Are video games art?

Spoken like someone who has not experienced the power of MAME. :smiley:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy the delight of Epyx’s forgotten masterpiece Crush, Crumble, and Chomp! courtesy of my handy-dandy Atari 800 emulator…

In general, video games are based on the idea of overcoming obstacles and feeling a sense of accomplishment when you do. This is not much different from most books and movies which deal with a hero facing a conflict which is eventually resolved in some manner. Are there any video games that play around with this idea? Such as the hero realizes that he can never achieve his goal, or the hero does achieve his goal, but it costs him more in the end than what it was worth? I think it’s possible to play around with the structure of video games to create something that’s more than a game, but some kind of interactive emotional experience. I sometimes see themes in video games that are meaingful to me, like the moral ambiguity of Pac-man, or the loneliness of Legend of Zelda. I wonder to what degree these effects are intentional, and to what degree they are just a product of the limited technology.

Some of them, yes. In fact, I have a computer in my living room dedicated to playing old video games.

Are you still watching Anne of Green Gables or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? If not, are those movies “obsolete”, and what does that say about movies as an art form?

I don’t think video games are art. Why? Because it’s built with a purpose in mind. A person with an idea for a video game can’t do anything with it, they’re made by companies doing market research every step of the way. There’s none of the social commentary or self-expression found in other forms of art. And really, I think people need to stop being so touchy about whether something is or isn’t art. Everyone describes things they like as “art”. Why? Being art doesn’t make it any better than it was before. Building a nuclear reactor isn’t art but that doesn’t mean it takes any less skill or planning. And in the end, I find making a video game closer to building a reactor than painting a picture. So, not art.

Wow, you really haven’t played many video games, have you?

Actually, I play a lot. Unless you’re talking about the indie pixelfests banged up by lone programmers, how many games can you name that do that?

Social commentary? Metal Gear Solid 2, perhaps. I’m sure others can name more. Most games don’t have social commentary, but really, how much art in general does?

Self expression? I’d say games like Rez and Katamari Damacy are good expressions of the creators’ unique ideas.

A person with an idea for a video game doing something with it? Well, it seems you’re already aware of indie pixelfests banged up by lone programmers. It’s obviously hard for a single person to produce a game on the level of Half-Life, Final Fantasy, etc. because they just have so much content… but individuals and small groups can and have released games on their own. Especially if you look back to the 8 and 16 bit eras, when audiences didn’t expect games to look like movies, you can find games that are mainly the work of one or two people. And if you’re counting interactive fiction (text adventures) as video games, nearly all of those are written by individuals.

Okay, there’s a start. When people think of “video games”, do they think of Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life and Final Fantasy, or do they think of 8 and 16 bit games, Cave Story and interactive fiction? Not only has most of the world not heard of it, IF is just as much writing and programming as it is gaming, Rez fell off the radar pretty quick, and even Katamari Damacy didn’t get the recognition it deserved, IMO. You can’t pull out examples of non-mainstream gaming and use them to demonstrate that the creations most commonly thought of as “video games” are.

And I’d like to add, why is it so important that video games are art? Not just video games, actually. Every time you see a group of people who are really into something, it’s suddenly not enough to just BE, it has to be ART. It’s not just cosplay, it’s ART. It’s not just springboard diving, it’s ART. It’s not just slot car racing, it’s ART. It’s not just competitive debating, it’s an ART. Does it make your penises feel bigger knowing that you’re dealing with ART as opposed to the pedestrian dreck of uncultured yokels or something?

Do you think movies are (or can be) art?
Do you think books are (or can be) art?
Do you think music is (or can be) art?
Do you think cooking is (or can be) an art?
Do you think that architecture is (or can be) art?

All of those things can be art. Video games can be art. The question is whether they usually are. I mean, take cooking. I guess that can be art. But most of the time, do you think cooks think “I want to CREATE!” or do you think they’re thinking “Let’s feed these people”? See, that’s what I’m saying. I think a big part of art is creating for the sake of creating. So I think cooking is more of a craft than an art. But people get all defensive when I say that, as if I’m belittling it somehow, or implying that it doesn’t take skill or isn’t important.

I mean, let’s look at movies here. Or maybe music. Your pick. There’s the kind with the one guy at the helm, and everyone else is pretty much doing what it takes to fulfill his vision. Then there’s the kind made-by-committee, calculated to be commercially successful, and headed by whoever. Those are generally regarded as not-very-artistic. In video games, they’re the norm.

Many people love to go back and play their favourite games again and again. And when they do, that game ascends to Art status for them - clearly it has more value than gameplay or technology; it evokes an emotional response they find thrilling or otherwise appealing, and they wish to relive that. I think that means it qualifies as Art.

Video games are a medium. Art is something else. But if you haven’t seen artistic significance in video games, you’re playing the wrong ones.

It’s like staring at the plain off-white paint on your walls at home and wondering what the big deal is, what with these fancy-shmancy museums with their paintings and shit. “It’s just paint, it’s just colors fer chrissakes, that can’t be art, am I right?”

You can use the “medium” for art. Games may contain elements of art. However, I think you need to choose between making a game and making art. All the “artistic” games I’ve played sucked a lot.

In short, deathmatch isn’t art.

Not in my experience. Take God of War, for example. Dave Jaffe, the game director, was absolutely unyeilding in his creative vision for the game. Everything you see in that game is there because he wanted it to be there. He’s as much of an auteur as any film director.

On every game I’ve directed my word has been law. Yes there’s collaboration, there has to be if you’re going to get anything done with a 100-person team. But most games are the result of the creative vision of a single individual or a small core creative team.

There, I fixed the error in your post for you. :slight_smile:

You’ve just described virtually every movie ever made.

True, but this goes back to the idea that games are still very much a young art form. There are a few games out there that delve into social commentary, and quite a few more that are statements of self-expression, but in the main, the medium is still in the process of discovering exactly what it is about.

Discussions about what is art are, in themselves, endlessly fascinating to me, and the debate over the merits of video games is just an extension of that. The chief reason I hold video games to be art is that any time anyone tries to define them in such a way to exclude them from the definition, they end up excluding a sizable amount of things that are inarguably art, as you’ve done here.

How so, precisely? How is playing Half-Life 2 closer to building a reactor than it is to reading 1984? A reactor has a practical application: providing power to run industry. What’s the practical application of playing a video game?

The former, naturally. What of it? When people think of movies, to do they think of Battleship Potemkin, or do they think of Scary Movie 4? In any medium, the crass, commercial, and current are going to have more immediate traction than the sublime, difficult, or ancient. What does this tell us about the worthiness of the medium?

You’re absolutely wrong. All video games are art, as are all movies. Art is not a value-laden term. There is good art, and there is bad art. Not many people may have seen Battleship Potemkin, but if someone were arguing that the medium of movies as a whole is lacking in artistic value, it’s a devastating counter-argument. Games can do all of the things established artistic mediums are capable of. That there are not as many succesful examples is nothing more than a sign of their current immaturity. Looking at Pong and saying that it proves there’s no art in video games is like looking at an early kinetoscope of someone washing dishes, and saying that proves there’s no art in movies.

Well, that was inexplicably hostile. There are a lot of reasons I view video games as art, and very few of them are related to my penis size. The most practical of these reasons is related to the legal protection implicit in the recognition of the artistic merit of video games. If games are viewed, as RealityChuck put it, as “ephemera,” then it becomes that much harder to convince people that it deserves the same legal protections as literature, film, or other disciplines. This is a very large concern for me right now, as video games are currently the popular whipping boy for politicians trying to score some cheap points as “protectors of our children.”

Aside from that, more recognition of the higher possibilities in the medium also means that more people will attempt to achieve those possibilites. The surest way to keep video games in the disposable ghetto is to insist that games cannot be anything other than disposable. Lastly, I think the debate on the nature of art has value in and of itself. You’re spasm of anti-elitism misses the mark quite widely, and in fact, more accurately reflects you’re own argument than that of the people opposing you in this thread. We are, after all, arguing for the inherent worthiness of a plebian art form. It’s not about seperating games from the “dreck of uncultured yokels,” it’s about arguing that that “dreck” is, in fact, a fascinating, important, and often enlightening pursuit. The argument for the artistic merit of video games is about as far from elitism as you can get; rather, it is the argument against that creates that artifical dichotomoy.

They’re also the norm in movies and music. Don’t get fooled by the myth of the auteur. There is no medium in the world more corporatized and committee-run than the cinema. And music is not much better. But that’s beside the point entirely, as the value of a work is not dependent on the behind-the-scenes politicking that spawned it. Again, calling something art is not the same as calling something good. There is good art and there is bad art, and bad art can be made just as easily by one man with a vision as it can be made by ten suits in a conference room.

Fallout does this, and many people (well, me anyway) feel this is one of the greatest games of all time. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic Southern California. You start out as a citizen of Vault 13, a massive fallout shelter. You were born there after the nuclear war, never having set foot in the outside world. The game starts when the Vault’s “water chip” for their recycling system fails, and you are picked to go outside the Vault and find a replacement before the remaining water is used up. In the end,

if you find a new water chip or a clean supply of water, and also defeat the mutant cult that threatens the Vault, the leader of Vault 13 banishes you. He says that you have changed too much in your travels, and no longer have a place at the Vault. You can shoot him down, or not; in any case the game then ends with you wandering off into the sunset.

But I think they should be excluded. So what? Are you saying that cooking is inarguably art?

Not playing Half-Life. Making Half-Life. What’s the practical application of football? Just because it doesn’t do anything doesn’t mean it’s art. Besides, there’s that whole money-making thing.

Fine. Video games are not generally art YET. Whether they are in the future has yet to be decided. There, is that better? You said yourself that the lack of successful examples is because it’s a new industry. Should we call it art now because it might be art someday?

How is that hostile? In any case, I wasn’t trying to be. Sorry. I don’t see how making video games art is going to protect them legally. People are always trying to censor art, too.

But see, it’s not a dichotomy, there’s a whole spectrum of art/not art and “art” itself is just a line drawn at an arbitrary place on the spectrum, and if everything is art then there’s no point in having the distinction in the first place. If you’re going to invent a word you might as well use it in a meaningful way.

They’re also the norm in movies and music. Don’t get fooled by the myth of the auteur. There is no medium in the world more corporatized and committee-run than the cinema. And music is not much better. But that’s beside the point entirely, as the value of a work is not dependent on the behind-the-scenes politicking that spawned it. Again, calling something art is not the same as calling something good. There is good art and there is bad art, and bad art can be made just as easily by one man with a vision as it can be made by ten suits in a conference room.

Yeah, I and wouldn’t call the latest American Idol album art any more than I’d call Halo art. Do they have artistic value? Sure. But you have to draw the line somewhere.

Huh? The latest American Idol album is indisputably art. Really, terribly bad art, but art nonetheless. On what grounds do you say differently?