Over the past several decades, video games have become a larger part of our main stream media. They have broken boundaries on an even grander scale than the first game producers could have ever imagined. Coming from its humble beginnings as a collection of pixels on a two-dimensional plain, video games are now fully three dimensional worlds and systems that engage the player in a whole new experience. With this evolution, video games are slowly becoming a form of interactive entertainment, allowing the user to be fully enveloped within the confines of the game. The reasons as to why people partake in playing video games are as numerous as the number of games themselves. Many people now play video games for the grand and stunning visuals, others to listen to musical scores for the game, and most for the articulate and well developed story arcs. There has been an ever increasing demand for bigger and better games and because of this they have turned into something more than a just child’s play thing. With this expansion, video games have developed a following of millions of players, which has spawned an entire industry and culture unto itself. Now, video games have their own spot in the media to expand and grow as a topic of interest in our world.
The latest debate on video games is whether or not it could be art. That in itself is a rather grand statement as a new form of art is always contended at first. For example, take the Impressionist movement in late 19th century. At the time, paintings were to be made in a completely photo-realistic manner. However, artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir broke that mold and created paintings based on expression and feelings rather than just real life representations. It took a long period of time before their style was accepted as art. Just as right now, the critics of our generation fail to see the potentiality of interactive entertainment. Video games consist of three parts, all of which are their own art style by themselves. There is the creation of a storyline which parallels to theatre and literature. Musical scores also accompany many video games. The graphics are last, which is another method of visual art. Each part makes up a whole, which is the experience of the game. Although all three of these Medias are forms of art, the main argument is this: Where do you draw the line at game versus art? To understand this you need to first understand what constitutes both art and games.
What defines art is an extremely debated topic. Lacking a clear and concise definition, it is difficult to truly explain what art is with precision. Out of many of the different definitions derived from various sources all over the internet and dictionaries of our time, the only common theme is that art draws an undeniable emotion, or level of intellectual thought within the viewer. Think of the classes of art taken as a college student or in grade school. All that time spent analyzing different paintings and pictures of sculptures were in order to better understand something about that subject. Those objects were all created for that reason alone: for people to gaze upon them and wonder.
There are two ways in which to view art, that is in a realist or objectivist way. Realism is the manner in which all undeniable art is viewed. Objectivism is the process where a person views the art is completely up to opinion. So what one person sees as trash, another sees as treasure. This is where the age old saying of “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind. Although some art is undeniable, other forms may be greatly contended as to whether or not they deserve merit or recognition as art at all. This is where the dilemma lies with video games becoming art.
A game is defined by a definitive end and an objective. When someone plays a game there is a goal in mind at the end. When you play a board game such as Life the end goal is to finish with as much money as possible. Another thing about Life is that it ends. When all players reach the finish line they count up their money and determine a winner. This is a defining moment that denotes Life, as a game. Games are a manner of entertainment. They are not meant to make a person better at something other than the end goal of the game itself. Games are designed for enjoyment and nothing more.
The line of game versus art becomes more and more obscure as time goes on. In more recent times, gamers many needs have increased to bigger and better forms of stimulation. Now it is up to game designers to make fully fleshed out worlds with grand visuals, expansive stories, and musical scores to go with it. Each one of these factors parallels to another form of expressive art. Animation or film comes in the form of cut scenes and in game visuals. Music is present with complete musical scores. Theater comes with voice acting, and literature in the form of story arcs. All of these traits are artistic yes, but that does not mean that a video game maybe art as a whole. There is still that final distinction to be made.
Playing through a multiplayer game of Halo is hardly art at all. It’s a competition at best. Yet, watching a story line unfold before your eyes may be the next great form of visual art. Still, the biggest thing standing between art and video games is just that, they are games. Since their inception, video games were always about the end and not the journey. A player could fail indefinitely and it became all about a person’s skill rather than what they were taking part in viewing. The levels were less about the story and more about how much more difficult each level became. Modern day gaming has taken strides in all of those areas. The task of playing through a game has become more about what the player experiences. Whether it be in the trenches of war, a far away land of fantasy, or becoming a flower pedal dancing in the wind, games have strayed away from the objective and more towards the way a person feels during each and every new event. Another step that game designers have taken is the complete elimination of failing within game. This was originally to make games more accessible but now, failure in a game means nothing while some games have all but done away with it. Now a days there are games such as Braid and Flower where the player can literally not lose the game. This all but eliminates the need for competition or improvement. There is also the aspect of what games draw out of the player.
Many story arcs of modern day games are filled with incredible plots, believable worlds, and fully developed characters. Players become much more involved in their character’s thoughts, actions, relationships and growth. Take for example the latest installment of the Fable series, Fable III. Now in Fable III there is a central path that moves the plot forward and there are also numerous side quests to give more depth. Throughout the whole course of the story you watch as your choices affect everything you do. Every reaction that comes from your actions unfolds before your eyes, meanwhile you watch as your character develops from a rebellious prince to the malevolent or benevolent king you decide him to be. It can be compared to a choose your own adventure book. There is also the elimination of failure within the game itself as your character cannot die but merely be knocked down just see he can get back up. But where does the emotion come in? Where are the thought provoking elements that are demanded of becoming art?
Throughout the game there are many instances of emotional conflict between the choices you must make. Yet, Fable III proves itself to be quite formidable within minutes. At the beginning of the game a gaggle of protesters gathers to protest your evil brother’s tyrannical ruling. As you and your love interest stand up for the plight of these common folk your brother gives you a choice that is all too difficult to make; who to execute, your love or the group of protesters. This gut wrenching decision near breaks your heart within the first twenty minutes of the game. Having to make such a heavy decision weighs down upon the psyche like being under the ocean itself. This goes to prove that video games have more to offer than just eye candy for hyperactive children.
Video games have come a long way from what they once were. Just imagine the possibilities presented by this form of art. Many avenues could open up with this new aspect of media. New ways to experience stories, see new worlds, an all-new way to stimulate the sense and bring us further towards a great form of emotional conveyance. Imagine what it would be like to enter into Van Gogh’s Starry Night and scale the spire to look at the view. Perhaps one could take a walk in one of Salvador Dali’s many warped landscapes. It would be an unimaginable experience in being able to get inside the depictions of these artists. Viewing these paintings is one thing but living them is another. That is what video games are all about not just seeing but experiencing it as well.