Saturday, November 15, 2008

Games as art: Is it true?

There have been some changes to One Duck's Opinion! See this post for more details (Although you've probably noticed at least one change already).

A popular debate as of late is whether or not games are art. Movies can be art, music can be art, books can be art, and even television can be art, but for some reason people are having a hard time accepting video games as another category in the grand scheme of art. As of now, I think games are just as much of an art form as movies.

Movies can offer epic-length adventures and mysteries, and so can games. Movies can make us experience all ranges of emotions while experiencing them, and so can games. There are movies for everyone out there, and it's the same deal with games. Art is about conveying emotion or a story through some form of media, and that's exactly what many games do. Notice I said "many"; This is where one exception come into play, although it does nothing to discount video games as an art form.

We've all noticed the deluge of shovelware hitting the Wii as of late, and I've heard some people cry "This is what's holding back games from becoming art!". I have a message for all those people: Stand up, get dressed, and go to your local video store. Look at all the DVDs sitting there for sale and/or rent. Now, see if you can find even one video out of ten that could be considered "art". Unless your video store only sells Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Fantasia, I somehow doubt this will be possible. See, the film industry is just as inundated with crap as the gaming industry. The same is true of every other one of the accepted art forms. Every category has masterpieces, just as they all have crappy content, too.

So, how do we decide which games are art and which are merely wastes of disc space? What defining features must be present in a good game? With movies the factors are generally plot, delivery and cinematography. With music it's usually the lyrics and melody that make it great. What are the necessary factors for a game to be considered art among its peers?

The main defining factor has to be gameplay. After all, that's what games are all about. Things can get fairly complicated in this department, though, as different genres can be greatly varied. While a good puzzle game is generally addictive, it will never present you with engaging, ever changing gameplay or innovatively-designed levels. The requirements would have to be tailored to each genre, and even then, some great games would have a hard time being art (Don't expect to see Brain Age in the Video Game Louvre any time soon). That being said, all other defining factors and their relevance are reliant on the genre of the game.

Every form of entertainment media has ways in which it is worthy of being called art, and video games are no different. While some gamers can consider it art now, it's got a long way to go before other people understand as well. I'm sure, though, that someday video games will be looked at in much the same way as any book, movie, painting or television show. Until then, we've got nothing to worry about except having fun along the way.

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