Monday, March 10, 2008

The Great Art Debate

Initially, I was going to make this a post a response to Theory Fighter's claim that art can inspire violence, therefore if our community makes the claim that games are art, but then says games don't cause violence, we are being hypocritical. It's a powerful claim, and one I mostly agree with. My counter to the claim, however, was to be that not all games are art. Just as all movies are not art. No one would say Semi-Pro is art, just as no one would say Madden 2008 is art.

However, after typing that up, I realized I don't know if I fully believe that. Is it that all movies are indeed art, but they aren't all "good" or "high" art? Does the same stand for video games then? Or, is art only art if it is "good" or "high" art? I suspect this is something art theorists have debated for a long time. So I ask you, what is your opinion? Please post what you think in the comments, even if it's a simple "Yes, I think all games are art" or "No, only some games are art". You don't even have to back up your claims. I just want to know what other people think, because right now, I don't even know what I believe. I thought I did. Thank you Theory Fighter - you've now confused me more than I already was.


  1. Whether "good art" or not, I think all games are art.

  2. I think games have the same potential to be art as any other type of media. And, just like with any other media, what games are considered art, and why or why not, is something that everyone is likely to have a different opinion about. If art is something that makes you think, there are games that do that. If it creates emotion, games are capable of that. If it's the expression of an artist, that can be said about some, possibly even all games. If it's just something pleasing to the senses, plenty of games do that. Of all the ways I can think of to define art, there are at least a few games that fit that definition.

  3. But then, if a game attempts all of those things, attempts to create emotion, attempts to express something and fails miserably... is it still art? It sounds like you say yes, and thinking about it more, I am inclined to agree. However, something seems fundamentally wrong with that, and I'm not sure if it's anything more than my own stubborness of what art is and isn't.

  4. My $0.02: Trying to define "art" in anything but a subjective way is an exercise in futility. You can make some broad strokes and vague statements (e.g. "art is about emotion/connection" or "art is about making people think" or "art is about the act of creation; something from nothing"), but when it comes right down to it, everyone has at least a slightly different take on art, if not a radically different one.

    The key question here (whether we're discussing games or music or movies or societal pressure or environmental factors or childhood experiences) is one of free will, or the lack thereof.

    What, if anything, "causes" people to do things? Where does choice stop and "the media/societal pressures/childhood abuse made me do it" begin? That's the tough part.

    tl;dr: Yes, games are art.

  5. First of all, regarding Theory Fighter's claims, I would agree with his thoughts on violence in games. There's so much negative press on violence in games that we as gamers often push TOO hard the other way, claiming that violence has NO effect on gamers, when clearly it can.

    In regards to the art question, I'm going to say that the vast majority of media, specifically video games, are NOT, in fact, art. That's not to say that there is NO art in mass-media, just that it is few and far between and more likely to be found on the fringes.


  6. I agree with PJ.

    I think if something ever comes up as "is this art?" then it probably is.

    I think art is anything that goes beyond the basics of living. In other words, you don't need art to exist and survive on a pure functional basis. You could live just fine and normal without "art".

    Technically all you need is some simple carbs, amino acids and water to live. Like the crap they ate on the hovercraft in The Matrix. But i want juicy steak.

    We like to experience varying degrees of sensory stimulation, its called being human. Games do this in more ways than one.

    Art is defiance? maybe

    In short, Yes, games are art in my eyes.

  7. I'd agree with others here that the term cannot be realistically defined, so a straight forward answer just couldn't be possible.

    I personally see videogames more as entertainment than art, though I certainly consider games like Passage and Okami to be artistic. Does that make them art? I’m not sure. Does it even matter? Well, seeing as games are meant to be entertainment I'd guess their 'enjoyment factor' is more important.

    In the end, I want my games to be fun and enjoyable to play. If they're presented in a creative and artistic visual style, or touch on emotional or thought-provoking subjects, then that may add to the experience. I enjoyed BioShock predominantly as a shooter, though its decor, its themes and its atmospheric use of sound certainly made it stand out more to me.

    I guess I don't see games as art as much as I see art providing just another element a game can pull from to add to its play experience. Sometimes it works, like with BioShock, and sometimes it doesn't. I think Killer7 was made a more clumsy game because it tried too hard to base its gameplay around its visuals, for example.

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