The idea that video games can be considered art has been kicked around for the last two decades or so. I decided to try to tackle this question myself with the help of a few of my friends. What started as a pseudo-philosophical musing on Facebook ended up being a three-day discussion between myself, my high school music teacher, and a few friends who are artistically inclined.
Imagined the following scenario a few decades from now:
If an art student—on his first day at university—walks into his first classroom and is asked by his old fogy professor, ‘What’s your favorite form of art?’, and the student answers ‘video games’… would the professor ask ‘Which one?’ with a straight face—and know quite a bit about the game, whether the professor plays video games or not? …the same way an art professor nowadays would be able to comment on some famous paintings even if the professor does not paint himself?
In fact, France became the first country in the world to officially acknowledge video games as a form of art. In 2006, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, France’s Minister of Culture at the time awarded the prestigious Ordre des Arts et des Lettres to Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who created Super Mario. Does this definitively prove once and for all that video games are indeed art?
In my opinion, video games and traditional forms of high art are different in two distinct ways. First of all, video games differ from traditional art in the way that they often have ‘goals’ or ‘objectives’, in ways that a painting or a sculpture do not. Secondly, the fact that video games require the player to make choices in order to continue the narrative makes them markedly different from poems, novels, and movies. The fact that video games rely on the actions of the player in order for its contents to fully manifest is the key difference between video games and traditional forms of art.
I suppose only time will tell, but what do you think?