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Focus on the Frightful: Are Video Games Art, Part 2

Last week I talked about whether video games were art or not in Are Video Games Art, Part 1, and just gave my opinion on it. I think they can be. And if you allow a game like The Last of Us then you naturally have to include such “low-brow” games as Candy Crush. And I’m ok with that. A paint-by-number may not be a Van Gogh but it’s still art.

Flappy Bird

One of the main arguments against classifying games as such seem to be that they are finite, winnable experiences and thus can’t be art. I’m not sure why this precludes them being classified as art. Brian Moriarty (creator of Wishbringer, Trinity) argues that video games are “kitsch” and aesthetic appreciation as “camp”. He is also quoted as saying “ultimately it was the fact that player choices were presented in games that structurally invalidated the application of the term “art” to video games as the audience’s interaction with the work wrests control from the author and thereby negates the expression of art”.

Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear Solid series, argued that while video games can contain artwork they themselves are not art, citing their popularity and their goal being player satisfaction they can’t be art themselves.

Metal Gear Solid 3

My argument against this is that yes, players interact and come to a game with their own experiences but those choices that they can make within a game are confined to what the creator allows you to do. You are seeing the game as the creator wants you to. Much in the same way that each person can view and interact with a painting differently, far beyond the bounds of what the artist intended. I don’t see the difference.

In 2010, Michael Samyn and Aureia Harvey (founders of indie studio Tale of Tales) argues that because games fill a physiological need for play and are monetarily driven they are not ‘art’. He does make an interesting note about studio meddling, which is an issue in many forms of expression such as books, movies and commercial art. Which is a valid point. And it’s noteworthy that many of these interviews were done before the rise and strengthening of indie games.

The Path (2009)

It is now possible to create a game and publish it on your own. You will have complete control over your final product. Which is even more important now than ever before with the ways that the AAA companies are treating their properties.

Don’t get me wrong. The title of “self-published” has a stigma to it. Mostly undeserved but at the same time a lot of companies and creators will churn out the cheapest, crappiest creation they can to turn a quick buck and not care about the quality. This is true for every form of art there is. It can sometimes take a lot of digging to find the gold buried in the mountain of silt and dirt but it is worth it.

Song of Horror (2019)

There are many games that will be lost if they are not given the same protection that classical works of art are. The Rule of Rose game mentioned in my last post goes for a pretty large chunk of change. People that want to experience the game for themselves are either forced to pay a prohibitory price or emulate them which comes with its own challenges and risks. There will be so many that will just be lost to time if they are not re-released for newer consoles and apps such as Steam. As technology progresses there will no longer be any way to play them. My television won’t even ‘read’ a game that I’m trying to play on my Playstation 2. What happens when televisions (or whatever comes next) move beyond the capability to be able to connect with older systems? These games, these works of art, will no longer be playable and the future will lose out on some amazing, breathtaking stories.

Isn’t that worth protecting? I’m willing to let the dinkiest mobile app in existence be called art as long as it protects grander works such as The Last of Us, Dark Souls, and Silent Hill 2.

Deadly Premonition (2010)

If you’d like a list of games that are considered art you can check out this list on Wikipedia

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