Are Games Art?
Okay, now before I get into this, I want to clarify to anybody who misunderstood my last post (and I don’t blame you): I do not think fighting games suck, and I never meant to imply anything like that. Yes, I hate them, but I don’t think they’re inherently bad. That would be ignorant of me, especially since it’s very easy to tell why I don’t like them — I don’t like competitive gaming.
You see, somebody else wrote an entire article responding to my article about fighting games, and it was clear to me that he wasn’t the only one that instinctively thought I was trying to bash the whole genre down. And that was my fault, really. I should have made it clear that I don’t think the whole genre sucks just because I don’t like it.
(As a side note, when he said “In retrospect, went a bit hard on the guy” that was a pretty massive understatement. I’m assuming most if not all of you didn’t get to see his original unedited post, and let me just say that by the time I finished reading it I almost thought he was a troll. But hey, at least he had the decency to edit his post, right?)
I don’t want to spend this whole post going over the whole fighting game topic again, because I’m pretty sure most of you don’t care by now. But I read somebody’s comment on his article that conveniently brings up a topic I’ve been wanting to discuss in detail for awhile.
“All im going to say here is that the fact the fighters are centered around competition, doesnt make the game any less of an art/entertainment medium. If you understand the physics of the game, and than watch a master play, its sometimes some of the most artistic and entertaining things youll ever see in a video game. because they give players the oppurtunity to take what the game has for them, and apply it in amazing and creative ways. something that you dont really get from many games outside of customising the looks of the main character.”
I disagree with this assertion completely. Being able to utilize your abilities in a video game in the way that professional gamers do is an impressive skill, but that’s all it is — a skill. Skill does not translate to art, and I don’t see that as artistic in any way. I’d consider it about as artistic as a successful touchdown in football (i.e. not at all).
But if that’s not art, then that begs the question of what exactly art is.
Some people tend to give art a definition, but some people basically say “I’ll know it when I see it.” At the same time, a lot of people like to make claims as to whether or not video games are art. My opinion is that if you can’t come up with your own definition of art, then you have no business claiming that video games are or are not art. After all, if art has no substantial meaning, then isn’t it worthless as a label?
Some might say you could use a dictionary definition, but I’ve found the dictionary definitions of art to be useless. Here’s the definition of art as given by dictionary.com:
“The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”
If you strip away the extraneous words, you basically get “That which is aesthetically appealing.” In other words, anything that is beautiful is art according to the dictionary. I think that’s a stupid definition.
So if you want to claim whether or not video games are art, then I challenge you to answer the following three questions:
- What is your personal definition for the word “art”?
- Are there any video games that fit this definition?
- If so, can you name any specific examples? (And don’t just say “Yes I can,” actually name them.)
Anybody want to speak up?
Nobody? Okay, I guess I’ll go first.
- I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of a good definition, and after talking with my brother about it, here’s the best one I can come up with: Art can be described as any man-made creation that seeks to explore or represent something in an intellectual way.
- Yes, there definitely have been games I’ve played that fit the bill. Most games, however, do not. Most games focus on entertainment rather than art, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t think that an entertaining game is automatically an artistic game. For example, Nintendo has made a lot of good games, but I can’t think of a single Nintendo game that I would classify as art.
- I’m not going to mention all the games I think are artistic right now, but I will mention my top two: Deus Ex and Mass Effect 2. Both of those games explore political ideologies and offer compelling social commentary. Deus Ex in particular goes into some really deep topics toward the end, and the endgame choice you’re forced to make is the most memorable choice I’ve ever had to make in a game.
(FYI, you’re going to hear me talk about Deus Ex a lot from time to time. That game is my sacred cow. And it’s not because of nostalgia, because I was only first introduced to the game less than a year ago.)
I was going to talk in more detail about the artistic merit in both of those games, but I think my post is getting excessively long. I think I’ll be doing retrospective reviews on specific games I find artistic eventually.
Okay then, now it’s your turn!