As I descend through the cascading annals of history, I see the beautiful art that man has created; from Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”
to Michelangelo’s “David”
man’s eye has always been cultivated by the emotion evoked by such beautiful pieces of art. Should art only include what we see, or what we hear? Should our society limit itself by solidifying what art can and should be? There is no reason art can not become a culmination of these aspects, bringing them together in an interactive experience that draws the average onlooker in, changing the way they experience the art. Video games bring sound, sight, and interactivity together no other medium of art has been able to do. Games are the art of the new generation. In the 18th Century they had Francois Boucher’s “The Fountain of Love”, in the 19th Century, the romanticism movement took place with pieces such as John Constable’s “View on the Stour near Dedham.”
The 20th Century brought about new meaning to art with its Abstract paintings, mostly made famous by Pablo Picasso who started a subdivision known as Cubism. All of these famous movements throughout history have influenced the games we play today.
The 21st Century became a new wave for innovation and the spread of a new pop-culture. The year is 1971; a small company called Nutting manufactures the very first arcade machine. This was not the start of the mainstream trend however. The years known as the “Golden Age” (1978-1981)
were the birth of the arcade, it brought about such famous titles, most notably “Donkey Kong”,
and “Pac Man”
Soon after the few short years of bliss, the industry was hit with a bombshell the size of Michael Pachter’s Ego. “The Great Crash of 1982” came about and it wasn’t long until video game arcades were all but extinct in America. While still strong in Japan, the arcade industry had taken a serious blow. In 1985 a small Japanese playing card company “Nintendo” introduced the Famicom to America which was soon to be named the NES or Nintendo Entertainment System.
Video games had experienced a new sense of rejuvenation brought about by the “8 Bit” Era. Not long after, the “16 Bit” era came into its own introducing systems such as the SNES, Sega Genesis and Neo Geo. Some of the most memorable games came in this period of gaming goodness; Titles such as Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Metroid, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Street Fighter II. Their was however, a darker half of this generation, when abysmal systems were released, ala Atari Panther, JVC Wondermega, Sega CD, and the utterly stupid 3DO. “32 Bit was brought upon the Americas around 1993, this time around; people are stuck with the atrocious Atari Jaguar. 1993 was a significant year, this was when all the controversy began, and congress noted the violence in video games such as “Mortal Kombat”
and deemed it “inappropriate”. In response to this the Video Game industry created the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) in 1994. It functioned much like the MPAA which rated movies. Also in 1994, SEGA decided to release the 32x in an attempt to stay competitive, while Nintendo continued to push their 16 Bit workhorse. In 1995 Nintendo releases the Virtual Boy
simply to tide people over until the Project Reality, now called Ultra 64, is ready for release. Critics line up to bash the system, until Nintendo indicates that the Game Boy's sales have been strong despite its limitations, at which point criticism is muted until the machine's sales fall dramatically below Nintendo's own projections. This was merely Nintendo’s attempt to stave people off until they were ready to release a system that could compete with Sony’s Juggernaut, Playstation. Before we knew it the era known as the “modern age” came to life with systems such as the Gamecube, PS2, and the XBOX. There are simply too many good games to account for in this generation for I feel I would leave to many out (Put it this way I own 230 games from last generation). As we bring my little history lesson to a close, I will leave you with this: Gaming has evolved so vastly over the years it is impossible to predict the future, but one thing is for sure, Video Games aren’t going away for a long time.
I believe this history lesson holds alot of releveance in this debate. Most art has two qualities about it; memorability and history. All famous is art is so memorable that people can recognize it instantly wherever they may be. Art also has its roots deep into history. Video games are no exception, while they may not date back centuries they do have a memorable past that has led them to become the cultural phenomenon they are today.
The 19th Century introduced the phrase “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder”. This seems very relevant in the argument of why video games should be considered an art form. Music is an art form, no one really disputes this and most people just accept it as fact. Why is this? Does everyone enjoy all music? My dad is a huge country fan, so if I popped Fifty Cent, into his CD player, he would not be too happy. Wait, all music is art, so shouldn’t my dad be down for a lil’ fitty? No. Just because all people doesn’t find a particular medium or genre of art beautiful does not make it less of an art nor does it diminish its potential as renown artifact in history. I don’t believe all art has to be some extremist piece that causes controversy amongst the ill-informed politicians
If this is true than it begs the question: What makes something art; Beauty? No. Message. I think all forms of art must simply have a message to tell. The content and purpose of the message is irrelevant. Art and literature are often grouped together in casual conversation, mostly because in some ways books are a form of art. I think that video games truly encompass many forms of art to culminate an experience that can not be replicated by anything else.
In a Newsweek article from March of 2000, Jack Kroll states that "games can be fun and rewarding in many ways, but they can't transmit the emotional complexity that is the root of art.” Kroll's article sparked a series of angry replies, mostly from gamers writing for industry magazines on the web, but the controversy was not limited to angry nerds on message boards sitting in their mother’s basement while ordering Chinese. In an article published in M IT's Technology Review called "Art Form for the Digital Age," film writer Henry Jenkins criticized Kroll for monumentally underestimating the potential of video games. Outside of academia, Kroll's article was also cited in an amicus brief advising the Seventeenth Circuit Court of Appeals on a case regarding an Indiana video game censorship law. The extent and diversity of the response indicates that Kroll hit a nerve of our beloved industry, and it is worthwhile to dig a little deeper into the issue. Despite the cultural prominence of video games in today’s pop-culture most have completely ignored the area. Scholars in other disciplines, such as film, have taken the lead in the conceptual debate. This is unfortunate, since seldom are there questions in the philosophy of art that have direct, real world consequences. Philosophical inattention to video games has a de facto effect on the multi-billion dollar industry by inadvertently making hasty censorship attempts easier. Philosophers not debating video games as an art form often lead uneducated people to draw the incorrect conclusion that they are not. Without even taking all things into consideration, people are quick to pass judgment.
Throughout the ages art has proven to be many things; blocks, splattered paint on a wall, naked people, statues, silhouettes, architecture, but art has and never will be something that becomes so definitive of what it is that it looses the true essence of why it was created. Art is the purest form of expression ever created. Whether it is interactive like a video game, beautiful like the “Mona Lisa”, or make you tap your foot like Tupac, its all the same. Its all art and its all beautiful to one person or another. The video game industry has been through many phases, and much like a teenager passing through puberty, video games have worked most of their quirks out and come into a new sense of maturity that will guide it to the future. Through the years, gaming has experienced more than its fair share of controversy which will definitely not end soon. As long as there are problems in the world their will be people looking for a scapegoat. Video games have withstood the test of time as many other art forms have and have established themselves as a beautiful culmination of many factors coming together, working to create a beautiful piece that holds relevance in today’s culture, and most definitely solidifying games as a form of modern art. read