Are games art?Submitted by Earok on Mon, 05/10/2010 - 00:00
Popular film critic Roger Ebert has reignited debate in gamer circles about the 'Are games art?' controversy with his response to a recent TED talk, claiming that games can never be art, or at least not in our lifetime.
For the record, here is my take. Short answer, yes, in almost every case.
To answer the question of 'Are games art?' first, you need to define art. Unfortunately it seems the definition of art is as subjective as art itself. I quite like the Wikipedia definition (given during the TED talk) so I'll quote it here:
"Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions."
In nearly every case (Excluding highly abstracted simulators, puzzles etc) Games are deliberately built to effect the senses or emotions.
What makes games different from most other kinds of art is the interactivity layer, which is generally singled out as the reason why games can't be considered art. Though, as A theory of fun points out, all forms of art are interactive to some extent, for instance music can be sung to, danced to, remixed etc. Yet the interactivity layer itself affects emotion through the challenges (elation of victory or frustration of defeat) and options granted to the player (Moral dilemmas etc) and their consequences (Happy, sad ending etc). Matthew Gatland's Global Game Jam 2010 entry Return to Happytown is a good example of this.
Even if the interactive element of games can't be considered art, games still contain elements from 'recognised' art forms such as animation, static images, music and acting. The Darkness actually contains several entire classic films which can be watched with NPCs as part of the narrative of the game.
I have to wonder though, was Ebert's post just a giant troll? He does make some pretty ridiculous statements, like suggesting Braid was more pathetic then chicken scratchings without actually having played it. If so, well, I guess the joke is on me!