As video games become a more prevalent form of entertainment around the world, people naturally start to have discussions pertaining to their artistic merit. For as long as they’ve been around, video games have been seen by many people largely as time wasters with no redeeming value beyond entertaining one’s self for a few hours.
However, as the medium continues to evolve, this mindset has repeatedly been challenged, both by example and by video game players themselves. And as with all new and emerging mediums, those unfamiliar with it continually fail to grasp what makes them special to so many people. As a result, any claim of their artistic merit has been met with resistance. The most noteworthy recent criticism comes from legendary film critic Roger Ebert, who famously claimed that video games can not possibly be considered art . I, and many gamers, outright disagree with this statement.
The heart of the debate lies in the definition of “art,” a topic whose definition continues to be debated to this very day. Despite numerous examples throughout history, the definition of art can hardly be agreed upon. Art means different things to different people, and that meaning informs its purpose, which in tern defines it.
Basically, the very concept of art, something that seems so simple, is actually quite complicated when you reduce it down to its core nature. It also doesn’t help matters that it is so very subjective. Something that appears to have zero artistic value for one may have substantial value for another. This only fuels the age old debate. For the purpose of this article, let me get this definition out of the way: art can be defined as creative expression, or creativity that expresses some aspect of the author or authors’ life philosophy, intentionally or not. This gives it purpose beyond the mere pleasure of experiencing its existence, thus giving it value. To use a film analogy, this is why we claim Inception is a work of art while Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, despite also being a blockbuster action film, is often considered not. One has themes and meaning beyond the surface; the other is just robots beating on each other for entertainment’s sake.
Enough about that though, this is about video games. Being a medium with its own unique tools and conventions, one has to consider different things in order to judge its artistic quality. All games have artistic aspects to them, such as the visuals, the music, etc. For video games, artistic value comes from the interaction between the player and the game, and how it comes together to create an experience that enhances the narrative in ways only it can.
These are the games I would show to those who question the artistic power of video games; examples of what the medium can do when passionate people nail that creative spark. For authenticity’s sake, I’ll be regulating the list to games I have actually played, as I can’t speak for a game I’ve yet to experience, so I apologize ahead of time if this list feels like it is missing something. Some of these choices might surprise you, or you may even disagree completely, but I will do my best to explain my reasoning. With that disclaimer out of the way, I present you with 10 games that confirm video games are art.
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This article was first posted on October 5, 2012