Tuesday, May 8, 2012


 Are video games art?  To answer that question you must first define what "art" means.  Normally this results in pages and pages of message board posts consisting of squabbling about semantics and bickering over the minute details of various hyperbolic examples.  The simple truth is if someone calls something "art" it is art.  However, that doesn't mean it has any value or worth.  To determine those things we need to consider craft, in other words the skill of the creator.

I've never held the modern art movement with high regard because it's the kind of thing anyone could make.  Throw a couple different paint splats on a canvas and you can call yourself an artist.  Does that mean you are on par with Rembrandt or Picasso?  Of course not.  Those artist had incredible talent and were absolute masters of the craft in their day.  The same holds true for video games.  I'd argue that video gaming had it's first great artist as far back as 1980 with David Theurur and his land mark title Missile Command.  I wont go into detail about this particular game though.  The guys over at Extra Credits have an excellent video about it which you can watch here if you want to know more.

Now such an old title might not look like much to the modern viewer, but that in itself is an important point to consider.  Art must be criticized in the context of the time in which it was created otherwise people would simply disregard cave wall paintings as nothing more than ancient graffiti.  Again the same holds true for video games.  Spacewar! might not look like much now but it was state of the art when it was created back in 1962.  This brings us to another important point.  As the progress of video game development marches ever on we gain in some ways and loose in others.  Usually the gains far outweigh the losses, but I think that there has been a recent trend in the industry where the losses are the very things we care most about, while the gains feel very minuscule by comparison.

Speaking as someone who has being playing games since the second console generation, I can remember the time when making money was simple a means to an end (i.e. I need cash so I can make great games).  Rather than the more modern trend set by publishers of I make great games so I can sit on a solid gold toilet and wipe my ass with $100 bills.  I think when people refer to the "golden age of gaming" they're really talking about the time before that transition became apparent.  Hopefully the rise of kickstarters will revive the artistic talents of gaming.  But until the fruits of that labor are harvested it's anyone's guess as to weather or not the the future of the craft will see improvement or decline.

No comments:

Post a Comment