Are Video Games Art?

Appendix

“Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power” (Oxford Dictionary). Under this definition, most people consider art to be drawings, sculptures, paintings, music, dance, novels, poetry, film, plays, etc. Video games, however, are usually not classified as such. Jonathan Jones, author of “Sorry MoMA, Video Games Are Not Art,” from The Guardian, is an example of one who discredits the beauty of video games. His main point illustrates how bizarre it would be to compare video games to works of Picasso or Van Gogh, however, missing what art truly is. Chris Melissinos, well-known advocate for games and its brilliance discusses how game are, in fact, art, and the impact it has on our current generation.

Scheme of Abbreviation

  1. Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.
  2. Drawings, sculptures, paintings, music, dance, novels, poetry, films, and plays are all examples of what’s accepted as “art.”
  3. Jonathan Jones, writer for The Guardian (a news outlet that is trusted more than the NYTimes according to Business Insider statistics), claims that video games cannot be labeled as art.
  4. Supreme Court protects video games as “art.”
  5. Chris Melissinos, featured on the NYTimes, advocates for the artistic legitimacy of video games.

Let F = (D • E)

  1.  Video games are art
  2.   Jonathan Jones is Correct

Argument in Symbolic Form

  1. A → B            Premise
  2. C Premise
  3. F            Premise
  4. H Premise
  5. (A → B)  • F.                       1 and 3; Rule of Conjunction
  6. F → ~H 3 and 4; Premise
  7. ~H → G 6; Premise

———————————————-

  1.   G 6; Modus Tollens

 

Video games have become a booming entertainment outlet, and some even have more money invested into it compared to movies produced by Hollywood. As a reference, the movie with the most amount of money put into it is, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, with a total of $378.5 million invested into it; the video game with the most amount of money put into it is, Destiny, developed by Bungie, with a whopping $500 million put into it. (Beck, 2016). Movies, however, are classified as art, yet, to this day, video games are still argued to not be labeled as such. How can this be? The term, “art,” by definition, is: “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.” (Goguen, 2000). According to this definition, there should be no doubt that video games are not art, and rather, should be universally accepted as such. While the Supreme Court of the United States of America offers legal protection that video games are, indeed, art, many skeptics continue to doubt. Jonathan Jones, of The Guardian, author of the article, “Sorry MoMA, Video Games Are Not Art,” is one of those skeptics. He claims that games such as Pong or Pac-Man shouldn’t be in the same vicinity of popular art pieces such as Picasso’s Ma Jolie, or Van Gogh’s Starry Night. While it is relatively absurd to compare Pong and Pac-Man to these pieces that have transcended time, it is not improbable in the distant future. Pong and Pac-Man are games that catalyzed video games as an entertainment field, and sparked the interest in home console development. The influence of these games (along with many other games of that time) initiated an entirely new field of recreation which has been used to express developer’s passions, devotion, and their beings in general–the same way in which Picasso’s style of art revolutionized a new form of expressionism within the typical art medium. As time progresses, so will the legacy these games have created, and in due time, with the rapid advancement of technology, these games will also stand as a pillar of how far we’ve come as an advancing, technological world.
Jonathan Jones, of The Guardian, states that, “A work of art is one person’s reaction to life…Art may be made with a paintbrush or selected as a ready-made, but it has to be an act of personal imagination.” (Jones, 2012). While what he says about art is unfathomable, his declaration that video games do not fall under the same category is completely incorrect. Abigail Tucker, of Smithsonian.com, interviews a man named, Chris Melissinos–a man with a passionate opinion about the topic of video games being regarded as art–and what he says is, without a doubt, something one would hear out of an individual who has been struck with awe from the sight of an amazing painting or of the sort:

“Indeed, video games may be the most immersive medium of all. In books, everything is laid before you. There is nothing left for you to discover. Video games are the only forms of artistic expression that allow the authoritative voice of the author to remain true while allowing the observer to explore and experiment.” (Melissinos, 2015).
Video games have the ability to generate a personalized experience for every individual that plays the game, and like most paintings, this experience leaves the observer with a new kind of mind, or perhaps, a reassurance in their already grounded virtues. The intimacy between video games and the player is art in itself, as not only is the plot, animations, illustrations, sound, gameplay, and music creating the immersion one undergoes, but the reactions and emotions the players feel may only be realized through their gaming encountering:

“Video games are also the only form of media that allows for personalizing the artistic experience while still retaining the authority of the artist. In video games we find three distinct voices: the creator, the game, and the player. Those who play a game are following the story of the author and are bound by the constructs of the rules—but based on the choices they make, the experience can be completely personal. If you can observe the work of another and find in it personal connection, then art has been achieved.” (Melissinos, 2015).

Technology is ever so prevailing in today’s society, video games may be the most popular form of artistic expression. A novel, painting, film, drawing, sculpture, or song are all limited to what defines each as an artistic piece: Novel being its plot, characters, and themes; Film for the same purpose as a novel, but with an element of visual effect; drawings/sculptures for its theme and manner of which it was forged; music for its auditory deliverings. This is not an attempt to belittle these forms of art, however, it is a loose comparison to emphasize how intricate video games are as they use all of these forms of art to create an even bigger project: “From games that recreate the childlike wonder in discovering magic and delight in the world — like “Super Mario Brothers” — to those that explore the hopelessness of losing a child — as in “That Dragon, Cancer” — video games are capable of expressing the full breadth of human experience.” (Melissinos, 2015).
A game franchise that I believe displays true artistry is the Dark Souls franchise, namely,  Dark Souls 1 and Dark Souls 3. The Dark Souls franchise, in my opinion, is the perfect example of how beautiful a game can be as the plot, details of the world, and character motivations are all hidden away unless the player explores, or even bothers with it, as the game is entirely in old english, and spoken in a poetic fashion; each line, area, song, and animation within the game is an allegory to the world that is, Dark Souls. The setting of the game is comprised of a post-apocalyptic medieval state, and the player is an “Undead,” (one who cannot die, but with every death, becomes more “hollow” until they’ve fully hollowed) whose goal is to “end the fire,” (presumably, the fire that keeps life going, so the world can finally end without all humans ending up hollowed). That’s the general idea of what the main plot consists of, but to call this the entirety of the story is like saying, “Harry Potter is a wizard, and he goes to wizard school,” summarizes the Harry Potter series. These are examples of small aspects of the game that display my point:

Personal favorite lines from the game:

 

  • “Once, the Lord of Light banished Dark, and all that stemmed from humanity. And men assumed a fleeting form. These are the roots of our world. Men are props on the stage of life, and no matter how tender, how exquisite… A lie will remain a lie!”
  • “I may be but small, but I will die a colossus.”
  • “The dragons shall never be forgotten… We knights fought valiantly, but for every one of them, we lost three score of our own. Exhilaration, pride, hatred, rage… The dragons teased out our dearest emotions. …Thou will understand, one day. At thy twilight, old thoughts return, in great waves of nostalgia.”

 

 

Screenshot from Game: thumb-1920-695524Games succeed in a way other forms of art cannot; it’s debatable to even claim reality itself can’t achieve what games do. In reality, we are caged within the boundaries of a strict temporal and spatial narcissism. No matter how inquisitive we may be, in touch with our environment we may become, emotionally aware of who we are, we will never be able to engage with these subjects in any matter beyond that which we have ready access to–in other words, interact passed an “eye-level” point of view. Video games allow us the unique ability to engage not just with one’s environment and draw from that environment the very experiences of wonder and discovery which similar ventures in reality provide us with, but also to connect with the very fabric and configuration of existence itself. Games do not simply serve as explorations or commentary upon the construction of worlds, but allow the player to actively manipulate, explore, and foster that world in a way that is significant on an individual basis, and reveals in gradual, but grand moments, of revelation the otherwise indescribable abstractions which compose the infinitely fractal nature of a moment. Video games can truly reveal one’s aspirations, views on society, bring about questions that may go against one’s morals, and even act as a mediator between the diversity of all people.






References
Goguen, Joseph. What Is Art? – Imprint Academic. (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2016, from   http://www.imprint.co.uk/pdf/Introduction.pdf

Jones, Jonathan. “Sorry MoMA, Video Games Are Not Art.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Melissinos, Chris. Video Games are the Highest Form of Art. (n.d.). Retrieved November 06, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/21/arts/video-games-highest-form-of-art/index.html

Melissinos, Chris. “Video Games Are the Most Important Art Form in History.” New York Times. (n.d.). Retrieved November 06, 2016, from http://time.com/4038820/chris-melissinos-are-video-games-art/

Smuts, Aaron.  “Are Video Games Art?” (n.d.). Retrieved November 06, 2016, from http://www.contempaesthetics.org/newvolume/pages/article.php?articleID=299)

Tucker, Abigail. “The Art of Video Games.” Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

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4 thoughts on “Are Video Games Art?

  1. Video games (some of them) should most definitely be considered art. You’re definitely right about the Souls series being works of art because those games can just be hauntingly gorgeous!

    That said, would you like to share your articles in our FB group? We’re a growing community of gaming bloggers and we’re always looking for more great writers to share their work and discuss all things gaming. Just search for “Game Bloggers United” on Facebook. 😀

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog post! Sure, I’d love to join the group–I think there is a need for less “sensational” video game blogs/news outlets. I’ll be happy to submit whatever game articles I write with the group. There were other games I wanted to discuss in this paper, but then it would’ve taken too long; wanted to discuss the Hotline Miami series and Undertale.

      Like

  2. I already commented in the Facebook group, but I just want to say again how much I enjoyed this. I really appreciate your scholarly approach to your articles – it takes me back to my college days!

    I wanted to share your article with some of my own followers, so I linked it on my blog alongside my nomination of you for a Mystery Blogger Award. You can check out my blog to see the full nomination and description of the award:

    https://adventurerules.blog/2017/05/03/mystery-blogger-award-acceptance-speech/

    You obviously put a lot of effort into your work, so here’s hoping that some more folks see it as a result. You deserve it!

    Like

    1. I can’t describe how honored I feel! Funny you say college–this was originally a piece I did for this semester at my university and felt that I needed to share on my blog.

      I am so grateful that you would nominate me for this award! Honestly, thank you very much for your support and will be sure to check out your blog as well. Once again, I am very honored that you would nominate me for this!

      Liked by 1 person

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