Video Games: the Emerging Art

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Art is one of the many ways we have of making sense of our world. Through the careful rearrangement of elements within a composition, most anyone can make something that portrays a message to others–others who can take in the works that have been created. From painting to sculpture to installation to performance, each artist explores the lengths and limitations of his or her chosen medium as a means of reaching his or her audience with a message powerful enough to be heard. The popular new medium of video games, previously under the microscope for its potential to influence people with violent tendencies, has recently been brought under scrutiny once more as Roger Ebert, a film critic with years of reviewing the medium of motion pictures under his belt, made the bold claim that “no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form” (Ebert, 1). Gamers took to the offensive, lashing out against Ebert’s claim with defiant reasons as to why he was wrong; Ebert has only conceded to one claim: that he has never played a video game. As this might be an obvious error for most gamers, as some might claim that never playing a game is similar to never watching a film, anyone else without much knowledge in the video game industry might ask “Why should we care if video games are art?” According to Euromonitor International, there has been an increase of computers in households that are connected to the internet over the past five years, culminating to 31% in 2010 (Euromonitor International). This statistic states that three-tenths of the surveyed population of the world has access to the internet, and that access includes numerous websites that not only advertise video games but also allow visitors to play them. Some might say that with such a growth in technology, and with increasing evidence towards impressionability of media on culture, having video games that explore their potential as an art form is vital if we wish to advance our society. In order to explore this, however, one needs to have a definition for art. According to the online Oxford Dictionary, art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination … producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” (1). What this means is that by making something with our own hands so that they can move the audience results in a work of art. Due to that interpretation, are video games made in order to move the audience emotionally? Arguably, modern video games do not reach this definition of art; this is due to some fine details in what art is perceived as, along with how video games are viewed in museums and how video games are viewed in the context of mainstream culture.

To begin, modern video games tend to avoid the traditional aspects of artistic works. As Mary Stewart describes about concepts of art, “aesthetics is the study of human responses to beauty…. An aesthetic experience tends to heighten meaning while an anaesthetic experience tends to dull meaning” (Stewart, 168). This means that art reflects responses to heighten emotion instead of reducing it. In contrast to this, Roger Ebert claims that most video games follow a few rigid definitions: namely, a sort of shooting game with a narrative; a kind of collecting game; and having players control the outcome (Ebert, 2). Although one could argue that video games are defined by player control, most popular games, such as the Halo series and the Ratchet and Clank series, fit nicely into the pattern Roger Ebert claims. With such a pattern of the game industry following its own footsteps, it’s hard to see how it can make art if it’s only doing the same thing over and over again. However, those that defend video games as an art will claim that it does hold some weight according to artistic principles. As Mary Stewart describes, the definition of an interdisciplinary art is “two or more disciplines [that] are fused to...
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