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The debate over what counts as art has raged for centuries. Famous artists we know today were once under scrutiny for their art. Today the debate now includes a new art form: video games. So are critics right to say that video games are not art, or is there more to them than meets the eye?

Video games are not art Show more Show less

Video games are not meant to elicit an aesthetic or emotional response from a player. They are instead a media which seeks to sell itself to as many people as possible, just like any mass-produced, off-the-shelf product. A car may look aesthetically pleasing, but it is still just a product meant to drive a person from point A to point B. A video game is the same.
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Video games are a mindless distraction

People play video games to escape the drudges of daily life. Video games are meant to be relaxing activities which do not demand too much mental work of their players. They are a toy, not an art form.
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The Argument

Playing video games is a common way to unwind after a long day at school or at work. Video games are a light activity which don't require much mental work in order to do, which makes playing them a great way to relax. People don't play games to ponder their meaning, message, or art direction: they play them for fun. Video games are essentially toys. Viewing and appreciating art requires much more mental flexing, as the viewer might ask themself "What was the artist's intention?", "Why did the artist choose these colors?", "What does the composition say about the intended focus of the artwork?", etc. Art is not a toy; it is a means of communication between the artist and the audience. There is a lot more to think about when regarding a piece of art, whereas with a video game, the game program does all of the heavy lifting for the player. Yes, the player does make choices; "What item do I use?", "Where do I go next?", "How do I defeat this monster?", etc. While this is light mental work, it is not the same kind of mental work one puts in when interpreting a piece of art. The game is easy; press a button, the action happens; it is a mindless effort. Art requires much more effort as one cannot understand an artwork at the push of a button.

Counter arguments

Not all video games are simple, mindless distractions. There are plenty of video games which require the player to interpret some kind of message or concept. Take for example a video game with a long, rich narrative; it may be trying to deliver a powerful message through the storyline. The art style might have been chosen to convey a certain mood or atmosphere which resonates with the story or message. Video games are more than mere toys; they are vessels of artistic expression and can say a lot about the human condition. The player might ask themself similar questions about a game as they would ask about a painting or a film; "What were the developers/artists thinking when they put this into the game?", "Why did they choose this art style?", "Why did they have the character say or do this?". Game developers communicate as much through their games just as much as any artist communicates through their artwork. There's a lot more to video games than simply pressing buttons. There are choices to be made, often difficult ones which affect what route a storyline will take, or even choices which reflect on the nature of the character the player is playing; "Should the character do a good or an evil thing?", "What is the right answer in this situation?", "Is there even a right or wrong answer to this situation?", "What are the consequences of the character's actions?" etc. This is not mindless gameplay; this is the same mental work which goes into interpreting artwork. Therefore, video games are art.

Premises

[P1] Video games are a light activity which require very little mental work in order to enjoy. [P2] Appreciating art requires more mental lifting. [P3] Video games are not art; they are a toy.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Video games can be just as mentally challenging to interpret as any other art form. [Rejecting P2] Appreciating video games can require as much mental lifting as appreciating any other art form. [Rejecting P3] Video games are more than just toys; they are art.

References


    This page was last edited on Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 15:54 UTC

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