Yes, it is art

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Game art

There’s been a long-brewing debate in recent years about whether video games fit the definition.

Many critics of artistic expression including film, music, TV and such are, for the most part, against the notion of video games as art. Their reasons vary. Most say games don’t qualify because it’s an interactive medium.

Others don’t really give an explanation. They just say games ain’t art.

My beloved, late Roger Ebert certainly didn’t think it was art either.

Many of the naysayers are quick to point out that they don’t play games often, if at all. That, I believe, is the root of their denial. I don’t think it’s fair though. If they’re going on gut reaction rather than some detailed, thought-out thesis, then I fail to see how they can declare video games art or not.

New forms of art are always dismissed when it appears on the horizon. TV was once called a “vast wasteland.” Film too was not considered art at first. Nobody doubts their art status now.

I would venture to say that if some played video games over a long period of time, not just a few days or months even, but for years, they might change their mind. If they played a shoot ‘em up or a role-playing game and that’s all they base their decision on, then I could see how they feel video games are not art.

But if the only movie you ever watched was Gigli or Grandma’s Boy could you be blamed for saying film isn’t art?

I’ve been playing video games since Super Mario Brothers (yes, the 8-bit version). For the longest time I felt video games were certainly not on the same level as any other art. But as time wore on and games improved with better graphics, better story lines and better audio, I changed. The first time I played Limbo, all I could think of was that its universe was just breathtaking. How anyone could play that game and not call it art is beyond me.

One of the things I notice about those who argue against video games as art is their methodology. Many times they negate it as art because of some aspect that games have, such as keeping score, which critics claim art should not include. I’ve read from one critic who said if video games are an art so is basketball, which would make Michael Jordan an artist. (That argument is ridiculous of course because critics themselves judge art. Hell, rottentomatoes.com and metacritic.com give numerical scores for movies, TV, music and video games.)

So they point to an existing facet of video games to disqualify them. They do not, however, discount video games for anything that it lacks. This is interesting.

Like opera or film, video games contain many important elements to what is considered art: visuals, music, spoken word, text and more. How can mediums that encompass all forms of art not itself be art? If that were the case then museums are not art despite their architecture.

As some proponents of video games have pointed out, maybe it’s a waste of time to define what art is. If people can read great works like Ulysses, look at great paintings by Picasso and listen to classical music and THEN disagree as to whether they’re good or not, then I don’t see how you can proclaim any iron-clad definition of what art is.

Maybe instead of asking what art is, we should ask, “What is the purpose of art?” Why does anyone spend days creating a painting? Why does anyone spend hours walking through a museum to look at them? Why does anyone compose and produce opera? Why does anyone watch opera?

Once we can pinpoint the inspiration for creating and appreciating art, maybe then can we define it.

To me, that will never happen because people will always disagree. Views change over time. Delineating art status to me is no different than language, which also morphs. If the rules of commas, capitalization and language structures shift with the times, so then does art.

My personal favorite response to the question “what is art?”

Jack Donaghy.

“It’s paintings of horses!”

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