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Should games be considered art?

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#1 mepis   Members   -  Reputation: 230

Posted 01 December 2013 - 02:23 PM

I started writing an article a couple of weeks back considering whether games should be considered art. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that games are indeed a form of art. It wasn’t an easy decision though. I hit road blocks at every turn. Every argument I started to reason, I thought of a counter argument. I found a lot of reasons why some games should be considered art and some games shouldn’t be. I found a lot of reasons why some pieces of art should be considered art and some shouldn’t be.

Let me try and explain.


I originally argued that all art can be classified as art because it delivers a message. That’s what separates the arts and crafts, the message from the utilitarian use. That definition didn’t always hold up though. The best example I can think of is listed below in my original piece – Tony Smith’s “Die”. It’s supposed to mean many different things. Its six foot by six foot in size so it represents death. I personally don’t see it. I don’t understand it. I see a large box.


I have other examples. Salvador dali, for instance, creates some very interesting work. I like it. I’ll admit, I am a fan. It has no common message though. The same goes for the countless pictures of Christian art created through the renaissance. They typically tell a story and warn people of not offending the church. They are basically period propaganda pieces. Would the propaganda posters of WW2 or today be considered art?


What about architecture? Why is that considered art while pottery is not? Both are utilitarian in nature. Both serve a purpose and neither (usually) share any message.


So what is art then? I still firmly believe that the difference between art and crafts is that art shares a message of some kind. Art will often deliver an emotional message. That is what separates literature from art; art delivers its message through emotions and images while literature delivers it through reason and words. Crafts don’t deliver a message but are merely aesthetically pleasing and help accomplish a task. Because of that definition, art may not mean the same to all people. It also encompasses my biggest conflict; why are films considered art and not video games?

Certainly, not all films are art nor are all games. Like film though, games can make a person feel. They can transmit a state of being, a sense of urgency, and transplant the thoughts or a person in some other time or universe. They can deliver a message. They can provoke players to feel and to respond in the same way that traditional art would.


If one would think that games can’t make audiences feel then I would remind people of the death of Aerith. The death of Aerith at Sephiroth’s hands (Final Fantasy 7) sparked massive fan fair and rumors. Players couldn’t handle her death. Rumors spread all over the internet that Aerith was coming back and that she wasn’t really dead. (I should remind readers that these rumors spread during the early days of the computer boom and internet adoption, back during the hay days of AOL to put it into perspective. Internet use wasn’t the same then as it is now which only furthers the proof of impact of Aeirth’s death) Players actually mourned her death. They wanted to seek redemption. Her death made players feel. The Battlefield series, as much as I wouldn’t want to admit it, force players to realize the angst and destruction of war. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” generally make people feel despair.


Games do provoke an emotion and response. They deliver a message in a way that neither film, nor traditional art, nor literature can. It’s a new media that is still very much in its infancy. The level of detail and creativity required to provoke such response have only come about in the last 20 years, a short time in the world of art. I think that’s why many critiques don’t consider games to be art. It’s to new. I assure everyone though that games are both a form of art and entertainment. They liven the soul and speak to people. They make players react and think in ways that other media can’t.

Edited by Promit, 01 December 2013 - 11:28 PM.


#2 azonicrider   Members   -  Reputation: 421

Posted 01 December 2013 - 02:56 PM

I only got time to read a couple paragraphs. I consider video games to be art, because animation is art. Video games are animation with user input.

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#3 cardinal   Members   -  Reputation: 902

Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:34 PM

I would argue much of what is considered art really doesn't share any sort of message. Many of the most famous paintings in the world don't share any sort of message. Self portraits, landscapes, etc. This seems more to be your personal definition rather than a generally accepted one.


I think a better question to argue would be WHY it is important to consider games art?

#4 mepis   Members   -  Reputation: 230

Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:48 PM

It's confusing at best. I have been trying to write an article relating to this for weeks and finally gave up and ended up with what I have above. I've never found a good definition of art. There's always a counter argument for personal definitions I've heard. During my art appreciation class, the text books eluded to defining art as being a medium to deliver a message of some sort, much like literature. Instead of delivering that message through words though, it delivered it through a visual medium that provoked an emotion. The emotional response is is the passage of that message from the piece of art to the viewer.


I've had trouble finding a better definition. For instance, like I mentioned above (I think) why is pottery not considered art but architecture is? If something is created through artistic means and is aesthetically pleasing, is it still considered art? Why would film be considered art but video games are generally accepted as not being art? Why is modern art considered art? Why is expressionism considered art? This is what I mean. I haven't been able to place a definition on it. 


I figured I would post that here to hear what others say. This community is generally very intelligent and I'm curious what others reasoning might be.


I think to answer your response about asking a different question, I think this is the reason why games should be considered art. (Based on my version of the definition) games  can elicit an emotional response and deliver some kind of message, whether it be more narrative or emotional. They have the capability. The medium is different and it has to be shared differently than a painting, a drawing, or film. But some sort of logic, much like modern art, classical, impressionism, cubism, film, et all, has to be used with some aesthetic response to elicit an emotional response and message passage.


It doesn't help to create a definition to better state a reason when the art world is so big. 

Edited by mepis, 01 December 2013 - 03:52 PM.

#5 mepis   Members   -  Reputation: 230

Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:53 PM

I only got time to read a couple paragraphs. I consider video games to be art, because animation is art. Video games are animation with user input.


But why? Why would animations be considered art and why would the simple use of animations make it be considered an art? Commercials use animations but I wouldn't always consider them art. (Not trying to disagree but just promote conversation.)

#6 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 31798

Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:55 PM

Instead of "should x be art", why not ask "can an x be art"? IMHO, for every x, the answer to latter question is always yes.


No need for stupid complex debates making arbitrary declarations on which mediums cannot possibly ever produce art.

Instead, you get to debate why one particular thing (one game, one animation, one photo) is art to you, which is a personal belief based on personal feelings, so again the big complex debates trying to make arbitrary borders are irrelevant.

Edited by Hodgman, 01 December 2013 - 03:57 PM.

#7 runonthespot   Members   -  Reputation: 169

Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:58 PM

"should games be considered art"  - your best bet is to narrow down the question.  If you mean "all games" then I'd argue no.  It's not difficult in fact, to argue that most games "contain" art, rather than are art themselves (is a gallery art?).  I liked the quote "Games will eventually subsume all other forms of media" - not sure I agree, but I think it hints as to what games ultimately are: A container.  A medium.  A medium in which certainly art can be produced, but ultimately a superset of what we might traditionally think of as art.


This is of course IMHO.  Your mileage may vary.

#8 ChaosEngine   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2499

Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:59 PM

Can a chess set be art? 
I think most people would say yes. It certainly involves art (sculpture, wood work, inlays, etc).
Can a game of chess itself be art? At it's core chess can be reduced down to simple notation: Be5, Nf3, c5. Can that be art? 


But what if we go the other way? I can take a seemingly dull set of numbers and render them into art quite easily, we call it music.


So why can't a game of chess be art? It's a duet, a collaboration, two artists riffing off each others ideas.


So, if game assets can be art (and they clearly are) and an instance of a game itself can be art (maybe?), what about the mechanics of a game?

Can they provide an artistic view? Do they have something to say? 


Watch this and then tell me what you think.

Edited by ChaosEngine, 01 December 2013 - 03:59 PM.

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#9 mepis   Members   -  Reputation: 230

Posted 01 December 2013 - 04:54 PM



So, if game assets can be art (and they clearly are) and an instance of a game itself can be art (maybe?), what about the mechanics of a game?

Can they provide an artistic view? Do they have something to say? 



 I'm leaving work so I'll get in a more detailed response to everyone later but I wanted to comment on this quick while me knee-jerk response is still there. I would question the same thing about film though to. The individual acts and pieces of a movie may not be considered art. The post production and what not may not be considered. (? debatable when thinking about it.) The end production can be considered art though. Would it not be the same for a game? The mechanics, the act of controlling a character itself, I don't know if I would call that art. But the entire production (assests, mechanics, and all) I would consider an art form. I would argue that it could be art while individual pieces that build the whole may still not be considered art.

#10 Brick   Members   -  Reputation: 519

Posted 01 December 2013 - 05:34 PM

I've struggled with this question and similar ones as well.


A lot of art can exist as a form of self-expression and not meant to be entertaining for anyone who doesn't "get" the artist's view (a lot of times the only person who truly "gets it" is the artist). These kinds of artists that make paintings, videos, and songs only for themselves may not gain a lot of fans but they are still considered by most people as artists. But what about video games? Isn't the entire point of a video game to let the player (not the developer) express themselves? The graphics, music, and even code that goes into the game can be considered art but if the game is just one big monologue about the developer's life with little or no user-interaction then is the video game itself considered art?


This brings up even more questions. At what point does a game stop being a game? At this point does the game become a movie/animation or is it just nothing? As you try to answer more questions about any kind of art (especially games) you just end up with even more questions at the end.

#11 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22697

Posted 01 December 2013 - 10:07 PM

The question has been debated for about two decades.  


The countless arguments, debates, flame wars, and trolls all boil down to two words:


Define art.

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#12 mepis   Members   -  Reputation: 230

Posted 01 December 2013 - 10:12 PM

I've had a bit of time to reflect and watch that video. On a side note, I love "Extra Credits". I've never watched that episode though. I don't know how I missed it.


To follow up with my response from earlier, do I think the act of playing chess cold be considered art? No, I don't I think using that example, the act of playing chess would be considered art. The mechanics, the chess set, the rules of the game, they all define the art. They set the boundaries like Picasso would do with his malformed shapes of humans. The define what it is. But the act of playing is more like experiencing an installation. It's more like walking into the Lincoln Memorial and viewing it from the inside.


I think games are much the same. The act of playing a video game is the act of experiencing the art. The mechanics define the boundaries of that particular piece. The same with the music, textures, models, etc...


Going back to the video posted, that exemplifies my definition I think. The only dialogue in Missile Command is 'Start' and 'The End' that I remember. That's  all the narration that communicates with the player beside the score board. Yet, as Extra Credits points out, it still offers a message. It pushes an emotional response. It makes the player feel something. 


I'd contrast that with a game like The Last of Us. Would that be considered art? That's harder to say. It's a beautiful game. I would consider it more of a narration though. The game does a wonderful job by interweaving the conversations during game play instead of limiting it to cut scenes. It felt more like a natural way to tell a story in a game. It almost crosses the line into a book or an interactive entertainment movie though. It has the interactive game moments and such. It doesn't call for an emotional response though. It's a story about the growth, or lack there of, of a specific character.It's harder to say if I would consider this game a piece of art.

#13 mepis   Members   -  Reputation: 230

Posted 01 December 2013 - 10:14 PM

The question has been debated for about two decades.  


The countless arguments, debates, flame wars, and trolls all boil down to two words:


Define art.


Exactly. It's hard to do, much less with games. This form of media is still very much in it's infancy compared to others. It doesn't help that the scope and technical advances keep it evolving faster then any other media either. I'm sure it's a debate that we will continue to have for a long time and not something solved by this thread. I'm curious to see what others think and engage in that conversation though.

#14 ActiveUnique   Members   -  Reputation: 853

Posted 01 December 2013 - 11:07 PM

There's an obvious controversy because art is controversial, it is drama, it is hardcore drama, like the kind of thing people sit around in a parlor joking about until someone's opinion is so different an argument starts: If you made it past the first sentence and read this far I'd have to say I must not have come strong enough so here are two weights to carry:


Pro art: Emotion and maybe some wasted time and effort has gone into games, you can picture the blood sweat an tears that poured down the fingers of the graphic artists, and the gigabytes of canvas wiped clean by programmers trying to make.


Against: There's a market, a huge one. At least one game developer thought they would make money, as a sole motivation, rather than dying in poverty and wishing his game would simply exist. He went to a university, learned how to make games, and sold them based on an equation a company fed him.


But this is like the other issue, which is silly to think long about: What should be considered a game? rolleyes.gif


You should be expecting a strong "yes" or a logical argument because you posted in a video game forum. I'm going to say nyos.

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#15 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 31798

Posted 01 December 2013 - 11:20 PM

Why is there even a debate? How can you tell that one particular medium cannot possibly produce art..? That no matter what they do in that medium, it won't be artistic, they can't be an artist by working with it? That in this particular medium, it is impossible to express the imagination and human spirit? That creativity is not possible inside a particular medium?


That's just a ridiculous statement to say to someone (and offensive if they consider themselves an artist within your declared medium), which is obviously false without need for debate.


Instead of "is this medium art", which is a yes/no question, where both yes and no are wrong... a better discussion would be, "which works within this medium do you consider to be great arttongue.png

Edited by Hodgman, 01 December 2013 - 11:25 PM.

#16 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1775

Posted 02 December 2013 - 02:33 AM

Why do people even want games to be art?
Why do people seem to get so defensive when claiming that videogames should be art?


Can't games just be ..... games?

Why do people think that calling them art would elevate them to some new greatness that they cannot already claim.

Art does not imply skill.  Just look at a Tracy Emin, a Damien Hirst or a Banksy.  There isn't a huge amount of skill involved in creating art of this nature (maybe a little creativeness but not much).  Mr Brainwash prooved this.

There is also just as many discusions on the internet regarding wheather or not games should be Sport.

Games are just games stop trying to put them in some kind of alternative niche and just accept them for being games.

#17 ShadowFlar3   Members   -  Reputation: 1258

Posted 02 December 2013 - 05:58 AM

A trivial question.


Video games can be used to express yourself, your ideas, values, opinions and convey them. Video games consist of mediums that are considered art: images, videos, music. You can look at some video games like Final Fantasy and the first thing that comes into mind is "Wow, this is art."


Definition of art may be blurry but trying to fit everything in or out is pointless except for the sake of argument.


BTW pottery is art as well as architecture and both can be used to "share a message". For buildings these are often linked to wealth or social position.

#18 wintertime   Members   -  Reputation: 1867

Posted 02 December 2013 - 08:26 AM

There is a funny read. It shows how pointless this question is through a little irony.

#19 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2948

Posted 02 December 2013 - 08:53 AM

Should all paintings be considered art?

Should all statues be considered art?

Should all architecture be considered art?


Probably not.


Can they be art?


Yes, ofcourse


Same thing with games, or any other medium of expression...

Edited by Olof Hedman, 02 December 2013 - 08:54 AM.

#20 jms bc   Members   -  Reputation: 445

Posted 02 December 2013 - 03:38 PM

Wintertime's link was worth the read. Saw a comment that I liked:


"I’ve noticed there’s a very obvious trend of people no longer giving a shit over this debate, which is nice, maybe we’re actually making progress"

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