For years, gamers have gotten a bad rap that they have been wasting their time sitting in the basement of their parent’s house spending long portions of the day into the early hours of the morning playing a whimsical game. I wager to argue a simple question: Would the individual who says people are wasting their time playing games say the same to the person who indulges their time reading a novel? Games have become an influential staple in both gaming and popular culture and have become a powerful medium to express ideas in ways never imagined before. Video games are a collaboration of countless individual works of art unified by a common purpose.
Google defines art as “The expression of application of human creativity, skill and imagination.” A video game combines graphics, sound and compelling narratives and storytelling that rivals prominent novels recently published. What makes a game so unique is how the developers and producers weave these styles of art together to create a product that potentially completely immerses the user in an unforgettable experience.
Graphics of modern games can be compared to powerful works of art like paintings or movies. The amount of time that it takes to create these megalithic worlds is as daunting as the size and scale of the worlds developers are trying to create. Immeasurable amount of time is drawn out of the artists ability to create, imagine, ability to express emotion, proportion and so on. Any argument that is used to defend the artistic credibility of paintings and movies can be used to defend the intellectual property and significance that graphics in a videogame can be considered art.
Indeed, graphics have undergone leaps and bounds and continue to grow every second of everyday. In the past 10 years, gamers have witnessed the evolution of this art form grow into the lifelike images that they are today. Birthed as small blocks of color, pixels have matured into digital sculptures that model the complexities of the human bodies in ways that artists of the past could only dream of emulating. To argue that these technological traverses can not be considered art is a fool’s errand. Game designers are constantly discovering innovative ways to create characters to look and behave in ways that are eerily similar to how humans act.
Let’s look at another aspect of gaming. Music has been artistically relevant in human culture since the first instruments and songs could be established. The mind finds the melodies to be soothing and can produce an emotion that can cause audiences to have an experience. Games today even boast their own soundtrack with songs and tunes that help immerse the game into the setting that the graphics create. The tunes in video games are almost immediately recognizable amongst gamers. The gaming franchise, Halo, is synonymous with Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvator’s song on the soundtrack ‘Halo’ that has become the main theme for the other installments in the series.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” -Victor Hugo, Hugo’s Works: William Shakespeare. In context, music is art without a visual aspect. Music in games enhances the user’s experience and sets the tone for what is happening in the game at that moment. Sound is critical for how well the gamer enjoys their experience with the game and allows the artists to express emotion in a scene and to enhance the quality of dynamic storytelling events.
Storytelling and narratives have also evolved since the early days of gaming. Early gamers didn’t have any compelling motivation other than the desire to get the highest score or have the fastest time. Today, gamers are driven to see how the game’s narrative plays out. What makes storytelling in games so unique is that players are handed an open product. The significance of that is that essentially, gamers have become artists themselves in how the create their characters and weave their own story in a way they deem compelling. Every story is unique to every gamer, they have choices that can impact the rest of the story and allows for an entirely new experience.
This dynamic way of storytelling allows for consequence, feelings, and real emotional attachment to their characters and even non-player characters within the game. Writers have found a way to create back stories that flesh these characters out and give them personalities with clear motives and motivation. Games like Mass Effect and Uncharted have reached this level of artistic quality that surpasses the quality of movies today. The characters in these games are more compelling and believable than some characters in today’s media. The amount of time that is devoted to fleshing out these characters is comparable to the amount of effort that authors and poets devote to their pieces and should be considered a credible piece of art.
The misconception on what can be considered art begins at what the definition of what art is. According to Greek philosopher Plato, art can be defined as ‘The imagination of nature.” Men of science believe that art is an emulation of nature and while this is credible, it is not the whole. Art encompasses a broad spectrum of ideals and beliefs that reflects the beliefs and ideas of the artist in order to convey a message. Games are designed in such a way that they express ideas and experiences amongst the player and do that with the mediums explained above.
An argument that is commonly used to undermine the artistic significance of videogames is that games, unlike art are meant to be played rather than experienced. Similarly to how an artist delivers his art and his audience receives his work. Also games can be considered an unfinished piece. Games have rules, points, objectives, a predetermined outcome, and cannot be art like a dance or a play because it cannot be experienced. This belief in gaming is true for some instances, but games of the present have diverted from this way of thinking and have grown into trees of genres that bring diverse artistic elements to the average consumer.
The artistic quality of games is a dangerous field to wonder as games grow and evolve with every passing year. With new ideas and compelling narratives, developers have people hooked and itching for the latest installments of their works. The different components that create a game are artistic in and of themselves and weave these intricate art forms together to create something new and powerful. When done correctly, the result is a powerful and immersive experience that interacts with the player to create a memorable experience. Thus, to say that games are not art is a blatant and ignorant lie and to deny the men and women that devote their time and energy to creating these products the right to call their digital child art is a serious misconception on how the public views and understands the intricate complexities and intellectual structure of art.