Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Video Games as Art

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | August 29th, 2018

by Nathan Arel
arel.nathan@hotmail.com

At first this was going to be an article arguing that video games are art. This is an issue that I find very important and feel many people are unaware of. Video games are a relatively new medium changing the culture as we know it and yet are often seen as mindless entertainment. But upon further research I found that, while not done to death, this subject has been thoroughly covered by sources who made most of the same arguments that I would.

After dropping that idea, I realized there was a deeper subject that had been scratching at my brain for several months. What makes video games art? I have tossed out the idea that video games are art to several people over the past few years and the response has been generally the same. It’s usually something along the lines of, “Well, yes. I suppose with the graphics and the narratives and characters, they could be considered art.”

While the dozen people who have said this to me don’t constitute a general consensus, this frame of mind is interesting. Are the graphic design, the narratives, characters or even original scores what make video games art? This didn’t make sense to me. Graphics simply provide a frame of reference through which to play the game, narratives and characters often develop in cutscenes completely independent of the game itself. None of these things are intrinsic to what makes a video game a video game and all of these elements exist in other forms of media.

If a form of media is to be considered art, I believe the medium must be artistically justified through what inherently makes that medium unique. Literature has the written word, photography has the still image, film has the moving image. Without those elements these mediums cease to exist and I personally feel the best pieces in these mediums are the ones that utilize their respective elements the best. So, with video games this must hold true as well.

Video games such as “Pong” work independently of characters or narrative, and I personally feel the graphical design isn’t much to marvel at. The only thing video games need to be video games is gameplay. Therefore, if video games as a medium are to be considered art, the very nature of their interactivity must be presented artistically.This was a difficult idea for me to wrap my head around because, being a relatively new medium, human beings aren’t accustomed to viewing interactivity artistically as we are with sentence composition or cinematography.

Yet, the distressing fact is, most video games aren’t designed with the intention of using gameplay artistically. For example, a game I love and hold very close to my heart is “The Last of Us.” It is a post-apocalyptic game about Joel (the primary player character) trying to protect Ellie, who he sees as a surrogate daughter and Ellie trying to prove herself to Joel. Yet no part of the gameplay asks the player to protect Ellie, she is unkillable and disrupts the gameplay more than anything. Even in the short portion of the game where the player controls Ellie, the player does nothing to prove themselves to Joel. In both instances the player is only asked to enact the primary gameplay focus: make sure you survive. The game’s beautiful narrative is heartbreaking and has a lot of emotional depth, but the gameplay reflects none of these themes or ideas.

The vast majority of big budget AAA (triple A) video games have this problem and these are the games that get the most exposure. But as an example of one of the few games I’ve played that do justify the medium as art, there is “Bioshock”. Set in a retro-futuristic, Ayn Randian dystopia, Bioshock explores ideas put forward by it’s most memorable line “A man chooses, a slave obeys.” Through this quote, the gameplay itself explores the very idea of interactivity and objective based gameplay and makes you wonder, “Do I really control the characters I play?” “Bioshock” carries this theme through gameplay, defining itself as art, and should act as a watershed for the industry to develop this artistic medium.

Still, sometimes I wonder if the discussion of video games as art is really so important. After all, they are just video games. Don’t we have more important things to worry about? But no one would say these things in regards to the works of Shakespeare or Van Gogh. Art, and media in general, is a reflection of our culture and our culture is in turn affected by the media produced. And if we as a people are to be changed by the way video games have affected us, I would hope those video games are good ones.

Recently in:

FARGO – Time after time, Congressman Kevin Cramer makes light of sexual misconduct allegations and of provisions in law protecting women against violence. Repeatedly, he has mocked women who do not toe the conservative line, and…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comPhoto by Anne BradleyValkyries of the Valley will invade the North Dakota Apartment Wrestling Federation (NDAWF) for Brawl-esque, a variety show that will be held at Prairie Brothers Brewing Company…

Best Bets

Spirit Talk

by HPR Staff

Thursday, September 27, 7-9 p.m.Homewood Suites by Hilton Fargo, 2021 16th St N., FargoGet in touch with the other side! Sunny Dawn Johnston will help you reach the spirit world in this two-hour, eye-opening event. This is a group…

It’s bad enough when his word versus her word regarding sexual assault gets out in a high school hallway, but can you imagine it spreading throughout the national news media? Imagine reliving those events every time you turn on…

We failed to educate the players of “flag” footballI passed all of the American history courses in Morrison County District 54, Little Falls High School, and Moorhead State Teachers College, but I’m often appalled about what…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comAs I sat across from my wife at Himalayan Yak Tuesday evening, it dawned on me that time had slowed down. So often when we go out to eat, we are in a hurry. We get anxious when we aren’t greeted…

Music

Back in the saddle

by Sabrina Hornung

After a long hiatus members of Teenage Lobotomy reunited for the first time in 22 years at Center Fest in Robinson North Dakota this summer. With influences such as Husker Du and the Circle Jerks their high energy immediately had…

Director Craig William Macneill speculates on the infamous legend surrounding Massachusetts murder suspect Lizzie Borden in “Lizzie,” a long-germinating labor of love for star Chloe Sevigny. Working from a screenplay by Bryce…

It may be cliche to say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when wet plate artist Shane Balkowitsch found out that his 15-year-old daughter Abby Balkowitsch was following in his photography footsteps, he was…

by Stella Mehlhoffstellamehlhoff@gmail.com“Our mission is to invigorate civic conversation through intimate and transformative storytelling.” This statement posted on Theatre B’s website and tacked to their studio wall in…

In the approximately three years I’ve been writing for the High Plains Reader it seems I’ve always circled back to comedian Adam Quesnell. First, I wrote about his farewell show before he set out from Fargo and the comedy…

When walking into the new space on 1st Ave N that now houses Drekker brewing, one can only say, “Wow.” The majesty of the interior is unprecedented for a brewery in the region and provides a feeling of awe and astonishment.…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

by Andrew Alexis Varvelmr.a.alexis.varvel@gmail.com“If a piece of equipment purchased in the 1920s is kept up and can guarantee, at present, an operable rate close to 100 percent and if it can bear the production burden placed on…