Are video games a separate art form?

This may be an instant “yes” for some of you, but there are actual proponents to this idea of video games being an art form, separate no less.

Arguments include (non-exhaustive list):

  • Video games are just combinations of previously established art forms (music, fictional prose, visual art, etc…)
  • Certain video games (think Pong and Tetris) weren’t made for the purpose of being “artistic”.
  • Because video games are interactive, this positions video games outside of the area of the arts. No other types of art comes close to this level of interactivity.
  • Video games (especially mass-marketed ones), regardless of their nature, are not recognized as art for as long as the purpose is solely for financial gain, which is the norm nowadays.

Personally, I believe that video games are flexible enough to possess unlimited art forms, ranging from being creatively artistic and visually stunning (e.g. Journey [2012]) to being only a tech demo or both, since they are an amalgamation of previously established art forms.

To make this discussion productive, I’d suggest approaching these arguments with an open-mind and/or coming up with an opinion supported by some video game example (note, this is only a mere suggestion).

EDIT: Just to be clear, the counter-arguments list above are NOT my take on the matter. They’re loosely taken from several sources, including an IRL discussion w/ a friend and articles online, e.g. Games aren’t art, says Kojima.

I think this is not an opinion shared among many people, but I don’t like to make that distinction between “art” and “commercial products”, not in video games, not in cinema, not in any art form.

Let me give some examples. We have GTA San Andreas, it is a misogynous, action based game developed by one of the biggest companies followed maybe by Activision in terms of popularity and sales. This work contains much of what could be considered a centerpiece when it comes to creating a marketable object, yet we can still see it has a compelling story telling, organic narrative where the player can create which version of CJ they want to be, good mechanics and an aesthetic that goes along with the topics of the story.

Mad Max: Fury Road is by all means an epitome of Hollywoodean cinexplosive action, it was a mass marketed film which features famous actors and it follows all the rules for being a commercial film yet its plot is also very rich and offers an awesome blend of feminism with adrenaline. I don’t think it’s less art because it is a capitalist product.

You mention Pong and Tetris, and while in the case of the latter I don’t think it’s so hard to prove it is art, it may be harder with the first one. Is this art, or just an archaeological piece of media? Does adding a plot to pong can make it art? What about an animated back ground? It is a matter of restrictions and additions, and presenting the first video game ever is a bit unfair maybe, but I don’t feel it is such a necessary point.

Thing is, the discussion shouldn’t be whether video games are art or not, that’s a scapegoat to address the real issues the industry has. We know they are art, either because of its visuals, because of its architecture, because of its music, because of its mechanics, because of its narrative, what we should be doing in my opinion is start to make readings of these pieces of media and start critiquing them, why are they all so self referential? Why are there so many works that show women as objects of desire but so little that explore love? Why are video games so long? And a lot of other questions that could help this artistic expression grow.

Regarding this typical question of whether or not “pop” culture is art or not, I recommend visiting Neil Cicierega’s works, which poses a lot of thought into this and brings new meaning to these “lower forms of art”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtlOc-qya78

@onlooker
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The question posed is a bit loaded, I think. To me it sounds like: “video games are an art form, but are they a separate one?”. Apologies if this is not the case, but the issue I take with this is that video games, just like any other medium, can be an art form, but it does not make them art simply by virtue of existing.

Yes, you could argue that Citizen Kane, War and Peace, Braid and the like could be considered art. On the other hand, good luck convincing anyone that this is the case with, say, PUBG, Dude Where’s My Car or Fifty Shades of Grey.

All video games are a type of medium, nothing more.However, individual games can be elevated to an art form or reduced to a fart form. Like this.

In my opinion all of the last works you mention are art, in fact I think PUBG is really important in the history of the first person shooter, the other two examples are art, shit art, but art.

@uberstar
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No worries, that was not my intention. I proposed my opinion and a list of counter-arguments I had actually gotten from a previous discussion outside of this website on the matter and assumed that, because this community revolves around video games as an art form, it would be taken as “a given”.

Whether someone thinks video games are wholly “art” in and of itself is up to the Lemmy user here, really I only wanted to spawn interesting and nuanced discussion, which is what ended up happening :).

freelikegnu
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Because video games are interactive, this positions video games outside of the area of the arts.

Ephera
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I don’t see why interactivity should disqualify video games from being art. Reading a book is also very different from looking at a painting, so it seems arbitrary to pick out interactivity as the one aspect where art shouldn’t differ.

But since this is a difference either way, the interactive aspect is what distinguishes them as a new art form, in my opinion.
Interactivity offers you to experience the role of a character. You’re no longer looking at Mona Lisa or reading about Romeo and Juliet, you are Mona Lisa or Romeo, Juliet.

In particular, it also helps more emotions and experiences to be conveyed by the artist. Interactive media can for example more easily convey helplessness, failure, perseverance, moral conflicts, the experience of exploration, destructivism etc…

@uberstar
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Interactivity offers you to experience the role of a character. You’re no longer looking at Mona Lisa or reading about Romeo and Juliet, you are Mona Lisa or Romeo, Juliet.

I love that example, this is something that’s not given much attention especially when considering that in the internet age, you can make Mona Lisa, Romeo or Juliet do just about whatever comes to the imagination of the player (provided that it is within the boundaries of the game developed) and you’ll be able to experience it first-hand in front of a monitor.

Ephera
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As for commercial, mass-marketed titles not being art, I think it depends. These often are just copies of some other game’s concept with different graphics, sound files and maybe a few gameplay tweaks.

The individual graphics and sound files are obviously artworks in their own right, but for a game to be more than just a collection of artworks, and rather an artwork in its own right, I think, there needs to be some spark of genius or something extraordinary about it. It needs to be creative as a whole.

Most mass-marketed titles don’t go the extraordinary route. There’s just so much money involved that they would rather play it safe and therefore go with concepts that have been done before.

But there’s exceptions to that rule. Death Stranding is an oddball game and in my opinion a piece of art. Whether it’s particularly good art, is a different question, though.

jonuno
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@onlooker
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Pretty much. I’ve never seen these discussions come to any kind of conclusion.

@soferman
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@soferman
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