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Are Video Games Art? Part 2

Are Video Games Art? Part 2

That ability of some video games to “speak” to people suggests that the medium can go beyond being merely a form of entertainment (though, as Keith Stuart also suggests, there is no shame in a medium which only intends to do this). I am sure many people have been touched in some way whilst playing a certain video game. In fact, I know so. Many game critics and gamers said they felt deeply emotionally affected whilst playing the critically acclaimed Journey, a game in which you play as a robed figure which is making its way towards a mountain.  Kevin VanOrd, reviewing the Palystation 4 version of the game for the gaming website Game spot, writes:


“It was my eighth playthrough and the tears still streamed, almost inexplicably; Journey is a song without words, reliant on its rapturous presentation and liberating movement to stir your mind and move your heart. With many games, I have wished that I could play them again for the first time--to experience that buzz that inevitably diminishes with each return visit. I will never need to waste this wish on Journey, however: each pilgrimage is as bittersweet as the last. How appropriate, given the game's theme of death and rebirth, that it feels so sorrowful, so joyous, and so true, each and every time.”


It is a game which clearly goes beyond entertainment-driven games, such as Minecraft or Supermario. It hits on another level; the level of truth VanOrd’s eyes, moving both the heart and the mind. Surely if games can communicate truth, they are a form of art?


Added to this, Keith Stuart writes:  


“The greatest artists, you see, want to communicate in the most popular media of the time, they want to be heard. That's why Shakespeare wrote for the lice-ridden but packed theatres of London, that's why Bertolt Brecht collaborated with Fritz Lang to bring his theories to Hollywood […]Why aren't games just fun? Because video games are now a language and language is a tool of expression and change. A bit like art, yes?”


Another criticism of the idea of video games being art is that in a video game the player ultimately gets to decide how he or she wishes the gaming experience to pan out. You do not experience it in the same way that you do a painting or a piece of music. However, there is no rule book saying that the viewer of the art can have no direct, active participation in the art. Why not simply see that direct act of participation as an evolution of art, or our conception of art, rather than saying it is a bar to it being art?


That said, quite a few video game designers, such as Hideo Kojima of the Metal Gear Solid series, have said emphatically that video games aren’t art. Ultimately, as with most art debates, there is no definite answer, since art is a man-made concept. So, what do you think? 


Image: By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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