The Idea Of Games Being An Art Form: Should It Be Circled Or Rubbed Out?

“Art, the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture, and paintings.” The following quote is Wikipedia’s definition of Art, although in all honestly, Art isn’t something you can accurately define. It differs depending on an individual’s interpretation, obviously there are some definite examples of art like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” but then there are always the controversial ones, like the process of milk being spilled on the floor. Unfortunately for videogames, it sits right on top of the pointy fence of separation after climbing its way up alarmingly fast over the years. Whether or not the failure of recognizing videogames as Art is to do with them being conveyed as an evil trait, one which turns kids into deranged, homicidal psychopaths that get amusement out of setting fire to foreigners, I’m not sure. I genuinely get the impression the general media would be more likely to consider the art of slitting peoples’ throats then videogames, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

So, how did you begin thinking about this? –  I pretend you ask. Well basically, I started contemplating this ‘eureka’ prospect when I began my Art exam a few days ago, while it may seem quite ironic and hypocritical; my passion for gaming has painted over the one for drawing. As a result of this, I thought I might as well try and make this one interesting for me, in other words, I did it about videogames. Looking back at it now, I’m quite glad I did choose that as a basis as well, and not just because I get to sketch Sonic the Hedgehog. With just a quick few Google searches I was getting an overwhelming amount of potential art pieces to utilize. I’ve done art on magazines, countries, illustrations, but this project on videogames was easily my most inspired, creative and pleasing collection of artwork yet. As time concluded around the finishing of my final piece, I was in a trance, as I sat gazing at the A3 monochrome Amaterasu (wolf from Okami) I created, the line of realization drew itself closer towards the idea, “Videogames, a form of Art” and then followed by circling it continuously.

In fact, Okami was the perfect inspiration of considering this idea. The general style of the game gives the impression it was majestically painted with watercolors, creating this beautiful world to roam around in. Most of the gameplay actually revolves around sketching maneuvers with the Celestial Brush, which in itself is more than quite ‘arty’. However, you might see art as just being an expression of raw emotion, in which case there’s examples of games for that concept too. The game MADWORLD consists of a very bold but basic art style, using predominately the colours white, black and lots of red. And after thrusting a signpost through a grunt’s head, this basic colour palette becomes extremely effective, provoking the portrayal of anger, aggression and not to mention, violence.

To counterbalance the argument, I’ll mention an article I was referred to written by Robert Ebert. It’s pretty much the same subject of this article, except he believes games can never be art. The main reasoning behind this man’s argument is that you can win a game; a game has objectives, an outcome, in contrast to traditional forms of art, like ‘films’. While I see the perspective he’s coming from, I don’t think that it completely voids videogames becoming art. Experiences considered as art vary vastly in terms of what they offer and games might just be another differentiation; videogames present the opportunity to experiment in a different virtual universe created by an artist, it’s still an experience, it’s just that you can also manipulate it. If the world suddenly took a Super Mario 64 spin and you could jump into the worlds of paintings, would they still be art? Of course they would. As I said before, it’s all to do with interpretation and when you see it like that, I don’t really see how the thought of games being considered art is preposterous.

To conclude, I’ll say that I don’t think videogames are art, due to blatant differences already mentioned. However, it’s on the same level as films and music, as of which have iterations that could be considered as art or just generally because they all have art aspects to them. There are so many examples of ‘videogame art’, BioShock, Ico, Flower, Muramasa, Braid, Prince of Persia, Katamari Damacy, Electroplankton, the list goes on. When there’s already this robust establishment, it seems almost idiotic to shun videogames from art. It’s not 1996 anymore, since then games have jumped into a paintings of art for modernisation, they’re part of our culture, they’re part of art. It might only be partially, but it’s enough. Perhaps games of the future maybe accepted as art? I just hope you’ve opened your eyes to the idea and that you own a Wikipedia account, both of which I’ll be waiting to see the results of.

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  • Nathan Hardisty

    I’ll start by saying that we should stop arguing “games are an art form” and start arguing “now where do we go from here.”

    Good post, well written by the way.

  • Great read I agree with you. This should be made a headline piece, get onto one of the Editors and tell them.