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March 2018



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Are Video Games Art?

Penny Arcade today is called Again With The Art Stuff The news post explains that this is about an argument that started with:

Kellee Santiago's TED Speech

Roger Ebert's response Video games can never be art on April 16, 2010

Kellee Santiago's response to that My Response To Roger Ebert, Video Game Skeptic

The main failing of Roger Ebert's argument is that he confuses "art" with "good art". A painting is still art no matter how bad it is. Bad art is still art.

My position on the issue of video games is to compare them to chess. A chess game is not art. In general we distinguish between games and art. Ballet is art, Football is a game. The act of playing chess is a game not a performance art. The act of playing a video game is a game not a performance art. But chess boards are art, they are sculpted objects. I would argue that in the same way video games are artistic creations. They are a form of interactive movie requiring skills in a variety of disciplines to create. But the disciplines are all arts: writing, music, visual art.

I think one confusion is because there is no linguistic distinction between the video game as an artistic creation and the playing of the video game, the way there is a linguistic distinction between the chess board and the chess game. Part of this confusion is because, like movies, video game are meant to be experienced. If I hold a DVD in my hand I am not experiencing the movie. I can only experience the movie by playing it. Likewise a video game can only be experienced by playing the game.

Another problem is the broad use of the word "art" to mean both the "products of human creativity" and "a superior skill". It can be argued that any act of superior skill is an act of art. There are some people who argue that the game of chess is indeed an art I have also met people who consider all forms of human movement to be dance and all vocalizations to be song. But I think they are stretching the definition too far. I understand the utility of the argument. But it has limited practicality in our understanding of the common categories of "art" and "not-art".

In the general understanding of art vs not-art, where art is understood to be the products of human creativity, Are Video Games Art?

Yes they are.


Is playing a video game art? I don't think so.
Is making a video game art? Most definately. read interviews of video game designers and find out the immense amount of creativity that goes into a game. it covers just about every form of art we have.
Is skill an art? To me it can be, in someone who has mastered that skill. Take chess, a master is one that can not only win a game, but win in different ways and styles. S/he can use their mastery to acheive not only a victory but in a way that exihibits an emotion, or abstract concept, or an idea, etc.
That is pretty much the whole argument in a nutshell.