Roger Ebert stated a while ago in a blog post that video games can never be art. At least, not in the lifetime of any gamer currently living. The reaction from video game fans across the web has been heated, if my Twitter feed is any indication. (Tycho in particular called it a reeking ejaculate.)
I never cared about this argument because I, quite simply, do not care whether games are considered “art” or not. I don’t play a lot of games to begin with, and I don’t feel the need to justify what games I do play — whether people consider them art or not is unimportant to me. But that whole “Are Video Games Art?” question is one that many gamers do consider important. I never understood why until I read Chad Sapieha‘s explanation:
If a person making a game feels that his or her creation is an artistic expression of sound, visuals, and/or ideas, it seems both cruel and arrogant to discount it as such simply because of the medium he or she chose.
…Which is not something I, as an aspiring artist myself, can rebut. I don’t care about games as art when I’m the player, but I would care deeply if I were the creator behind the game. That’s why this question can’t be allowed to slide, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a matter of integrity and respect, not literal importance.
So, can video games be art?
Let’s relate video games to movies, since that’s what most people are thinking of when they read Roger Ebert’s blog. Ebert himself tells us that “most films are not art” in the comments to his article, and I’m bound to agree. Documentaries, commercials, dramas, and comedies are all in the film industry and all produced with the same tools, but not all of them are art.
I would argue that, nine times out of ten, making documentaries and commercials is a craft. Making dramas and comedies is an art. Obviously there are exceptions, but I’m generalizing for the sake of argument.
I think it’s undeniable that some individual aspects of video games can be art — graphics, writing, and music spring to mind. However, it’s important to note that these aspects are not always art. In games that focus on the “fun factor” — i.e., games that most gamers would not call art — these aspects can be purely technical, which makes them more of a craft.
“It is a matter, yes, of taste.” -Ebert