Responding to The Well-Red Mage: Are Video Games Art?

Today’s post, unplanned and thus appearing on an unusual day for my usual schedule, comes in response to The Well-Red Mage Asking Big Questions, a community project inviting bloggers to share their thoughts on gaming world questions. This month, the community is exploring the issue of whether or not video games qualify as art. This question comes with a wide variety of answers regardless of a person’s background experience with gaming. Although I understand the stringent guidelines used to separate art from various works of pop culture in order to preserve the sacredness of the classification, I consider games as art.

Relying not only on my personal definition of art as any creative human work designed for entertainment or pleasure, I’m using the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition to help guide thinking. The OED defines art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” This definition leaves the category open to a wide interpretation. In the same way that music fits into this definition despite offering no visuals, video games also fit right in.

Video games combine visual mediums, music, and narrative techniques, all of which are forms of art on their own. Together, these produce a new form previously unimaginable. Players engage with the product of producers’ and writers’ imaginations. The beautiful visuals come in a varying array of tastes similar to different styles of painting such as Conceptual Art or Surrealism. Regardless of taste, these visuals and their accompanying music appeal to audiences. These elements also provide emotional appeal.

For many, art is a product of human creativity, an act of creation for beauty. In some ways, video games of today’s market-driven world don’t always fit this. Game companies pump out formulaic games informed by previous market success. The name of the game is profit, which may declassify games as art for some people. Overall, though, I would argue that games still come from the creative thoughts of individuals or groups with a vision of crafting something bigger than themselves, even if the bottom line comes down to money.

Telling a Legend

Considering the definition again, videogames appear to miss the mark on beauty for primarily visual enjoyment. Many games also involve a narrative, which enthralls its audience as well. Dismissing video games on this basis, however, is to dismiss an entire genre of narrative artwork that dates back to prehistoric times. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art proudly shares the many storytelling art forms of history, advocating for their qualification in the realm of art.

Everyone has their own varying degrees of appreciation for and reverence of the arts. Whether you’re a firm believer of games as art, a strong opponent against this classification, or find yourself somewhere in between, I appreciate your thoughts and insights on this topic. If you have any thoughts that you want to share, please feel free to do so in the comments, or zip over to the original post and join the larger conversation!

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