Can a Video Game been seen as an art form?
One of the bigger debates that we come across in the gaming community is whether or not video games can be considered “Art”. But what is the definition of art? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, art can be defined as “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation” or another definition is “an occupation requiring knowledge or skill”. Generally when we think of art we imagine beautiful paintings, glorious music, or incredible, well crafted stories, all of which would fit into the two definitions above. But does this apply to video games?
If asked this same question back in the 80s when video games were first becoming popular, I would say no. Originally video games were very basic, constituting navigating mazes or shooting as simple objects on screen, which was accompanied by fun, but rather plain electronic sounding music. This was partly due to the technology available at the time, combined with the narrow scope of imagination that game developers had. They were limited by what they had to work with, but over time things did get better. This started in 1990 when Nintendo introduced the SNES, which allowed for more power behind games, encouraging gameplay as actual characters with interesting stories. These characters and the worlds they inhabited became much more detailed, with clearly defined lines and features. This level of graphical detail combined with motivational story telling worked together to help create worlds that gamers wanted to spend time in, and we most definitely did. Games like Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy shaped a huge part of childhood for people across the world.
In today’s world, technology has made leaps and bounds compared to what it was thirty years ago. Games today are made to be gorgeous, with massive open worlds, compelling narratives, characters that look almost like someone you could see walking down the street, and music that inspires emotions of all kinds. Games like Overwatch have colorfully rendered characters with compelling back stories, while games like Mass Effect share images of what whole galaxies could look like, something that most people will never see with their own eyes, portrayed through a video game. All of this is done through the skillful work of game developers through years of learning, and applying their specific skills. This requires employees who design these characters and open worlds working side by side with the software designer who makes everything interactive and bring it to life. These characters are made interesting by the writers, who give us a story, the writers shell out the characters, making them more than just a “good guy” or someone who is simply out for revenge. Characters in video games today are full of emotion, they love and hate, feel fear and courage, and do what they can to achieve their goals, because that is how they are written! The music of video games help to immerse us in the virtual worlds as well, with some games even boasting full orchestral music pieces, composed to encourage us during boss fights, or set us on edge while walking through spooky dungeons, just waiting for something to jump out.
All of these things can be easily tied back to “”skill acquired by experience, study, or observation” or “an occupation requiring knowledge or skill”. Everyone involved in the making of a game are there because of their unique skill sets, the graphics designers, writers, programmers, and musicians all come together to build something wonderful, a complete world which would never exist if not for these men and women. And thanks to their hard work, gamers across the globe can enter magical lands, explore the depths of the earth or scour the vast expanses of space, all from the comfort of home. Merriam Webster gives us another definition of art as well, “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects”. Aesthetic objects, as in, something beautiful we can see… Almost sounds like a video game, right? Video games are most definitely art, sixty bucks worth of art that can be shared with friends and family, bringing people together to enjoy something wonderful in a way that nothing else can.