Games as Art

Posted by & filed under Game Culture Class, Paper2.

Within 10 years, video games will be considered a form of art.  The definition of the word “art” has been misinterpreted since the dawn of civilization.  Any new form of media starts with an invention made for science.  Then it brings forth discovery, along with some skepticism, and finally cultural acceptance.  This has happened with photography, film, television, and soon, video games.  Despite the questionable opinions of some, games will be (in fact already started to be) exhibited at museums.  Whether it is for their box art, instructional booklet, visuals, musical compositions, or simply the gameplay itself, games will undoubtedly be recognized for their creativity, as well as structure and timelessness.

 

Art: one of the most difficult words to truly define.  The dictionary reads that “fine” art is visual art, considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness.  That definition could easily be placed next to any form of visual based media, even the ones based around technology.  What truly defines something as art is how a piece is created, most importantly, the expression and idea behind it.  This is true for video games, the most skeptical of all art forms.  It seems that the media can only look at video games as a form of entertainment and not art.  However, the same thing has been said about film, television, and within a decade, video games not only be considered an art form, but will reshape mankind’s view of the term entirely.

In order to define art and whether or not video games can be considered as such, one must define video games.  A video game is basically the actions, avatars, and anarchy caused by user-input, all made possible with the magic of programming.  There’s the first thing that throws many people off: programming.  Nobody could ever dream that a computer program would ever take any part in creating anything.  Most programs are viewed lifeless and are only used for efficiency.  But as technology evolves, so does the ability to tell a story.

Storytelling is one of, if not the most important aspect of making a work of art.  When story is represented in a single painting, one must gaze and search around every corner of the canvas in order to truly soak in its meaning.  Then comes film and animation, where it’s a load of images flashing in front of the viewer to literally show and tell the story, sometimes even with dialogue.  Video games however, do not have the player just sit back and watch.  They must be part of the experience and decide how the story goes on with gameplay.  The story has a more difficult time presenting itself, but it manages to do so in many clever ways.

Games from the 1980s usually came with instruction booklets with little excerpts and explanations with what was going on.  They used a separate form of media to enhance the game.  However, once games started to get more complex, the method used to tell the story had to as well.  Point and click adventures rose with the popularization of computer gaming.  Then, once the third dimension came into play, cut scenes and dialogue could be added to enhance the experience.  Nowadays, the user has more influence on the story than ever before.  Games like Mass Effect have numerous possibilities of how the story progresses or games like Heavy Rain literally act as an interactive movie.  All of these examples are focused on what the player does with what’s given to them, which is really an art form in itself.

Another reason that video games should be considered an art is its heavy influence on visuals and sound.   As of today, video games are played with a TV screen, or monitor, which is also connected to speakers.  90% of what is going on in the game space is what’s in front of those monitors.  The rest is the user input and sounds.  10 years from now, all sorts of risks and experiments with both styles will be taken.  Visuals will go so close to real it’ll be climbing out of the uncanny valley to almost realism.  (They will always be separate from our world, but that’s another argument).

Visual arts are arguably the most recognized, due to mankind’s huge trust in sense of sight.  So, what makes painting a picture or sculpting figures to be placed in a museum any different from painting a character concept and modeling it to be framed on a TV screen?

Sounds are already years ahead when it comes to being an art.  What started as computer chip oriented primitive (but still amazing) tunes became fully orchestrated music.  It’s actually a shame how little attention the masterpieces get in comparison with the terrible and politically incorrect garbage that plays on the radio, but I digress.  Voice acting is also getting loads more attention, especially in the recent game Kid Icarus: Uprising, a game where dialogue and storytelling is simultaneous with the action.  In less than a decade, video game concerts like Video Games Live will thrive, and will still be illegally downloaded in mere minutes.

With the senses of sight being wowed by realism and the sense of hearing being blessed with glorious soundtracks, what about the other 3?  Well, believe it or not, the sense of touch plays quite a role nowadays.  It started with the game Duck Hunt, which gave the player a plastic gun to shoot virtual ducks.  After many embarrassing attempts to enhance this, it wasn’t until 1996 when rumble features let the players feel the game itself.  Today, touch screens and motion controls are all the rage in America.  The future most likely holds for us games that will be played almost like a motion capture suit, sure players will look ridiculous, but the experience will be indescribable.  Now if only they could program a game that pleasures the senses of taste and smell…

Senses aside, one creates art for one specific purpose: to share an idea.  Video games do this hundreds of times over, therefore, making them more artistic than any other medium.  There’s loads of planning, building, scrapping, visualizing, experimenting, testing, failing, enhancing, and most importantly, creating.  Art is not something that consumers are supposed to appreciate, that’s the economy and entertainment side of it.  Art is about the experience of both the artist and the viewer, or in this case, the player.  Video games are simply an extended and more player affected experience.  A computer is just another tool, no different from a brush or instrument.  Nobody is here to say that video games will replace all other media, heavens no.  Video Games are an addition to the family.

All the above are just a handful of reasons that video games should be considered an art form.  By 2020, someone will come to realize this and open up museums to honor the innovation that video games have bestowed.  Displaying box art, concepts, and even the game itself, just as fine art museums do today.  After all, galleries are made to present famous, groundbreaking, and inspirational movements: video games are all of those ten times over.

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