Games as Art

           For a long time, video games have fought a battle. They've fought for a place in society, for the right to be accepted for what they represent. They've been ridiculed as a media, and often cited as harbinger's of violence in those that play them. There has even been attempts to limit or outright ban the sale of games to certain consumers through government legislation, as seen through such cases as Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. Despite all of this fighting and struggling for a spot in culture, games have survived, and are definitely beginning to make their way into the mainstream. Games aren't considered as the life-wasting toys of basement-dwelling creatures known as "geeks" or "nerds". If anything, these people were the trend setters, as all kinds of demographics take part in video games. Whether their young or old, male or female, "serious" gamer or "casual" gamer, it seems games have drastically increased their audience. They are considered as a serious medium, field of study, as well as pursuit of interest. In fact, they are considered so serious that they are news-worthy, as seen with the current # GamerGate debate. This is good because it shows games are not dismissed as pointless past times. It allots them a certain level of attention and respect. Though issues like #GamerGate aren't exactly light-hearted and positive, it at least shows that they're considered important topics of cultural discussion.


           With all of this in mind, it seems that games have breached the forefront of culture and continue to gain momentum. People are now beginning to ask serious questions to truly evaluate games. At long last, video games are not completely condescended to. They are put on the same level as other cultural staples like books and movies, or at least enough to be asked these questions in the first place. One of the bigger and highly debated questions is whether games can be considered as Art. Not as in art, which is any expression of human creativity. But rather Art as in a high art. I really believe games have already demonstrated they can be Art. Drawing upon Ernest W. Adams' "Will Computer Games ever be a Legitimate Art Form?" I will take a look at a few games I believe to be Art based on criteria Adams attributes to Art in other forms of media.

          Adams mentions that Art has an aesthetic, that it appeals to us. This means there are certain elements to the Art we find engaging enough so that we become attracted to it. This can definitely be said of games. In fact, there are many different kinds of aspects that make games appealing to people. Games like the The Last of Us or Watch Dogs are appealing to people who desire games with high graphical quality. Gang Beasts andSumotori Dreams appeal to players seeking an absurd and silly gaming experience. Minecraft and Terraria appeal to those who want freedom from conventional games designed to be linear. They want to forge their own method of play.

 

           Art must also contain and express ideas. The experience of the Art must be able to persist beyond the initial interaction with it, perhaps through rich discussions for example. One example that comes to mind, and one often cited by advocates of games as art, is Gone Home (2013). The entire basis of this game is that it's centered on an idea, an idea that is very much relevant in real life. It expresses this idea in a meaningful and heartfelt way that many people can probably relate to. And that is what's most important about ideas within Art: that whatever's expressed reaches people. Gone Home does just that.

           One more characteristic I'll touch upon is that Art should create a feeling inside its recipients. Whether it be confusion, sadness, or shocked, it should emotionally effect the user in some way. Dark Souls could be considered as such a game. The atmosphere is thick with emptiness and sadness. It's difficult not to feel something as players watch grim side stories unfold. Take Solaire, for example. He is a proud and dedicated figure. He has a goal set in his mind, and he intends on achieving it, no matter the cost or peril. He happily fights by your side throughout the course of the game, always boasting that strong spirit. However, as the game progresses, something changes in Solaire. He loses that one trait that kept him so strong. He loses hope. He can't "find his sun", and this causes disparity for him. Later, the player will find Solaire,driven mad by a parasitic bug on his head, finally defeated over failing to complete his mission. After spending so much time fighting with Solaire, it's depressing to see him in this way. Solaire's story holds emotion behind it, something I'm sure many people feel.

 

           Some people believe games are not an Art, and won't be for some time. I honestly have to disagree. Games have already shown their capacity to be Art, and continue to deliver memorable experiences that are more than just about "having fun". They've proved themselves as a creative medium with meaningful messages and experiences. Considering the trend that games are slowly becoming more accepted, there's no doubt that they will someday be uncontested as a legitimate art form.

Adams, E., W. Will computer games ever be a legitimate art form? [PDF document]. Retrieved                   from: http://www.lee-                                                                                                                                 web.net/pdfs/330/adams_will_computer_games_ever_be_a_legitimate_art_form.pdf