They are formed by artists; they create a vision of artificial worlds shaped by the author’s creativity and imagination. In just four decades, the medium has given us several unforgettable figures, carved our knowledge of history, added to the cultural lexicon, and like it or not, the highly interactive, sleek, spellbinding realms of present-day games have certainly evolved into an amalgam of popular art modes – regardless of what, an erudite, smart aleck, film pundit has said in the past.

So when a film critic like Roger Ebert rejects the medium itself, by branding the aesthetic as “not an art form”, it can inevitably cripple the creative flair of those involved within the production of these [movie-like] games and raises the theme of whether video games are either steadily creeping into a place of aesthetic seriousness or if in-fact they are not at all part of the popular art culture like Ebert claims?

Recognising that he was postulating from absolute ignorance, there was a colossal resentment towards his comments, and frankly there should have been. Art has gone through a myriad of interpretations in the last five hundred years alone. It has been elongated, absorbed, distilled, and filtrated, so much that the word has lost its value.

Over the past 25 years, games have advanced from the pixelated visuals of Pac-man to the literary brilliance of Bioshock; an “opera-sized” game suffused with racial, moral and philosophical messages. Heavy acclaim was directed towards the narrative and motif of the game, with several critics lauding it as a respected work of art while also placing it among the best of entertainment in multimedia storytelling.

Tom Bissell, a life-long video game  follower and award-winning author of Extra lives, a non-fiction edition about the social relevance and importance of video games said video games like Bioshock are “beginning to push the buttons” of other creative forms like literature and novels. These sort of imagined worlds in state-of-the-art games [Bioshock Infinite] plunge gamers downright to experience the fantastical universe of these non-fiction narratives while at the same time offering richly coated, sentimental and social encounters that have allowed the medium to cross the barrier of culture and art.

It is understandable that everyone’s opinion of art is different; it is how viewers respond to the stimuli in whatever they are viewing. Video game enthusiast and former Gaming Chief of Sun Microsystems, Chris Melissinos, the curator of the exhibition said “I believe that [if] you are able to observe the work of an artist and understand their intent while also finding personal connection or resonance with that message, then art has been achieved. By every measure, video games hold up to that definition.”

That last entry of that sentence typifies the notion of games as art. We are given a world by the programmer and then we are asked to make whatever we want from it. It is an art form shaped by its audience, in a way that cinema, theatre and literature are not.

Many of its well-regarded proponents, however, may still be set aside by assertions of Ebert but its varied qualities in storytelling, graphics and music still clamour the expression of art. The visuals have to be pleasing to the eye right? And who do gaming studios get to do the visuals? As expected it would be artists. They draw up all the sketches for concept work and it goes through a process of reviewing and fine-tuning. As soon as the individual in charge of the visuals agrees with the design, the game will be able to be processed.

The process of building the characters and a world filled with content occurs through the process of 3D modelling or 2D drawing. Animated movies and TV shows go through the same process with individuals considering them a form of art while video games are viewed as an improper imitation of it.

Why? This is a question difficult to comprehend. However, when it comes to sound there are composers that write the music and that too has to go through a process of being accepted or rejected and fine-tuned. As in film, music plays an imperative role of enhancing the narrative of video games. There’s voice acting and motion capturing which are both considered an art. Since a video game shares the same elements that make other mediums art, then without a doubt interactive entertainment should also be considered in the same category.

 

References:

Bissel, T (2010) Video Games : The 21 Century’s Fine Art Frontier. Available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129256077 Accessed: [12/02/14]

Santiago, K (2009) TEDxUSC – Kellee Santiago – 3/23/09. YouTube. 3.21.09

Video Games as Art. Available at: http://elinivarsson.com/docs/video_games_as_art.pdf. Accessed: [12/02/14]