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Focus on the Frightful: Are Video Games Art? Pt.1

In 2011 video games were ruled as art and entitled to the same protections as other forms of art. And yet the debate still continues as to whether or not video games are art or not. I’m not going to dig in-depth on that side of it at the moment. That will be next week. This week is just for me to share my thoughts and feelings on the subject before I inundate them with research.

Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Other activities related to the production of works of art include the criticism of art, and the study of the history of art.


If you had asked me in Atari days whether I thought video games were an art form or not I probably would have said no. Well, being five I probably would have said “Who cares?”

Now, having experienced a broad range of emotions from stories told through the storytelling medium of games then I would have confidently answered “Yes!”

In fact, until recently I didn’t even know it was a question. I am pretty amused that the latest round of the court debate of the question involved a ruling that yes, Call of Duty is art. After playing games like Rule of Rose, Silent Hill 2, and Okami it amuses me that Call of Duty, of all games, is the one that incited the ruling.

I am of the opinion that, even by the strictest definition of the word, video games are art. They are a creative expression, designed to portray technical skill, expression, and can be used to evoke beauty and emotional power.

Stories have power. Why should it matter whether that story is told through paint, movies or the written word? In fact, games can make you more involved in the outcome because it’s you deciding (within the confines of the choices and actions allowed by the game) how you’re going to do it. You’re deciding how you experience the story.

If you’re looking solely at the physical aspect, some games are just beautiful. Even the simplest backgrounds can have beauty and give life to the world you are in. You can have the choice between playing a game with a simple, yet beautiful aesthetic such as Limbo, or a fully-realized stylistic game such as Okami.

This might seem like an odd topic for a Focus on the Frightful post but I feel that horror lands in that grey area a lot of the time. It’s not a grey area to me but it is a common perception that horror is not ‘as good’ as other genres, or as legitimate. That it’s not ‘art’, in other words.

How could a genre that includes Maximum Overdrive and Rubber in its oeuvre also produce such finely crafted works of art such as Jacob’s Ladder or In the Mouth of Madness? Can a slasher flick possibly have anything deep to say on feminism, if even accidentally? Yes. Yes, they can. And those that refuse to acknowledge it are severely limiting the scope of art and expression.

Even though I’ve thought games were ‘pretty’ since Final Fantasy VII it took a game like Silent Hill 2 and Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly to make me realize the emotional impact a game could have. And if that’s not art I don’t know what is.

Check out next week for the history behind the art vs. video games argument and what creators themselves think on the subject.

Published inFocus on the Frightful
┬ęSci-Fi & Scary 2019
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