Since the first humans painted pictures on cave walls, we have been obsessed with art, and the question of what art is is not new, either. During recent years, though, there has been a new addition to this long-held argument — are video games considered art?
The answer is not yes, but heck yes. I’ve been what could be considered a “nerd” all my life. Even when I played football, I talked about gaming with my teammates during practice. The experiences I’ve had gaming easily are comparable to any deep, involving experience other forms of art could provide.
When arguing the point that video games are art, many are quick to compare it to the film industry. As far as art goes, film is the most comparable medium to gaming, but gaming doesn’t need film to be an art medium — it stands on its own legs. If that wasn’t shocking enough, I would assert that gaming is the greatest artistic development throughout history.
I’ll let everyone take a second to pull your socks back on. I won’t make a statement like that without some qualifiers, so calm down.
Gaming is interactive storytelling. Imagine you’re watching a thriller at the theater. It’s brilliantly crafted and well-developed, the characters are real and touching and every scene shows their struggles and desires. At the end of the film you are upset the experience is done and you want so much more. Now imagine if you were in that story. You control the outcomes, and you make the decisions. You are that story.
The issue with this argument is not every game is like that. Not every game has you making bold choices, like in “Mass Effect.” “Mass Effect” features an expansive universe, deep choices, conflicts and heartbreak and is a perfect example of gaming as art. Some games are much more straightforward, and have you play out the lives of characters with their own personalities and decisions. These games, while different than the above, are extremely engaging and involving. They often are more cinematic than others, and they still stick with me more than a movie, because once again, I lived the story.
Sometimes people have brought games like “Gears of War” to my attention, which essentially is a simulation of big burly men cursing while swimming in a pool of body parts from some alien they weren’t particularly fond of that day. People might say, “How can this be art? It’s nothing but mindless violence!” While this is a good point, and certainly valid, all I have to do is look to other respected art mediums for the answer.
For every good film Hollywood puts out, there usually are a handful filled with mindless violence, sexuality or terrible comedy. Even paintings often depict violence and blatant sexuality. Take for example, “The Triumph of Death,” which depicts many people being slaughtered by skeletons with medieval weapons and torture devices. Some of the great works of William Shakespeare also feature grotesque violence and sexuality as key components.
The final and best reason to consider video games as an art form is they are fun. At the end of the day, art is about fun. No one chooses to go to the movies to bore themselves, no one goes to art museums to see if they can raise their pretentiousness level a few notches. They go to enjoy themselves. If you can have more fun saving the galaxy, slaying dragons and jumping off rooftops into bales of hay than you do sitting in a crowded theater or reading a book, no one can blame you.
Everyone has a right to enjoy their hobbies. If gaming isn’t for you, then so be it. But, if like me, you just need to slay one more dragon in “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” then take solace in the fact that you are experiencing art and culture in a different, fun way. Now where the heck do I go to get to the next mission?
Garrett Kelsey is a freshman linguistics major from O’Fallon, Mo.