Most high school newspapers tend to be about school events, worldwide news, politics, or any other average jazz, but since I joined, I decided to change it up a little. Throughout the next two years of my high school career I am planning to write video game related articles that the general public can enjoy and understand. So mind you, the article is at a length that can be fit into the paper, and the explanations are simplified. Feel free to bring up any errors or give some feedback!
Are Video Games Art?
Ever since video games were born in the 1970’s, it has been a medium that has developed and grown, as well as the public who enjoys them. Although, for a while, and much more so recently, people have been divided on whether video games are truly art.
Early video games were just giant pixels on a screen and had very experimental game play, but they were the start of something even grander. Concepts, ideas, and genres grew like wildfire as developers found new and more complex ways to expand the medium as time went on. Video game music grew from the basic bleeps and bloops to fully orchestrated master pieces. Early narrative began as basic ideas evolving into complex stories, allowing the players to make moral decisions, characters you become attached to and even tear-jerking moments. The art and graphics of games has also exploded from just flat 2D environments to immense, almost real, 3D worlds. All of these aesthetics have developed into the ever expanding possibilities of video games today – which begs the question “Are video games art? Have they always been art?”
Those arguing that video games are art, state that they are a form of expression, filled with multiple elements of what we call “art.”
Since the beginning of video games, story telling was there, albeit simplistic. Not every game has a rhyme nor reason to itself, but the point is a storyline was featured in games even during the 70’s. It may have been minimal compared to the amount of text you may read in a role playing game today, or the many cut scenes you may watch, but it still got the idea across. Story telling in games can vary from just telling you “The Princess is in another castle,” or, deciding whether to save your lover before she falls to her demise, or sacrifice her life for the lives of many. Some games may even be made to only tell a story without any “game play,” such as Digital: A Love Story. In some games like Limbo, the story and the reasons behind what is happening is up to your own imagination.
Without art in games there would be nothing but a white background. The amount of concept art, designing, and drawing that goes into video games is more than you can imagine. The design of the characters, environments, and other factors all count for how the player is going to take in the world as well as what the creator wanted to spawn.
The music in video games, such as the Super Mario Bros. theme or the Tetris theme, have been popularized through our culture because of their catchy tunes, but just as in movies, the background music plays a vital role in setting the tone. Hundreds of thousands pieces of music have been composed by people wanting to give a game atmosphere, beauty, or just some fine jams. Some of these songs are played at such emotional moments in-game that they can truly make a person feel just by hearing it.
I asked English teacher, Mrs. Nessler, for her definition of art, and she said that art is any form of expression and can range from music, film, painting, video games, writing and more.
Many would say that video games are not just about winning, but about the experience as a whole. The populace uses these explanations for their reasoning that video games are art, but some have made some very important counter-points.
On the other side of things, some argue “video games are not art” or “not all video games are art.” Many people see video games as just games and toys used for a hobby and question “how is that art?” Roger Ebert, a respected movie critic, wrote an article sharing his opinion that “Video games can never be art.” Shortly after this statement, he corrected himself and stated “Maybe not never, for that is a very long, long time.” Ebert’s argument is about how a game is a “game” because it is something you win, and you cannot “win” art. He also believes you are meant to gain something from art and feels that you cannot do that within video games. The article received so much backlash that as a result, Ebert retaliated with what he called an “apology.” He apologized for never having played video games, but stuck to his previous statement.
Another perspective of the argument is the business side of the industry. For the past six years, big companies like EA and Activision have gained much attention due to their video game “cash-ins” and other money grabbing schemes. Games like Call of Duty and Madden have sequels released every year and sometimes may seem very similar to each other. Some grow tired of these games, but the amount of money they make is absolutely jaw-dropping – so why stop making them? In the same vein, the amount of downloadable content (aka DLC) made available for purchase after a video game’s release, or even on the day of release, truly make people wonder if it’s all just a scam. The public argues “Why isn’t this already in the game from the start,” and some could care less, but keep in mind, DLC is not needed to progress through a game. From cash-ins, to DLC, to pay as you go, many people disagree that video games are art when they seem like just an easy way to make money off of the consumers.
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