Whenever I play any video game one thing is obvious over anything else, it has graphics different or similar to another game. The looks of any game are the first thing anyone would notice other than the music of a game. When I or someone else looks at the graphics of a game or the game itself people sometimes wonder if it is art? This is an interesting question to ask since some people high in the gaming industry say no but a lot of other people would say yes. Art itself is a hard thing to pin down as a subject; after all, it can mean different things to different people. I’m going to go over the subject and give my take on this since I’m a bit of an artist myself.
The first thing anyone would point to as art is gaming graphics or looks. Indeed games today look just as good as any CGI or even some live-action movies. In this way it is art but this is not what some critics say makes it art. Someone making a movie will shot a scene where it will look the most artistic like a scene from the movie The Shining comes to mind. Almost every scene was handpicked with an artistic vision to make it look interesting.
It’s hard to deny that video games are games first and must be fun to play so useable should be first on the game’s mind. It’s hard for any game to make you look at something in a certain angle unless it’s in a cut-scene to make you look at something. Freedom of movement though has its advantages since you are forced to just look at something in a movie but a game you can investigate things all you want from all angles. Great examples of this are Dark Souls and Bioshock which have beautiful visuals with good artistic vision.
Like an art show, you can take your time (when not in trouble) to look and see what the world offers. Even without sound, these gaming worlds speak to the player as it makes you ask questions. Just like art the items and world around you make you think, what does it mean. Like a modern art display or painting, there is no right answer and keeps you thinking. Both movies and video games use visuals to invoke emotions on the viewer. Of course, not all games or movies do this but that’s why I think it is art because not all games or movies go for the same thing. Just like styles in movies, art, or music video games have styles as well.
I think a style on how a game looks is based on what the graphics are based on. For example, if a game looks more pixilated in looks it is an 8-bit or 16-bit style. With modern games, though it’s hard to stand out with a style since most developers follow trends to make money, this happens with all art. Once in a while though a game will come out which takes a style and makes its own. One game that comes to mind that I think shows off its style is a game called Cuphead. The old-style type carton style makes things pop on screen with its hand-drawn animations.
People work hard to make a game look well and it takes days upon days for this to be fully realized. Even if you don’t like the look of something in a game there will be some other game where you will. Just like video games, people like different types of games just like different types of graphical styles. All of this also counts for cut scenes, game music, and character dialogue. These other things for games are just as important as graphics.
THE SOUNDS OF GAMEPLAY
Gaming music has come a long way just like gaming graphics. However, just because something is old doesn’t mean it can’t sound good or memorable. After all how many people know the theme to Super Mario Brothers or classic DOOM. More and more classic gaming soundtracks emerge even today which rival non-gaming music in sales numbers. People look forward to certain games because of certain composers did the music for that game. I think the music of video games is just like music for anything else it is art. The same I think goes for the dialog of characters or text since it’s just like a movie script and putting the rights noises when things happen adds to mood or good game-play flow. Here are some samples of game music of different styles.
WHY DO PEOPLE THINK IT’S NOT ART?
Just like with any art form some people do not think it’s art, even people in their very field. Let’s go with an early example of criticism by a quote from Roger Ebert. He said “Video Games Can Never Be Art” this is an interesting point to make. When he made this statement it was in a time where the Super Nintendo was big in America so we can why he would say that however even later in his life he still held that belief. Looking at his words though he also said I regret saying never so even he could be wrong. Roger is not in the video game industry but he was a great critic and compared to film or music video games have only been out for a little bit of time. I still would disagree with him even back then but I think it’s something to think about. After all one of the reasons we are having this discussion is because Roger was so famous and of what he said.
Another person who said video games may not be art is involved in gaming, in fact, directs games. The famous Hideo Kojimo said video games are not art, but it’s a little more complex than that. When interviewed about gaming art Kojimo says…
Art is the stuff you find in the museum, whether it be a painting or a statue. What I’m doing, what videogame creators are doing, is running the museum – how do we light up things, where do we place things, how do we sell tickets? For better or worse, what I do, Hideo Kojima, myself, is run the museum and also create the art that’s displayed in the museum. Art is something that radiates the artist,” arguing that “If 100 people walk by and a single person is captivated by whatever that piece radiates, it’s art. But videogames aren’t trying to capture one person. A videogame should make sure that all 100 people that play that game should enjoy the service provided by that videogame. It’s something of a service. It’s not art. But I guess the way of providing service with that videogame is an artistic style, a form of art.
Believe it or not, this answer you just read was about the thing Roger Ebert said about games being not art. Movies are compared to video games but as you see even some people in the industry still have doubts about it being art. I think it’s up to each person to decide if it is and if that is true then its real art to me. After all, if you can look at two paintings and one speaks to you more as art then I think an image can do the same.