have considered expressing their thoughts or ideas via an interactive medium are doing so in great numbers.

    Sooner or later, someone’s going to make a game that has cultural impact and resonance above and beyond making tons of money or providing an adrenaline rush. Hopefully STeresi will check it out when they do. :)

  • Roger is a terrific guy and more often than not is right but the only thing a person can say is they like or dislike something. Video games have outstripped the box office and interactivity will one day rule. It’s one thing to be entertained, it’s another to be immersed. Everything created is art and so are many video games.

  • Art should make you feel something… While playing BIOSHOCK, I experienced fear, shock, pity, anger, sadness, and revulsion. I don’t know if the game was art, but it felt like art, and there’s something to that.

  • Tim Haywood

    The answer is – it depends on the game. Some gaming experiences are epic, and cause people to cheer when they complete a difficult task they have achieved. No film has ever given me such a natural high from watching it.

    I get enjoyment YES, I get a good narrative YES, but gaming is a new way to tell stories, and also be part of stories – in many ways its a digital extension of paper based role playing games – the next evolutionary step to total immersion role playing.

    But it DOES depend on the game – Space Invaders for example is Iconic – and to a degree because of that the pixel image of the Space Invader, the classic well known sound effects from it, show that video games do have their place is the art world.

    But Space Invaders 2, is not iconic and will never have the credibility of the original.

    Sound familiar?

    Pac man, is another simple video game character that has outlived its playable time span, and remained as Art. Again the imagery and sound stick with people, how many T shirts have we seen with the Pac Man logo – and again all the sequels are somewhat obscure if not forgotten.

    I could refer to a few hundred video games that stand up as art – that live beyond their initial function.

    I think the main problem is there are still stigmas attached to gaming, the “its for kids”, or “its just violent and evil”, and there is also the problem or rubbish games that get made that bring the whole thing down, but thats the same with all art forms, there has to be garbage to see the good.

    If games are not art – then nothing is.

  • Sam E

    NC says, “While we are on the subject of video games, though, can anyone tell me what the point is to sports games?”

    There’s something for everyone. Putting down something you don’t understand is a a pretty judgemental and short sighted statement. Madden football is one of the top selling games in the country. Game sale profits surpassed the film industry in 2008.

    To say that there is no art in a sports game (or any game) means you haven’t worked on a game. In the game field, there are art directors, lighters, animators, riggers, environment modelers, programmers, effects artists, sound artists, all working together to create a believable and aesthetically pleasing world. Same as in film.

    It’s up to people, like you NC, to personally elevate the quality of art in games and in film.

  • Eric Drobile

    Someone play 1987’s Out of this World (Another World in Europe) and tell me that ain’t art.

  • Asking if video games are art is like asking if Britney Spears is music. The answer is yes in both cases. But that doesn’t necessarily make it GOOD or BAD art/music.

    The implication of quality has to be removed from the words Art and Music for either to be accessible to or understood by the general public, something which it currently is not.

    As such, “art” needs to be redefined not only in the case of video games, but all other forms it currently includes.

  • purin

    I don’t know about there being no depth or nothing to be pondered.

    I’ve played games that ask if it’s worth raising children in a bleak world, games that present me with moral uncertainty as doing what’s right destroys a whole world of people I’ve come to love over the game, games with governments and armies run by corporations, games that have brought me to tears, games with their own spirituality, even.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    “I’ve played games that ask if it’s worth raising children in a bleak world, games that present me with moral uncertainty as doing what’s right destroys a whole world of people I’ve come to love over the game, games with governments and armies run by corporations, games that have brought me to tears, games with their own spirituality, even.”

    It’s concepts like that that made me less a gamer year after year (and this is coming from someone who had an Odyssey2 to play with when he was 4).