Video Game Art Is In The Eye of The Beholder
There has been quite a debacle in the media entertainment industry on whether video games are considered art and/or show any valued relevance that can make the player look back and reflect the actions undertaken in the game towards their own life. When curiously looking into Edvard Munch’s work The Scream, soothingly listening to a symphony composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or choking up reading Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, there is one thing in common they all share. They are considered art and evoke emotion within the willing participant viewer. Video games have been labeled as a media outlet that in its current state is incapable of causing an expressive movement in the partaker of this virtual journey.I, for one, disagree.
Art has been defined in a wide aspect and it’s meaning is subject to those who interpret it. The film American Beauty has a scene where one of the characters was commenting on the beauty of a plastic bag caught in the wind, wisping above the drab concrete pavement and what this meaningless occurrence meant to him. If a plastic bag swaying malevolently in the wind is considered art than the freedom expressed in the level editor for Little Big Planet should be considered a masterpiece. Given a set amount of tools, a gamer is handed his emblematic paintbrush and pallet and left with free domain to create a level or Sack Boy in any way they please. Sure this does not sound like something on the level an artist would have to deal with but I must interject. We are all given the same colors and brushes but chances most likely are one would be unable to paint the Mona Lisa or sculpt “David”. They could be replicated but never to same preciseness of the original. The ability to take what is already there and construct it into something new and inexplicable and projecting it as a physical manifestation of thought and creativity is art.
Sometimes, physicality is not enough merit to consider a form of entertainment media as a source of art. What about the ability to portray controversy? The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger portrayed sexuality, a copious use of vulgarity, and a truer depiction of teenage angst at the time of its published date. The uproar caused this book to be considered controversial and yet is considered art for its ability to stir up emotions in the reader. If controversy is needed to be part of the art in-crowd than Grand Theft Auto should be ringleader. The ability to sleep with a hooker and than murder her only to reclaim your money, snipe an old woman crossing the street, shout absurd profanities, and go on highway speed chases with the police is the staple for the GTA series. Many claim it glamorizes moral degradation to gamers and imbues them with a violent sociopathic personality. Last I checked, The Catcher in the Rye wasn’t claimed responsible for over five deaths and multiple occurrences of other real life crimes.
Being able to feel something emotionally towards a story is one thing many people are able to relate towards their own lives. The feeling of regret and the inability to mend past mistakes is a strong focal point in the novel Atonement by Ian McEwan where a young girl attempts to atone for a past accusation she commits which effectively ruins the lives of two people. Making right from a past wrong is a common relevant instance in the lives of people. It is easy after reading such a powerful work of literature that the reader would be able to look back on the misdeeds of their past and think of ways to remedy them. In the God of War series, Kratos is not only seeking absolute vengeance but also atonement for the mistaken murders of his wife and child. This is the main focus point of the series and shows just how far one man would go for redemption even against a pantheon of gods. Stories in some games have a deep meaning that goes beyond traveling from point A to point B. There is actual character development and the ability to relate to a theme that vaguely resembles the willingness of someone in real life.
Video games in their current state may be considered primitive art but they are art nonetheless. There are moments, stories, visual inspirations, and music many people will not forget. No one will forget the feeling that stir up when they hear the Final Fantasy intro music, the desperations of Cole from Infamous to save the people and a city that hates him, and the beauty painted in Okami. I could go on and on with citing examples of how gaming fits the definition of art but that would take a book’s length of words. The industry may be far from being considered comparable to Leonardo da Vinci but it is still in its current shape and form artistic.
2 thoughts on “Video Game Art Is In The Eye of The Beholder”
Well, some games are meant to be artistic.
In a game like Team Fortress 2, one with stylized art and unrealistic gameplay, one doesn’t question whether something looks or acts realistic, because it wasn’t meant to be. Okami, as mentioned, is also a stylized game.
Storyline in a game is also very important, a good story is hard to just come up with, good dialogue and character immersion is required to get someone involved in a game. When you have a good enough storyline, graphics and gimmicks become less important to the gameplay value. The MOTHER series is the best example of this there is today, where it lacks the graphics of modern games, even intentionally, it has a story written by a professional writer, contains many memorable characters and has become a cult-classic in only a few years.
What is art?