Sunday, September 13, 2009

Interactive Aesthetic

Question: are video games art?

I have often explored on this blog the concept of alternative mediums for aesthetics - for art. From [comics as literature] to whether [remixing counts as musicianship] I have constantly explored the world via Saboteur Academia's eyes, looking for the alternative that approaches life sideways beautifully.

Coming back to the topic at hand, can video-games (as a holistic term for all games, whether table-top, computerized, console-based, or hand-held devices) be counted as "art"? Movies were the first to combine all previous art forms: photography, music, acting, writing, architecture, sculpture, painting, dancing, etc.

Now, I think video-games do this even more, because while they contain all those elements that movies do they, they are also interactive. They allow the audience to participate in the art itself! In a sense, the audience IS the artist.

I know, controversial right? But hear me out, I discovered a couple of good articles discussing the topic. By [Aaron Smuts from the University of Wisconsin] and [Chi Kong Lui from]

Obviously there isn't room in this post to define "art" in all the various ways that people have come up with, because contention of the term itself is still widely debated. But, we can agree for the purposes of this post to look at the term "art" broadly, in such a way as to be inclusive enough not to be discriminating, but exclusive enough not to lose meaning.

"The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. The class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria. Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture, and paintings. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics." (Compilation of dictionary definition with Wikipedia definition.)

Do video-games fulfill any of these qualities? Well, they certainly are expressive, as can be seen in games such as The Legend of Zelda, which juxtaposes three qualities of Power, Wisdom, and Courage in a contest between moral concepts of Good versus Evil. They can be beautiful, like Chrono Trigger, which features beautiful character design and stills by Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball). They can also be intellectually stimulating, involving complex problem-solving skills as seen in games such as Mario Party, or they can teach us about architecture and landscaping in games such as Sim City and Sim Earth. Hell, they can even teach us about ourselves and the human condition, as seen in The Sims.

They also fulfill a diverse range of human activities by combining: literature via story-telling that imparts variations of popular myths, legends, and moral-lessons; visual art via character models that require sculpting, drawing, painting, and graphic (or digital) design that can be as aesthetically beautiful as any Picasso; music via soundtrack creation that features stylistic nuances such as Baroque composition, heavy instrumental synchronization, indefinite repetition, and polyphony restrictions that are so enjoyable that even major symphonic orchestras from the Eminence Symphony Orchestra in Australia to the Los Angeles Philharmonic have held concerts featuring these songs; and all of these are combined into film-like sequences that include the participation of the player as actor, director, and audience all at once.

In recognition of video games as art, I give you some favorite pieces in homage to games of my present and past, beloved now and beloved then.

5 footnotes:

JacqueRoxx said...

Maybe I'm just sick but the Mario and Yoshi picture just kills me. HAHAHA!

Zek J Evets said...

@jacque: haha, i know, it's pretty hi-larious huh? i also can't get over the picture of link holding the sword and the light hurts all the other people's eyes.

glad you like 'em.

Frizz said...

I actually thought I was the only person on this earth who gave that game a chance.
The Mario graffiti is awesome, I wish I could do that.....without going to jail of course.

Zek J Evets said...

@frizz: nonono! i loved okami! the mario graffiti IS awesome, and probably wouldn't get you jail-time - just a heavy fine, haha.

Gino M. said...

i think my friend, that videogames have much more esthetic and art by their own, these pictures can be a after effect of their cultural impact. Its curious how can artist mix a lot of esthetics to do this great work; but think about the cultural explosion in videogames nowadays, games are education, a way to train and induce people to do some activity, like soldiers; if we add the fascinating physical interactivity that they have now like WII or KINECT, a simple game becomes a full source of education and training for people, specially kids. I thionk that nowadays, movies and games are the best way to impact on another cultures to culturally conquer them without a visible violence. For example: kids in border cities from méxico and US that plays "CALL OF JUAREZ" grow dreaming about kill "narcos" and mexican people. Its interesting how this pictures reflect the beggining of this cultural impact that begin in 80's, mario bros, sapce invaders is the first reference, but, what would be the esthetic of artist in the future that plays a lot of different shit this days?