Games As Art - A school report in need of material.

So as a part of my Media project at school we have to create a report on a subject of our choosing. So naturally I chose the subject of video games as an art form. But examination of the mark scheme has shown that my opinion alone isn't enough to carry it, so I've decided to pose the great question to all you delightful people.

Are videogames an art form?

Discuss all you like here, the comments I consider most interesting will be featured in my report.

My advice is not to use the opinions of random people on a message-board - look up formal definitions of art, particularly as it pertains to interactive art. The interesting angle of video games is primarily in interactivity, both with the game itself and, in some ways even cooler from an artistic perspective, interactivity with others using the game as a medium. Games that involve interactivity with others in interesting ways include Journey, Sleep is Death, and Minecraft.

Actually you'd be surprised, one of the items listed is for using a variety of sources, I asked if public opinion would count and they said yes.

well if you're going with the whole 'interactive art' angle you might want to compare how video games stack up to other interactive forms of art.

as for video games being art, yes I consider them to be. Art is a completely subjective thing, you could find meaning in a plastic bag floating in a updraft or an insanely detailed painting. It's whatever evokes emotions inside you or makes you think, it's the same idea with 'found art' the idea that an everyday object (like a urinal) can be turned into art simply by changing the context in which it is perceived.

Yeah art's a subjective thing, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Video games are INDEED an art form. There are just a lot of games that muck up trying to convince people of that. *Cough* Duke Nukem *Cough*

If you want some games that can be used as VERY good examples try a Team ICO game, Journey, Bastion and so on.

I would also talk about how interactivity (and other elements as well) goes towards a game's goal of experience. What is the game trying to do and how does it accomplish this? It's really no different than writing about books or films you're just changing the vocab and application of analysis, and use that as a supporting argument for your thesis

What Limecake (dammit I just ate and now I want cake) said - art is subjective. If gamers consider it art, then it's no less art than something else like the Dada movement (or whatever you call it - "style"?).

As for interactivity, it isn't inherently not art either. Consider this (you can use this or variation thereof, if you wish) - you and I decide to write a story each detailing the actions of a different character. When I write a paragraph/chapter you read it and decide how your character reacts to it and so we switch. Interactive storytelling is no less writing or storytelling, right? And if we publish our work, will that mean that books aren't art because our has (or had) interactivity in it? No, of course not. If you want more interactive book-y thing, just take a look at the choose your own adventure books. They are interactive, sometimes you actually roll dice to decide how the story progresses, so you don't even know yourself. And different readings will give you a different story. Interactivity does not diminish the ability to tell a story or the bookness of the book (fuck that sounds stupid).

Thanks for the help thus far. Keep it up! :D

Nintendo Power asks this to all their interviewees each issue, and there are a variety of different answers. PM me and maybe I can give you some. Off the top of my head, I remember the god of gaming said "No. Games are not art. Art is for one's innermost self. Games are for others."

I'd be glad to help. Note my subscription expired a couple months ago, but I keep all my issues.

One "rule" I think it's useful to keep in mind (not deadly seriously, more like an interesting idea to play with) is to look at Freud's pleasure principle.

Freud's pleasure principle basically suggests that the fundamental drive of the id (the disorganized, animalistic part of the human psyche) is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This manifests in a constant desire for immediate gratification. When you're hungry you want to eat, when you're thirsty you want to drink, when you're horny you want to be sexually stimulated, when you're frightened you want to escape and be comforted. This is the basic motivator of human activity and the source of any kind of compulsive behaviour. If you watch how young children behave when they want things or don't want to do things, you'll see the pleasure principle at work.

As people grow up, theoretically, they stop being wholly governed by the pleasure principle, they learn how to subordinate their desire for pleasure to the needs of reality. They learn that they can't just eat ice cream all day, they learn that they can't masturbate in public (unless they start a viral campaign to raise awareness of an African warlord first).

I think this primarily why modern porn is not generally considered art, because porn is shot completely in line with the pleasure principle. There's no boring story, there's no context or relationship between characters, there's no deferral, there's no sense of realism or if there is it's pathetically transparent. You put on a porn movie, and you're being presented with a fantasy where the entire point is to stimulate you pretty much from the moment you turn it on. It just exists to fulfil a basic pleasure drive. It's no more art than a nice steak dinner is art. Sure, it's an experience and it's enjoyable, but that's not what art is.

So basically, I think the key question is this. Are video games toys? Do they exist simply to stimulate people in a way which they find pleasurable and uncomplicated? Are they just hotwiring our brains by providing pleasurable stimulation, or are they actually doing something more sophisticated? I think video games are still more like toys than most art forms, which is why people become compulsive about them in ways most people don't with movies or books, but I think there are many, many games now which could be considered to go so far beyond basic stimulation. In fact, I think you'd be much harder pressed to find games which are just an endless torrent of stimulation, because at the end of the day successful video games now have to appeal to adults, and most adults get bored of that.

It'd be interesting to think about where really compulsive games like MMOs fall on this scale though, and I think that's where the principle breaks down. MMOs are full of deferral, but also massively compulsive and habit-forming. In fact, the deferral is part of why they're so addictive, people play for hours just to hear the 'ding'.

To explain why people get so hooked on watching numbers slowly increase, even when they're barely paying attention to any semblance of story or context to their actions, I think you need to move on to ideas about conditioned responses which have unique significance to video games. It's very hard to condition a response within a single film. Over our lives we learn how cinematic language works and thus how we should feel at particular clichéd moments (ooh, happy music, this scene must be funny!) but ultimately a director probably can't condition a response within the space of a single film. It's incredibly easy for a video game to condition you to derive pleasure from achieving a completely arbitrary reward, and I think that genuinely does open up genuinely new questions about where the line is between something which is art and something which is just stimulation.

But yeah, I think most games now probably qualify as art. What else would they be? Toys? Porn? Random stimulation?

Sorry, I've been over-thinking this one for a while.

If you are looking for sources then you need to cover the Roger Ebert fiasco back in 2010. Ebert is a famous and well respected film critic: and he posted on his newpaper blog that videogames could never be art. (I tried, but can't find the original article.)
He got tonnes of criticism for it, and eventually admitted to not actually having any experience of playing videogames, although he never reversed his stance:

(in that blogpost he actually links to this TED talk on videogames as art by Kellee Santiago:

which is another excellent source for discussion points)

Here's a followup article of Eberts about the same discussion, where he goes further into the exact definition of art:

There is so much information in the Ebert debate that you could actually use it as a frame to build your report around; an overarching case study that explores all the important points as they come up of their own accord in the debate. All the best on your essay.

Thanks for all your help guys. I'll be adding my favourite comments to the report.

I have just one thing to say: "To the Moon."

Can't get it to embed the video properly.

This game had a more heartfelt narrative than I've ever seen in a game, and more than most books or movies as well. Anyone who's played it knows exactly what I'm talking about when I say that I was crying my eyes out by the end.

I always hate doing this, but /thread. Just... just play it and you'll see what I mean here; it's impossible to argue that "To the Moon" isn't a work of art.

Play Journey. That's the best argument for art that I have played to date.

Too many games try to "tell" you a story, which makes it fall into the same category of a movie or a book. The problem is, it's a game. Interactivity is key. The player and their actions are the story, and that's what sets games apart as a separate art form, much like performance art in a way.

My offer for Nintendo Power quotes still stands. Just letting you know. I have Hideo Kojima, Atsushi Inaba, and Shinji Mikami.

I'm not much for explanations, but I can say that it is foolish to say that videogames are not art. In fact, I may even argue that videogames are art in its purest form. Or very nearly so. Videogames are a creative expression. Same as any book, painting, film, song or drama. Some carry a lot, some very little. But no videogame contains no art. Even ET as bad as it was, was still art. There were still colored squares arranged create visuals and whatnot.

I suppose what I can do better is provide you with the names of videogames that are absolutely beautiful, have amazing stories and narratives or both.

Half Life (+ Source, Opposing Force and Blue Shift)
Half Life 2 (+ Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3* and Lost Coast)
Portal 2
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Conker's Bad Fur Day
Metal Gear Solid
Shadow of the Colossus
Ratchet & Clank Future Trilogy (Tools of Destruction, Quest for Booty and A Crack in Time)
Frogger (1997)
Zapper: One Wicked Cricket!
BioShock 2
Assassins Creed
Assassin's Creed II
Fallout 3 (and others, but this one works very well in this context)
Alan Wake
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Dear Esther
Sonic Adventure
Sonic Adventure 2
Disney Epic Mickey
Red Dead Redemption (even with Undead Nightmare)
Halo: Combat Evolved (maybe the 10th Anniversary Edition?)
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario World
Jak & Daxter
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong 64
Breakout (2000)
Mirror's Edge
Uncharted trillogy
Heavy Rain
Devil May Cry series
God of Way trilogy
Silent Hill
De Blob
Final Fantasy
Mass Effect (yes, I so went there!)
Roller Coaster Tycoon
The Elder Scrolls V (that's what I call it)
Batman: Arkham Asylum
The entire Phoenix Wright franchise

*It's coming, don't worry!

I'll leave you with a quote I found on a blog.
"It's not a matter that games "can be" art; game ARE art. For every game out there, someone spent hours putting together the visuals, music, story, and several other elements in order to present the player with an aesthetic experience. Heck, I consider Arkham Asylum to be better art than some of the stuff sponsored by the NEA."


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