Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
Are Video Games Art?
Video games happen to be in a difficult sort of limbo as to what medium they really fit into, if any at all. Are video games art? This would imply that they have some degree of artistic value similar to a book, movie or… a painting.
So in a sense, they are. Video games do offer (at times, vast magnitudes) of creativity whether that be in the form of outstanding level design, smartly written characters or just fun game play. Let us explore this a little more in depth though, shall we?
See that painting right above this text? That’s a painting, this is really art. Art in its purest form that is. The definition of art is hard to pin down, but creativity is the key to all of it.
In a traditional sense, video games are not classified as art like other mediums. This seems quite absurd when you think about it as games have pretty much the same formula as any good movie or book.
You need a script. A story arc – something for the characters to achieve or strive towards. You need (voice) actors which function, in certain cases with motion capture, the same as regular ones. The only major thing that differs between movies and video games is game play.
Physically controlling and manipulating our protagonist.
How you ask, are video games not defined in their own medium? Books are, movies, music and plays all are. All of these forms are still considered to be ‘art’ in one way or another even though they are no paintings or sculptures. How come video games are not, then?
It can be in part due to the common misconception that games are just things little kids play and so lack the emotional depth found in other more serious, more adult mediums.
The more you see games like Heavy Rain or Mass Effect weaving in outstanding stories and player choice decisions within game play so seamlessly, the more ridiculous and hard to believe it is to think video games are not in the same breadth as movies are.
Video games are an art form, there is no doubt about it. With higher budgets being allowed to big games now, they even rival the immersion and storytelling of the best movies out there.
But with this all said, It’s still very important to make sure video games solidify their unique medium as video games and only that. As good as Uncharted is, the series relies much too heavily on explosive set pieces and high action and less on the experience that really makes a game.
In short, games are not art. They include elements of art such as level design and character model creation the same way movies include artistic traits like cinematography or clothing design, but they are still movies at heart. Nobody goes to the theater and says “Gee that was a great art!”
Same for games, they are not art pieces but do hold solid ground as having artistic value in and of themselves. This is the important definition and where people tend to become confused.
I only hope that games don’t stray so far from being their own medium that in the future Uncharted 6 is a carbon copy of a movie with absolutely no exploration or treasure hunting at all. The medium cross between games and movies is unlike any other symbiosis because people still don’t know what exactly games are trying to be.
Are they movies with game play? No!
Are they art pieces, digitally? No!
Are they games? Yup!