Should Video Games be Considered Art?

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One key element of art is the perspective of the beholder; however, not everything can be art. The issue is that anything can be an art to someone because of differing perceptions. A popular debate that has sprung up in the last two decades is whether or not video games should be considered art.

The advancement of technology has allowed video game studios to develop and produce video games that could not have been imagined years ago. The business has progressed from simple 8-bit graphics in games like “Space Invaders” and “Donkey Kong” to beautiful and stunning games such as “Metal Gear Solid V” and “Final Fantasy XV.” Along with technology, the way in which developers approach a game has also evolved. Now, creators have more thought and methodologies behind the making of the game. Video game studios have an array of artists, ranging from 2D and 3D artists, set designers, environment designers, animators, illustrators, and concept artists. Not only do video games need artists, but they also need story and dialogue, so screenwriters and directors are added to the team. Video games take more than writing the code and setting up visuals, as it takes an artistic eye to accomplish the game. As in film, an accepted form of art, the angles, colorization, setting, characters, dialogue, and lighting are important to express a message. These same aspects can be seen in video games like “The Witcher 3,” Hideo Kojima’s “Metal Gear” series, and the “Uncharted” games. In his article “Video Games Are One of the Most Important Art Forms in History,” Chris Melissinos from TIME says that ‘Video games are also the only form of media that allows for personalizing the artistic experience while still retaining the authority of the artist.’

Film critic Robert Ebert in 2005 stirred this debate by stating that “No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, and novelists.” He does accept that the visual experience is of artistic importance, but he still describes video games as a non-artistic medium. Opposing viewpoints that video games are not art, such as Ebert’s, claim that video games have an end goal, points, and a way to win. Robert states that if those aspects were removed, then it “ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.” While this one point may seem to hold true, that is not the case with modern games.

A popular video game element that is achievable because of recent technological advancements is the open-world approach. Games with an open world allow the player to experience the game at their own pace and playstyle, giving them options and various opportunities to approach the game, still yielding an outcome. There are also games that depending on how it is played and the decisions the player makes, give different endings, such “Fallout 4,” and the “Mass Effect” games. Games such as “Metal Gear Solid V” allow the player to approach each activity with different methods and playstyles.

When games allow the player to have creative control, it creates a personal connection with the player and game, as he traverses the game with the character and experiences all the events with him. Now, is this not what art does? Let’s say two people are looking at a painting. Their different perspectives, thinking, ideologies, and ways of being create personal connections with the painting, giving one individual a different expression separate from the other person’s. Video games can be viewed in the same way; the player’s different choices and approaches create a more personal experience. Melissinos puts it this way, “Those who play a game are following the story of the author

and are bound by the constructs of the rules—but based on the choices they make, the experience can be completely personal.” Video games should be considered an art, as it takes a bit of each aspect of art and molds it into its own form, creating a dynamic and visual experience for the player.

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