Week 6.1 – Are video games art? (due before class on Feb 20)

Read this article from The Guardian. What do you think? Are video games art and why do you think that? Can you give an example of art in a game or an artsy game or a game that could be regarded as art… or? Find your own language to describe, of course, always in light of the readings on the topic.


“The Cliff Walk at Pourville” (1882) – Painting by Claude Monet, Art Institute of Chicago.


  1. It does not take much research and time to become superficially familiar with the process of making a digital game. Once a person starts to have a more in-depth understanding of this incredibly challenging work, it becomes evident that it requires a vast technical and artistic knowledge.

    Games are most definitely works of art, and I will support my claim just by talking about one of the most critical stages in the creation of a title: the concept art. Art director and concept artist Yoji Shinkawa worked as an art director and concept artist in one of the most successful games franchises of all time, the Metal Gear Solid series. He is one of the leading contributors to the stunning aesthetics of the game.

    Through illustrations and paintings, which are undeniable and traditional expressions of art, Shinkawa visually conveyed the idea behind the main characters, environments, and items seen throughout those games. This role requires mastering most of the relevant skills that every thriving fine artist must have, including thorough knowledge of art materials, realistic drawing, rules of perspective, composition, color theory, and many more.

    Being somewhat familiar with the phases and difficulties involved in game development, I find it to be inconceivable and significantly irresponsible to merely state that video games are not a form of art. People who publicly make that claim, like Johnathan Jones in his article Sorry MoMA, video games are not art, are just neglecting the value of professionals like Shinkawa, whose art is undeniably present in the game Metal Gear Solid.


  2. I think video games should definitely be considered art. The main argument against them being considered art is that “their…interactivity meant that the creator was unable to claim an authorial vision” (Jones sensu Stuart). But, as Stuart discusses later in the article, “all art is interactive; it is there in the very act of interpretation”, and I agree with this. Even if a traditional artist has a vision in mind for their artwork, the viewer must interact with the piece in order to see this vision or form their own. Video games are no different: players interact with the games and, whether they see the creator’s vision for the game or not, they do form an opinion.

    Although one could easily argue that the entire game is a work of art, I would like to focus on the even simpler example that the artwork and environments in games are themselves amazing works of art. The time that designers and artists spend coming up with characters, enemies, level designs, and more is mind-blowing. Even down to the smallest flower, pebble, or butterfly, all elements of a game are carefully planned out, modeled (and/or drawn), and placed in the game with a lot of care. The example I would like to bring up is in the making of Bayonetta by Platinum Games. So much attention was paid to designs and artistic elements that it prompted the release of a 224-page-long art book, in which there are a total of 19 pages dedicated to the design of the main character (ie page after page of rough sketches of what she should look like, all failed designs that are not seen in the game). These 19 pages were only for the main character, Bayonetta, and don’t even account for things like her animations, 3D model, or voice; they are strictly for her design. Thousands of hours were spent crafting every detail of the game, so why should it not be considered art? In the same way that an artist carefully paints each brush stroke of a painting, game designers are equally as careful in creating characters, environments, objects, and contributing to a masterpiece of a game. To not call a video game ‘art’ is disgraceful to all the people who have spent so much time working on these gorgeous games.


  3. I will start off by saying I do not consider my self an artist nor know much about the art community. From what I do know however I disagree with Jonathan Jones article “Sorry MoMA, video games are not art”. In our new age of technology art isn’t just painting, sculptures, or exhibits anymore. With all the new mediums created by technology it’s introducing more people to creative communities than ever before. When Jones says in his article, video games lack personal imagination and one person’s reaction to life, he is not accepting video games just because they are not in his comfort zone. Games like Journey or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are brimming with imagination and effort, so declaring they are not art because it was created by a group of people rather than one mind seems odd.

    One of the points Jones makes in the Guardian article is that “No one ‘owns’ the game, so there is no artist, and therefore no work of art”. The game I think of that most goes against Jones believes on “owing” the game is Undertale. Undertale is owned and created by one person Toby Fox (with a few exceptions for some characters). It is a game he imagined from the bottom up creating graphics, story, sound, and game play. It isn’t the most visually appealing game like Journey or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but with the story he and the atmosphere he creates it is art. During the game it makes you feel and can be interpreted in different ways and isn’t that how art should effect the viewer?


  4. As is concluded upon in the article, I find the debate over whether or not video games are art quite ridiculous to begin with. I have always taken a firm stance that video games are, indeed, art, and it’s hard for me to understand where denials of this come from. The work that designers put into a game is just as valuable as a visual artist would put into a painting, or a musician would put into a composition.

    Looking at the individual roles that go into making a video game, the argument that they are not art begins to hold even less water. Those skeptical of video games as art no doubt acknowledge visual art as art, and the graphics of a video game should fall under this. If an artist creates a 3D model, and does not use it in a video game, it is art, and would be accepted as such. The same goes for pixel art, or other forms of 2D graphics. Why, then, would these cease to be art when included in a video game? Look, for instance, at Okami, a game near-universally lauded for its graphics, inspired by traditional Japanese painting styles. To say that games are not art would be to discredit the work that went into making this game as beautiful as it is. This isn’t to say that games with simpler and more traditional art styles are not art, but to discredit those, one must discredit games like Okami as well, in which a still from the game can easily be as beautiful as any digital art.

    The same goes for the music of a game. While the textbook assumes that music usually goes unnoticed by a player (145), my experience is contrary to this – my friends have had long discussions about their favourite video game soundtracks, from the exciting “Phoenix Wright ~ Objection! 2001″ that plays as Phoenix Wright presses hard on a suspicious witness in Ace Attorney’s Phoenix Wright Trilogy, to the emotional “Memories of the School” that plays towards the end of Persona 3 as the main cast struggles to deal with their apparent impending doom. Music, too, is unquestionably a form of art, and a vital part of video games.

    Writing, too, cannot be discounted as part of the art of a video game. Many games can tell stories and explore themes as deeply as some novels. While this is often not the focus of a game, it can add greatly to a game’s art. For example, in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the story is central to the point that ease of gameplay is sometimes ignored to help communicate its atmosphere and themes. If not as art, what is the reason for this?

    Finally, while programming is not typically regarded as art, it is, in the case of video games, the glue that binds it all together. As such, how a game is programmed has great effect on how its aesthetics are conveyed. Therefore, it, too, can be considered a facet of the art in the game. Interactivity, as Jonathan Jones suggested in his piece for The Guardian, has nothing to do with it, and may add to a game’s art – Gone Home would not be the same artistic storytelling experience if the player was not the one experiencing it at their own pace. Likewise, there’s plenty of non-game performance art that asks the audience to interact with it, and is not any less art for this.

    As Keith Stuart concludes in his article, denial of games as art is nothing more than critics feeling threatened by a new medium. As time goes on, art games will become more commonplace, and will be accepted as art as much as impressionism and cinema are today.


  5. I notice that this article was published in the year of 2012. I wonder if there are still people who deny the video game is a form of art to this date. Perhaps, there are still people like those mentioned in the article: those people who are outside of this industry who have little knowledge or understanding about how the video games are developed and created. I am not sure if the critic, Jonathan Jones, was just being ignorant, making the minimal effort to do his research on this topic before publishing, or if he was defending against things that are relatively new to him.

    In the textbook, the chapter of “the game industry” mentions: the development process of the video game will go through a conceptual phase, a design phase, a production phase and a testing phase. No matter if the video game studio is titled AAA or is an independent one, all studios require a design document which includes the text, illustration, mockups, and concept art drawings. Also, the design document needs to continue being updated with the development process of the video games. CGI is the computer-generated imagery with special visual effects created by the use of computer software. Since the CGI has been developed, it has turned the visual elements in the video game even more realistic and aesthetic.

    The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is held in June yearly, which is an event that game studios or manufacturers introduce and advertise their upcoming video games to the retailers and the press. I find those video games include great details of design. This has become a standard for developing the video games. Besides, it is worth to note that the character design, animation, and environment design still follow a basic aesthetic standard from traditional art. For instance, the character design from Nintendo’s Mario game makes the perfect example of creating the characters’ personality with the line, shapes, and composition from the fundamental concept of classical art. Moreover, the dynamic composition is an essential element while looking at both video games and traditional paintings. Nowadays, the dynamic composition is applied to the pathways in the video game when the characters travel through a three-dimensional environment. Thus, the aesthetics of video games is tightly associated with the essence of traditional art.


  6. The article from the guardian gave a solid perspective on the big question “are video games art”. As the article stated, “what isn’t art”? This is a tough question to answer, and I feel theorists could argue over this for eternity. I think that all video games have an artistic side, the idea of creating something is artful, and how this artistic vision or idea is expressed or interpreted depends on the viewer or in this case” player”.
    Mario for Nintendo is a perfect example of art. Mario generally takes place in the fantasy world called the mushroom kingdom. The mushroom kingdom has a variety of designs and aesthetics that make it look like a separate universe. Mario save princess peach by defeating his main enemy Bowser, who is pretty much a giant evil turtle. Mario’s storyline alone makes for an interesting idea, but being able to interreact and join the story makes it even more enjoyable. I would argue that video games allow us to be part of a “living art” experience. Though we are limited in some senses within the game (rules), we can immerse in a world unlike our own (or like our own) and do things we normally couldn’t do or could do. In this sense a video game is almost another level of interaction someone can have with a piece of art.
    Virtual reality seems like it is the next step in this art form. Fully immersing a player visually in a separate world that interacts with the player. This idea to me is a next level art form of freedom. Becoming the characters in a game and essentially seeing through their eyes. This to me is a beautiful creation and interaction and the creators have made an experience like none other can have.
    I think traditional art forms like painting, drawing and sculpting are also pleasing and can be satisfying for the creators just as much as a video game designer. As the article stated, “art changes and people shouldn’t be afraid of change”. Art speaks about the times we are in, and with technology advancing more and more we can see our perspective on what art is changing. This doesn’t mean more traditional mediums of art will be lost, it simply just means we have more different types of art to enjoy. People worked with what they had back than and created beautiful pieces and same with today. People create through computers and technology designing beautiful games and other forms of digital art. I think it is important that we always appreciate all art, may it be in the old ways or the new. They are valuable artifacts that speak much about the world we live in.


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