Gamasutra drives down this road one more time. This time inspired by the comparisons between 300 and video games.
It’s kind of a misleading topic. When Roger Ebert, for example, says that games aren’t art, he’s simply trying to be dismissive of video games’ impact on society. I doubt the man is really interested in any kind of rational argument on the topic. Really, he’s just trying to downplay the importance that games have on us… and I kind of find that flattering.
After all, if games had no societal impact or weren’t important, he probably wouldn’t even have mentioned it. So thank you, Mr. Ebert — for praising us with faint damnations.
For myself, the question of “games as art” isn’t really the important one (although I believe they are art). The more important question for me, and the one raised every time this issue comes up, is whether games have realized their full potential as art yet.
I don’t think they have, but I think we’re close. I think within the next 5-10 years we’ll mature enough, and be accomplished enough at the craft of making games that we’ll see a game that realizes games’ full potential. But we’re not there yet.
8 thoughts on “Video Games = Art?”
I know the FFVII thing has become kinda cliched, but it definitely says to me that games are becoming more artistic all the time. FFXII frickin’ blew me away with how much detail they put into it; not just graphically, but going to the trouble to work out different accents for all the different regions, different styles of clothing, putting as much work as they did to recreate the feel of ancient political battles, and the language… wow, the language. That game has by far the best writing I’ve ever seen. It felt like playing a book, and for me that is a high compliment indeed.
When a group of people loves a medium this much, I think its only natural that their hard work should be considered art.
I liked FFVII, as well.
Though for my money, the characters in FFVI were the most amazing I’ve seen in a game yet. I almost cried during the opera house scene.
As far as storytelling, RPGs seem to be doing it the best right now. Though I think storytelling is only the tip of the iceberg for what games are capable of. As an interactive medium, games have the capacity to make the player feel like their avatar in the game. I think we’ll see a lot more exploiting of that fact to help storytelling (in addition to greater visuals, more integrated gameplay/story, etc…)
5-10 years seems optimistic to me. The full potential of games is so big that we’ll be exploring it for some time to come. Areas like serious games and educational games aren’t getting the kind of attention that more popular types of games have. Those will take a lot of time to fully mature. Virtual worlds are still in their infancy, and Second Life represents only the tip of that iceberg.
If you look at the film industry as a prototype, I don’t know that I’d say people are necessarily making better movies now than they were when Casablanca or Citizen Cane came out. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the good movies now are WORSE than those, only that I think they finally realized the full potential of their medium back then. They figured out what that medium was good at, and figured out techniques for exploiting those things, many of which are still used today. Up to the point where they figured that out, they were still saying “Look, we’re gonna make a movie about a train!” or “Hey, lets make this book or play into a movie.”
I think right now, that’s where games are… “Look, we’re gonna make a game about a soldier!” or “Hey, lets make this movie into a game!” I think we’re going to hit the point soon, with Video Games, where we realize what our medium is capable of — where we can finally realize the potential of our art that sets us apart from from books, movies, or other media. In other words, we’ll figure out what it is that only we can do.
I’m not convinced that Second Life or Virtual Worlds in general are what I’m talking about, either. I’m talking more about games as constructed experiences built to convey some kind of meaning, experience, or feeling.
Second Life, and those virtual worlds, are more of a simulation where the player is free to insert meaning, experience, or feeling as he sees fit. That’s really a whole separate thing (no less valid, but not really what I’m talking about). Think of it as the difference in intent between movies and documentaries. Both share the same medium, but they’re very different in purpose and technique.
Opps, I thought you were talking about the medium reaching it’s full potential, not a specific game. Perhaps you’re right then. It’d be the sort of thing Roger Ebert asked for, something to compare to other great works of art. Then again maybe we already have that…
Oh, and you’re right about Virtual Worlds. Those aren’t games, but MMORPGs are. I’d still consider a documentary a movie, but Virtual Worlds aren’t games.
Perhaps its wrong to view the medium in terms of reaching full potential. After all, once you’ve determined that you’ve gotten a grasp on all the potential you can, where do you go from there?
I think games have been art all along, its just that now they’re just getting more refined. Games are today where movies were in the 60’s. In the 60’s if you had mentioned you were taking Film Studies as a class people would laugh at you. It simply wasn’t a respected medium. Today, however, its very respected. I think games will follow the same sort of path in terms of artistry. I also think it won’t take nearly as long before games are mentioned in the same breath as more “traditional” works of art. 5-10 years sounds about right to me, maybe even sooner.
I’d say that the novel has reached its full potential as a medium. There are still an infinite number of good novels waiting to be written, but the medium as a whole has been fully developed.
I guess what I’m looking for is a game that finally creates a “vocabulary” that is uniquely suited to video games. It doesn’t have to completely realize or max out the genre. I think we’re close to THAT — as I said within the next 5-10 years.
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