Are Games Art?

The debate over whether video games qualify as art has been fiercely contested. Triggered by Roger Ebert's assertive stance that video games could never ascend to the realm of art, this discussion has permeated the worlds of game development, criticism, and fandom.

As a game developer and contributor to "Make It Big In Games," I find Ebert's perspective limiting. Art, in my view, transcends traditional confines. While Ebert's acclaim in film criticism is notable, his dismissal of games overlooks their dynamic and evolving nature. I argue for valuing community-driven insights over singular critical authorities, believing these collective experiences offer a richer understanding of games as a medium.

Art is defined by its ability to harness creativity, imagination, and human skill to express the gamut of human experiences. Given this criterion, the artistic credentials of video games are undeniable. With their complex narratives, immersive worlds, and capacity to elicit strong emotional responses, games mirror the creative rigor and emotional depth of acknowledged art forms like music.

This parallel extends further when considering the artistic journey from concept to creation that games undergo, akin to traditional art. Icons like Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright embody the essence of artistry in game development, creating works that resonate deeply with audiences.

Moreover, games stand out as a distinct narrative medium. Their interactivity provides a unique avenue for storytelling, offering personal engagement and a depth of emotional experience unparalleled by static forms of art.

However, the discourse also accommodates voices prioritizing fun and gameplay over narrative complexity, highlighting a spectrum of purposes within gaming—from sheer entertainment to profound artistic expression.

The evolving recognition of games as a legitimate art form challenges us to appreciate their unique contributions without confining them to conventional art standards. The discourse around games and art underscores the medium's capacity for innovation and expression, far beyond the binary of art versus entertainment.

Anecdotes from both proponents and skeptics of games as art enrich this debate, illustrating the diverse views on the medium's artistic value. Regardless of where one stands, the ongoing discussion is a vibrant testament to games' dynamic nature and their potential for creative expression.

In conclusion, the question of games as art may never be resolved unanimously. However, the very debate highlights the medium's expansive and evolving character. As games continue to redefine storytelling and aesthetic boundaries, their role in the artistic landscape invites us to explore, engage, and define their value on our terms.

First published January 10, 2006 and last updated at March 8, 2024