Games as Art

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Is it art?I’ve been to several talks recently at GDC, GDX and various universities about games as “art”. Some say that games are already art, or have always been art; some say that games aren’t yet art and maybe can never be; and there are many views in between. There is a push for game designers to better understand art history and their position within it.

To me the whole term “art” is problematic. It means so many things to different people. There is high-brow, low-brow and even middle-brow art. There is art that ‘merely’ entertains, art that addresses the human condition and even (increasingly) art that makes a statement about art. Different people say art should be one thing or another, and games should (or shouldn’t) do likewise.

That ‘should’ really bothers me. I do not know what it means. When a desginer or a critic writes that games “should be more meaningful” what authority does that ‘should’ carry? Who gets to say what my games should or shouldn’t be? Perhaps there is a moral argument to say that some (very few) games shouldn’t be made, but I think that by and large the phrase “Games should be…” is being used in place of “I would like games to be…”

Don’t get me wrong, for my own part I would like there to be more games that make meaningful statements about life, and I even think there is a place for games that make a statement about games (although if we go down that path too far, as I believe the ‘high-brow’ art world has, we run the risk of disappearing up our own posteriror). I would like to encourage the creation of more such games, and the fostering of a culture of critical review that can accept, understand and value them. But I would stop short from saying we “should” be making them. That’s going a step too far.

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  • David Michael

    I think when people say that games should be so-and-so, what they mean is that if they are to be considered on the same level as art, then that’s what they should be. Of course I realise that videogames are relatively young, and there are a lot of differing opinions out there, so there’s no particular reason why we should take one more seriously than another. I personally think that the videogame is an art form, but that it has to reach some kind of maturity first, which might happen when the technical aspects are no longer impressive – in other words, when designers are forced to impress by design alone.

    If you’re interested, I’ve written about this very thing on my own blog:

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