It has been debated for some time now whether or not videogames are considered as art, and although there are divided opinions and thoughts on this, you can easily talk yourself into a deep rabbit hole when it comes to all the intricacies, planning, and development that goes into making a videogame.


Although the term “art” has many definitions, which can be debated all in themselves, many consider art to be an expression of something. Examples of art are often given as; paintings, sculptures, music, dance, and literature.

Discussion

So why then, you may ask, are videogames not considered as part of this spectrum, when clearly videogames often incorporate one or all of these examples, and more? This answer will of course vary from person to person, depending how they might define art. However, let’s look a little bit more closely at this critique.

The variety of styles

Sometimes when videogames are critiqued, an example of a game would be given, either a whole game or a screenshot-turned-to-meme, to usually portray a lighter aspect of how this “couldn’t possibly be considered art”. Although most people enjoy a good meme or joke, this critique can be somewhat flawed, as it ignores the concept of different styles in videogames. It is similar to defining all music by only focusing on one genre, or scrutinising all forms of painted art, by only looking at abstract art. Just like music has its genres, art its forms, dance its various styles, so do videogames.

From first-person shooters to role-playing games, the genres in games are vast, and with it their visual presentations too. This can jump from 8-bit pixel art to almost photo-realistic worlds, big and small. The point is that videogames have grown so much in styles and variety that it would be a critic’s error to focus on only one aspect when arguing whether or not videogames could be considered as art or not.

Breaking down art in videogames

There are numerous parts that make up a videogame, such as programming, design, and other various technological aspects, but let’s focus on how videogames actually incorporate what most consider as art.

Firstly there are the visuals. This includes the entire world created in your game, from the characters, down to the clothing or armour pieces you’re proudly boasting about or disregarding as quickly as an irrelevant meme because – yay – new stronger armour! Each aspect of this world has been designed before it appeared in your game’s world, including the world itself. The concept art, drafting and designs have all gone through months of art direction before appearing in the desired style before you.

The same goes for the music and audio design, with some games boasting entire musical scores composed just for that specific game. Furthermore, many games follow a narrative, albeit in the current playing of the game, a side quest, or even a book you’ve picked up to read in a game. In some cases, games even feature an entire lore or background to bring more depth to the narrative.

So whether it is the dialogue, item description, or story world, it is important to realise that all these were written and planned as much as a work of literature would be. And yes, not all games are story rich or as in depth as others may be, but even these had to go through a concept process in order to give a videogame fluidity and sense. Lastly, we can even take a look at dance, or acting. Many games incorporate motion capture, acting, voice acting, dance and other forms that involve the entertainment world. So if painting a picture, composing or writing a song, writing a story, book, or poem, are all considered as art, shouldn’t videogames be considered as art too? Just like a movie incorporates the telling and acting of the story, as well as music and other artistic concepts, so too do videogames incorporate many of the aspects of what is considered as art, even when ignoring all the other concepts that actually go into making a game.

An example as starting point

Although all styles of games should be considered when critiquing videogames as a whole and their position in the world of art, it might not be a bad idea to consider the work and art put into designing a game the next time you play a game or see a game. It is true that some games are more obvious presentations of art, a good example would be the 2014 game, Child of Light developed by Ubisoft Montreal, that directly incorporated concept art into the game with a watercolour painted world. Furthermore, it has its own musical score composed for the fantasy story that was written, all presented in poetry. Director, Patrick Plourde, actually described his vision for the game as being “a playable poem”.

But it’s not just these types of games that demonstrate art, just as a painting is created for visual aesthetics, a song for listening, or a storybook for reading, a game is created for your enjoyment. So next time you question whether or not videogames are a form of art or not, consider the creative processes involved in various forms of art and delve deeper into the world that a videogame has to offer you.