Are Video Games Art?

This is my final blog in this series and I will not attempt to provide any direct examples to my argument; I am not an avid “gamer”. One of the most contentious and perhaps provocative questions asked in my “Computing and the Arts” course was, “Are video games art?” The dissenting view of Roger Ebert was presented, however I found his argument as a shortsighted, pseudo-intellectual elitist point of view. His main point appears to revolve around the supposition that the inherent interaction of a player making various choices can and will disconnect the player for whatever artistic message a game designer attempts artistically. I find this argument to be ludicrous; it is those very choices that can make video games art.
            While I cannot point to a specific example of a video game being art, I can point to the fact that many images, music and themes can be found in video games, and their inclusion is a developers attempt to convey feelings, thought and perhaps some thematic message. As I attempted to point out in my first blog entry, Leo Tolstoy made quite a few arguments as to what is and what is not art. One of Tolstoy’s points was that art is one of the few things that connect humans at some point in most of our lives, sometimes “infectiously”. While Mr. Ebert believes that films can be or are art, is the fact that videos games are interactive take away from the human connection that Tolstoy refers to? I think not. In fact, I believe that interactivity can raise the standard of connection, and someday may even surpass motion pictures. In fact, I view Mr. Ebert’s motion pictures as an industry that is too static and without the potential of variance that dynamic arts such as jazz, or other performing arts can realize… especially with audience interaction.
            With the expansion of computers, communications technologies and real time interaction becoming a reality, I believe that video games will become more communicative of emotion, thought and various aesthetic properties. I have heard classical music in the background during some of the games they play. I have seen individuals become emotionally distraught at the loss or death of a character and others jubilant and the success of a quest or the redemption of some goal. The interactivity inherent in video games causes the viewer/gamer to become more emotionally connected with what he is trying to accomplish. That connection may not be direct to a developer, but it is direct to the developer’s intent and design for his or her game.
            I would not suggest that interactivity is the sole definition of art, there is a subjective nature that most can agree with when it comes to the definition of art. Roger Ebert is entitled to his subjective opinion. I am also not making the argument that I know of any games I would currently consider art, however, I believe there is a very real potential for a great piece of video game art, if one doesn’t already exist.

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